City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

U2 lifts off in Atlanta

By Bo Emerson

Caroline Syverson, 14, was eating a sandwich, late Tuesday afternoon, before going to her first U2 concert, with her friend and her stepfather and her stepfather’s girlfriend. “I just want to see if Bono is wearing sunglasses,” she said. “And if he’s going to take them off.”

Just after “Beautiful Day,” four songs into a thunderous, nearly sold-out show at the Georgia Dome, Bono took off his sunglasses. Beads of sweat dotted his face –  a vein stood out in  his temple. “Thank you all,” he told the audience, “for helping us build this—madness.”

And then he gestured up. Above him, all around him, was the 170-ton, four-pronged stage, looking like a metal claw from the Planet of Giant Robot Crabs.

“Really, we built it to get closer to you,” Bono said.

Joke? Hard to know. Because the massive stage was engineered for stadiums and halls big enough to generate their own weather. How do you get close to 65,000 people at a time?

On the other hand, the sea of standing-room souls with general admission tickets on the floor of the Dome, the select few in the Red Zones (who bid for tickets to get at stage front) and the rest of us, packed to the Dome’s rafters, holding up cell phones like Bic lighters, had a strangely intimate connection to the four performers in the middle. This was due to many things, among them the in-the-round stage design, which lifted speakers and other hardware out of the way, and gave Bono, drummer Larry Mullen Jr., bassist Adam Clayton, and guitarist the Edge walkways and bridges to bring them right into the middle of the crowd.

It was also due to that determination to make a connection that is the hallmark of a U2 concert. While the show – and its seven-story accordionated video screen — was eye-poppingly huge, the emotion behind the performance was all human scale.

U2 moved between the human and the gargantuan through 22 songs (including five encores), kicking off the show with “Breathe” and “Get on Your Boots,” from the new album “No Line on the Horizon.”

The crowd was attentive to the new songs, but arms began punching the air when Bono told them to use their “Southern church voices” and the Edge launched into “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” from 1987’s “Joshua Tree.” Bono brought the band’s volume down, and let the audience sing the first verse.

“We’ve got old songs, we’ve got new songs, we’ve got songs we can barely play,” said Bono after a delicate duo version of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” with the Edge on acoustic guitar. “We’ve got a spaceship,” he added, referring to his futuristic stage. “But it’s not going anywhere without you.”

Liftoff was achieved with “Vertigo,” the Edge’s hammered, chiming strings abetted by the shouted “Hello! Hello!” from the audience. Then with a shift of mood, the disembodied heads of the Brothers U2 nodded from the screen, as sequencers chugged through their techno remix of “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”

The pacing of the concert made room for small moments and larger gestures. During “Sunday Bloody Sunday” the Hoberman video screen broadcast images of the protests in Iran. With “Walk On” the band invited a host of volunteers to step out on the circular catwalk surrounding the stage, each holding up a paper mask showing the face of jailed Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It was a sweet and somewhat strange gesture.

Just before the first encore Bishop Desmond Tutu’s face looked out from the video screen and spoke to the audience, congratulating them for their help in buying drugs to treat AIDS and malaria in Africa. (U2 concerts have raised millions for those causes.)

It was a political statement used as a reward, rather than a request, and an expected part of a U2 show. Aneal Joseph, 40, of Nashville, who has seen the band 22 times (including Tuesday’s concert), said he appreciated Bono’s efforts.  “I admire what he’s doing with his rock and roll status,” he said, “but even if he doesn’t say a word about these issues, I don’t mind.. . . As long as the music sounds good and they put on a good show, I’m happy.”

What Joseph likes about the band is not its politics, but that “they’re intellectually engaging, they put fun in it, and they try a lot of stuff. And they’re all about the fans.”

Tuesday’s show opened with a 45-minute set by Muse, playing ferocious, sometimes operatic, progressive rock with a dark edge. Tween daughters who came with their older rocker dads brightened up when the band played “SuperMassive Black Hole,” a tune used in the vampire movie “Twilight.” 

While the pale members of Muse could have fit right in with Robert Pattinson and friends, the hearty souls in U2 were all about sunshine and light, and a starship to take them there.

