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U2 on stage Saturday night in front of a sold out crowd at The TCF stadium. The staging is the largest to be performed on in any arena show to date.

Tom Wallace, Dml - Special To The Star Tribun

Interpol took the stage before U2 at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, July 23, 2011, in Minneapolis.

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The first fans headed into Gate C at TCF Bank Stadium for the U2 concert Saturday, July 23, 2011, in Minneapolis.

David Joles, Star Tribune

see a concert photo gallery at startribune.com/galleries. U2's set list at startribune.com/artcetera.

Everything about concert seemed super-sized

  • Article by: CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
  • Star Tribune
  • July 25, 2011 - 11:19 AM

Ryan Lund knows a lot of fellow U2 lovers, and he knew parking and traffic would be a regular zooropa around TCF Bank Stadium for the band's concert Saturday night. So he called a bus rental company and invited a few people over for a preshow party.

Yet another sign of the massive scale of U2's 360° Tour, Lund wound up with 100 guests and a fleet of three buses.

"Our little party with friends turned into something much bigger," Lund, 39, said with a laugh Saturday afternoon. "This is more than just a concert. It's a one-of-a-kind event."

So it went at the first-ever rock show at the University of Minnesota football stadium, where everything seemed to be significantly more enormous and grandiose than at a typical concert.

It was the largest paying crowd for a Twin Cities rock gig in three decades, with 58,000 in attendance. It was the bulkiest and priciest production ever staged at a rock show, with a 150-foot claw-shaped video and lighting structure over the Irish band's heads.

It also involved likely the longest wait: The show got postponed last summer when U2 singer Bono underwent emergency back surgery.

Even the storm systems floating around Minnesota on Saturday were of significant size, but only a drizzling rain fell on concertgoers come showtime -- enough to prompt Bono to sing a few bars of the Beatles' "Rain." As the show went on, the rain came harder.

But most fans arriving early to the stadium seem undeterred by the weather threats, the lack of parking, the rampant road construction around campus and other possible deterrents.

"It's U2 -- it's worth it," said Maria Barton, of Apple Valley, who attended with her equally avid fan of a brother, Frank Thomas. They also attended a U2 concert at the University of Wisconsin's stadium in Madison in 1991.

"The energy level seems to be a lot bigger in an outdoor setting," Thomas said. "It's perfect for U2."

The one thing that did become a point of contention for some of the attendees was the lack of alcohol at the concert. Not only did university officials ban booze inside the stadium (as is the case at football games), they also prohibited tailgating (not the case for football).

"I flew 1,348 miles for the concert, and I had to go farther to get a drink," griped Ben Leanna, 24, of Orlando, attending the concert with his dad, Dan, from Green Bay, Wis.

The Leannas wound up hanging out at Sally's Saloon, one of several watering holes near the stadium to set up tents in their parking lots to accommodate the influx of people.

One of the biggest benefactors of the stadium's no-alcohol policy was the Buffalo Wild Wings bar and restaurant directly across Oak Street, with surprisingly clear views into the stadium. U2's crew members got to know the eatery well enough over the long setup before the concert -- about 200 of them started working Monday -- they were shouting out its wing sauce names over the speakers during sound check Saturday.

"There's such an awesome energy surrounding this thing," said Buffalo Wild Wings regional manager Sue Benson, who helped open the restaurant a week before the impromptu Vikings game there in December after the Metrodome roof collapsed. She said that night "was a good test run" for what to expect for U2, and thus six extra managers and too many kegs to count were lined up Saturday.

Another father-and-son set of U2 fans, Gordy and Tyler Nelson, took a parking shuttle from the university campus near the State Fairgrounds and arrived early for reasons other than drinking: Gordy wanted to show his son, 12, around the campus.

"It seems like a good way of showing off the university," said Gordy, who also attended U2's last local show at Target Center in 2005. "I have better seats here, and they were actually more affordable."

Officially the first person in the line, Chris Lilyerd of Maple Grove, had been lurking around the stadium since noon Wednesday and became keeper of "the list." He took down people's names as they showed up before wristbands were given out to access the "inner circle" within the band's circular stage. By Saturday morning he had 190 names.

"This is a bucket-list item, to be first in line at a concert," said Lilyerd, attending his 11th U2 show in three years. "It's the first and last time -- it's a lot of work."

Another person who put in a lot of effort -- planning a party and bus transportation for 100 people -- Lund knew it would be worth it. He also traveled to see prior stops on the band's 360° Tour in Chicago and Brazil, and he said TCF Bank Stadium was "a more intimate venue, believe it or not."

"There's a lot of extra excitement because it's the stadium's first concert," Lund said. "What a way to start."

Staff writer Maria Elena Baca contributed to this report. Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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