U2 played two sold-out nights at the Glendale Sports Arena (in the middle of farm fields on the west side of Phoenix), and sure, the people down in the standing-room-only area right in front of the stage probably had a much more intimate experience than those of us in the rafters of the stadium--but we were not left cold. The stage was circular, with markings like a target, and an oval walkway orbited the stage so that Bono, Adam Clayton and even the Edge and Larry Mullen, on occasion, could walk out further into the crowd and play. Lights ran in rings on the stage, and cascaded down from above, creating synchronized visuals along with the sound so that everyone, even those in the nosebleed seats, got chills.
Kings of Leon played a 45-minute set of their country-edged rock. Many of their songs had a U2 twinge, which isn't at all interesting when you know the real thing is waiting in the wings.
U2's set began with red glitter falling through spotlights, glinting like fireflies, during the opening notes of "City of Blinding Lights," from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. A friend who went to both shows said that the band was "on fire" Friday night compared to the previous night, and that energy was felt by the audience. Several times during the show, the house lights came on, and thousands of little arms waved as Bono held the mic out, as if he were conducting. Through classics such as "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "New Year's Day," "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and more recent songs, the audience sang along.
Even though Adam Clayton messed up a few times (and Bono turned toward him, as if to show him the right chords to play), there's nothing quite like a well-produced arena rock show from a band like U2, who pull political meaning into their songs and elicit emotional responses from the audience. Bono plugged One, a campaign to end poverty worldwide, by asking everyone to take out their cell phones and text their name to 86483. All the lights were turned off so the blue-green screens of hundreds of phones flickered and glowed. Cell phones are indeed the new lighter.
After the 90-minute set, the band played one encore, bringing a woman on stage from the audience to dance with Bono through "Mysterious Ways" and ending with "40." Everyone sang "How long to sing this song" along with Bono, and many kept singing even after the band bowed and left and the lights came up, almost like a mantra.