43 comments Add your comment

[...] U2 lifts off in Atlanta [...]


October 7th, 2009
12:12 pm

Bo, nice work with the review. You captured the big moments just right. Robb Cohen’s photos are great, too. For another review, and Bono’s connections to The King Center in Atlanta, visit


October 7th, 2009
1:14 pm

Well, there’s always one dissenter. Totally disagree with this review, at least from where I was sitting, yes….sitting. This was too big of a setup for even U2 to overcome to connect with the crowd. They were upstaged by their stage. With only a few exceptions, the crowd around me didn’t seem very into this show at all. The sound lacked richness (partially attributable to The Dome), and their new stuff sounded especially muddy.

Love U2, am still glad that I finally saw them live, but, overall, pretty disappointed.

World Be Free

October 7th, 2009
1:27 pm

I had a great time, finally got a chance to see U2!
One drawback-it was too loud!
Scratch another one from my bucket list!


October 7th, 2009
1:28 pm

Awesome show, as intimate as a stadium tour featuring the world’s biggest band on the world’s biggest stage could be. Felt like I was in a giant Baptist church as the 70,000+ strong crowd belted out ‘Amazing Grace’ – chills! Adored the ‘Crazy Tonight’ remix and Bono’s guitar playing on ‘One’.

Traffic blew but hey, it’s ATL on a weekday, what can you do?

All in all truly the greatest show I’ve ever seen!


October 7th, 2009
2:25 pm

Best U2 show I’ve seen. They always put on a great concert, but the new stage ups both the whiz-bang factor and, oddly enough, the intimacy. Come for the music, get converted during the altar calls, leave energized, and hopeful, and (so long as you use earplugs), hearing.


October 7th, 2009
2:30 pm

Well we all love U2. Songs are outstanding, stage was cool, Bono & the guys were absolutely awesome. BUT playing at The Dome – that’s where it went down hill! The acoustics were HORRIBLE!!!!! The Echo Dome! Go back to Phillips Arena where you sound like the best band in the world!


October 7th, 2009
2:34 pm

I have been to a lot of U2 shows dating all the way back to the days before America ever heard of them as i grew up in Ireland & i would have to say that this was by far the worst i have attended.
Perhaps it was the location & the Dome certainly didn’t help & i am sure Joe O’Herlihy done all he could the master that he is with audio but the electricity was just not there as it is in the northern shows or especially the European shows.
I guess that is what comes with the bible belt…

Glad i went to see it at home in Ireland earlier this year is all i can say… last night was such a disappointment i couldnt help but leave after about 40 mins into the show.


October 7th, 2009
2:48 pm

Irish, you left forty minutes into the show?!?!?!? I have seen 14 U2 shows and this was definitely one of the four or five best performances I’ve seen. I was on the floor and the sound was crystal clear, great volume, etc. The crowd on the floor was very energized. You must have been in the upper level where I’m sure the sound quality left something to be desired. I’m also assuming you must have not paid very much for your ticket if you left forty minutes into the show.


October 7th, 2009
3:02 pm

Each of us has a lens through which we filter everything. I have seen U2 at all but two tours since Unforgettable Fire and in several US and Canadian cities. I would LOVE to see them in Ireland. If only I didn’t have to work:) Every time, I’m just so grateful to be in the same room as U2 that nothing gets me down like the Dome sound (ugh – yet earplugs make it much easier to hear vocals, so I could hear Bono just fine) or folks that don’t dance around me. I always prefer to be on the floor, but I wasn’t able to get tickets on the floor, so I danced and sang and rejoiced with the folks in my section. I love hearing Bono speak in Atlanta because he usually has a bit more to say here than in the other cities where I’ve seen the show. There wasn’t a single comment about intimacy in Toronto. I’m just grateful that they’re still playing and still fun and fabulous. And, I love every single show.


October 7th, 2009
3:06 pm

I was in section 138 actually… great view etc, but the show was lacking big time. As others have also stated the stage was too big & there was way too little use made of the outer circle. Besides all that… the audio was terrible.
I studied audio engineering also in Dublin & was actually lectured by O’Herlihy a few times in different venues in Ireland & I know they felt it also, along with the technical glitches that the edge was having & then he was annoyed with the guitar tech… There was just nothing that could be done about trying to produce a show of that magnitude on a plastic bubble.
The vocals were just lost in there completely & the bass overwhelming which is not U2. Wrong location plain & simple… would have being much better in the arena next door as it was the last time.


