Photos and review by David Sason
U2‘s greatest live triumphs have always been born of sharp contrast. Zoo TV’s multimedia overload was a direct reaction to their austere ’80s persona, and the Elevation Tour years later was a tasteful comeback built on minimalism and audience connection (the “no-concept” concept). So it’s really no surprise their show in Oakland Tuesday night was such a letdown - especially after a one-year postponement and a six-year absence from the Bay Area. The latest stop on their record-breaking 360 Degrees Tour treated 70,000 faithful to an impressive revue of career-spanning fan favorites (“Zooropa” being a welcome addition), but was short on potency due to lack of originality and poor choice of venue. The newly named Overstock.com Coliseum has hosted the Irish legends before, but the last time was on 1997’s Popmart Tour, when sensory overload and theatricality were their forte. Their attempt to translate the stripped-down intimacy of the latest decade’s tours to a gigantic outdoor venue simply fails. Despite a fine performance by Bono, The Edge and co., they appeared far removed in the belly of the monstrous, confusingly dark stage setup. Sadly, U2 forgot the book they wrote on best outdoor-show practices. There was no b-stage for the back of the field, and the massive house lights were underutilized, which could have helped those in the upper decks feel included with some well-timed bursts during anthems like “Beautiful Day” and “Where the Streets Have No Name”. On top of all this, the show’s layout was not even in the round, despite the tour’s name.Conceptually, the show was a half-baked mess, with a thin space station motif that included sporadic robot chatter and a perplexing recitation of “Space Oddity” lyrics by a space station astronaut via satellite. Without engaging visuals for those in the stands, the show never fully achieved liftoff. Such a letdown considering the band’s unparalleled skill for making large shows feel smaller. For their next tour, unless they have some new ideas, U2 should stay indoors.—David SasonSetlist is here.