As I stood watching U2 play the 105th of 111 shows on their 360 Tour, all I kept thinking was “Now what?”
No tour has sold more tickets or grossed this much money. Every single show throughout the seven legs has sold out — this despite a million tickets having been thrown into disarray by Bono’s back injury last year. By the time it comes to an end in Moncton, on the 30th, the total box office take will be somewhere around $700 million.
So I ask again: Now what?
Everyone in the industry that I’ve heard from —including the mysterious Arthur Foegel of Live Nation, the Canadian mastermind behind this tour and mega-tours by Madonna, the Police, David Bowie and other superstars — acknowledges that there isn’t another act on the planet capable of duplicating what U2 has done. Even the U2 organization itself can’t imagine anything bigger or more successful.
Why? After 35 years, U2 remains a working rock ’n’ roll band that still can release albums and have them go platinum around the world. Their catalogue is so deep that it spans generations of fans. Everyone goes to the shows because they love different parts of that catalogue. Tours are global events that attract heads of state. (When I saw the show in Moscow last summer, Mikhail Gorbachev was in the stands behind me.) There’s just not another act with U2’s musical firepower or financial backing. There isn’t another band capable of raising the start-up capital for staging a tour as big as 360. U2 and their people had to spend upwards of $150 million before a single ticket was sold. The three Claw stages alone cost $35 million each. Their construction is so sophisticated that bidders from four continents want to buy them for conversion into permanent concert pavilions.
In the current musical environment, I can’t see anyone ever outdoing this U2 tour. The Rolling Stones? They might come close, but they’d have to play more shows — and at their ages, that would be tough.
I may just have to fly to Moncton to see that final show. Not because I want to see U2 again but because once the lights go down at the end of the set, I fear that we will never, ever see the likes of a rock ’n’ roll show on this scale ever again.