Anything less from U2 would’ve been a disappointment.

Mixing timeless music with prodigious theatrics and their penchant for social action, U2 put on a soaring spectacle of a concert that only they were capable of pulling off.

On a picture-perfect summer night last Sunday in East Lansing, almost a year to the date of their originally scheduled concert that was postponed due to lead singer Bono’s back surgery, U2 brought their record breaking, globetrotting 360° Tour to Michigan.

But before U2 burst into their set, the always whimsical Florence Welch, of Florence + the Machine, kicked off the show, prancing around U2’s masterpiece of a stage as if it were her own personal playground. Donned in an elegantly flowing magenta dress that paralleled the energy of her performance — not to mention her fiery red hair — she soulfully belted hits from her album Lungs, culminating with crowd-pleaser “Dog Days are Over.”

U2 hit the stage with an unexpected urgency, quickly tearing through the opener “Even Better Than The Real Thing.” Despite the Irish quartet’s unbounded energy, the nearly 70,000 in Spartan Stadium were slow to warm up to the band’s manic pace through the sultry “Mysterious Ways” and “I Will Follow” — the sprawling single from their 1980 debut album Boy.

The band was right at home on the four-legged stage, affectionately nicknamed “The Claw”, that soared 170 feet over the field. They never seemed lost on the massive structure — Bono and the gang paraded around the circular catwalk surrounding the stage and across bridges spanning the crowd.

At times it seemed like more than just a rock concert. Bono used his pulpit to share his political views while images of the uprisings in the Middle East flashed on video screens and The Edge played the thumping guitar intro to “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” During “Walk On,” a montage of Burmese democracy-advocate Aung San Suu Kyi praised her release from 20 years of house arrest.

Although many bands would have been overwhelmed with the task of commanding a stadium, Bono sought to build a relationship with the crowd and establish a more intimate feel. This was particularly evident during an acoustic rendition of “Stay (Far Way and So Close)” in which Bono emulated a performance at Dooley’s, a club U2 played in East Lansing 20 years ago on one of their first world tours.

The band seemed to relish playing on a college campus, revering the activism of college students around the nation and honoring the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. “We never made it to university ourselves,” Bono told the audience. “I think Edge made it two weeks and I made it a week. U2 became our university. Rolling Stone became our textbook.”

As dusk settled in Spartan Stadium, a light breeze blew the smell of marijuana over section 9 and the audience came alive singing the opening verses of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” all the while Bono stood on the edge of the stage with his arms spread wide allowing the thousands of voices, united as one, to flow over him.

The vigor that quickly transferred from the band to the crowd was further accelerated as Bono became increasingly conversational with the audience, even cheering “Go Green, Go White” (much to our dismay) and venerating the state’s natural beauty. “What a magical landscape we got here,” Bono told the crowd, before mentioning guitarist The Edge’s desire to retire to a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan, which was met by raucous applause.

With a blue smoky haze hanging over the band, Bono leaned into the mic, delivering a poignant rendition of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and invoking the middle-aged women in our section to turn to each other and sing along, “Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride.”

The otherworldly “Beautiful Day” featured a video appearance by astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, singing along from the International Space Station. “See the bird with the leaf in her mouth,” Kelly said as Bono’s eyes turned toward the heavens and joined in: “After the flood all the colors came out.”

The performance itself was interwoven with themes of time and space — notions the band itself seemed to transcend as they first entered the stadium with David Bowie’s 1969 hit “Space Oddity” playing eerily in the background.

The magic continued with hit after hit, integrating classic tunes like “Where the Streets Have No Name” with “Moment of Surrender”, one of the few bright spots on U2’s indifferently reviewed 2009 album, No Line on the Horizon.

After ending the show with two encores and a tribute to saxophonist Clarence Clemons covering Springsteen’s “Jungleland”, Bono was clearly speechless. He was unable to articulate his appreciation for the thundering standing ovation he received from the audience. As the crowd filtered out of the stadium, U2 once again proved the steadfast timelessness of their music that has spanned generations.

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