[ A     JMS]

On September 24, 2009, I saw U2 perform in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. As a rock and roll band formed in the early 1980s, U2 attracted an audience of mostly 25 to 50 year olds who are familiar with U2’s songs, and have followed the band’s path for the past thirty years. U2 came on stage at 8:00 pm to greet an eager and enthusiastic crowd. Most of the people in my vicinity sang along with the band throughout the entire concert. There was a significant amount of alcohol, which contributed to an energetic, lively, and at times, rowdy setting.

The stage was located at the center of the stadium and was surrounded by a crowd of about 20,000. The stage was a circle, which gave the band’s tour its name: the 360° Tour. This layout allowed the band members to spread out across the stage, come into close contact with the audience, and create a certain intimacy despite the large stadium setting. They used the entire stage, which gave the chance for the crowd to obtain a clear, unobstructed view of each band member. There was a futuristic-looking dome that was suspended over the circular stage. There were bright neon green, red and purple lights on the dome that flashed sporadically throughout the concert while fog machines filled the stage with a thick mist.

The members of U2 include the main guitarist and vocalist, Bono, guitarist and keyboardist, “The Edge,” bass guitarist, Adam Clayton, and drummer, Larry Mullen Jr. They interacted with the crowd between songs, relating their inspirations for the upcoming songs, publicizing their activist/environmentalist agendas, and promoting current international peace initiatives. The concert lasted 2.5 hours and it was definitely worth the $100 I spent to attend. Listening to the live music of U2 was an enjoyable and exhilarating experience and I would recommend to anybody who is a fan of U2 or rock and roll to witness the band in a live setting.

U2 employs the song form, which uses verses and choruses to transmit music. The typical three to five minute songs are themed and relate stories or particular feelings. These feelings include love, hope, and rejection. The choruses of the songs are repeated several times throughout the song. This impels the listener to remember the song and allows him or her to continue singing or humming it long after the concert. The choruses emphasize the main points and ideas of the song. For example, the eighth song U2 played during the performance, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” describes a man’s extensive and desperate search for his destined lover. The chorus’s words are the same as the song’s title and the chorus is repeated seven times. Coming out of the stadium, I could not stop myself from singing these words and replaying them in my head.

The tempo of the music varied throughout the concert. The fast tempo songs roused a spirited mood and excited the audience as it sang loudly together with the performers. The slower tempo songs quieted and soothed the crowd. The first song of playlist, “Breath,” has a fast tempo and effectively stimulated and enthused the audience. It created the highly energized atmosphere that lasted throughout the entire concert. Furthermore, the dynamics of the music changed along with the tempos. The faster tempo songs were primarily played and sung at a louder volume while the slower songs were played at a softer volume.

When analyzing the concert, one negative critique that arises concerns the dynamic element of the music. During three or four of the songs, I had difficulty hearing the words and melody of the songs. Because of the immense size of Giants Stadium, its open aired structure, and the many speakers that were stationed throughout the stands to compensate for the venue’s expanse and openness, the music was too loud. Therefore, the high volume nature of some of the songs actually worked to the songs’ detriments. At times it sounded as if U2 was producing loud, indiscernible noise with a heavy beat. There were simply too many speakers and amplifiers. Additionally, the loud sound the audience made during these same songs contributed to this blaring noise. I will definitely keep these factors in mind in the future when considering attending a rock concert in a massive, outdoor, venue. Although this issue did frustrate me at times during the concert, it did not significantly subtract from my overall experience.

The metrical patterns U2 used differed from one song to the next, though the band primarily utilized the quadruple meter, which contains four beats per measure. The drums and percussions set the rhythms so it was easy to recognize the meter as the drum beats often dominated the music. One song that U2 performed and contains an irregular rhythm is “Desire.” The song uses the famous “Bo Diddley” beat, which was created by rock and roll/rhythm and blues guitarist, Bo Diddley. This beat was inspired by African dance rhythms and gives the song a bouncy, playful tone which makes the listener want to drum and beat along with the drummer.

U2 incorporates harmony, or the simultaneous combination of notes and chords to portray particular emotions and reactions. The harmonies are in both consonant form, which provides feelings of consistency and warmth to the music, as well as dissonant form, which makes the listener feel uneasy and discordant. In “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” one of the most famous of U2’s songs, U2 uses a consonant harmony to express a sense of everlasting hope to commemorate the situation in Ireland, where the band is from. It released this song in 1983 at a time when Northern Ireland was engaged in a long, bloody conflict with Great Britain in an attempt to obtain political freedom. While the overall melody of the song has a more gloomy and downbeat tone, the harmony contributes a much-needed element of aspiration. As mentioned, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is one of the more popular U2 songs and it was at the latter part of the night’s playlist. When the band finally began playing the song, the audience, which was clearly anticipating it, became ecstatic.

The song “Angel of Harlem,” uses a homophonic texture in which there is a main melody with an accompanying harmony. The harmony takes a secondary role to enhance the principle line of music. In this case, the central line is played by the guitar and at times by the piano, while the trumpet produces the simplistic harmony. These particular instruments were chosen as they represent the meaning of the song, which was about Harlem. The music had a jazzy sound because of the piano and the trumpet. Furthermore, the singing sounded like it came from a gospel choir when accompanied by the trumpet. This music transported me to a Harlem nightclub with a gospel-based church choir performing, and made me want to get up and dance, as much of the audience did during this song.

I really enjoyed seeing U2 perform in Giants Stadium. It was the first time I had ever seen them in concert and was captivated by the show. The environment, with its massive audience, enormous stage, and flashing lights, gave the concert an aura of importance and magnitude.  I had the opportunity to see my favorite band perform, which was a thrill for me and I hope to attend their concerts in the future. My analysis of the concert’s atmosphere and musical elements enriched my experience as it compelled me to pay closer attention to details of the music and setting that I usually take for granted. I felt more fulfilled when leaving the concert, as I had managed to provide myself with a recreational as well as an emotionally fulfilling experience.