U2 breaks Rolling Stones’ record for highest-grossing tour

By Todd Martens
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – U2 isn’t a band that does things on the cheap. When frontman Bono and guitarist The Edge went to Broadway, they did so via “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” which has already earned itself the distinction of being the most expensive show in Broadway history.

The band’s “360 Tour” has been no bargain either, with costs tallying at least $750,000 per day, according to Billboard, whether or not the band even has a gig that night.

So perhaps the news Monday released via concert promoter Live Nation that trumpets the “360 Tour” as the highest-grossing rock ‘n’ roll endeavor ever should come with an asterisk. After all, no doubt it’s one of the most expensive traveling rock shows ever, if not the most. Yet with 26 dates to go, the “360 Tour” has grossed more than $554 million since it launched in 2009. That beats a previous record set by the Rolling Stones’ “Bigger Bang Tour.”

In the statement, U2 manager Paul McGuinness was quoted as saying, “That dollar figure for the gross looks enormous. Of course I can’t tell you what the net is, but I can tell you that the band spend enormous sums on production for their audience.”

U2 only operates the scale of grand these days, but big, of course, is not always directly related to artistry. “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” for instance, is the Broadway show the critics love to hate, and the “360 Tour” came at something of an odd time for U2. The trek was staged in support of the band’s 2009 album, “No Line on the Horizon,” which, while successful, didn’t spawn a hit on par with a “Beautiful Day” or an “Evolution.”

In fact, “No Line” represented U2’s more adventurous side, with slow-building songs that touched on gospel and largely avoided the knock-em-dead chorus or guitar riff.

It was a more atmospheric-leaning collection, and one with many songs, such as the seven-minute “Moment of Surrender,” that begged for an intimacy not found in stadiums. For a band well-versed in anthems, it was downright experimental, as U2 had released one of its quietest albums on the verge of staging its biggest tour.

Fans shouldn’t have to wait too long to see where U2 heads after the “360 Tour,” which is named so for its construction of space-alien-like theater-in-the-round contraption. Bono has been vocal in saying U2 has plenty of material waiting in the wings, including an album that the band has been working on with producer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells).

Working with Danger Mouse should be an encouraging sign for those aching for a more challenging U2. Yet the stage for the “360 Tour” was said to have cost upward of $40 million to build, and one doesn’t make that kind of investment only to scale back.