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"I guess I did my grieving for my father, keening, in front of 20,000 people singing U2 songs. They really carried me, those songs and my three mates." — Bono

Column: off the record ... vol. 18-771



Cracking the Code

U2-Twitter and our forums were set ablaze last week when the mysterious beginning of the Experience + Innocence tour was finally decoded. It was so mysterious, it went completely over my head to the point where I assumed it was a technical glitch instead of an Easter egg.

You can read the full report here, but the gist is that before Bono descends from the barricage, MRI instructions are played over the PA. This catch was seemingly acknowledged by the U2 social media team, who tweeted the video below on Friday night.

'Breathe in... exhale...thank you' 

With the help of time and the dedicated thinkers of the U2 fandom, the beginning of these shows and the story the band is trying to tell have started to come into focus.

This OTR will be my attempt to peel back some layers and figure out what the Experience + Innocence tour is trying to communicate.

Love Is All We Have Left - The Blackout - Lights Of Home - Beautiful Day

Unlike at the beginning of most I+E shows, Bono is not a rock star in the opening number.

He's not strutting down the stage or howling into a microphone to spur an arena-wide singalong.

He's being examined.

The introduction isn't so much him entering a concert as it is the audience being dropped into the middle of a private medical procedure. While there is an initial rush of seeing him and knowing the show is about to start, I think the moment is supposed to make the audience feel voyeuristic.

The lyric now you're at the other end of the telescope might be him acknowledging this awkward moment. Seen through one end of the telescope (perhaps the beginning of I+E), Bono is a monolithic figure in both size and strength. Through the other end (the beginning of E+I), he's vulnerable and a small part of the madness of the staging, not the madness itself.

As he moves from "The Blackout" (a proper rock concert opening) into "Lights Of Home," his mortality is no longer a personal apocalypse, it's an existential one. He walks up toward the light, wondering if all his good work is for naught, asking the string-puller: Hey now, do you know my name, or where I'm going? He gets to the end of the road, at the brink of death, the furthest he can get from the music, then God frees him to go back and be reborn again.

In "Beautiful Day,” resurrection comes. Bono is born again and ready to tell us his story. In U2 By U2 Bono explains the meaning of this hallmark song, a description that the live presentation has finally lived up to: Pain is evidence of life because it reminds you there are things in your life that aren't right. So you should be thankful for it really and celebrate that there is so much to live for.

This is no time not to be alive

The Setlist Shuffle

Since the opening show in Tulsa, SOE favorite "Red Flag Day" as well as throwbacks "Gloria" and "New Year's Day" have squeezed into the pre-intermission sets. "Red Flag Day" in particular has riled up the fan-base in a way not seen since "Vertigo." I'd love to see it be upgraded to a regular, even if it means losing "All Because of You," which is a personal favorite.

With regard to I+E holdovers, the band has shed SOI stalwart "Song For Someone” and trimmed down "Raised By Wolves" a little. I'm not too broken up about losing either of them as long as the JAM that is "Cedarwood Road" stays.

The post-intermission part of the show has remained completely unchanged except for the sudden loss of "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," which has disappeared from the encore with no replacement to speak of.

Friday night's first show in Las Vegas marked the first time this tour a setlist has made back-to-back appearances, but I predict much more tinkering will be done in the weeks to come. I think "The Showman," possibly "Summer Of Love" and definitely "Mysterious Ways" will make their E+I debuts soon and I have a sneaking suspicion that "Bad" will join an encore that's in desperate need of a shot of adrenaline.

Until next time!

(c) @U2/Merritt, 2018

Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.