It's always a sign of a band in great creative health that they put out a double live album filled with mostly new material. They're in the stadiums of the mighty US of A, playing their most blustering and pompous music yet. Along with about half original new songs, they choose a selection of suitably rootsy cover versions (Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Bob Dylan). They're a great band at the top of their game, but the overwhelming Americanness tends to turn me off some way through its 80 odd minutes. The couple of country numbers they play here are too dirge-like. I don't mind blues, but the BB King "When Love Comes to Town" is too monotonous for me. And Bono does, um, bug me on occasion with his right-on ranting, but nice of him to explicitly apologise for it!
In my biased opinion, they're most successful on some of the new songs, such as the massive ballad "All I Want Is You". It's no new style, but it's a fine U2 song. Some of the more original moments here include the piercing vocal harmonies on the atmospheric "Heartland". "God Part II" anticipates the more cynical but cool stuff they were to head towards in their next couple of albums. They turn in a powerful live version of "Bullet the Blue Sky", and routine performances of their other hits. But overall it's probably better appreciated in a football stadium rather than on a stereo.
August 6, 2004