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U2 Rock the City of Manchester!

Published on June 16th 2005.

Superduper group U2 rocked a packed City of Manchester Stadium last night as Bono and his boys downloaded tracks from the latest album, and a string of greatest hits, onto a worshipping audience.

I first saw U2 in 1993 on their Zoo TV tour at Wembley Stadium where German cars hanging from the rafters, 60 foot TV screens and Bono dressed as the devil were the order of the day. Significantly dumbed down, the last ten years has seen U2 stop reinventing themselves and opt for a guitar laden performance resulting in 2 and a half hour’s worth of anthems and new tracks. After all the attempts to dress up their back catalogue with glitz and alter egos, the ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’ tour proves that’s there’s no better way to present themselves than getting out on stage and just hammering the tunes out.

Whilst 1993 had Bono lowered down onto the stage silhouetted onto a TV screen to the sounds of Zoo Station, 2005 saw Bono (flanked by drummer Larry Mullen Jr, bassist Adam Clayton and Pizza Hut menu option The Edge) stroll out onto the stage, pick up their instruments and begin, all at a very orderly 8.40pm – slightly earlier than booze riddled big Faye had anticipated. Indeed, the most visually stunning sight of the evening was the line of cars covered in parking tickets on the way out at the end of the night.....

When U2 first played in Manchester it was at the Manchester Poly, now they have moved up the food chain to play the City of Manchester Stadium. Having played the likes of Wembley Stadium and numerous other huge venues around the globe, you’d have thought this a fitting venue for the Dubliners and from the atmosphere inside, this would be proved right. The only blot on the landscape was the sound quality from near the back of the ground, it wasn’t great. Soon realising that this may have had something to do with a shopping mall sitting halfway down the pitch, we spent the first half an hour battling our way through the masses, passing the likes of Danny from Sienna gym on the way, in a bid to get near the front. Luckily this wasn’t an Oasis gig, otherwise we’d have been spat at and battered.

U2’s stage presence - even from 500 yards away behind a German traveller with the largest backpack ever witnessed at an outdoor event – is immense. Bono struts around all in black, with flailing arms everywhere and opening his mouth in attempt to swallow the entire stadium, while U2’s loyal following, largely sporting a distinctive increase in the thinning hair stakes after years of following their favourite band via extreme image changes, sing along and applaud every note of the way.

From the opening track of Vertigo, U2 ran through a steady stream of hits and new songs from the latest album before Bono plunged into his obligatory party political broadcast. In 93, he brought Salman Rushdie on stage, in 98 it was link up to Sarajevo and now it was to tackle global poverty.

He carried on from where Bob Geldof has left off, promoting the concept of texting to help wipe out world poverty. On screen messages prompted everyone to message ‘africa’ to 80205 (there you go Bono, im doing my bit!) for a mere 25p, although why 25p couldn’t be taken from the substantial ticket prices and given to the charity in question is anyone’s guess. The entire human rights treaty was scrolled over the screen backdrop as well, while Bono wrapped a blindfold around his head, presumably to hide his head in shame knowing that his private jet may have assisted in ‘global dimming’ across the western world on his trip into town.

A selection of scallies, along with the bloke who had his nose broken in the crowd stared on in bewilderment before blindfold removed and Bono returned to what everyone was really there for.

A stonking rendition of album track Love and Peace came complete with Bono spanking a pair of drums on the extended stage before launching into old favourites Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, and Pride before finishing off the set with the stirring Where The Streets Have No Name.

The first encore revisited that 1993 Zoo TV tour with Zoo Station, The Fly and Mysterious Ways all making an appearance before it ended with With or Without You and Bono disappeared again for another trip to the loo.

A second encore consisted of a couple more new tracks before finishing off with Vertigo for a second time round, so good they played it twice, according to Bono.

After 25 years of recording together, U2 proved they are still the biggest band in the world – stop whining Coldplay.

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