After months of speculation and anticipation, U2 kicked off their Innocence + Experience tour in Vancouver last week. Bono was, by all accounts, in good form, despite some lingering physical stiffness thanks to the devastating bicycle accident he suffered in New York last November.
By now, you’ve all seen the video of The Edge walking too close to the edge (of the stage) and stepping off into nothingness during “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Luckily, the 54-year-old guitar legend was unhurt, except for a few bruises to his arm. He tweeted, “Didn’t see the edge, I’m OK!” to reassure fans.
Bono made fun of his bandmate afterwards. "Somebody said that the Edge had downloaded himself into the audience without asking permission. I thought that was great,” said Bono, clearly poking fun at all the controversy after U2 released their Songs of Innocence last year as a free download on iTunes.
Rolling Stone gave the concert a rave review, declaring that the band have “reinvented” the arena show. The innovative staging and the autobiographical nature of songs from Songs of Innocence give the show an almost theatrical flourish.
The show opens with “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” played under a single light bulb, which is supposed to represent Bono’s childhood bedroom. The show jumps from his childhood to the band’s first gigs in Dublin clubs, as they launch into their first single, “Out of Control.” From there, the setlist alternates between tracks from Songs of Innocence and the band’s best-loved material – “Bullet the Blue Sky,” “With or Without You” and – the one U2 number no show would be complete without -- “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
Rolling Stone gave special praise to the show’s “innovative new sound system,” which involves speakers, hung from the ceiling, which are spread evenly throughout the venue. The drawback of having good seats to any concert has always been that the closer you were to the band, the closer you were to the deafening wall of speakers. The ceiling solution “deserves to become the new standard,” says Rolling Stone.
The unusual staging of the new U2 tour should come as no surprise to fans. The band has never shied away from incorporating technology and grand gestures into its shows. The Zoo-TV tour of the early 1990s (in support of 1991’s Achtung Baby and 1993’s Zooropa) featured TV screens, satellite hookups and German Trabant cars suspended from the ceiling, plus Bono kitted out in PVC trousers and, alternatively, in gold lamé as his alter ego, MacPhisto.
During the Pop Mart tour of 1997-98, in support of their oddly ragged, unfinished-sounding 1997 album Pop, U2’s set included one giant golden arch (a reference to McDonald’s, it was said) and a giant, lemon-shaped mirror ball, from which the band made an entrance for the encore portion of the show. In true “Spinal Tap” fashion, the lemon was a lemon – it occasionally malfunctioned, leaving the band trapped inside while roadies worked frantically to free them. (Really, at times it seemed that the stage lacked only an 18-inch model of Stonehenge.)
In 2009, U2 began what was the longest road trip of their career, the 360 Tour. The set was described as resembling a massive claw or a spaceship, and featured video screens and flashed prerecorded messages from the international space station. Because of the amount of time it took to set up the apparatus, three sets were built so they could be assembled in advance of the band’s arrival. Despite the fact that the tour was in support of the band’s weakest album, 2009’s No Line on the Horizon, the tour broke box-office records and was the band’s most successful one to date.
Assuming everyone stays healthy and accident-free, the tour will makes its way to Boston’s TD Garden for four shows – July 10, 11, 14 and 15. It will then head to New York’s Madison Square Garden for eight shows – July 18, 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 30 and 31. All shows are sold out, except for scattered tickets (at press time) still available for the NYC shows on July 30 and 31.