Venue: Rogers Centre
Rating: *****

Toronto has been waiting a long time for this. It’s been over a decade since enigmatic, unforgettable and legendary Irish quartet U2 have brought a live version of their catchy rock ‘n’ roll to these shores with such magnitude.

To those who haven’t been keeping tabs on the people keeping tabs—this event is all over the news — U2’s latest voyage, dubbed the 360 Degrees Tour, is being lauded as one of modern rock’s most grandiose spectacles, with the biggest concert stage in history.

They aren’t kidding. Running in support of their latest, 12th studio effort No Line On The Horizon, 360 Degrees boasts a monumental circular stage enshrouded by a green and orange rig resembling a mutant crustacean. It loomed over the sizeable Rogers Centre like something out of a 1950’s science fiction flick: prepared to devour a sold-out crowd with uncompromising lack of emotion.

Still, even that was mere background fodder to the seamless, engaging and enthralling presentation the band themselves unleashed on this evening.

“We’ve got old songs, we’ve got new songs, we’ve got songs we can barely play and we’ve got a spaceship,” Bono noted with humility between opener “Breathe” and their new album’s title track. Such relaxed professionalism and dynamic raucousness would continue throughout a massive set loaded with both new tunes and inevitable hits.

Kicking off with four tracks from No Line On The Horizon before belting out “Beautiful Day,” an audience-participation heavy “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and a few mouldy oldies reaching back as far as The Unforgettable Fire, the show was a stream of awe-inspiring musicality.

Most impressive, aside from the rotating bridges that spanned the colossal stage, an appearance from a crew member of the international space station and crystal clear sound for the tin can that is the Rogers Centre, was the band’s peppering of personal heroes. From an overpowering recording of David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey” through to off-the-cuff “Stand By Me”, U2 were quite prepared to wear their own heroes on appreciate sleeves.

All in all, the extravaganza was stunning; a high watermark for live concerts on such a level. Few bands in this day and age are able to fill a cavern such as the Rogers Centre. Even fewer are able to deliver with such veracity, spirit and enthusiasm, or as one colleague noted, a presentation that unfolds like “watching a music video happen right in front of you.” More so now than ever, U2 have it all and give it right back to the fans with pride.

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