U2 in Concert in Zagreb, Croatia

Nenad Georgievski By

Sign in to view read count
Maksimir Stadium
Zagreb, Croatia
August 9, 2009

What is it that makes a concert stand out as a great one? Is it the musicians' mastery of their instruments? Is it the way the songs were crafted? is it the way the musicians communicate with their audience? Is it seeing the band members pouring their hearts and souls into the performance? Is it the show—spectacle unfolding before the eyes of the audience? Or is it, in fact, all of the aforementioned qualities wrapped into one. U2's concerts have always fallen into the category of "spectacular"—at least, ever since the days of Zoo TV and the Popmart tours with the enormous screen and video art extravaganza towering in the background, surely as much a highlight of the group's performances as the songs the songs themselves. A U2 concert can be counted on to be in much the same vein as that pioneered by Pink Floyd or, to a lesser extent, the Rolling Stones.

The new tour that U2 undertook to support its newest project, No Line On The Horizon (Interscope, 2009), the U2 360 Tour, takes its show not merely a single step forward but multiple strides beyond it. Theater-in-the-round, of course, is hardly new (Peter Gabriel has done it, but on a lesser scale). What's remarkable about the design of U2's Claw stage is that it resembles a space ship that has descended into the stadium, upon closer inspection appearing as a four-legged monster, an enormous structure with speakers mounted on each side. Practically speaking, the device created real physical proximity between the performers and the crowd, giving an impression that the band is sitting in the lap of the audience.
The band's two scheduled concerts in Zagreb were probably the most eagerly anticipated performances, ever since they were announced. The last time they played somewhere in the Balkans was Thessaloniki, Greece in 1997, when the city was the cultural capitol of Europe. After the twelve-year absence, the expectation and excitement, understandably, were palpable in the audience that packed the stadium.

After the opening few seconds of Bowie's "Space Oddity" (in honor of the recording's 40th anniversary) the whole set just exploded with the rhythms and the riffs of "Breathe" from NLOTH. What's especially noteworthy about U2 is that it manages to satisfy hard-core fans of its past hits yet always starts with new songs: accordingly, its new album dominated the show. After the opening song came additional fresh material, such as "No Line On The Horizon," "Get on Your Boots," and "Magnificent."

A signature of U2 is its ability to make a stadium concert and enormous spectacle an intimate affair. Bristling with energy, unorthodox and daring, Bono, always the ultimate showman, literally commanded his audience of 60,000, holding them in the palm of his hand and singing for each and every one of them. As for the rock show, it was filled with nuggets such as "Elevation," "Until the End of the World," "Vertigo," and "City of Blinding Lights." Performing a variety of songs from its long career, the band simply swung throughout the whole set. It was a treat to see the players so relaxed yet, at the same time, very tight. Edge's virtuoso mastery of the guitar comprised sensitivity and delicacy, excitement and power—all intelligently delivered, most notably on "Until the End of the World." Rarely predictable, he worked at a high level of creativity, requiring the audience's close attention. Extremely disciplined, he brought a variety of colors and flavors to the group, though, all in all, each band member displayed almost equally remarkable talent on their respective instruments.

The most surprising song and arrangement was "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight," since the performance was actually the dance remix of the tune. What was not surprising, at least to anyone aware of the versatile and rich history of the band, was that different generations of fans preferred different periods of the group, so songs such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Unforgettable Fire" (which hasn't been performed for 20 years) were greeted with delight. On the other hand, there were songs such as "One," "With or Without You," "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)," and the acoustic "Stay (Faraway So, Close)" that were played for listeners of a more romantic inclination.

The concert ended gracefully with "Moment of Surrender," a great uplifting, gospel- like number. At the song's culmination, the band created a dramatic church-like atmosphere at once spiritually uplifting and rhythmically charged. All of this electricity conveyed a significant "wow" factor besides playing a major role in the mighty ovation resonating long after the last note had been played.

Related Video


More Articles

Read Panama Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Panama Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Holston
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "2016 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit" Live Reviews 2016 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 28, 2016
Read "The Power Quintet at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews The Power Quintet at Jazz Standard
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 5, 2016
Read "The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground" Live Reviews The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Beale Street Music Festival 2016" Live Reviews Beale Street Music Festival 2016
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile at the Rubin Museum of Art" Live Reviews Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile at the Rubin Museum of Art
by Tyran Grillo
Published: June 7, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!