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They can't!

Tonight's concert at Portland's Rose Garden was superb - two-and-a-half hours of passion, excitement and emotion. The highlights were numerous - it seemed like Bono and the boys pulled out all the stops with the show being the last of the US tour.

I had set out from my hotel shortly after four o'clock. It didn't begin to rain until I arrived at the Pioneer Courthouse Square station. After a fifteen-minute wait in the freezing cold drizzle, a huge crowd squeezed about the MAX train. After arriving at Rose Quarter Transit Center, I walked across the plaza to the arena. I took a couple of photos of the marquee and venue, looked at the huge lines of people with general admission and fan club tickets, and took my position at one of the entrance doors (thankfully under and overhang that protected me from the now steady rain).

The doors opened shortly after six and I actually had to take an elevator to the level where my seat was located (complete with an elevator operator who told me that they jokingly call the 300 level the "penthouse". It was pretty high in the arena but at least I was in the third row, on a slight angle from the stage and elliptical catwalk. Not a bad seat at all as it afforded me a good view of all the action.

The opening act was rapper Kanye West, an unusual choice for U2 but it actually served as a nice musical counterpoint. He was accompanied by a scratch DJ mixer and a string section consisting of four violinists, two cellists, and a harpist - all attractive Asian women wearing black gowns (except for one in white). The sound mix was fairly muddy and bass-heavy at the beginning of Kanye's set but soon improved to an acceptible level of clarity. I just wish the strings had been featured more prominently in the arrangements (and that the video screens had shown more closeups of the various members of the string section). I thought that some of the tunes were quite good, although I much prefer singing to rapping.

After a 30-minute or so break, U2 took the stage to "City Of Blinding Lights" at 8:50. A fixture of the band's shows since their beginnings (and taken to new heights on this tour) has been Bono's ad-libbing of different song segments within the main songs. There were many of these impromptu lyric changes at this concert; I wasn't able to take setlist notes so I'll have to wait until I download the concert before I'll be able to pick them all out. However, two that I can remember were "Rock The Casbah" by The Clash and the Civil War tune "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."

In the lead-in to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," Bono made a reference to their 1981 Portland gig where his notebook of lyrics for thru still-being-written second album was stolen.

The biggest surprise of the night came after the band had played "One," the main set closer at all of the other shows on this leg of the tour. Bono seemed reluctant to leave the stage and made a quick huddle with Adam, Larry, and The Edge. He then told the audience that he'd been thinking a lot about John Lennon for the past few days (the 25th anniversary of his murder was a little over a week ago) and that they wanted to try something out on us. A ragged but highly-energetic version of Lennon's "Instant Kharma" followed which featured a mid-song breakdown of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over."

Another surprise occurred just prior to the third and final set of encores when virtually all of U2's touring crew (approximately 50 people) came out and lined up along the ellipse. Bono had been name-checking them throughout the previous several songs, thanking them for the fine work they did on the tour. When the band came back obstage, they led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to one of the crew members.

Following a long version of "40" from 1983's "War" album, the house lights took an especially long time to come back on, promoting me to wonder if we'd get one more end-of-tour song. Alas, it wasn't to be and the lights came on at 11:15.

The train station was absolutely packed when I arrived and it took a couple of trains and thirty minutes before I was able to squeeze aboard one. At least the rain had stopped! I got off of the MAX at 5th Street and enjoyed the brisk walk back to the hotel. I'm looking forward to reading the concert review in tomorrow's newspaper.

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