In what has to be the best named rock music broadcast since Asia in Asia, U2 made their L.A. concert online for all to see via You Tube tonight with the label U2 on You Tube. As far as promotional stunts go, this one was a killer. An entire concert live for free from one of the world's greatest rock bands.
Add that the camera work and direction were truly professional quality, I can't recall any action or key moments lost in the 2 hour coverage of this event. And there was a lot of ground to cover, the bands' new 360 degree stage complete with an outer walkway ring and moving bridges would be a daunting challenge for camera coverage. Fortunately, there are only four members of U2 so it's not like you're going to lose track of them out there. Nonetheless, the event was captured with DVD quality work.
The concert itself was really good, despite getting off to a cold start (at least that's what it seemed like online, maybe the people actually there or viewers with complex media systems attached to their computer had a different experience) U2 were in excellent form. Challenging the audience with an opening salvo of three songs from their recent No Line On The Horizon disc fell flat with the crowd. "Breathe", "Get On Your Boots" and "Magnificent" failed to connect making it seem like U2 were performing in a vacuum.
Once the hits started to kick in with "Mysterious Ways" and "Beautiful Day" the audience started to warm up. An acoustic version of "Stuck In The Moment" was nice and by the time U2 hit "Elevation" the group and thousands of their fans were finally on the same page. This seemed to fire up Bono in particular as he bounded around the stage pushing his voice to nail those high notes.
The rest of the set sustained the momentum by delivering a series of hit songs with a focus on the last three albums. Well known tracks like "City Of Blinding Lights", "Vertigo", "Walk On", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With Or Without You" were met with rapturous applause from the fans. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was recast into a context of Iran instantly modernizing the context of the tune. The catchiest song from No Line On The Horizon, "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" was given a lively arrangement to pack afro beat drumming in the mix.
Two encores for the show packed the real heat with their best known stuff including "One" and "Where The Streets Have No Name".
The rhythm section of drummer Larry Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton were on point, their throbbing grooves still intact. The Edge played with fire and displayed impressive backing vocals throughout. Bono fought hard to pump up the audience early on and once the group and crowd connected was able to go for the big gestures he's known for. Late in the show it seemed like his voice started to give out as he started to duck the high notes, nonetheless the momentum built up by then made this forgivable.
U2 on You Tube was so well done I'll be shocked if this isn't released on DVD in the near future. They used this platform to effectively gain exposure for the No Line On The Horizon album which has sold poorly in comparison to their other albums (it's a mere Platinum which is funny to write because most bands would kill for a Platinum disc). Most of the songs from this cd were played and once they started to pepper individual songs in between the hits came across better.
The relatively weak sales of No Line On The Horizon could be due to the subdued nature of the disc or worse, suggest that the band has at long last hit oldies status where the audience could care less about new material. Like the Stones, U2 can still sell CDs to the ever declining faithful yet sell out stadiums at the drop of a hat. In any case, U2 on You Tube is a strong show definitely worth viewing for free :)