When & Where First night of two at the SSE Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Setlist The Blackout, Lights Of Home, I Will Follow, Gloria and Beautiful Day… and five songs in the joint was jumping, as Bono remembered the first time the band came to Belfast. Way back. 'We are back in town to finish what we started three years ago, our story of innocence and experience. I remember the excitement of first playing Belfast in 1979, Queens. We were the not-so-special guests of the great band called Squeeze... We were so excited to be asked to go for a drink with them. We just agreed and then tried to fit 8 people into a blue Lancia. Adam Clayton, ever the gent, got into the boot of the Lancia, with a bottle of wine. Everything was going quite well till we were shut down by every uniform in Belfast 'Out of the vehicle!' An officer shouts. 'What have you got in the boot of your car?' 'What is that sound?' The uniformed men stepped back in amazement - sensing danger I guess - and in truth, ladies in gentlemen, it was something very dangerous, it was Adam Clayton on the drink. He'd been waving at people, round every corner in Belfast! Anyway innocent boys… and we return as men daring to believe that at the far end of experience with some wisdom and good company It might just be possible to recover that innocence… that's what tonight's about.'
In The Press Pat Carty for Hot Press 'It's a long way from May to November, as the old song nearly goes. Our European brothers and sisters, more of whom later, will already have been aware of this, but the show, the big show, is now a different eXPERIENCE from the one Hot Press witnessed on that opening night in Tulsa. With the finish line in sight, U2 have refitted the machine, stripped it back, gone away and dreamt it all up again. The original show was heavy with narrative, weaving the story line from the Songs of Innocence album into the declarations from Songs Of Experience. The Cedarwood Road section, the backbone of the original show, and the dazzling visuals that went with it, have been placed on a shelf, the message has changed. Theatrical flourishes remain, of course, for this is U2 we're talking about after all, but, yet again, they've taken something that was great and made it even better. The opening section is still familiar. Interference crawls up the giant screen, which divides the SSE arena, as Noel Gallagher's 'It's A Beautiful World' plays. The images slip from Rorschahian brain scans to the ruined remains of European cities in the wake of war, the music changes to the opening chords of 'Zooropa', with a line from 'Love Is All We Have Left' – “Nothing to stop this being the best day ever”, and that great speech from Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator flashes across the screen “I'm sorry, I don't want to be an emperor”. The pace quickens as Chaplin bemoans how humanity has lost its way but there is hope if we unite to fight for a decent world against the brutes that have risen to power as images of Trump, Putin and Jong-Un stain the screen only to be cleansed away by the triumphant image of Chaplin calling for unity in front of the flag of Europe. The bass thump of “The Blackout” takes over, the shadows of the band pressed against the screen like some nightmare combination of the Slender Man and, of all things, Superman's phantom zone, but the message is becoming clear: “when the lights go out, don't you ever doubt, the light that we can really be.” 'Lights Of Home', perhaps the best track from Songs of Experience, carries it on, “free yourself to be yourself” as Bono climbs a steep incline on the screen - the struggle to reach for the light is a worthwhile one. But this is a rock n' roll show. 'I Will Follow' has the stands shaking as the people of Belfast pound their feet for “a band from the northside of Dublin called The U2, formerly The Hype” and that nagging, immortal guitar riff. Each member's brief solo turn during 'Gloria' - complete with snatches of Van and Patti - reminds anyone who needs reminding that this is one of the great live bands, who don't require advanced technological theatrics in order to deliver. The screen starts to come back on for 'Beautiful Day' but it's still just four men playing their hearts out, as the lights flash up on the ecstatic crowd, roaring every word. Bono thanks everyone for showing up and recalls Adam Clayton and a bottle of wine in the boot of a blue Lancia back in 1979, worrying the security services, when they first played in Belfast, supporting Squeeze. On a more serious note, he explains that tonight is about a romance with great European cities like Belfast, Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Berlin, as the industrial opening of 'Zoo Station' kicks in and the “Euro” section of the show begins. Cedarwood Road was the band looking in on themselves, reflecting on their own story. Now they want to address what's happening to the European ideal that they believe in. The image of the European flag with its twelve gold stars representing the notions of unity and solidarity among the people of Europe is a constant presence throughout the show, and the band return to their most European sounding album – if you've turned up expecting anything from The Joshua Tree, you're a couple of years too late - 1991's masterpiece, Achtung Baby – the one that even the most vehement U2 detractors will reluctantly agree is great – to soundtrack it. 