One of my earliest concert memories as a teenager was going to see U2 with my mom in 2005, during the Vertigo tour. At the time, the prospect of seeing one of the biggest bands on earth at Madison Square Garden was beyond comprehension. Back then going to a show was a rare treat, something I definitely am spoiled with now. But I remember being completely left in awe, admiring the band for being able to recreate their sound in such a large space, so damn well.
Here we are a decade later, and U2 are still kicking. Sure, their newest output hasn’t been their best, and they certainly screwed up with the handling of having their new album, Songs of Innocence, automatically placed on millions of apple accounts across the globe. In 2015, it’s certainly not cool to like U2, and it’s even easier to hate on them. But at the end of the day, this is one of the all time great bands, with a deep catalog rivaled by very few bands. The fact that they sold out eight nights at Madison Square Garden speaks for itself.
Back in July I saw night two of the eight night run, and it was everything I hoped it would be, and then some. Not only do U2 still sound as powerful and essential as ever before, but their new stage setup was an added bonus. There was no bad seat in the house, as the band went from regular stage to a catwalk stage at the opposite end of the garden whenever the show called for it. And if that wasn’t enough, Bono spent some time elevated above the regular stage, actually going inside the display screen that hung across the venue, making full use of the technology that allowed him to literally become immersed in the images that hung above them as they played.
The 25-song setlist saw old rarities like “Gloria” and “October” played, alongside more familiar favorites like “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Mysterious Ways” and “City Of Blinding Lights.” New material from Songs of Innocence weren’t particular highlights, but they made full use of the arena show at hand to keep fans entertained (although many used the new songs as a chance to run to the bathroom). One particular highlight was that they brought up a fan (Diana from Brooklyn) to stick around on stage during “Mysterious Ways” and then she even helped record them on stage for a live stream during their performance of “Volcano.” For a band who has been doing this for 35 years, it’s impressive to see them find new ways to keep their live show modern and fresh.
I was surprised that they didn’t end up playing fan favorite “One,” but considering the 4-song encore of “Beautiful Day,” “Bad,” “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” there was simply nothing to complain about. It was an unforgettable night, and a reminder that U2 are still putting on one of the best live shows you’ll see.
Find the setlist and some (iphone) photos posted below.
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