October 7th, 2009
3:08 pm

oh and the tickets were $250


October 7th, 2009
3:47 pm

Last night was my 14th u2 concert. My 1st show was 26 years ago. I am still on a u2 high. They are still the best rock and roll band in the world.

Yes, I do agree the dome is a bit too large and not as intimate as other arena’s. But I still got the “spiritial awakening” I get everytime I see them live. Last night was the 1st time in the last 5 times I have seen them that I wasnt on the floor. I didnt have the money for good tickets this tour. The energy on the floor cant be matched but I still had a great time. I feel sorry for all the folks around me. LOL

John wilder

October 7th, 2009
3:51 pm

Well I really enjoyed it, but didn’t you think it was odd that it was such a Caucasian audience? don’t normally notice such things, nor care, but given Bono’s drive to support so many good causes around the world, especially Africa it just seemed a shame there was no support other than from a WASP dominated crowd.


October 7th, 2009
4:04 pm

U2 is always a great show (seen them 7 times over the years), and the size of this rivaled the Zoo TV tour. Unfortunately the venue, marred the sound at this show. Echo and boominess from the GA Dome really marred the sound. The stage was too big for Philips, don’t know what other options may have been available (Gwinett?). I would have been upset had I paid for the most expensive tickets.


October 7th, 2009
4:22 pm

My husband and I drove from Memphis and took our 11 year old daughter to her first U2 concert. This was our 4th time seeing them. We saw them 4 years ago in Phillips Arena and I totally agree that the acoustics were better in that building. We sat in Section 140 lower level and the bass was overwhelming at times totally drowning out everything else. I’ve kept up with the tour through videos posted on You Tube and I thought that they just didn’t seem to have as much energy last night, as they have the last few months. Maybe they were just tired from the benefit concert they did Sunday Night in NYC. Anyway, our daughter loved it and we aren’t disappointed that we drove 6 hours. We truly believe they are the greatest band in the world.


October 7th, 2009
4:24 pm




October 7th, 2009
4:32 pm

Ditto Brandon. Saw U2 ZOO Tour at the Dome and swore to never return. I wish I’d kept my own promise. The Energy was there, the killer stage show was there, but no intimacy as Bono alluded to. After seeing any show in any other Atlanta area venue the Dome should be BANNED from doing concerts. U2 should have done 3 days in the Gwinnett arena.
Yeah, I’m 50. Saw Led Zepplin in Madison Square Garden and the sound was way better, (or the drugs maybe?), and most other shows at the Capitol Theater in Passaic.(equiv. to the Fox) My U2 tix were $104 ea. MEZ opposite stage. I would have paid more for Gwinnett Arena.
The vocals suffered greatly – even the floor crowd wasn’t that engaged most of the time. Shame, I’d give anything to be pleasently surprised.
Last great show in ATL was Springsteen at Gwinnett Arena.


October 7th, 2009
4:34 pm

Enter your comments here I was sitting 2nd row section 309. i thought Muse’s sound mix was much better than U2’s. Edge’s high guitar notes were almost painful. The overall visual spectacle was amazing. Traffic tip:Don’t wait in line with all the other lemmings to get off the Williams St. exit. Go one exit down to Courtland St. and turn right on International. Lots of parking on the left and it only costs 5 dollars. You will have about a 15 minute walk to the dome.


October 7th, 2009
4:44 pm

Love the band. Concert was marginal at best.

The Dome is a joke. There were lights on in suites, the floor was half empty, and I never once felt like the crowd was truly into the show. It was completely sterile and completely missed on the “church” and intimacy factors they usually pull off so well.

I’m sure it’s different on the floor, but that’s not the point. There were 50,000 other people in the room and U2 completely under delivered from that stand point. The walkway was completely under utilized as well. I’ve read a lot about how U2 pulls off successful shows and they have always focused on giving every fan great sound and an inclusiveness to the event. They have clearly forgotten their own strategy and would be much better off doing any future tour in smaller arenas. I thought it was a “good” show, but I’ve seen them before and this was a major disappointment.

