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Ford column: U2 doesn’t disappoint

By Emily Ford
My ears have stopped ringing but my heart’s still singing a week after U2’s amazing and uplifting concert at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.
Playing to 64,000 fans from a monstrous four-legged edifice dubbed The Claw that soared to the upper reaches of the football stadium, the Irish quartet still managed to deliver “intimacy on a grand scale,” as singer Bono promised.
From the jaw-dropping opening notes of “Breathe,” the band that remains the political and social conscience of rock ‘n’ roll played roaring anthems, a spare lullaby and music-I-dare-you-not-to-dance-to that spanned three decades.
One of the most memorable moments came during an unscripted exchange with a fan.
As the band played the iconic “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” Bono accepted a homemade banner from a fan declaring “People Get Ready,” a Curtis Mayfield song that U2 first played live in 1987 in Ireland.
The magic-markered sign even included guitar chords.
Holding the cloth, Bono slowly walked away. Then he turned and strode back to the fan.
“Sing it,” Bono instructed. “I’ll throw you this, will you sing it?”
Bono tossed the microphone to the fan and suggested, “Be cool.”If Bono had thrown me his microphone, I think I would’ve needed more specific instruction. Something like, “Do not go into cardiac arrest,” “stop sobbing,” or “try not to mess your pants.”
The fan kept his cool and belted out a crystal-clear verse as his impromptu performance was broadcast on the massive cylindrical LED screen, as large as two tennis courts.
He tossed the mike back to Bono and put his hands to his head, incredulous.
Twice as big as the Rolling Stones’ largest concert stage, U2’s Claw was so huge that it made the stadium seem like a petite venue. Bono started sketching the stage five years ago.
“The people get bigger, and the place gets smaller,” he told USA Today.
The performance marked the end of Carter-Finley Stadium’s 11-year hiatus from holding special events. The concert provided more than 1,500 temporary jobs and drummed up at least $4 million for Triangle businesses.
It cost the university and the taxpayers nothing.
One week before the show, crews covered the field with aluminum decking designed to protect the drainage, communications and irrigation systems.
Hundreds of laborers and steel workers spent three days erecting the lighting and sound structure that went over the stage, using six cranes and 25 forklifts. No less than 128 tractor trailers transported the stage to Raleigh.
Eyeballing the stage in awe before the concert started, we realized that a dozen spotlight technicians were actually suspended in midair beneath each leg of The Claw. They remained there throughout the show, lowered to the stage after the final encore.
The concert promoter purchased carbon credits to offset the carbon footprint of the revolutionary 360° Tour.
The promoter also replaced the Carter-Finley turf in preparation for NC State’s home game yesterday with Duke.
With traffic backed up for miles before the concert, people abandoned their vehicles along the highways and walked to the stadium, including my friends and me.
At times we skipped, giddy with anticipation.
I find few things as joyful, powerful or moving as a U2 concert.
While they haven’t found much airtime on rock radio, songs from the new album “No Line On the Horizon” caused a sensation in the stadium, with the themes of love, faith and hope resounding through the crowd.
Fresh and relevant, the new music stirs and inspires. As U2 enters their fourth decade, they continue to break new ground while staying true to themselves and their fans.

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