A Little Old, A Little New During U2 Tour

Venerable Irish rock band U2 is embarking on another tour with a mix of favorites and little-knowns.

aNewDomain — Gird your loins, world. Another U2 megatour is under way, and the venerable Irish band is promising a busy few years ahead.

Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. got things started last week in Vancouver with two nights of trips down memory lane during the Innocence + Experience tour. The band’s set lists both nights and mixed the new with a healthy dose of the old.

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This world tour runs through at least November 15th in Paris. At the moment, Dublin isn’t on the schedule but it’s hard to imagine the band not cruising through that familiar turf, perhaps to end the tour. Much about the new album centers on Bono and his early years, so missing out on the ole hometown seems unlikely.

The shows reportedly will be different from one night to the next. Early plans even include an option of an electric show one night and acoustic the next. That’s not happening so far.

Bono says instead, the first half of the shows will be fairly consistent. The second will be a little more fluid, which is easy to accomplish when you have this band’s depth of selections from the past 35 years.

The concerts have been starting with “The Miracle Of Joey Ramone,” the closest thing to a hit off the new album Songs of Innocence. The new work is also represented by as many as five songs, which might come as a disappointment to traditionalists who want to hear the band’s early tunes. Unfortunately, “Volcano” hasn’t made the cut so far.

Those same fans, though, will be heartened by the group’s inclusion of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Bullet the Blue Sky,” “Pride (in the Name of Love),” “Where the Streets Have No Name” and the finale “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Those songs have been around forever, with “Pride” and “Streets” ranking as the second and third most-played songs on U2’s tours, according to setlist.fm. “I Will Follow” tops that list.

Those of us who enjoy songs from the 90s will have to live with the fact that the seminal album Achtung Baby received very little love in the first two nights. Maybe that will change as time goes on.

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The tour’s stage is being roundly praised for its ability to get fans immersed in the music. There are technically two stages with a long walkway attaching them to one another. It must be an innovative step for the band because Edge went a step too far and fell off the stage on May 14, the opening night of the tour. Luckily, the accident occurred on the final song of the night, so he only had to live with the public shame for a few minutes, save for the permanent presence on YouTube.

Proving that even old bands can embrace modern communication methods, a photo of Edge’s abrasions was posted on U2’s Instagram account showing the abrasions suffered during the tumble. Yes, he survived.

Even the speakers are a little different this time around. Tour organizers are placing a dozen speakers above the crowd to better distribute sound. Putting rows and rows of speakers next to the stage is so passé.

Another detail that sets this tour apart from U2’s many others is that the band is taking a residency approach to every stop. No city gets fewer than two shows and some receive a lot more. The band is playing five nights apiece in Chicago and Los Angeles, six in London and eight in New York. Those Madison Square Garden dates last from July 18-31, longer than some Broadway shows run.

The band is also playing indoor gigs this time around, scaling down from the stadium shows of the 360 Tour in 2009-2011. Those dates were interrupted when Bono had to undergo back surgery.

Even while on the road, the band is working on a follow-up album, Songs of Experience. The four members don’t sound enthused about the prospect of going five years between releases as they did after putting out No Line on the Horizon in 2009.

“The Songs of Experience album will be released when it’s ready,” Edge told Rolling Stone back in September. “I hope it won’t take nearly as long.”
It’s just good to see the veteran rockers back on the road. My wife and I caught their 360 Tour stop at Glendale Stadium in Arizona back in October 2009, less than a week after we returned from a week in Dublin.

This tour probably would have started a little earlier were it not for Bono’s nasty cycling accident in New York last November. He broke his arm in six places, fractured an eye socket, required surgery and spent months in rehab for his injuries. The wreck came as the band was in the city to make a week of appearances on The Tonight Show.

“I broke my hand, my shoulder, my elbow and my face but the real injury this year was to my Irish pride as it was discovered that under my tracksuit I was wearing yellow and black Lycra cycling shorts. Yes, LYCRA. This is not very rock ‘n’ roll,” Bono wrote in a Jan. 1 blog entry.

Bono recovered then Edge fell off the stage. No one should tell Clayton or Mullen to “Break a leg” in a show of support. It just might happen.

For aNewDomain, I’m Rodney Campbell.

Image credits: U2 by Chris Sansenbach (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons; The Edge by xrayspx (originally posted to Flickr as The Edge), via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Rodney Campbell

Based in Phoenix, Rodney Campbell is a sportswriter and travel editor for aNewDomain and our sister pub, BreakingModern.