I’m seated in the fifth level of the enormous FNB stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg. The sound of the jubilant crowd around me is deafening, to say the least, and the lights that are emitted from a gargantuan structure, dubbed The Claw, which rests in the middle of the stadium, are enough to leave me blind.
The world’s biggest rock band has just entered entered the arena.
U2, the world-famous Irish rock band that consists of lead singer Bono, guitar maestro and back-up vocalist The Edge, expert bassist Adam Clayton and renowned drummer Larry Mullen jr, have toured the world many times over, and have, since their breakthrough album The Unforgettable Fire and their recent release No Line On The Horizon, been the subject of critical acclaim. Now, after releasing their eleventh studio album, U2 have set out to tour the world once again, with the 360º Tour – a tour bolstered by the presence of The Claw – the huge structure which presents video footage of the band through 360 degrees of onstage LED video screens – leaving no fan out of the action during any concert.
After supporting acts Amadou & Miriam and The Sprinbok Nude Girls have left the stage hastily, the time has now come for the main act, and in a flash of light and a roar of sound, U2 take to the stage with their opening number – the instantly recognizable hit track, Beautiful Day.
What makes any U2 concert effective, apart from Bono’s operatic vocals, The Edge’s textured approach to guitar, Adam Clayton’s bass or Larry Mullen’s rythmic drumming, is the band’s immediate connection to their audience. The band quickly grab their audience’s attention through a powerful yet personal performance, which is only bolstered by the onstage visuals provided by the Claw.
What was truly suprising about the Johannesburg performance was the surprising choice of set-list; U2 deigned to treat their audience to their earlier hits of their career – with songs such as Pride (In The Name Of Love), a song dedicated originally to Martin Luther King, but was on the night dedicated to former president Nelson Mandela’s health, Miss Sarejevo, In A Little While, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, in which U2 were joined on stage by South African musical legend Hugh Masekela, and a revamped Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.
The Irish quintet were on superb form all through the night, as their audience members sang, screamed, and danced – rocking the very foundation of the stadium itself!
After approximately three encores, the band closed their performance with a roaring rendition of With Or Without You, leaving their audience cheering for more as the band left the stage for the final time.
The concert itself had an indelible impact upon me – four hours of a concert that I will never want, nor be able to forget. The 360º Tour serves as a reminder that U2, almost 30 years on from their initial debut, are still a force to be reckoned with as they take their music and their cause to the global fray once more.