Three songs into the last North American date of U2's 2005 Vertigo Tour, as lights raced around the elliptical stage and the band ripped into an electrifying take on "Elevation," hundreds in the Portland, Oregon, crowd held up homemade signs that read "Thank You." Leaning into a gaggle of young fans, Bono asked how many of the shows they had seen. "Twenty-four," said one. "Forty-two," replied another. The exuberant frontman beamed. "We've got kind of an Oprah thing going on here," he said.
Last year, U2 sold out each of their 118 shows worldwide, played before more than 3 million fans and earned more than $260 million, making the Vertigo Tour the year's second-biggest, behind the Rolling Stones. By the time U2 reached Portland on December 19th, the band had played eighty-two North American dates. Fans and critics rated them among the group's best ever, with eclectic set lists featuring early tracks like "Electric Co." and "The Ocean," and special guests, including Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen.
In February, the band will launch Vertigo's final leg, which includes dates in Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. "The reaction to the shows has been unprecedented," says the Edge. "From a really great start, it's just built and built and built. I'm happy to say bye-bye, because I don't think we could ever top it."
In the course of the tour, Bono — who was named a Person of the Year by Time — found time to meet with President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. U2 shows integrated Bono's politics, encouraging fans to sign up for his ONE campaign to end global poverty, and the singer also helped organize last summer's Live 8 concerts.
"Bono's efforts have grown out of the band's political awareness," says the Edge, who in the wake of Hurricane Katrina assisted in the launch of Music Rising, an initiative to help New Orleans musicians rebuild their lives. "But Bono has taken it to another level. It doesn't mean I agree with everything, but I do love the fact that it's like a new paradigm, a different equation altogether."