Warning: this entire post contains SPOILERS about U2’s latest tour.
Last night hubby and I travelled to London to see our all time favourite band: U2. We arrived in London and ate in our favourite Korean restaurant, Tohbang, then walked along the South Bank before heading over to the O2 arena.
We were seated so weren’t worried about queuing for general admission. You could see the main stage, runway, and second stage. As the crowd for general admissions came in you could see helpers filtering people in. It turned out that Bono was to enter from the crowd onto the stage, like actors at the Globe, so security formed a pathway for him.
There was no opening band, just music playing over the speakers. Just before 8.30pm the speakers began playing Patti Smith’s ‘People Have the Power’, then the lights went down, and Bono appeared. The show had begun.
He made his way down the walkway, singing out the beginning notes of ‘Miracle’, drawing out each note to create an atmosphere. Then he reached the main stage, met with Adam, Larry, and Edge, and they all launched full on into the song.
In interviews, it was stated that the band start as if with the encore, which was definitely true. They were electric, beaming full of energy. ‘Miracle’ was quickly followed by ‘Gloria’, ‘Vertigo’, and ‘I Will Follow’, which got the crowd up and out of their seats dancing and singing along – we sure stood up throughout the whole show.
The screens came on with ‘Iris’, a wonderful tribute to Bono’s mother, who died when he was just a teenager. They showed images of her, alongside constellations of stars. This and the next few songs explored the band’s childhood and growing up in Ireland. It really was a show and not just a gig.
‘Cedarwood Road’ had Bono walking in the screen as if he were walking along the street he grew up in, and when the cherry blossoms showed, pink confetti drowned the crowd near the stage. Next ‘Song for Someone’ showed images of a teenage Bono attempting to write a love song for his now wife, Ali. Everything really was kinda sweet and innocent.
Then they launched into a harrowing tribute to the victims of the UVF car bombings in 1974 with ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Raised by Wolves’. The stage drowned in the colours of the Irish flag, photos of the victims on the screen, and Larry walked along the runway like a marching drummer. Everything, from the lighting, the images on screen, and the extra sound effects emphasised the pain in the songs. It all got rather dark when sounds of bombings ended Larry’s drum solo, followed by medical beeps of a heartbeat.
The first half finished off with a rip-roaring rendition of ‘UtEotW’, which left us pumped. The screens lowered, showing an image of the Berlin wall for a short intermission, whilst the band and crew prepared for the next part. I thought the band was actually still playing, so I was naturally getting really into things, but it turns out it was a recording. A lot of people took this as an opportunity to leave, and not all of them came back, which was a shame, as they missed a stellar second half.
U2 made good use of the second stage; not surprisingly, to bring out a member of the crowd to join them up on stage, which is what they do pretty much every gig on most of their tours. Bono invited a woman up on stage to join the band during ‘Mysterious Ways’, not gonna lie, I was totally jealous. She was from Sarajevo, which was pretty apt.
Throughout the evening Bono spoke about some of the songs, explaining their stories or dedicating them to someone. I found it quite funny that other band members would start playing before Bono had finished, as if to speed him up.
The use of the screens and images really made the songs more powerful, for songs that I would normally just dance to I stopped and really looked at the images – it sure was a powerful combination. This was so for ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’. The atmosphere soon changed when more upbeat and stadium rock classics were played like ‘Pride’ and ‘With or Without You’.
Then U2 left the stage, but we all knew there would be an encore; well, most of us. Again, many people left, I assume to catch trains. But they missed out on ‘City of Blinding Lights’ – and I really was almost blinded by the epic lighting! It was glorific, my new word, Edge’s guitar riffs – just wow.
When we saw U2 in Brussels in their 360 tour a few years back we got there early to get good positions in the general admissions area, just in time for a sound check. As we were walking up to the stadium we heard the guitar riff for this great song – and it was epic, the magic really rung out. The guitar riff sounded different in the arena last night though. It seems as if ‘City of Blinding Lights’ and ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ are more suited for a stadium, where the guitar riffs can echo out, but I still love those songs in an arena.
We knew Patti Smith was in London, and wondered whether she would join the band on stage, and she did – she joined towards the end of ‘Bad’ then sung ‘People Have the Power’. It all came round in full circle: the opening and closing song.
What a show! A great combination of new and old songs, classic stadium rock numbers and slower more intimate renditions. The story telling and effects were fantastic, the arena made good use of the screens to tell a well thought out story, and made it a more intimate affair – the crowd evidently loved it. Towards the end, a group of shirtless men in the general admissions area were epicly dancing along, swinging their U2 t shirts over their heads. People with seats near us were up and dancing, we were up the whole time too. Hilariously, a man near us was dancing very erratically throughout the evening, even through songs that weren’t even that dancey. O2 arena certainly had a great atmosphere.
After the O2 arena, U2 are playing in Scotland next, followed by France then Ireland. I hope they add more shows soon, very soon. And if they do, we are definitely going to try and see them again. Perhaps getting tickets for general admissions, and get more into the dancing mood, but I doubt we’d be shirtless and swinging our U2 t shirts over our heads!
For those who are interested, list of the full set list can be found here.
Some more pictures that I took of the night on my not so great camera phone:
Yummalicious food from our fave Korean restaurant in London: Tohbang