Mark T

October 7th, 2009
5:11 pm

By the way Bo, they didn’t do 5 encores. Just two.

Encore 1:
18. One -> Amazing Grace
19. Where The Streets Have No Name

Encore 2:
20. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
21. With Or Without You
22. Moment Of Surrender

I’ve never seen such BS on a comment section of a post in my life. Can’t connect with the crowd? I was in the 300s all the way up top and I’ve never heard a crowd sing that loud with a band in my life. That was my 40th concert this year and was just absolutely incredible. The entire place was packed, I saw almost no empty seats. Who really cares if there’s suites with lights on? You’re there to watch the band, not the lights in a suite all the way across the arena from you. The Georgia Dome is an absolutely excellent place to see a show. I saw Backstreet Boys play there when I was a kid and they packed it nicely with a 360 stage, and U2 did the same. I really can’t believe you said there was no connection with the crowd. Yeah they could’ve walked around a bit more but I mean, geeze, Bono grabbed the flag from the front row, he picked that kid up on the walkway, they led the crowd in some massive singalongs which were incredible.

How was the floor half empty? The place was packed beyond belief. I had seats right behind the stage looking at the crowd and I was 110% pleased. One of the best shows I have ever been to…just incredible production and an amazing performance by both bands. No echo, no bad sound for me. Perfect acoustics, great show. Can’t believe people are complaining….


October 7th, 2009
6:31 pm

I paid $15 for my ticket walking over from the office. Nosebleed seat and got a huge kick out of the intimacy comments from up there. Acoustics totally sucked. Acoustic “Stuck in a Moment” worth my $15. so many people left early moved down right into 205th row halfway thru..acoustics sucked there too. Dome sux actually for concerts. good show for $15


October 7th, 2009
8:40 pm

I have been a U2 huge fan since I saw the War tour in the early 80’s. I have seen them everytime they have ever come to Atlanta except for one when I had a baby. Last night I took that now almost 17 year old baby to his first concert-U2 Atlanta.

Ok, honestly, I was disappointed. First, they don’t need the giant alien looking stage. But most importantly they never really had the audience (because the arena is too large and most of the audience does not listen to their new stuff-which is what they mostly played). They did not play Pride In the name of love or New years day. (their original paycheck songs) They did chose songs from their older days such as the song Unforgettable Fire & Ultraviolet, which I love, but no one else knew. The crowd seemed to enjoy Still Haven’t Found, Streets have no name, & Sunday Bloody Sunday and of course One, but by then many in the seats around me (Section 224) were already sitting instead of standing. The Phillips Arena concert left us goose pimply…this one was cold and uninspiring.

Terry Y.

October 7th, 2009
8:46 pm

Finally got to see U2. I was in the back of the stage. sect. 209. row 14 seats one and two…..for me. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the sound. It was aboslutely great in back of the stage.could hear every note on every instrument. And, Bono’s voice was strong and one of if not the best in rock and roll… And the fellas came around back and acknowledged us back folks. except bass man.ha ha..but, Stuck in the moment was played to our sections…great performance in my opinion, and you fans that received Stereo Monster cd…..out of Columbus ga…enjoy.!

Terry Y.

October 7th, 2009
8:48 pm

Oh yea, left out how clear too the background vocals were too….awesome fellas! thanks for the memories!


October 7th, 2009
10:29 pm

Seeing U2 live is always fantastic! They put on a great performance last night with a great mix of classics and new songs. Our seats were in section 250 and the crowd in this area was really into the show. Elevation was the best for crowd involvement in my opinion. I just love how we all are on key with Bono’s woo hoo!

Having seen them in 2005 at Phillips Arena, the acoustics are better there than in the Dome. I agree that they shouldn’t use the Dome again for future venues. As to some of the posts that the crowd was that into U2, I think it also had a lot to do with it being a weekday night. The Atlanta Vertigo tour in 2005 was on a Friday and Saturday which made everyone psyched up for the shows.

