Monday, October 24, 2005

pittsburgh: better than you'd expect

I think the title of this post would be a pretty good marketing campaign for the Great City of Pittsburgh. Either that or "Pittsburgh: Philadelphia's less popular brother!"

We got back last night from a whirlwind trip down to Pittsburgh, where we saw U2 live and in concert. Now, I have to admit I'm not as big a U2 fan these days as I used to be. I liked their last album, but didn't love it--a lot of it to me sounded like B-sides to All That You Can't Leave Behind, which was just a fabulous album. So when I bought my wife tickets to this concert last March, I was excited, but more for her than for me. I saw the band in Phoenix on their last tour, and I figured this probably wouldn't match that.

But what can I say? U2, more than any band I've ever seen, knows how to put on a show. Yeah, the light show is awesome and invigorating, but that's not all. Part of what they do now is Greatest Hits stuff, it's true--probably every concert will have "Pride," and "One," and "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." But those songs are incredible live. More importantly, though, the band knows what audiences will respond to--not just what hits they want to hear, but what looks good on stage, how to create a rapport with the audience, how to get a crowded arena to get the chills all at once.

Bono started out sounding a little hoarse to me, like it kind of hurt him to hit those higher notes. But he didn't back off or do a shorter set or anything--the band took the stage at 9:00 (after a raggae opening act) and the concert lasted till nearly 11:30. He sounded more comfortable as the show went on, but it really wasn't a problem--everything just sounded more raw and real. The concert was filled with little moments that just rocked--my favorite being when they pulled a guy out of the audience who had a sign that said "I want to play Party Girl." They brought him up on stage, gave him a guitar, and he played (really well, too) the song with the band. It was incredibly cool.

The band played two encores, and played a wide variety of songs (including a few early ones tha I'd never heard before) and even sang "Miss Sarajevo" (though Bono sang the opera in place of Pavorotti) in honor of the opera singer's birthday. It was just a great show. And Amelia LOVED it. She was so excited and had such a good time. That made me just as happy as the concert itself.

As for the city of Pittsburgh--well, the downtown area is a lot prettier (and a lot cleaner) than I would have expected. The city itself is arranged on the steep banks of the river, so there are bridges and tunnels all over the place. I liked it. We decided we could handle living there, I think, if we found the right house/neighborhood. Because really--it's not as bad as you'd think.

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