U2 Remains Rock’s Hottest Ticket

By Miguel Gálvez

LOS ANGELES, CA The challenge is not to make it to the top, but to stay up there, and no other band in the planet has it any clearer than U2. Since the eighties, when they exceeded all the limits of global popularity with their iconic album The Joshua Tree, and their subsequent international tour earned them the title of “Rock’s Hottest Ticket” on the cover of Time magazine, far from merely enjoy the ephemeral intoxication that comes along with fame, they have dedicated themselves to reinvent their band again and again in an effort to remain a relevant group that by now has crossed musical, geographical, ideological, and even technological and chronological boundaries.

It happened during the first minutes of 1990 in a concert U2 offered in their native Dublin. At the dawn of the new decade, Bono surprised everyone when right from the stage said it was time to “Go away and dream it all over again… To forget about the past and celebrate the future.” After a couple of years of silence they returned with Achtung Baby, an album widely recognized as even better than their Joshua Tree, and they embarked on an extravagant and media-intoxicated world tour called ZOO TV, that unlike the simplicity of their shows in the eighties transformed the standard of rock and pop shows in something never seen before.

Thirty-six video screens combined images of the band playing live, satellite connections and flashing text phrases with ironic, almost subliminal, messages. Colorful Trabant cars -The sign of failed communism- hung from the stage to serve not only as an important décor element, but as the lighting system foundation, and a smaller stage placed right in the middle of the crowd allowed by the first time that intimate approach every artist seeks with the fans. The whole stage and show was designed to instill a sensory overload in its audience to show the scope and manipulation of mass media.

For their next tour, PopMart, U2 invested several million dollars to develop a new technology experiment that eventually became an article of common use: The LED screen. The result of this venture was not only one of the first screens of this type, but the largest at the time with 170 feet wide and 56 feet high. This colossal screen was placed behind the stage to project animations and footage of the band playing live. The next tour, Elevation, presented a fully minimalist stage design whose main intention was to put the audience in the middle of the show and as close as possible to the band. During the Vertigo Tour the essence of proximity to the public was preserved and the technological highlight consisted of seven retractable see-through LED based bead curtains that projected images and text without obstructing the view of the band playing live.

Between 2009 and 2011 their 360-degree Tour travelled around the globe with a massive structure 167 feet high holding the audio system and a cylindrical screen, the stage was surrounded by a circular ramp and bridges hovering over the crowd. The 360-degree design and placement of the stage towards the center of the stadium allowed to increase up to 25% the capacity, which helped make this tour the most watched show in history with 7.2 million tickets sold worldwide and the most commercially successful with $736 million in sales; figures that beat the historic Rolling Stones who were en route at the same time.

So after almost 40 years of career, nearly 1200 concerts throughout the world, but especially after that long reputation of best live rock band, for their new tour called Innocence + Experience which launched last May 14 in Vancouver and recently offered five shows in Los Angeles, of which I witnessed three, this time U2 decided to start their new show illuminated only by a single and simple light bulb. The intention according to Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry is to bring the audience to the late seventies Dublin, the city where their career began by playing in school gymnasiums and small clubs when they were just four teenagers unable to perform songs from famous bands, so they had to make their own. The town with loyal friends who have accompanied them for years, friends that in Bono’s words were already there when they found the first loves and the first fights in the playground. That old Dublin that contrasted the innocence of childhood and youth with the violence of an ancient conflict that used violent terrorist acts, in which innocent people lost their lives grotesquely by simply being in the wrong place and time.

And once again, technology that in the future will surely become so common and obsolete, as the LED TV's in our living rooms, helps U2 to bring the audience throughout this autobiographical journey in which they present their new album Songs of Innocence along with hits from their near and distant glorious past, and to prevent monotony they replace around five songs from one night to another, occasionally surprising the crowd with something they have not played in many years.

