U2 at TCF Bank Stadium, 7/23/11

Categories: Last Night
Photos by Tony Nelson
U2 with Interpol
July 23, 2011
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

These reviews are inevitably for fans, yet I find myself writing for U2-haters. One friend left a message during the show on Saturday wondering why I was there. Would anyone at the TCF Bank Stadium that night have asked themselves the same question?

U2 hatred is fascinating because it shares the same embarrassment and suspicion many fans feel even as they tip the other way. In my case, doubts go back to something the group also obviously cares about: punk rock. Back when War and the live album Under a Blood Red Sky were making the new wave band a feedback-drone commonplace, punks were divided. For every Replacements satirizing "I Will Follow," there was a Juvenile Truth imitating it. U2 had a couple ideas that were distinctly post-punk: Find new dimensions in minimalism and groove, and sing with abandon about things larger than yourself.

Their trick was increasing the scope and drama of that "larger," so that now, when Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. arrive in a stadium of 58,000 people, they're treated like superheroes. (Maybe that's why they're drawn to Batman- and Spider-Man-related projects.) Fans react to U2 the way the citizens of Metropolis respond to Christopher Reeve's Superman: Can U2 help us? Are they okay? Will they save us? Who will they team up with next?

With great power comes great responsibility. So U2 don't just convey messages (now more numerous and multimedia and international and at times rambling than any '80s fan could have anticipated). They make an industry out of their commitment to repay every fan dollar with the best rock show ever seen. On Saturday, that meant a towering 150-foot space claw with a 360-degree video screen topped by a futurist minaret, at one point shooting light so high into the rain that the white looked like another steeple to the heavens. 

Videos by Doug Falken

There was also a pre-recorded video message from Commander Mark Kelly on International Space Station, after the band dedicated "Beautiful Day" to his wife, the wounded Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. And did I mention 27-odd songs, mingled with quotations from the Stones, Leonard Cohen, and Talking Heads? All with barely a pause in the downpour, and only the equipment sheltered by umbrellas that popped up out of the stage like robotic helicopter wings?

The thing is, punks rejected the idea that any band should have great power of any kind. So it makes sense that Henry Rollins mocked Bono's famous waving white flag and bubble butt at Red Rocks, in the video for the anti-war song "Sunday Bloody Sunday," because Rollins spent the years of U2's mid-'80s ascendance not having a clue what to make of Black Flag's new mass audience. U2 were so goofily sure of themselves! So serious and pure and obvious and ready, so caught up in the ludicrous idea of making the world a better place through spiritual rock 'n' roll catharses and a few words about the situation in South Africa. And they were so good at it!

Their response to the weather on Saturday was like an illustration of their career. To a sky raining down, U2 opened up their eyes and arms, and said, "Yes." This was partly planning: The band prepared for rain like they had prepared for everything. So the apparently Christmas-tree-like glittering electro-apparatus of the claw was surprisingly waterproof, even as the screen introducing "Sunday Bloody Sunday" with images of a war-torn Middle East was invisible to many in the far upper stands due to sheets of rain. Red lights gave the water in the air a horrific glow, while spotlights turned it to swords or pillars. Larry grabbed some bongos, while his set was being toweled off. Adam took off his shirt.

Nature and the city helped: Where the sky at Red Rocks had in fact been cobalt-blue, Minneapolis's clouds glowed red, the air warm. Lightning accompanied "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," thunder rumbled for "One." The rain stopped while the wind whipped during "Beautiful Day," oddly matching the song's structure, while the Minneapolis Aquatennial Festival offered rocket sounds for Commander Kelly's segment, shooting fireworks two miles to the West.

The band made the most of every opportunity. Having met with Somali activists earlier in the day, Bono brought out singer-rapper K'naan for a nervous but tender funk take on Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." The Edge and Bono did an acoustic "Stuck in a Moment That You Can't Get Out Of" dedicated to Amy Winehouse. And what burned into the memory about "Pride (In the Name of Love)" wasn't Bono mentioning the Peace Corps turning 50, as it did this year, or him saying America is "not just a country but a beautiful idea," which it is, but the way he and U2 went silent altogether after coaxing a lovely a capella coda from the audience, letting the sold-out stadium hear itself sing quietly accompanied by nothing other than the sound of rain drops on clothing. 

This was showbiz on the scale of the elemental, and it highlighted the leap of faith involved in U2 fandom. Their style is to appear excessive and woozy but actually be thoughtful and just right: Even their large dose of self-deprecating humor about their self-importance feels pitch perfect. So singing Prince's "Purple Rain," a few bars of which chased Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," fit not just the just city and the weather but the music, giving lift-off to "Where the Streets Have No Name"--a sure-fire arena-worker seemingly about nothing but being U2's lift-off. (I never liked it until it was undeniable live.)

