U2 Vertigo 2005 World Tour
Denver's Pepsi Center April 21

by Todd McFliker

On April 21st, Denver was elevated when U2 brought the Vertigo World Tour to the Pepsi Center.  For the second night in a row, the band performed a grand assertion of beauty to 18,000 fans in the sold-out home of the Denver Nuggets.  The lack of tickets available was no surprise, as U2 has moved 8.5 million copies worldwide of their November release, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.  With ticket sales of nearly three million, the Vertigo Tour kicked off two months ago in San Diego.  U2 will continue to shatter sales records throughout North America and Europe before venturing to Miami’s American Airlines Arena on November 13th and 14th.

In 1976, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. started U2 by posted a wanted ad for musicians on his high school’s bulletin board.  After daily practices in the school gym, U2 started performing as a very theatrical group and built a diminutive following in Europe with their live shows.  A miniature tour began in the States in 1980, usually with no more than two-hundred spectators at each gig.  “It’s very important for us to tour, because, you know, a lot of bands put out records and then sit back and wait for it to happen,” Bono explained on a live radio show two years later.  “We want to play to people face to face and let them make up their own minds.”

Ten days after Colorado’s blizzard, the concert took place in perfect 50 degree weather, just beneath picturesque mountains and skyscrapers.  Denver’s audience was nicely dressed and respectful concertgoers between the ages of 20 to 50.  Heads up to South Floridians: there was an enormous line for U2’s general admission seating, which takes up the entire floor of the arena.  Meanwhile, seat holders walked on through the door.  Like U2’s 2001 show, a giant walkway circled the arena, allowing the band to venture into the heart of the crowd.  Again, the madness of the 1990’s Zoo TV and PopMart multimedia extravaganzas have been dropped and the concert revolves simply around the music.  

The four members of U2 nonchalantly walked to their stage.  The 45-year-old singer wore his trademark black leather outfit and “The Fly” sunglasses, while The Edge was draped in his classic T-shirt and skully cap.  Without verbally addressing the crowd, the band shot into “City of Blinding Lights.”   The beginning of the Vertigo Tour was extremely fast-paced as U2 ripped into the crowd favorite, “Beautiful Day,” followed by “Vertigo” and “Elevation.”

After a few U2 classics from the 80s, Bono took glasses off for the first time and explained The Atomic Bomb’s “Miracle Drug.”  It is a “song about faith, science, doctors, nurses.  The idea that the 21st century can be full of promise.”  He concluded that the song is about his father who recently passed away.  The new record’s “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” and “Love and Peace or Else” were the low points of the night.  Most of the audience took their seats, and Bono, wearing a white bandana and sunglasses again, strutted along his walkway.  Larry ventured to the catwalk with merely one drum and a cymbal, which Bono began to bang.

The U2 frontman explained that “Sunday Bloody Sunday” no longer concerns Ireland, but it is now “about the red, white and blue.”  In 2001, bass player Adam Clayton told a reporter that the non-rebel song was mandatory for U2 to record.  “We felt that was a valid subject, as opposed to happy, shiny pop music.”  Halfway through “Bullet The Blue Sky,” the singer placed a white bandana over his eyes, blinding himself and waived his arms out as if he were blind.  Bono dedicated “Running To Stand Still,” in which he played both guitar and harmonica, to the U.S. Navy.  The Edge fingered the piano, while the The Bill of Rights scrolled along enormous screens above the set.  An 8-year-old boy was pulled onstage to dance in the middle of “Bad.”  During “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” neon lights surrounding the stage created dozens of different nations’ flags, four at a time.  The flags were still being exhibited when the crowd heard The Joshua Tree’s gospel-like classic, "Where the Streets Have No Name."  

The house lights went out and Bono asked everyone in the audience to hold up their cell phones at once.  The entire arena was illuminated by mere phone receivers.  Quite a sight.  “21st century Woodstock,” Bono labeled the spectacle.  “We are powerful when we work together as one.”  Of course, this was a cue for U2 to dip into 1991’s Achtung Baby.  They performed the intense ballad “One” and “Zoo Station” before departing for their first encore.

During the first encore, 18,000 spectators roared for ten minutes.  U2 reemerged with Bono on guitar for a slower, alternative version of “The Fly.”  The acoustics of "Mysterious Ways” came across much better in Denver than 2001’s unrehearsed sounding performance in Sunrise’s National Car Rental Center.  Bono picked up a lucky middle-aged woman to dirty dance with on walkway.  He kissed her hand and helped her down after the fast-beat serenade. 

U2 took a second encore.  Moments later, they reappeared and Bono shook a tambourine during Love To Dismantle’s “All Because of You.”  Before the new record’s “Original of the Species,” Bono explained “We’ve only played this once before.  So if we screw up, blame The Edge.”  The rock and roll icon talked about performing the last song of the night, “40,” during U2’s one famous appearance in Colorado’s Red Rocks.  The evening concluded with an extended drum solo in “40.”  Bono waived a blue spotlight into the dark crowd in the same style as the Rattle And Hum movie’s “Bullet The Blue Sky.” 

U2 was Brilliant.  Sure, it would have been phenomenal to see the Irish boys in Red Rocks, and the boys do not vary their set lists from night to night.  Also, U2 sounded tired in comparison to the first Denver performance, but the band puts on an amazing performance nonetheless.  

They started as 15-year-old boys messing around in their high school gymnasium, and now U2 continuously sells out stadiums.  Tens of millions of fans sing their poetry verse for verse on a nightly basis, each having special meanings to individuals.  U2 has successfully maintained the role as the greatest live band of today’s generation.  Make sure to catch U2 when they plow thru the American Airlines Arena this fall.