U2 has always ended their concerts with ‘40′ and I was disappointed that they didn’t sing it last night. The crowd continues to sing it even after U2 leaves the stage and the lights come on.

My friends and I had a great time and it was worth it for me to drive down from South Carolina! U2 are the best!


October 7th, 2009
10:29 pm

Been a long time U2 fan, saw then in High School on their War Tour and have seen them on every tour since. In my opinion last night was what you made of it, we were standing right in front of the stage about 30 feet back from the center. It was a Tuesday night crowd, the crowd was a little flat compared to most U2 shows that I have been too BUT, if you were not worried about what your neighbor was doing and you focused on the band, then the show was great. Bono was giving his all like he always does and if you wanted to have a great time, you did. If you wanted to pick out something to bitch about, you could find it… we had a great time and the band delivered. We are going down to see them in Tampa on Friday night as well, that crowd will be a little different because everyone will have been drinking for hours before the show.


October 8th, 2009
1:23 am

“Pride”…how could U2 not play “Pride” in Atlanta GA?


October 8th, 2009
8:12 am

Enter your comments here my friend and i got our tickets to the show less than 24 hours in advance. we drove 4 hours, arriving in atlanta at RUSH HOUR. had zero problems with traffic, directions, picking up our tickets, parking. we parked just steps from our gate and paid only $10. people who complain, are you arriving last minute? that is not how to attend a show by the biggest band in the world. we waited for awhile in the parking lot and still managed to enter the INNER CIRCLE about an hour before Muse went on (great band btw). So we paid roughly $75 each and we ended up in the front row of the floor. I can understand if the music quality was poor due to the dome but on the floor everything was phenomenal. I enjoyed this show much more than Raleigh but that may be mainly because i ended up in the front row floor. The atlanta fans on the floor were kind of lame, but they were polite for the most part and didn’t mind that we were dancing our butts off. How people can complain about song choice, i just don’t understand. Every single song is pure genius. How can you choose?

Joe Joe

October 8th, 2009
9:20 am

My fourth time seeing them and it gets better every time. I don’t quite follow the negative reviews. Yeah the acoustics weren’t the best but what do you expect? If you have something bad to say about this show you’re probably a negative soul.


October 8th, 2009
3:02 pm

Well, what can I say? U2 War was the first concert I ever attended. I will add my name to others that have seen many U2 show, however, this one really was lame at best.

First, the place was NOT packed. All of you that say it was are delusional. The entire 11th row in my section and the one next to me was empty. When the lights went down for U2, you could see RED everywhere (the seats are red in color, thus empty seats left lots of red).

The sound was horrible. I mean really, horrible. How was it that MUSE sounded better that U2 and they used the same equipment?
U2 was fair at best. They really did not appear to give their all. Bono was off key a few times and when the Edge grabbed his acoustic guitar there actually was a delay as his equipment was not working!?!?! Hello, this is a U2 SHOW not a garage band! Also, can someone call Bono and tell him to SHUT UP AND SING! The political crap is really getting old.

Finally, the “fans.” Wow, what a super lame group of people. Not until the very end of the show and total drunkenness set in did the audience stand and move. For during the entire first half of the show no stood and moved to the music?!?!? How lame can Atlantans be? Living here for more than 10 years I know the city was lame, but really…this passes all of my extremely low expectations. I noted this comment was noted also by another person on this site.

Overall, a very big disappointment.


October 8th, 2009
9:31 pm

Concern for human lives and human rights, and taking action to preserve is not “political crap.” There are plenty of other bands to fan of if you only care about yourself; may I suggest some Emo. Many fine moments in the concert: “Magnificent,” grand and emotionally touching. Elevation, Beautiful Day, Vertigo, soared. Sunday is still affecting live, and even my least favorite, Stuck was effective as an acoustic duet.


October 8th, 2009
9:31 pm

PS: Section 118 stood up the whole show and there was rocking. It is a tight space to really dance


October 8th, 2009
9:37 pm


If you paid for your ticket for to listen to human rights propaganda, that’s great. I, however, paid money to hear music and I believe most others did.


October 8th, 2009
9:40 pm


I am glad that 118 was the exception. By the,how many U2 shows have you attended?