Regarding the new stage the first thing that stands out is that there is no better or worse place to appreciate the show, just a different view of it. And as the night goes on, the crowd is surprised to find out there are actually four stages that U2 uses throughout the nearly two and a half hours they play.

The first is a traditional stage they call "I" for "Innocence," the second is a small circular stage in the opposite end of the arena, which because of its lighting they called "E" for "Experience." Connecting these two stages there is a catwalk that Bono, Adam and The Edge use to perform just inches away from the fans, and that it turns into a third stage when the whole band performs an extraordinary new version of their hit Sunday Bloody Sunday. High above the catwalk a huge screen projects images to both sides of the venue, and it is on this screen where we can find the fourth stage and one of the greatest innovations that make this show spectacular, because it doesn’t just projects images, it also allows U2 to get inside and play live from the very middle. And combining their live presence with animations especially prepared for each song, the show takes the crowd to the places where Bono grew up and honors the memory of the people killed in the worst terrorist attack in Ireland’s history.

The second major innovation of this tour is found in the way they are managing the audio, because they have placed the speaker system on an elliptical framework hung from the venue’s roof. This ensures that every space in the arena receive the same quality and sound level. Historically, in every concert the audience near the stage was so close to the speakers that sound could be deafening, and those in the back rows were not close enough to receive the optimum audio. But with this new method, which is sure to become the standard, you can hear with great clarity and sharpness every instrument and voice regardless of the location and cost of the ticket.

Writing about the band and their quality of execution would be redundant. Fortunately that obsession with relevance continues to drive their search for new ways to reinvent themselves and to go where no one has gone before. And despite that early youth they seek to rediscover with this new album and tour was left behind many years ago, they still have the raw energy and vitality that turned them into “Rock’s Hottest Ticket” and not even the number of incidents that have accompanied the band in recent months... The door that was completely torn away in a private flight with Bono aboard last November, the catastrophic cycling accident four days later that left Bono with titanium plates and unable to play guitar, the overly criticized and controversial free launch of their new album via Apple, the dead of Larry’s father the same week of the start of this tour, The Edge accidentally falling off the stage at the end of the opening night in Vancouver, or the sudden death of their tour manager on May 27, have managed to overshadow what already is another great tour in U2’s history.

U2's Volcano Brings Troubles and Crowded Streets

Over Canada last night some U2 fans had a chance to be on the runway with the band. U2's tour should be renamed "The U2 Fan Connection".  Every show U2 has welcomed a fan member to the stage and last nights show was a bit different with the offer to a very large group of fans to come join them to end the show.

Bono invited about 40 fans on stage as the band started the last song of the night. Bono asked the fans to sit on the stage and to stop trying to take pictures and just enjoy the experience. 

 

Venue: Bell Centre Montreal, QC, CA June 16, 2015

Setlist

  1. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  2. The Electric Co. / Send In The Clowns (snippet) / I Can See For Miles (snippet)
  3. Vertigo
  4. I Will Follow
  5. Iris (Hold Me Close)
  6. Cedarwood Road
  7. Song For Someone
  8. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  9. Raised By Wolves / Psalm 23 (snippet)
  10. Until The End Of The World / Love And Peace Or Else (snippet) / Psalm 23 (snippet)

(Intermission)

  1. Invisible
  2. Even Better Than The Real Thing
  3. Mysterious Ways
  4. Desire
  5. Volcano
  6. Anthem (snippet) / Every Breaking Wave
  7. Bullet The Blue Sky / Anthem (snippet)
  8. The Hands That Built America (snippet) / Pride (In The Name Of Love)
  9. Beautiful Day / I Remember You (snippet)
  10. The Troubles
  11. With Or Without You / Anthem (snippet)

Encore(s):

  1. City Of Blinding Lights
  2. Mother And Child Reunion (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name / California (There Is No End To Love) (snippet)
  3. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For People Have The Power (snippet)

Forum U2 – General Admission Policy

Forum U2 – General Admission Policy

May 26, 27, 30, 31 & June, 3

The GA line will be formed in the North quadrant of the Forum Parking Lot, near Parking Lot B. Ticket holders will enter the venue via the “Floor Seats Entrance” located on the North side of the building between Ramp 4 and Ramp 5.
GA paperless ticket holders may begin lining up at 9:00am on the day of the show only.


