I went to see U2 last Saturday at Invesco Field. It really was a great show -- those guys still know how to play to a stadium crowd in a way very few other bands can. The set list was wonderful, although I wish they'd played some different stuff off the new album. ("Unknown Caller" and "Breathe" would have been welcome replacements for "Get on your Boots" and "Moment of Surrender.")
I have to say that Bono came off a bit weird, with his old swagger coming across as more of a stagger. He seemed to be either a) in his 50s; b) recovering from back surgery; or c) suffering from altitude sickness. It is entirely possible that all three were true. He's still got plenty of energy, and his voice is pitch-perfect, but the stories he was telling were somewhat unfocused. Still, I suppose it's an improvement over when he used to make me feel guilty for playing Sun City or supporting the IRA. (Not that I did those things, but he was very effective with the guilt.)
I've been reflecting a bit on U2's contribution to the genre of aging rock acts. Below is a video from the "Rattle and Hum" film showing a 1987 performance of "Where the Streets have no Name." The performance is fantastic, as is the cinematography. But what struck me was just how little most of the band moves. Edge is pretty stationary and can make the sounds he makes without a whole lot of theatrics. Larry obviously has to exert some energy as a drummer, but he avoids Keith Moon's antics or Neil Peart's anal retentiveness or even Ringo's personality and instead just goes for quiet competence. And Adam, God bless him, probably burns fewer calories per dollar earned than any other entertainer in the world.
It's Bono who does all the real work. He belts out the very lyric-heavy tunes with tremendous power, in addition to dancing and strutting a bit and going off on political rants, and he's the only one who attempts to connect with the audience. The man works his butt off. That's a big burden to carry for a 50-year old with a back injury. My impression is that the rest of the band can continue to perform well into their 60s or even 70s, but Bono's going to have to come up with a different way of doing this sooner or later.