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MUSIC: Concert REVIEW

U2 dazzles in a show worth the wait Add to ...

U2 At the Rogers Centre in Toronto on Monday

The roof was open, the skies held no limits and a moon heard the trumpets of a veteran Irish quartet making good. “Give me one more chance, and you'll be satisfied,” sang a small, leathered, mono-named man with a big voice. “Give me two more chances – you won't be denied.”

All that you can’t leave behind

U2 descended upon Rogers Centre, where they uplifted an announced crowd of 60,000 fans, who, as Bono pointed out, had anticipated seeing this show last July, before the singer’s back surgery caused a postponement. “Thank you for your patience,” Bono said of the delay. “Some of you were two years younger when you bought tickets for tonight's show.”

And one of us was 51 years old and coming off a major health concern. How was Bono, then? “I'm feeling much better,” he said, “thank you.” Indeed, he was highly mobile, bounding about the giant circular catwalk most of the night. But if Bono was restored to his robust self, it was apparent, over the dazzling course of a majestic and human 140 minutes, that some things had changed over the 22 months since the band last brought its 360° Tour show here. U2 arrived in a pair of white vans – the crowd saw them coming and roared with expectation – to the booming, spacey strains of David Bowie music. Commencing countdown, engines on.

Achtung, you’ve come a long way, baby

In 2009, U2 was touring behind its new album, No Line on the Horizon. But this fall sees the 20th-anniversary release of an Achtung Baby reissue that is to include video from a recently filmed performance at Winnipeg’s Burton Cummings Theatre. And so, Monday’s show began with Even Better Than the Real Thing, The Fly – introduced as “Kraut-rock, circa 1991,” by Bono – and Mysterious Ways. The sound was warm, big and crystal clear, strobe lights flashed off the giant, claw-like space-age structure, and the music was trashy, grungy and glitzy – a reinvention in 1991 that sounds nothing like dated today.

Bye-bye BlackBerry

The first part of the 360° Tour was sponsored by a handy Research In Motion device. But not this leg. A techno-empire facing challenges decided not to renew its sponsorship, and Bono sings that the “future needs a big kiss.” Not that the band misses the corporate backing much: About seven million fans have watched a touring U2 spectacle that has grossed a record $700-million (U.S.).

By the numbers

The circular, moveable and expandable video screen suspended over the centre of the stage works overtime during the show, but to kill time after the opening act Interpol and before the main set, the 411,782 LED pixels posted a stream of facts and figures: This is show No. 105, U2 has performed 52 different songs on the tour, and 17 babies have been born to crew members since it began.

Walk on

Onscreen cameos come from U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly – married to recovering U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – who in a prerecorded message from the International Space Station quoted a line from Space Oddity and set up Beautiful Day, which followed in jet-fuelled form. Back on Earth, Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivered a taped message of thankfulness. Earlier in the tour, before she was released from years of house arrest, U2 each night would make an impassioned plea for her release. She was set free in 2010, and on Monday spoke before U2’s anthemic ballad One.

And you give, and you give …

As it has on the previous Canadian tour stops during this final leg (Winnipeg, Edmonton and two shows at Montreal’s Hippodrome), and as it did here in 2009, the concert closed with the twinkling With or Without You and the slow, deep minor-key gospel of Moment of Surrender. Both songs carried a spent, weary quality. Bono saluted Canadian idealism and leadership, mentioning the staggering amount of AIDS drugs fed to Africa. He referenced the “smiling moon” and described the crowd as “noisy, noisy folks,” asking them if they treated all our rock stars in that way. They do not. U2 is still an especially sonic and soulful breed – some things never change.

U2 has six more shows remaining in its 360° Tour, including the finale at Magnetic Hill in Moncton on July 30.

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