No lines for future date shows will be permitted.

 Entering the Forum parking lot and GA line indicates the guest’s agreement to abide by all Forum policies and procedures.

Upon arrival, each guest who indicates he or she has a GA floor ticket will have a sequentially numbered wristband placed on their left wrist. Wristband distribution will begin at 12:00pm (subject to change).
All guests in a party must be present at the same time to enter the GA line and receive a GA wristband.
GA wristbands are provided on a first come first serve basis. Once a GA ticket holder receives a wristband, they may either wait in line or leave the area. If a guest chooses to leave the area, they must return to their place in line before 5:00pm. Beginning at 5:00pm, the order of the line will be set. All guests arriving after 5:00pm will be asked to go to the back of the line, regardless of the wristband number.
The Forum encourages guests to remain in line. Terrace restrooms and concessions will be open for guests that wish to remain in the queue all day.
Guests are not permitted to hold places in line for other guests.
Loss, removal or tampering of the GA wristband will result in loss of place in the GA line. Guests may also be asked to surrender their paperless tickets and leave Forum property.
Guests with a paperless GA ticket must have in their possession of the credit card used to purchase the tickets. All guests in the party must be present to receive a wristband and redeem their tickets to enter the venue.
GA tickets and wristbands are non-­‐transferable.
Two parking lots will OPEN @ 9am: the Prairie Gate & Gate 8.
Prairie Gate is onsite parking / $25 for general / $40 for Preferred
Gate 8 is offsite / parking is $20
Guests who want to leave AFTER receiving their GA wristband may do so. They MUST present their parking ticket to the attendant BEFORE they leave for instructions.
Parking refunds will NOT be issued, but guests may return with the appropriately stamped ticket by 5:00pm.
Guests returning AFTER 5:00pm must pay the prevailing rate to park.
Please be respectful to other guests in line.
The following actions and items are prohibited; any person who violates these policies may be subject to ejection without refund.
o    No running, pushing or line jumping
o    No smoking, alcoholic beverages, drugs or glass containers
o    No horseplay, unsafe behavior or foul language
o    No camping, tailgating, open flames or barbecues
o    No vending
o    No weapons, laser pens, signs, banners, oversized bags, video cameras, laptops, computers, tablets, professional cameras, monopods, tripods and audio recording devices.

Forum management reserves the right to amend or make additions to these policies at any time.

U2's Promising Tour Gives Fans More

Kevin Mazur /Wireline/ U2TOURFANS 2105

Kevin Mazur /Wireline/ U2TOURFANS 2105

The iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour found U2 operating on a level few popular artists could even begin to aspire to Friday night at US Airways Center, where the sold-out crowd was treated to an elaborate pop-art spectacle that managed to push the theatrical boundaries of a rock show while advancing a social agenda or two with a sense of purpose and conviction.

It played to the back rows (and beyond) as much as any U2 concert. But for every bell and whistle, every grand attempt at making sure you understood that Bono still has something more important to convey than "Hello, Phoenix," Friday's concert also found them operating on a very human scale, letting their hair down in moments that thrived on spontaneity and self-effacing humor.

The look on Bono's face, as played out on a giant screen, when he sat at an upright piano and realized the part he was playing was horribly wrong was priceless. As was his reaction to the overly enthusiastic fan he brought on stage to strum along on acoustic guitar to "In God's Country."

