I caught the first of U2's seven shows at Madison Square Garden a couple Friday evenings back. When held up against the true U2 faithful, I'm a Gentile at best, but there are some rock concerts I'll attend because they're more than just concerts, they're Events. It was the day they were announcing the Nobel Peace Prize, so we almost saw a concert by a Nobel Peace Prize winner. That would have been a "Dear Diary" moment.

Keane opened for U2. I just can't get past the fact that Keane doesn't have a single guitarist; the fourth band member is a Mac laptop. I suspect their music won't age well, only because they do one type of heartfelt ballad well, and there's only so much of that you can do. The lead singer seems much too nice to be a rock star.

I've seen some interesting bands open for U2 over the years. The first concert I remember attending was a U2 Zoo TV concert in Illinois at the World Theatre(?). The two openers were Big Audio Dynamite and Public Enemy. You won't find a more docile and listless Public Enemy audience than the one that night, all sitting on their lawn blankets twiddling their thumbs trying to read Flavor Flav's chest clock to estimate how much longer before U2 came on stage.

The most common criticism of U2 concerts nowadays is that they're all the same, a tour of the greatest hits. I'm a fan of the revolutionary and the spontaneous in musical concerts, but I forgive U2 their retrospective ways. For goodness sake, they've been selling out massive arenas since I was in grade school. It's a miracle they've maintained their looks, let alone their fame and relevance. The audience at Madison Square Garden skewed older than for, say, the Franz Ferdinand concert I saw a week and a half later, but the standard deviation on the age of the U2 audience was also much higher. They are true cross-generational icons.

This was my fourth U2 concert through the years, and they've never put on anything other than a grand spectacle. Their canon is so well-known that the audience can sing nearly every word; it felt as if I was at a non-demoninational gospel service, with the arena lit by the electric glow of thousands of cell phone LCD screens instead of candles.

Extrapolate into the future and the logical endpoint will be a U2 farewell concert tour in 2020 or so, one in which Bono and the boys come out in arenas around the world, and Bono just holds a microphone up while the audience sings every song themselves. Each concert would include a moment in which Bono would pull a woman out of her wheelchair and command her to walk, or touch a blind man on the eyes and order him to see, and she would, and he would, for the first time in their lives.

Footnote: If you don't think U2 has relevance to the youth of America, that may change with the release of the dvd Mother Goose Rocks! Top 20 Video Countdown, in which Bono, excuse me, Mono, offers a rendition of children's classic "Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes." No joke--check it out for yourself. I look forward to many viewings with my nephews this holiday season, and we will chuckle again and again to Dubya's inability to distinguish his shoulders from his neck. [Thanks to What Do I Know for the link].