The number of days between the original onsale date (November 9, 2009) for what was supposed to be U2′s July 6, 2010 performance at Solider Field (a show that was postponed after Bono suffered a back injury in May of 2010 during tour rehearsals) and the actual date that show finally took place (July 5, 2011) is 603.
Profitable regardless? Absolutely.
Consider this fact… while refunds were made available to ticketholders following the initial 2010 postponement, around 65,000 seats or so nonetheless remained sold out at prices ranging anywhere from between about $40 and $300 per ticket (face value including service fees). If you multiply 65,000 tickets times a very conservative average estimate of $125 per ticket, you come up with a total of $8,125,000 (and that conservative estimate doesn’t even include pricier VIP ticket packages or more expensive ticket packages that also included fan club membership or other artist merchandise). That’s only one night of one tour. And that money sat somewhere for 603 days accruing interest.
So it’s no wonder that the U2 360 Tour arrived in Chicago at a sold out Soldier Field not only as the leading touring moneymaker of the year to date but also as the highest grossing tour of all-time (having eclipsed the Rolling Stones’ 2005-2007 “Bigger Bang” tour). No small feat.
Afterall, U2 does nothing small.
At 164 feet tall, “The Claw,” as the steel structure towering over the stage has come to be dubbed, is the highest stage structure of alltime (once again besting the Rolling Stones’ “Bigger Bang” stage setup) and the top of it could be seen peaking over the top of Soldier Field from the parking lots and Lake Shore Drive.
Preparing a massive reissue of their second best selling album Achtung Baby, the band ripped through a show featuring one of the more interesting setlists that I’ve personally seen them perform… a setlist heavy on nineties hits. This time around, the band chose to open the show with four straight from that seminal 1991 album: ”Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways” (with a bit of “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World” thrown in for good measure), and “Until the End of the World.”
When they last played Soldier Field in September of 2009 (only six months removed from the release of their most recent album No Line on the Horizon), the band opened with several in a row from that record. This time, however, the band chose more carefully from the album featuring only “Get on Your Boots” early and the dance remix version of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” later on. While, I understand that Chicago is the birthplace of house music (which could explain why they play that particular version here every time), in my opinion, that performance of the latter is awful and continues to bring the live set to an annoying halt. Only the brief bit of “Discotheque” (from 1997′s Pop… an album and tour that the band has repeatedly praised Chicago for being one of the few major markets in the United States to embrace) performed therein saved it. It should be noted however that the 64,999 or so other concertgoers in attendance seem to disagree very strongly with me on this. Maybe I shouldn’t complain that they always include this terrible song in their sets because without fail, the past three times I’ve seen them in Chicago, it has given me plenty of time to use the bathroom and grab a beer. Anyways… U2 nearly closed the show with a stunning version of “Moment of Surrender” (Horizon‘s best track) performing it second to last in the final encore… more on this later.
With a reissue of Zooropa also on the horizon (pardon the pun), the band surprised the audience by playing several tracks from that album. “Stay (Faraway, so Close!)” was also performed in 2009 but “Zooropa” hasn’t been played in quite a while and was a welcome addition to the set.
In another nod to the band’s Zoo TV touring days, “Miss Sarajevo” (a song originally recorded with tenor Luciano Pavarotti on the band’s one-off, 1995 side project with Brian Eno entitled Passengers) also returned to the set for only its second go around in North America. The performance was a pleasant reminder of a time and tour that saw U2 as a politically motivated band embracing their outrageous reach in an effort to educate kids on a nightly basis about issues that might otherwise never have entered their social conciousness.
True to form, the band managed to work in snippets of Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, The Shirelles and Frank Sinatra songs throughout hits like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Beautiful Day,” “Vertigo,” “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” “One,” and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” respectively.
But the biggest surprise of the night was saved for the final encore. As the band finished with 2009′s “Moment of Surrender,” the majority of the crowd assumed that the outstanding show had come to an end. But Bono shocked the crowd (and maybe even the rest of his bandmates), as he appeared to be gearing up for one last song: “Here’s the Deal. If we screw up really badly, you don’t put it on the internet. Fair?” Bono reasoned with the crowd. As The Edge tinkered on guitar for at least twenty seconds (clearly trying to remember how to play something) Bono asked him “How does it start?” The Edge continued to experiment as Bono joked “Edge looks real confident.” And it was then that it became clear the band was about to try and forge their way through a song they rarely play: “One Tree Hill” from 1987′s classic The Joshua Tree. For the first minute and a half or so, the song consisted solely of Bono singing along to Edge’s guitar licks as the two of them clearly tried to remember how to play their own song. Finally, the rest of the band kicked in and ran through a very imperfect version of the song.
Ultimately though, it was such imperfection that really ended up being the perfect way to cap off this show at Soldier Field. Here was a performance that saw one of the biggest bands in the world deviate from their very scripted performance to finally take a chance. And while it was with a nearly twenty five year old song, it was this performance that took the band in a new direction for the first time all night. On a night that looked back at the band’s most experimental and exciting phase (one never knew what type of chance the band was going to take on any given night of the Zoo TV tour), with a setlist heavy on songs from Achtung Baby (and even material from Zooropa and Pop), this experiment with a rarely played song was a very appropriate way to end a great show. The ability to throw caution to the wind and take a chance is what has made U2 great over the past thirty or so years and it was nice to see that even this far along they’re still capable of surprising me on any given night.
Ironically, indie-rock darlings Interpol opened the show and coasted through a risk-free set that featured very little excitement or hits (even though they have several). The band mixed songs from 2010′s self-titled album with older songs like 2007′s “The Heinrich Maneuver” over about 40 uneventful minutes.