Space Odyssey

Planet U2 touches down in Houston

Captain Bono
Captain Bono (by Gary Miller)

The towering, extraterrestrial space station that landed in the middle of Reliant Stadium on Wednesday looked like something out of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. It was literally the biggest stage of all, and U2 gloriously heeded its call. “Houston,” Bono bellowed with the command of Big Brother over the 360-degree screen. “We have no problem.”

This was Dublin patriots’ first stadium tour since 1997, and for such a cavernous space the sound was impressively clear throughout. The echo-laden, open-air only added to Edge’s astral guitar showers in “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” while the clicking of Larry Mullen Jr.’s drumsticks together at the start of “Vertigo” was audible even towards the back of the upper deck. Perhaps most surprising was the post-millennial urgency of latest No Line on the Horizon that came through in opening four-song sequence, especially the spectral-funk of “Mysterious Ways,” and later, the discothèque remix of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”

Much like Kanye West’s Glow in the Dark tour, U2’s lunar landscape was a platform to explore both the intensely personal – a stellar “I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For” that segued into a brief retread of “Stand By Me,” No Line on the Horizon early highlight “Magnificent” – and the political, which dominated the second half of the set. A tribute to Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi accompanied a gospel reading of “MLK” and “Walk On,” while a personal video sequence from Nelson Mandela opened the first encore as Bono’s solo acoustic “Amazing Grace” tear-dropped into a rapturous “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Whereas West approached this same sort of backdrop with a mindset of “me-versus the world,” U2 made a sincere effort put those two issues (the personal and political) in perspective – to question its own significance in relation to the universe at large. Never was that more evident than in the emotional centerpiece of the program, “Your Blue Room” from the band’s oft-forgotten collaboration with Brian Eno as Passengers, in which the band’s ambient, Apollo expressionism was accompanied by NASA-provided imagery and a video feed of an astronaut reading a poem in zero gravity. It was like a solar transmission from U2’s brave new world.

Set List:

“Breathe”

“Get On Your Boots;”

“Magnificent;”

“Mysterious Ways”

“Beautiful Day” (“Here Comes the Sun” snippet)

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (“Stand By Me” snippet)

“Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”

“No Line on the Horizon”

“Elevation”

“Your Blue Room

“Until the End of the World”

“The Unforgettable Fire”

“City of Blinding Lights”

“Vertigo”

“I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” (remix)

“Sunday Bloody Sunday”

“MLK”

“Walk On” (“You'll Never Walk Alone” snippet)

“One” (“Amazing Grace” snippet)

“Where the Streets Have No Name”

“Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”

“With Or Without You”

“Moment of Surrender”

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