If you were one of the estimated 75,000 in attendance to see the 100th show on U2's "360 Tour," which started back in 2009 and will eventually play to more than 7 million people, savor the memories. No band on the horizon has the mega-star wattage and worldwide appeal-not to mention the financial cojones-to stage something so indescribably over the top. And of the remaining legends of rock, only U2 would even consider a production that requires three different 200-ton sets to meet the concert schedule-because one set takes eight days to build and take down.
Not that this adventure hasn't paid dividends. By summer's end, total ticket sales will exceed more than $700 million, making "360" the most lucrative tour in music history and thrashing the previous mark held by the Rolling Stones, which grossed $554 million from 2005-07 on its "Bigger Bang Tour."
The first incarnation of this tour (prior to the back injury to lead singer Bono that forced the cancellation of several shows, including the original Miami date last year) relied too heavily on new songs from the somewhat disappointing "No Line on the Horizon" album released in 2009. This time around, Bono and the boys-guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen-gave fans a steady stream of favorites from a catalog that spans 30 years. From start to finish, it was something to behold.
With David Bowie's "Major Tom" playing in the background-a nod to the four-pronged, spaceship-like stage that allowed for a 360-degree view-U2 blasted off in style, opening with "Even Better Than the Real Thing." It was first of four straight songs, including "Mysterious Ways," from "Achtung Baby," celebrating its own 20th anniversary after topping the charts in 1991.
Though the constantly moving, smoke-billowing mother ship was the fifth star of the show-at one point the circular video screen expanded to 14,000 square feet, dropping all the way to the stage and encasing the band-U2 somehow manages to bring even a show of this scale down to size. It helps that the band members have such genuine affection for one another and a tangible appreciation for the fans that have made them rock royalty.
To that end, U2 never fails to throw in a few unexpected gems. In addition to debuting a song for American audiences, the melodic "North Star" from the latest "Transformers" movie, the band turned in a haunting rendition of "Miss Sarajevo," a song that Bono originally performed with the late Luciano Pavarotti. Though Bono's voice felt a bit frayed at times, he delivered the Pavarotti portion of "Sarajevo" with a no-holds-barred burst of passion that proved to be one of the evening's most stirring moments.
You have to hand it to Bono, one of rock's great showmen. Front men for major bands often shy away from making detailed references about the city in which they're playing-no surprise given that one town blurs into the next during a yearlong tour. But Bono embraced South Florida as if it were U2's backyard.
He spoke often about the allure of Hispanic culture-"Irish people are like Latin Americans ... who don't know how to dance," Bono quipped. The Edge, he said, was the exception, noting that the guitarist danced the night away (and had a few too many in the process) at a local Miami hang the night before. Bono even poked fun at how Sun Life Stadium has had a different name each of the three times the band has played there.
"There's a love affair going on here, Miami," Bono told the crowd.
The band would feel that love during a closing run of hits that included "City of Blinding Lights," "Vertigo" and "Sunday Blood Sunday," followed by a five-song encore highlighted by "One" and "Where the Streets Have No Name," the anthem from the band's 1987 breakthrough album, "The Joshua Tree." The momentum-building urgency that The Edge brings to the opening licks of "Where the Streets"-and the crowd's reaction to it-is one of those spine-tingling moments unique to U2, perhaps matched only by the emotion in the air when 70,000 fans sing with Bono during "Pride (In the Name of Love)."
Throughout the night, Bono gave shout-outs to Miami-based celebs, including singer Gloria Estefan and the Heat's LeBron James. He closed the show with "Moment of Surrender"-and a touching tribute to the family of Clarence Clemons, the sax legend from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band who died in South Florida last week.
"There's one brighter star in the firmament," Bono said as the crowd created a star-lit backdrop with their cell phones. "His name is Clarence Clemons, and his family and friends are here tonight. Good night Clarence, good night Miami."
For one memorable night in South Florida, U2 proved that its star not only shines but that it shows no sign of diminishing.
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Until the End of the World
I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Pride (In the Name of Love)
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy (remix)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Where the Streets Have No Name
Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender