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It was a sight to see.
A 164-foot-tall in-the-round set, which spanned the width of the football field and towered over the Olympic torch. The Claw, perched on four legs, was topped by a glowing needle, which more pessimistic observers opined looked like a lightning rod that in stormy weather would invite death and destruction to Bono and the rest of the band.
But God didn't want to strike down Bono on Tuesday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium, as the skies were clear as the Only Band That Wants to Matter launched a two-hour-plus, 24-song epic set that thrilled the more than 40,000 audience members.
The evening had a festive mood with the crowd engaging in The Wave minutes before the band took the stage, as if the Utes were about to whip their new Pac-12 rivals.
U2 began the concert with its ultimate tribute to 1990s irony, "Even Better Than the Real Thing," but the rest of the night was largely devoted to the earnestness the band is known for, especially during a peace rally in the midst of "Walk On."
That's not to say they were not playful with one another; Bono joked to the crowd about guitarist The Edge's inability to get hot water in his hotel room for the past few days. The lead singer thanked the crowd three times for its patience, after having to postpone the concert for a year because of his back injury, "We are so much better than last year," Bono said.
The night was full of the arena anthems that have exploded inside stadiums and your car radio for three decades, but the night's best moments came during songs that weren't as high-profile as "One." During "Miss Sarajevo," Bono showed off his jaw-dropping vocal flexibility, singing the late Luciano Pavarotti's operatic aria that was in the original version of the song. Later, the title track to "Zooropa" bubbled and percolated as the band was enveloped by a illuminated steel web that descended from the top of The Claw.
It was also the night of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, and Bono led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to Mr. Zimmerman after adding some lines of the Bono-Dylan collaboration "Love Rescue Me" to the end of "All I Want Is You." Best of all, Bono, accompanied just by his own guitar, crooned the first verse of "Blowin' in the Wind" before expanding into "Where The Streets Have No Name."
But in the end, the night was about the emotional connection U2 made with the crowd, with The Claw serving its purpose to make the stadium feel intimate. It has often been said that seeing U2 is a religious experience. But if only every day of church could be this loud, thoughtful and pulse-quickening.
God, don't strike me down.
R U2 exceeds lofty expectations with thrilling spectacle of sound and fury.
With • The Fray
Where • Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
When • Tuesday