More than 50,000 people were there to see it, but I think it’s still worth sharing that U2 would dedicate “Walk On” to Aung San Suu Kyi at the Big A. No one loves the camera more than Bono–who is equally comfortable on stadium Jumbotrons or Oprah’s couch–but I think it’s rad that he isn’t afraid to use the big stage as a soapbox. On Saturday night, he used the democratically elected, unjustly jailed, and somewhat recently released leader of Burma as an example how involvement with an organization like Amnesty International can make a difference.
But it wasn’t all politics. There’s more beer-drinking than activism going on at U2 shows, and this one had two and a half-hours of old and new hits. It’s crazy how some of the younger fans seemed to know all the words to “Beautiful Day” (introduced by astronaut Mark Kelly to his recovering wife, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords) but not “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (which was dedicated to Quincy Jones). U2 has churned out a crazy and constant amount of hits while most of their Band-Aid peers have become trivia question answers, and despite all the names that were dropped (Tom Brady, Gisele, and other ONE supporters) the nearly two-and-a-half-hour show was clearly focused on the four guys onstage, their music, and their progressive, positive message.
There might have been a little downtime when the Claw lowered, you couldn’t even see the band, and the drum machines warmed up, but U2 is unstoppable even in the biggest of venues. Critics and cynics will point to the band’s massive profits but I can’t think of another band that has elevated its ideals at the same time as its business model. From garage band to stadium band, from “I Will Follow” to “We will make giving a shit and getting involved cool” on individual, corporate, and national levels. And then end the encore with a tribute to fallen E Street Band sax player and friend Clarence Clemons to make it personal again.
The funny thing is I never cared for U2 much back in high school when War came out or even college when The Joshua Tree took over. I was (and still am) more of a fan of The Clash. I am convinced that the band from Ireland was (and never will be) as cool as Joe, Mick, and Paul, but I have to admit that they still manage to matter.