Concert: Review: U2 at the Rose Garden, Portland, 19 December U2005
"Goodbye, goodbye, good-bye, I'm at a place called Vertigo."
Bono altered the lyrics to the chart-topping single and tour namesake for the final show of the third leg of the Vertigo Tour that steamed up an icy cold Portland and helped thaw out those in the general admission line that were starting to lose all feeling in their appendages after camping out as early as 9:30 the night before.
It was the ultimate in bittersweet, an exciting—and appropriate—way to kick off the last show before the band takes an extended tour break, yet so sad to think the guys won't be back in town any time soon.
The show started off as any another with the band ready and playful, and, needless to say, the crowd pumped up as well. It was a mutual love fest that transcended the thousand "thank you" signs fans had distributed amongst themselves and Bono returning the pleasantries, "No, thank you."
Christmas, going home, wrapping up the tour (for now)... those were the sources of material for Bono's typical moments of improvisation. The man was indeed in fine form.
After a beautiful rendition of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" that smoothly segued into a snippet of "In a Little While," Bono turned the attention back on the audience down in front, picking out girls (all the while acknowledging he was focusing only on the girls) and asking how many shows they'd been to.
The numbers were staggering:
It was an opportunity for Bono to wax comical, saying he was starting to feel like Oprah by turning the microphone on one audience member after another, then asking, somewhat rhetorically, "Now when did you first start having these feelings?"
Right through the end of the show, there was an intimacy and sense of spontaneity that's highly unusual for such a massive production. Even the tour crew got their moment in the spotlight, taking to the ellipse prior to the band's final encore, receiving a round of applause from the sold-out arena and the band as well.
The spontaneity was at its finest when U2 cranked out a marvelous take on The Beatles' "Help!" and Bono, so inspired, kept the others on stage for a brilliant impromptu performance. He started out by saying he had been thinking about John Lennon a lot lately (particularly in light of the recent 25th anniversary of his murder) and the band took the opportunity to rip out a fantastically rockin' "Instant Karma," complete with bass solo supplied by Adam Clayton.
Sans any of the gloss and glitz of Willie Williams's masterful staging and lighting designs, it was as if the band had simply stepped back inside Larry Mullen's garage to play a song —and play it loud enough to keep their parental units on edge.
It was particularly striking because on previous tours the band always snuck in a cover song or two; on the Vertigo tour that "flair" has been mostly limited to a few bars of The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" and maybe a few bars from one or two other ditties.
Having dusted off "Miss Sarajevo," one of the gems tucked away on the Passengers album, during the summer European leg, it was all the more stunning how passionately Bono belted out the Italian lyrics like a true opera star after so many nights of maxing out the vocal chords. Can it actually be said, at the end of the tour's third leg, Bono's voice is in the best shape yet? It was a truly phenomenal performance of a very demanding song, particularly when Luciano Pavarotti is not available.
Following "One," Bono began his lengthy laundry list of thank yous, including everybody from "Fr. Paul Allen," who lent them "the hall" for the night, to the Pope. But this is Bono, a man who gets around, leading the world's biggest band on a magnificent tour through a good portion of the northern hemisphere.
There were a lot of people to thank and from then on, through two encores, Bono would take more opportunities to thank more people. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it, but those chuckles as he turned to The Edge and Adam and Larry, as more names continued to pop into his hand, were the chuckles of a man with a lot on his mind, and happily so.
Of course, women are always on the mind, particularly during "Mysterious Ways" and "With or Without You." It was only fitting, then, that those two durable staples would be accompanied on the final show by not just one honey baby, but two—twins. Plucked from the crowd and brought on stage, they were the final accoutrements necessary for a delectable Bono sandwich.
When tickets went on sale way back in March, no doubt there were those anticipating some big "revelation" at the tour's last stop. But, as the weeks leading up to the show confirmed, this wasn't the end of the tour, just the end of the second North American leg, the third leg of the tour, and more people will be feeling the effects of Vertigo next year, when the band goes (finally) Down Under and beyond.
The happiest thought upon leaving the arena was that, while the band may be done with North America for now, there's nothing more goose bump inducing than to hear Bono say, "We're just getting started."
Yeah, they're all multi-multi-millionaires and, as Bono promises, they're living life as large as they can. Bless 'em all, because in living large they continue to inspire their fans to dream up the kind of world they want to live, dream out loud, and in high volume.