U2 - National Car Rental Center, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 24th March 2001
It was bound to invoke comparisons to past gigs.
I must also however mention, at this stage, that the support for these gigs, owing to the illness of PJ Harvey, was provided by The Corrs which nicely set the tone for the night and indeed they proved to be their normal delightful selves, complete with Andrea hopping about barefoot (perhaps a subtle statement in alliance with the people of County Louth!) like a hugely appealing little nymphette.
Anyway back to U2...
Only last night I looked at a ticket autographed by Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton, that my good friend John Kilcooley from Claremorris has in his prized (and no doubt valuable) possession, which was a U2 ticket from Leisureland in Galway from 1982, when he says "there was only about 200 people in total there". The reason Larry Mullen hasn't signed it is explained by the fact that "...well there were two girls trying to chat up Larry at the time and I didn't want to interrupt..."
In any case U2 have come a fierce long way from Leisureland or The Dandelion Market or from the point even further back when a friend of John's paid 50p to see them in Ballina.
My own collection of U2 concert stubs goes back to 1983 in Phoenix Park (which I didn't actually make it to) and Croke Park in in 1985 (my first gig). In any case, therein lies my bias, whereby I was confident, that if nothing else, U2 were capable of putting on a damn good and entertaining show.
Well to start with, and without any intentional bias, tonight's show didn't disappoint.
The National Car Rental Center has a capacity of about 17,000 and it was, as expected, pretty much packed for this first show of U2's 2001 U.S. tour.
Sometimes, according to my diligence at the time, I would be capable of giving an entire annotated play list of concert, but such was such was my excitement and exuberance tonight that I won't even make a stab at it at this stage.
Suffice to say that the lads started with Elevation from their new album "All that you can't leave behind" but, to my delight in any case, since I haven't really explored the new, somewhat maligned album yet, they also very soon proved that this was not going to be a night of mere new release pushing.
At this stage I think it might be useful if I give some insight into the stage setup.
Considering that The National Car Rental Center is normally the home of the Florida Panthers Ice Hockey team, can give you some idea of the layout (The Edge however preferred to sport a tee shirt of the Miami Dolpins Football team) In any case this layout meant that the stage was positioned at one end of the ice hockey pitch and therefore, by design, necessitated that it be visible and that the performance be planned to incorporate or involve the 3 or 4 thousand or so people that were going to be viewing it from the rear and sides. Even in this context, and unaware of whether it was specifically planned that way, the set up in any case proved to be as fulfilling for me situated at stage right, partially behind the actual stage area. This was greatly helped by the heart shaped boardwalk feature, which ran from the stage area, down round the floor, ending in it's point at the furthest from the actual stage and accordingly, dually served as an enclosure for the VIP section.
However, true to form, Bono and The Edge, and even at one point, on the invitation of Bono, Larry Mullen made ample use of this boardwalk to bring them into close proximity with the audience. Bono a few times even went further in indulging in a bit of undoubtedly carefully rehearsed moshing in venturing into the very crowd (On the other hand the incident where he lost his footing at one point and fell of the boardwalk into the VIP enclosure didn't really look rehearsed!)
This boardwalk feature also facilitated such emotive and symbolic gestures as Bono's commandeering of an Irish Tri-colour during Sunday Bloody Sunday and after parading it along the boardwalk, embracing it and even kissing it (Which all of a sudden made my tri colour awful popular among the people around me!). This stalwart of the set along with others such as New Years Day, Where the Streets have no names, Pride, With or without you, Bad, and The Sweetest Thing (Which Bono dedicated to wife, Ali for her work in Chernobyl) seemed to evoke a more enthusiastic response from the crowd than the tracks from the new album, but again that's only my own perhaps biased interpretation.
All in all I would say there were perhaps only two or three tracks in the entire set, which lasted near two hours, that caused some of the crowd to resume their seats and mellow below a point of near hysteria.
So, the verdict? It is obvious that Ireland's greatest musical export haven't lost their ability to entertain. Even with this show making much less use of gimmickry than either the Zoo TV Trabant Light Show or The Pop Tour of 3 years ago (This time, the major "special effect" is a series of translucent screens that drop from the lighting gantry around the boardwalk and facilitate the projection of images and shadows of Bono and The Edge onto them, in larger than life) it is still very obvious that the lads are well aware of their ability to thrill, especially the ultra showman Bono, who still struts and pouts and shakes with an intensity and possession that was there before he'd ever thought of Third World Debt.
After a final mosh pit exercise which saw Bono entirely swallowed up by the audience and conveyed to the back of the arena, The band returned for an encore comprising a blistering version of One and a track from The new album of which I'm not honestly sure of the title (But I'll let ye know tomorrow!) and whilst it did leave me longing for Forty which never came despite my chants of "How long, to sing this song...." the whole experience still left me feeling very pleased and upbeat. All in all a brilliant night's entertainment from Ireland's finest.
And the consequences for Slane? If ya haven't got a ticket try and get one, even if ya have to kill for it, which seems quite likely at this stage!!! I'm certainly considering going again on Monday night to their second Fort Lauderdale (NOT MIAMI!!) gig.
This site is maintained and updated by Peter Jordan,
Last Updated 24th March 2001
© Peter Jordan, 2001