"Ritalin is also good," Bono told him.

he staging spanned the length of US Airways Center, with a large rectangular i-shaped stage at one end of the venue, a smaller e-shaped stage at the other and a catwalk connecting the two, with a massive rectangular video cage suspended from the ceiling. A separate catwalk inside the cage allowed the members of U2 to immerse themselves in imaginative video projections — a visually stunning effect allowing Bono to walk the animated streets of his youth on "Iris (Hold Me Close)," a heartfelt tribute to his mother.

The screen was also used to powerful effect on an impassioned "Sunday Bloody Sunday," during which the faces of the victims of the Bloody Sunday incident in Northern Ireland were projected on the sides of animated houses as Bono poured his heart out on a chorus hook that sadly felt as relevant as ever: "How long must we sing this song?"

And that wasn't the only overtly political moment of the show. During "Pride (in the Name of Love)," a heartfelt tribute to the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr., Bono said, "This is the moment where we get to talk about peace as an action" as part of a monologue that talked about "the courage to compromise in Ireland" before drawing a parallel between the violence there and the more recent strife in Baltimore and Ferguson.

Kevin Mazur /Wireline/ U2TOURFANS 2105

Kevin Mazur /Wireline/ U2TOURFANS 2105

Setting the tone for their performance with the Patti Smith song "People Have the Power" blaring on the PA, U2 took the stage and launched into a track from last year's "Songs of Innocence" whose title references another CBGB legend, "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)." A tribute to that life-affirming moment when you hear "a song that made some sense out of the world," it proved a brilliant introduction to a performance that clearly had making some sense of the world on its list of things to do.

They weren't shy about delving into "Songs of Innocence," playing six of the 11 tracks. But by the second song, they were blowing the dust off their first album, "Boy," with the post-punk urgency of "The Electric Co.," the Edge's guitar mixed gloriously high and Bono, an energetic presence in excellent voice throughout the night, inserting a snippet of "Send in the Clowns."

"Anyone speak Spanish around here?" Bono asked coming out of that one. "'Cause clearly I don't." And with that, he counted off a raucous "Vertigo," swatting the lightbulb that hung from the ceiling just over his head. The rock vibe carried over into "I Will Follow," during which the singer brought an eight-year-old on stage and sang the lyrics at him as his bandmates brought the music to a climax.

The night's first monologue found Bono joking about the way Americans had ruined the word awesome. But "as overused as it is," he said, "it applies" to the "miracle of a landscape that is Arizona." He then informed us that over the course of the next few songs, they were going to try to transport us to where they'd grown up. This set up the show's most visually arresting suite, as "Iris (Take Me Home)" gave way to "Cedarwood Road" and "Song for Someone," all from "Songs of Innocence."

Kevin Mazur/Wireline/ U2TOURFANS 2015

Kevin Mazur/Wireline/ U2TOURFANS 2015

The pacing and staging were flawless as they made their way from there through such obvious highlights as "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Even Better Than the Real Thing," "Beautiful Day," "Bad" and a majestic, set-closing "With Or Without You."

Bono brought three sisters on stage to dance along to "Mysterious Ways" and "Desire" and had one of them live-stream the action on her cellphone, which was great fun. And they stripped things down to beautiful effect with the Edge on piano as Bono delivered a gorgeous, soulful "Every Breaking Wave" on the little e-shaped stage before the rhythm section — the ever-stylish Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. — kicked into the concert's most electrifying rocker, "Bullet the Blue Sky." Bono changed the words on that one to "Jazz man breathes into a saxophone while everyone stares into their cell phone," one of several playful touches that offset the moments that bordered on overly serious.

The encore began with a piped-in speech by Stephen Hawking about how "we must become global citizens" and live together "with tolerance and respect," effectively setting the stage for a powerful "City of Blinding Lights." Then, after a speech about conquering AIDS, Bono delivered a moving rendition of Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion," slowing it down for dramatic effect, before bringing the night to a triumphant close with two songs from "The Joshua Tree," "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

It was everything a U2 fan could possibly have hoped for in 2015 and a testament to how much more these veteran rockers have to offer 35 years after "Boy" first suggested a promising future.