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"What I like about pop music, and why I'm still attracted to it, is that in the end it becomes our folk music." — Bono




by khyber900

I have seen U2 perform live on every tour beginning with the Joshua Tree in 1987. I  have countless live U2 recordings and cut my teeth as a guitar and bass player by learning a lot of their songs.  They are undoubtedly one of the best, most transcendent live acts in rock music history. Trying to compare different U2 shows is a bit like trying to determine which chocolates in a box of Sees, Tolberone or Cadbury chocolates are the best. The truth is they’re all good. 

The thing I like to see at U2 concerts is the reaction of the casual fan or skeptic. Without fail, every such person comes away impressed and entertained.  This concert was no different.

So here is a quick bullet summary:

    • The band did a great job integrating the Songs of Innocence tracks with older classics.  Unlike their last few tours, the set list told a story of this band’s origins, development, and path to stardom and gave relevance and meaning to the new songs and explained why they belonged in the same set with the older classics.  Hearing "The Electric Co” follow “Miracle of Joey Ramone”, and “Iris” after “I Will Follow” fit perfectly. It kept the causal fans attentive. Speaking of the early tracks, the versions of “Electric Co” and “I Will Follow” were searing. They played them like they did in the 80s.
    • “California (There is no End to Love)” should be a staple at every show. They absolutely nailed the track and the audience (including casual fans) loved it.   I would like for them to integrate into the break the Bono/Edge Beatlesque harmony on the acoustic version of the song (Deluxe Release). Of the new tracks, “California”, “Cedarwood Road”, “Miracle of Joey Ramone” and “Invisible” connected best. 
    • The sound had incredible clarity with the speakers running above the entire length of the long stage, but at times was overpowering for the small venue.  They needed to turn the guitars down a bit and turn up Edge’s backing vocals on a few tracks, but what a sound it was!  It literally seemed to blow the doors open at the Forum.  When they started to play ‘Invisible’ I thought they were playing the recorded version before I realized it was the band playing live. That’s how clear it was.
    • Bono picked and chose his spots to hit the high notes and let it fly. He generally held his fire on the older classics in order to deliver his strongest vocal performances on the new tracks. 
    • Of the old classics, “Until the End of the World”, “One”, “Pride”, “City of Blinding Lights” and “Mysterious Ways” stood out.  “Even Better than the Real Thing” sounded like a dance parody of the original track, though the audience seemed to like it.  “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was done marching band style and it generally worked because it seemed to fit with the theme of Ireland being a tough place when they grew up. They should drop “Bullet the Blue Sky”. Guitars too loud, Edge’s backing vocal (which is a highlight of the song) too quiet.
    • The middle stage, in which the band members could literally disappear into was visually captivating. The series of images, effects, pictures and video which were integrated into the songs were very effective.
    • In their set lists, U2 tend to favor arena rock tracks, rock ballads or songs where Bono can make an emotional connection.  They generally avoid songs where listeners can casually listen to a track unfold.  That’s why a song like ‘Raised by Wolves’ gets played live and a track like ‘This is Where You Can Reach Me Now’ does not, even though the latter is a much better track. I would like to see them incorporate tracks like “…Reach Me Now”, “Crystal Ballroom” or “Lucifer’s Hands” into the set list, because that’s where this band has room to grow. They can get better at reproducing their best songs live, and not just simply settle for the formula which translates best to the live stage.  An old classic like ‘Lemon’, for example, deserves more stage time than a track like ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ even though the latter has been played live about 100x more than the former.
    • In sum, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, which was no surprise to me, but was especially glad to observe casual fans who came away with the same impression.  This is going to be a very successful tour and I think more people will give Songs of Innocence a serious listen.

 

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