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U2 on YouTube

U2 performing in Madison Garden, 2005 (© Wikipedia Brown / Wiki Commons)

FOR a band formed 31 years ago, U2 still rocks! Not only is it still making good music and speaking up on socio-political issues, it is also setting new benchmarks in the use of online technology.

A record-breaking 96,000 fans watched the U2 concert live at the Rose Bowl Stadium in California, USA on Sunday, 25 Oct 2009. At the same time, millions all over the world got to “experience” the entire concert through live-streaming webcast on YouTube.


Throughout the concert, lead singer Bono asked what time it was for people watching from different parts of the world. In Malaysia, it was late Monday morning on 26 Oct.

U2's youtube page
Screencap of U2’s YouTube page (source:

Alas, as a result of the high traffic for the live webcast, coupled with the painfully slow internet connection at the office in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, I ended up spending more time waiting for the buffering than watching the two-hour concert live. I gave up after a while and waited for the rebroadcast the next day.

U2 on YouTube, aka U2tube, was already the “Top Favourited” video within its first day of being online. “The band has wanted to do something like this for a long time. As we’re filming the LA show, it’s the perfect opportunity to extend the party beyond the stadium. Fans often travel long distances to come to see U2 — this time U2 can go to them, globally,” its manager, Paul McGuinness, said on the band’s website.

Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band (© Spoco2 / Wiki Commons)

The decision to do a live webcast of the entire Rose Bowl concert, part of the band’s “360° Tour” in the US, was announced only days before the show. Word must have spread like wildfire. According to the LA Times, the Google-owned YouTube page for the concert received at least seven million channel views. It also noted that U2’s performance was the second major concert aired online in recent months, after Hulu broadcast a gig by the Dave Mathews Band in June 2009.

To give U2’s live streaming a viral boost, the concert’s page included social media applications that encouraged visitors to post comments directly to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. It also asked fans to use the hashtag #U2webcast in their tweets. Not surprisingly, #U2webcast and Rose Bowl were among the top ten trending topics on Twitter from 25 to 26 Oct.

To Alfred Hermida, a digital journalism professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada, what was significant about the U2 concert webcast was the integration of social media features like Twitter on the live-streaming page. “This added a real-time, social dimension to the concert, enabling thousands of fans to participate in a shared experience,” he wrote in his blog “Essentially, Twitter helped [to create] a virtual, networked community around an event, in this case the U2 concert.”

Here are what some fans had to say on Twitter:

bullet csell5 Re-broadcast of last night’s U2 concert available at The video quality is better than the live feed! #u2webcast

bullet Welldogg Super tired from staying up for the #u2webcast. Worth it though. Needless to say U2 is my #musicmonday. All day baby.

bullet patoguru As if YouTube needed the popularity, #u2webcast sent it to a 90-day high of 1.27% twtshare (2% in 24 hours) #trends

bullet akmcquade Moment of Surrender grows on me the more I hear it. #u2webcast

bullet vmarshmallow #U2webcast was sweet, almost as good as being there in person.

bullet braprado RT @Iconic88: “To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.” Bono #u2webcast

bullet HarounKola RT @InspiringMasses: We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong. Bono #u2webcast

bullet Iconic88 “Yes, I sometimes fail, but at least I’m willing to experiment.” Bono #u2webcast

bullet luisfrances #u2webcast HAVE A GOOD DAY!! FROM VENEZUELA!!! GOD BLESS U 2!!! SAN JUAN DE LOS MORROS CITY!!

bullet NewYork_Autumn RT @oxfordgirl If u were moved by U2 tribute to ppl in Iran follow #iranelection & support the Green revolt #U2Webcast

bullet photo2010 The #u2webcast on YouTube last night gave a glimpse [of] the future of webcasting (I hope). Amazing.

bullet TheRobHayes RT @vikkambli: #u2webcast is the first mass example [I’ve] seen of early web 3.0 done successfully

Aung San Suu Kyi

Those familiar with U2’s activism were not surprised when the band dedicated a song to Burmese Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest by the ruling military junta in Burma. Free Burma! is among the many campaigns the band supports. In July 2009, U2 announced at its concert in Dublin, Ireland that Amnesty International had named her its Ambassador of Conscience for the year.

Snapshot of gallery
Aung San Suu Kyi Mask photo gallery (source:

Guitarist, Edge, heads the Aung San Suu Kyi Mask photo gallery on U2’s website. Supporters are invited to print out the mask and send photos of them wearing it to draw international attention to her plight. Edge selects his favourite photos and has them put up on the gallery.

After belting out Sunday Bloody Sunday at the Rose Bowl concert, Bono dedicated the Irish lullaby MLK to Suu Kyi. As information about her flashed on the huge cylindrical LED screen, he asked the audience to take out her picture or put on her mask — “Let her face be your face tonight.” Then, as he moved on to the next song, Walk On, Amnesty International and Burma Action Group volunteers went onto the stage with their masks of Suu Kyi.

Miss Sarajevo

As expected, many of the songs in the concert were from No Line on the Horizon, U2’s latest album. Other than being stumped by the buffering, my only disappointment is that it did not play the theme song to Miss Sarajevo. The award-winning documentary, directed by Bill Carter and produced by Bono in 1995, shows how people in war-torn Bosnia tried to lead a “normal” life, and even held a beauty pageant amid all the chaos.

And so, I shall end with my favourite U2 song, performed with the late Luciano Pavarotti. The video includes Carter’s footage of the beauty pageant participants holding up a banner with a message for the rest of the world: “DON’T LET THEM KILL US.”


Cindy Tham likes the animated video for “I’ll go crazy if I don’t go crazy tonight“.

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2 Responses to “U2 on YouTube

  1. navin says:

    An amazing band with amazing heart. It’s incredible how a four-[member] band can move entire countries to respond to positive change. Truly a musical group that embodies the values of love, peace and harmony without an ounce of shame or fear. U2 forever.

    Thanks for the post, Cindy!

  2. Emma says:

    Nice post! Though Bono’s voice wasn’t at its best, the concert was nothing short of amazing. The world needs more bands like U2. I love their passion and energy, and the positive message that they bring. No Line on the Horizon is definitely one of their best albums so far. I’d put it up there with Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree. U2 will always be my all-time favourite band. Thirty-one years and still leading the way.

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