Bono also sang snippets of other "rain" songs--the Beatles' "Rain," Ann Peebles's "I Can't Stand the Rain," and several times Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain," which U2 thankfully left the audience with as an afterthought to the epic junkie weeper "Moment of Surrender." These were all too messily perfect to seem decided-by-committee. Yet they probably were decided upon, in one way or another, just as every Gene Kelly dance move was carefully choreographed and rehearsed. The bigger trick of U2 is they make it seem as natural.

Photos by Tony Nelson
Critic's bias: I'm a huge fan of optimism, not as big a fan of faith.

The crowd: Truly all-ages, pre-teens to elderly.
Overheard in the crowd: "The rain made it great!"

Random notebook dump: Openers Interpol provided both a musical-visual call-back to U2's gothy roots and a balance to all that relentless uplift: Their music said, "It's an ugly day, and you'll never find what you're looking for."

Set list:

"Even Better Than the Real Thing"
"The Fly"
"Mysterious Ways"
(snippet of the Beatles' "Rain")
"Until the End of the World"
(snippet of Leonard Cohen's "Anthem")
"I Will Follow"
"Get on Your Boots"
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," with K'naan
"Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"
"Beautiful Day"
(snippet of "Space Oddity")
(snippet of Ann Peebles's "I Can't Stand the Rain")
"Pride (In the Name of Love)"
"Miss Sarajevo" (with Bono singing the part performed by the late Luciano Pavarotti, not bad)
"City of Blinding Lights"
(snippet of Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain")
(snippet of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You")
"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" (remix)
(with snippets of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "Discotheque," and Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime" and "Psycho Killer," with, I swear, a snippet of "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" in here somewhere)
("Please" snippet)
"Sunday Bloody Sunday"
"Walk On"

(Prince's "Purple Rain" snippet)
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"
(another "Purple Rain" snippet)
"Where the Streets Have No Name"
(another snippet of "Singin' in the Rain")
"Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"
"With or Without You"
"Moment of Surrender"
"Singin' in the Rain" (begun by Bono, sung by audience)

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Location Info


TCF Bank Stadium

2009 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN

Category: General

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Andrew James
Andrew James

Great review on the music and concert... which was incredible!

On a slightly different note, did anyone else have problems before the show finding a place to grab a beer/burger?  I got there at 5pm thinking plenty of time to sit somewhere and have a drink or two and get some food.  We wandered around for about two hours looking for anywhere with a table.  Everything was at leas a 90 minute wait.  There was a line about 30 people long at Buffalo Wild Wings to buy a beer out of the trough.  We finally gave up and drove into St Paul and found a nice Green Mill to chill out at before driving back to the show.

Also, TCF Stadium itself is madness for getting around in.  We had GA tix down on the floor.  Security told us to go up the stairs on to the concourse for bathrooms.  Which we did.  But they wouldn't let us back down the stairs.  We had to walk all the way around to front of the arena, down some stairs, through another hallway and finally back on to the floor (of course now we're all the way in the back and had to force our way back up to where we were.

$50 parking, no where to get food/drink, no tailgating, at least one MAJOR A$$hole security guy (I think he was campus police - can't remember).  Everything about U2 and the show was fantastic.  Pretty much everything relating to TCF was awful.


Nice review, Peter. I also noticed how U2 still referenced their roots with the nods to CBGB's and Talking Heads, etc.  I'm also convinced that the first time Bono sang "Singing in the Rain" was not Gene Kelly's version but, instead, a nod to Alex from "A Clockwork Orange." My only criticism.  Yes, although the show was chorographed and they made it seem natural, I would have liked a bit more spontaneity.   Wouldn't it have been way cooler to have the entire band play "Rain" by the Beatles, rather than a short vocal rendering of the chorus? That would have really knocked my soaking socks off.

Sarkeesa.  Get over yourself and your unrealistic ideals. Stick to Fugazi concerts. I noticed criticism of how the tickets were handled, but I didn't notice a solution.  You do realize, that if you seek a refund from Ticketmaster, you'll not only lose your seats, but you'll also lose the fees, which are significant.  Seems like it was a reasonable way of handling a cancelled concert.