October 9th, 2009
9:59 am

stand by my comment. Plenty of music also.


October 9th, 2009
10:00 am

stand by my comment. Plenty of music also. 3rd show.


October 9th, 2009
10:01 am

Not propaganda. “How can you stand next to the truth and not see it?”


October 9th, 2009
5:04 pm

I was at the show too and I thought it was fantastic. I would have preferred to see them in Phillips as well, but I’ll take U2 any way I can get them.

I’m also a HUGE fan of Muse, so it was really amazing to see them and U2 in the same night. Muse doesn’t get near the attention they deserve in this country, and I’m glad that people here in the US are starting to discover them more. I just wish that it wasn’t because of Twilight, and that journalists would quit adding in that little connection whenever they are mentioned. Muse was kicking butt and taking names before that tripe was even written in the first place.


October 9th, 2009
5:27 pm

Well, I am Irish born and bred, had never seen U2 live before, am not a sound tech and was in section 137 – but I have to agree with “Irish” – the sound was absolutely terrible – way too much echo in a cavernous tent. A little disappointed that Bono used the “outer circle” so few times to “get intimate”. But it was a tremendous effort by the “fab 4″ to put on a rousing show in a venue that is simply not designed for anything requiring quality sound. Look forward to seeing them again but next time in a venue that will do them justice – Croke Park perhaps?


October 10th, 2009
10:05 am

Well I saw U2 in Seattle at the King Dome in 1997 during their Pop Mart Tour and I would have to say I liked this one MUCH better, ya the sound was not perfect but hell can everything be? I mean the MOST important thing of all is that they are talented and yes they can engage with the audience like NO OTHER band ALIVE! I was in Section 128 Row 28 seats 23 & 24 and WOW is all I can say! My boyfriend was not a real DIE HARD fan like me but I can tell you this at the end of the concert he was a CHANGED man. He said he will NEVER underestimate me with U2 ever again! A DEFINITE MUST SEE!!


October 10th, 2009
11:36 am

My husb an I drove from birmingham to see the show and arrived right as the gates opened… We kept waiting for the dome to fill up. Before that day we’d been looking at other arena pix from the tour and you couldn’t see an empty space. Then at the dome at least half the floor was empty…. that was odd. We had seats in row 310 looking straight ahead at the stage. I thought the sound was amazing. U2 was really great. I was fine paying $30 just to see muse… But got to see one of the greatest bands ever at that same price. If you don’t live under a rock then you know Bono is a major supporter of many different organizations… such key ideals in his life will transfer into his shows!!!

I will definitely see them again :)


October 11th, 2009
7:32 pm

Not an indoor concert…period. Acoustics in GA Dome were horrible, and the “energy” did not seem to be there. Some concert goers were real U2 fans, but looking at the demographic, it seemed more like it was just “something to do” on a Tuesday night for Atlanta. It seemed like the majority had only heard of the new album. Yes, there was singing and “rejoicing”, but it lacked the punch of a typical U2 show. No it was not fully packed. We were in 119 row 6 with clear eyeshot to the stage and back of the gen admin section. The dome was not completely full. And even at the low level, the sound was just muddy, echoed, and full of too much base. This show seemed to be plagued with problems. When Edge had his snafu with the the acoustic, he even ripped his mic away from his mouth and seemed to be giving the stagehand a good lashing. The screen also got stuck when it was opening. It stopped halfway, paused, and then continued to open. That wasn’t right.

Saw this show at Carter-Finley the Saturday before and it was 150% better! Sound was great, crowd energy was there, and the spirits of the band were higher. We had seats behind the stage in Raleigh, and it was still a much, much better show!

For a more recent comparison, we saw U2 at the MCI Center and Baltimore Arena for indoor concerts during the 2001 Elevation tour, and they were awesome.

Muse, don’t get me started. I was listening to Muse from the git-go. They were good in Raleigh, but just didn’t have it in Atlanta. I saw them a couple of years ago in a rock club and they were awesome. All because of the Twilight crap they have been labeled and reduced to bubblegum pop, which did expand their fan base, but it brought in the kids. Muse is not a “kids” band. Still good, and still a fan, but just not as interested anymore. Their older music is much better anyway.