'The Fly' - not so much “the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree”, as Bono once remarked, as it is the sound of them forcing said Tree into a wood chipper and then torching what remains – is furious under a screen flashing Eurocentric phrases, the platform display of the railway station where Bono is making the “phone call from hell”. “When we recorded that, it didn't sound that good”, Bono tells the Edge as the song finishes. He might be right. He recalls how the walls were going up in U2 while they were coming down in Berlin as they worked on these songs, they went looking for their heroes and all they found were ghosts. The Edge begins 'Stay (Faraway, So Close!)', a song that they first worked on in those fraught Achtung sessions and featured in the Wim Wenders' movie of almost the same name about fallen angels in a reunified Berlin. It doesn't get much more Eurocentric than that. All four of them are back under the screen, which isn't really seeing as much use as it did earlier in the tour, for 'Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses', the Achtung song that most harkens back to the arms-wide-open U2 they were before the Berlin reboot. The screen closes down on them, and this section of the show, as The Edge, Adam, and Larry pound out the final chords. Heaven Or Las Vegas The animation interlude, complete with Gavin Friday's version of 'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me' has been retained. The band adrift on a sea on indecision are rescued by a shadowy character who promises them the bright lights of success, heaven by way of Vegas, or as theologian and philosopher D.B. Hart would have it, “wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience”, but we're not there yet. The sitar-heavy Influx remix of 'Elevation' plays over lava lamp graphics, “Are you ready to get high?” Bono asks, the crowd are ahead of him, already Oohing for all they're worth. We're on the small “e stage” at the end of the screen now, watching the best club band in the world – albeit one playing on a flashing technological marvel - Bono a twisted wedding singer in top hat, makeup and sequin lapelled jacket. 'Vertigo' breaks down to just Larry's hi-hat and Adam's bass before they're back looking for ghosts, quoting Bowie's 'Rebel, Rebel'. “Willkommen, Bienvenue, Howsaboutye, Welcome to the Experience of Innocence” Bono breaks down what being a rock star does to the mind. He's been tapped on the shoulder and told, “you're no rock star, you're little Paul from no. 10”, but he's not having it. “Paul is dead, I'm fucking Bono! We're the greatest rock n' roll band on the northside of Dublin!” It's no idle boast as the band slip into the T. Rex-goes-to-Venus groove of 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' and the lead singer leads the crowd in Radio Ga-Ga style clapping, recognising the crowd's roar as the band's drug of choice under a spinning mirror ball. But lest we forget that this is a serious party, MacPhisto shows up, warning that the easiest way to burn down Stormont is to simply do nothing, when you ignore him, he does his best work. Apathy is the enemy. 'Acrobat' counters his smug declarations, “Don't let the bastards grind you down”. The Edge's solo is blistering, but it is Larry Mullen who carries it, prompting Bono to ask what kind of drumming was that, and later add that his friend has never played better in his life… (Read the rest of this review here)
On The Socials @alanivory (via Twitter) Great to be able to see Lord Adam Clayton this close last night. Still the coolest member of the band.
@jzcanuck (via Twitter) Bono's story telling of @U2 in #Belfast '79 set the tone - an experience of pure rock 'n roll joy for crowd and band - Belfast 1
@DmcDT (via Twitter) Acrobat for me was the absolute highlight of the night for me. A song that's never been played live prior to this tour. What an absolute gem. Edge nailed this solo
U2.com / Zootopia Reviews leharve. 47th show and it was epic. 33 years on this journey truly perfect arena for this production.
yardie That was special. Thanks for another amazing show in Belfast last night U2. From start to finish a flawless performance and brilliant mix of old and new. No bad seat in the house, and from my vantage point in GA by the barricage at times what seemed a very up close n personal experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you.