"Isn't punk rock, like a party line?" -Wilco


What an arrogant bunch of crap. Just review the show man. Or shut up. U2 are bigger than life and reserve the right to act accordingly because they do it in the right way. So much a case of getting what you give.


u32 is almost finished with their 2011 na tour, cancelled from 2010.  they are happy to get out of town without the true criticism they deserve regarding the length of time they kept patrons ticket revenues before providing their concerts.  thicets went on sale nine to 10 months before the tour was scheduled to begin. the tour was cancelled for one year (the tour principles considered it a reschedule so they didn't have to provide mandatory refunds).  so in effect hundreds of thousands of ticket purchasers had to decide to ask for a refund and lose their ticket locations or have their money tied up for almost two years.  maybe some $200 billion dollars or more.  this during one of the most trying economic periods in the last fifty years.  also, this with nary a wimper from the music media community.the sophisticated, monopolistic music conglomerates (live nation, ticketmaster, and the band and their managment saw fit to keep a large number of people's, large amount of money for any obscene amount of time, with no backlash from the music "intelligentia".  let's also remember the majority of patrons are 20-40 year ols young adults.  nice, my compliments to all involved, victims excluded. 


angie, you got to be kidding.  did youi miss the point.  the tour principles kept a half a million people's money, maybe $200 billion, with a b, for almost two years.  the monopolistic industry corporations and the band kept 20-40 year old young adults large amount of money for an excessive period. i'm sorry but nothing can justify that greedy, consumer abusive behavior, nothing.  it is such an extreme, arrogant, elitist act of patron abuse.   


What in the hell are you talking about? Tickets typically go on sale months before the tour date. Tour dates often get rescheduled. You say people had their money tied up for two years? When you buy concert tickets you're rarely expecting that money to "come back". This isn't the stock market, it's a freaking concert.


dude, why sell tickets almost a year ahead of time, obviously it's greed.  three to four months isn't long enough lead.  so its ok to keep people's money for two years.  who said anything about getting money back like the stock market.  it's just a matter of common decency, if you need to cancel your tour for over a year, a tour you sold tickets for almost a year earlier, wouldn't it be the considerate thing to do to cut people's losses and give them their money back and offer them a right of first refusal to buy the same tickets some 9/10 months later, or something that considers their predicament.  this is the electronic age you know.  how else can we be going back and forth on this if it wasn't.  how many people lost their tickets (money ) or couldn't go for some reason.  alot happens over two years.  really, we're talking about alot of money for a long period of time.  i for one am sick of the silence on such greed and consumer abuse.  and no, offering refunds on request does not in any way justify it.  the abuse is too big.


sorry blinky, my mistake it was $200 million.  alot of money just the same.  and a lot of people (maybe a half a million or more) who could have used the $100, 200-300 dollars during the 18 month period they had to wait to get what they paid alot of money for.  young people who had rent, food, car loans, and student loans to pay during that year and a half.  they're not rich rock stars, or rich industry corporate executives, just ordinary young people trying to get by in a very difficult economic world.  sorry, buddy but they deserve better.


nutjob, they rescheduled 15 shows, not all 110.  that's not $200 billion, lol.besides, as a previous poster pointed out, people spent the same amount of money whether U2 played the day of the ticket purchase or 2 years later.  it's a sunk cost.  what will $50 earn you in an extra year?  $1?  50 cents?  at today's rates, people should be happy they didn't lose money in the passing time.  


dude, nothing changes the fact that they kept people's money for almost two years, alot of people, alot of money, for a long time.  arrogant, elitist, greedy that.  maybe they needed the money for spiderman.  but you think it's was fair, i'm sure there's tens of thousands of others, like the one in your row who would have appreciated buying tickets at a resonable presale period, a refund when the original tour was cancelled, and an opportunity to repurchase the tickets, again, at a reasonable presale interval.  i guess i just think that that's the way it should be.  that's how i would want to treat my patrons.  you know, do unto others as you would have them do to you.  there's a right way to do things, and there's a wrong way that no rationalizing can justify.  and keeping a half a million young people's $200million dollars for almost two years is wrong on every level.  shame on anyone who doesn't get that.


Tickets went on sale in November 2009. The concert was to be in June 2009. You're using fuzzy math to try to prove a point that really isn't a point. And, yes, a lot happens in a year. The lady who looked to be about 8 months along in my row on Saturday would agree with you.

Based on Stubhub, Craigslist, Twitter, U2.com and Interference.com posts I'm going to tell you that tickets were in fierce demand and I'd be surprised to meet anyone who couldn't pawn their tickets off at face value. Which is why it would be the stupid thing to refund everyone's tickets considering how easily you can get rid of them with a couple of mouse clicks.

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