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.

Phoenix Surprise

Last night was the first of two shows in Phoenix, AZ. A couple of changes, first the opening walk out song was changed to “People Have The Power” by Patti Smith. 

The rest of the evening set list was pretty much the same has the May19th show ( San Jose) with a few welcomed additions. “In Gods Country” (not printed on the set list) remember we said earlier changes could happen on the fly. We will do a complete wrap up of Phoenix and show special on Sunday.

 

 

 

Last Nights Setlist

  1. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  2. The Electric Co. / Send In The Clowns (snippet) / I Can See For Miles (snippet)
  3. Vertigo / God Save The Queen (Sex Pistols) (snippet)
  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
  11. (Intermission)
  12. Invisible
  13. Even Better Than The Real Thing
  14. Mysterious Ways / Young Americans (snippet)
  15. Desire
  16. In God's Country
  17. Sweetest Thing
  18. Every Breaking Wave
  19. Bullet The Blue Sky / America (snippet) / 19 (snippet)
  20. The Hands That Built America (snippet) / Pride (In The Name Of Love)
  21. Beautiful Day / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (snippet)
  22. Bad / Moment of Surrender (snippet)
  23. With Or Without You

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

 

Good Bye San Jose

Erisman/U2TOURFANS 2015

Erisman/U2TOURFANS 2015

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Last night U2 wrapped up their San Jose, stay at the SAP Center with Bono giving thanks to the people that either support the one campaign or happen to be friends. He remembered Joey Ramone’s birthday and threw out a snippet of a WHO song in honor of Townshend’s birthday. 

The show came with some expectations, fans have been waiting sometime to see Bono and the boys preform.

The set list was for the most part the same however we did get a couple of treats: The Electric Co and Bad made its way into the set list. “Bad” written in at the last minute gave fans some hope that the boys will mix in a couple of their other tunes. The complete update as well as couple of treats can be found on our city page breakdown.

U2 And The Daunting Challenge of The Innocence and Experience Tour

Will The Spirit Still Walk Through The Room?

U2 And The Daunting Challenge of The Innocence and Experience Tour

Nashville: JB Brookman

The age of the internet has backed the greatest band on the planet into a corner…

(Kevin Mazur/WireImage) U2TOURFANS 2015

(Kevin Mazur/WireImage) U2TOURFANS 2015

The Beatles, Johnny Cash and the Stones never had to deal with the backlash that a band of U2’s caliber is currently toe to toe in a death-match with.  In this day and age, it’s hip to be a hater and the land of Facebook and Twitter is dominated by them.  When U2 and Apple put together a brilliant (26 U2 titles shot on to the iTunes top 200 albums chart at once) and fan-friendly marketing strategy to give Innocence and Experience away for free, the naysayers swung with all their might and did so in droves. 

The media jumped on the backlash and painted a negative image of an album that had nothing to do with the music.  The “5th member of U2” Paul McGuinness left as the band’s manager, leaving them in unchartered territory. 

Many feared that this could be the end of U2.  Had they become irrelevant?  Had Bono’s earnestness and political fighting's for Africa become an image-killer?  Had manufactured music, boy bands and sex selling female vocalists completely taken over the landscape in 2015?  

The first time this writer saw U2 live (1985 Unforgettable Fire Tour- Sports Arena, Los Angeles), Bono was able to scream out notes in full register and recklessly climb up speaker clusters, wrapped in an Irish flag to confront and demand the attention and respect of fans.  Now, it is some 30 years later and the challenges of life have battered Paul Hewson’s 55-year old body.  A serious and possibly life-threatening back injury delayed the 360 Tour in 2009 and Bono’s recent New York bicycle accident has left him with permanent arm/hand damage that has even stolen his ability to strum a guitar (Larry Mullen has also dealt with injury in the past and Adam Clayton has dealt with addiction and depression issues).  

God is in the room… It feels like there’s a blessing on the band right now. And I don’t know what it is, but it feels like God walking through the room, and it feels like a blessing, and in the end, music is a kind of sacrament; it’s not just about airplay or chart positions.
— Bono (Heath, Rolling Stone, May 10, 2001)

Needless to say, the next 6 months are the pivot point in the career of U2.  They will either fade gently into that goodnight or ascend and re-take their place as the greatest live band in music history.  They have always found a way to fight through new ground, in a live show.  Rumors of the new tour include a state of the art sound system and a show that takes over the entire span of arena floors.  Bono has always said that there is a special time in each U2 show where “the Spirit walks through the room” and a certain magic happens.  Can the band tap into that same life force this Summer? 

(Kevin Mazur/WireImage) U2TOURFANS

(Kevin Mazur/WireImage) U2TOURFANS

The truth is this…  U2 are a scrappy, hard-nosed crew with a monster work ethic.  They are at their best, when it’s time to change… time to burn down what they were, reinvent themselves and rise again from the ashes.  They battle and innovate and are willing to take risks that other groups have never taken. 

Whether it was putting their financial futures in check with the gigantic, groundbreaking Zoo TV and PopMart Tours or tearing down the Joshua Tree and making a new sound with Achtung Baby, this has been true.  The Irishmen are the first ones to the scene of the fight and they aint going down until you put them in the dirt.

A month after the Apple roller coaster, Rolling Stone named I & E their Album of the Year and the band has entered the ring for their North American Tour that opened this weekend in Vancouver.  As “Volcano” from the latest album says: “The world is spinning fast tonight, You can hurt yourself tryin’ to hold on, To what you used to be.  I’m so glad the past is gone”  Yes, U2 have a legendary past.  But, now is their time to create a new powerful and relevant future.


JB Brookmam

Rock and Roll Celebrity Concert Photographer Founder/Editor of Nashville Live Magazine and Hollywood Icon Magazine Concerts & More: www.jbbrookmanphoto.com