U2101 Special Edition – Opening Night of the e+i Tour

I think that every U2 fan in the world, unless they’ve been living under a rock, was aware that tonight was the opening show of the eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour. I was lucky enough to catch a few streams of the show, (a HUGE thanks to all those who broadcast the show from Tulsa) and I have to say that the band sounds fantastic, and the new songs really translate well to the live arena! I cannot freaking wait to see the boys in Atlanta in a few weeks. Now, on to the meaty stuff that you all want to read.

The show started off with “Love is All We Have Left.” I had been under the impression before the show started that this was going to be pre-recorded, but I believe that Bono was singing live (and maybe playing the keyboards?) from the screen…either inside of the screen or on top of it, I couldn’t tell. “The Blackout” was next up, and the guys outdid themselves on this one. High energy and very powerful. The drums in this song are a real highlight for me.  This was followed by a rousing performance of “Lights of Home (St. Peter’s String Version),” which surprised me. I expected the song to be performed in the style of the main album version. No complaints, though–it sounded great! Another song with a strong performance from Larry. “Beautiful Day” followed, in the same style as what was done with that song on the Joshua Tree 2017 Tour. “Beautiful Day” gave way to the first surprise of the night for me–“All Because of You,” one of my all-time favorite songs, with its first performance since early 2006. Oldie but goodie “I Will Follow” came next, continuing its record of being performed on every tour. It is amazing that a song that has been performed by these guys so many times still manages to sound so fresh and exciting. “The Ocean” followed its album-mate, and felt like the end of the first segment of the show.

The band segued from “The Ocean” into “Iris (Hold Me Close),” and it seemed clear that we were into the portion of the show that showcased the previous album. On every tour, the gigs are lined out with a section that is dedicated to the prior record, and this one is no exception. I say that because immediately after “Iris,” the band broke into a crackerjack performance of “Cedarwood Road”–another personal favorite. I have to stop here for a second and say again how great and tight the band sounds. Especially Bono. The Songs of Innocence segment continued with a touching performance of “Song For Someone”–another highlight from the Innocence album. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is next up, performed in a semi-acoustic style just like the way it was done on the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour. Somehow, though, the song loses none of its impact when played in this style. If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears, I would have expected it to sound flaccid and tired in this arrangement, but it manages to become more even more personal and meaningful in this style. As “Sunday Bloody Sunday” ends, I wondered if the band would move next into “Raised By Wolves” like they did in 2015. On every recording I have seen or heard of the i+e Tour (and that’s a lot) “Raised By Wolves” has been one of the most significant songs of the show–a great audience singalong where the voices of the crowd threaten to overpower Bono’s voice. Judging by the reactions of the audience I could hear as the song started, I expected another commanding performance, and I wasn’t disappointed.”Raised By Wolves” moved into “Until the End of the World,” just as it did on the original iNNOCENCE Tour. This is another song that I would expect to have lost some of its allure with all the performances, but it is pretty clear to me that the audience disagrees strongly. One of the most enthusiastic greetings from the crowd of the night, so far.

It just occurred to me that, with the exception of the opening salvo of songs, this is very similar to the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour so far. That’s not a complaint, though. First of all, the band didn’t get to a lot of the country on that tour, so this will be good for those who didn’t get to see the band that time around. Secondly, it reinforces the idea that this is simply another leg of the same tour, just a couple of years later. I fully expect the band to shake things up later on in the evening. In fact, that shake up begins with the very next song–a pre-recorded intermission, with a new version of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” It sounds like Gavin Friday singing, but I wouldn’t swear to that. This version of the song…I can’t tell if it is a cover or a remix or what…has a lot of heavy, programmed drums but retains the same strings from the original version of the song. Holy cow! “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” is followed by the Influx remix of “Elevation,” again, pre-recorded, I assume, but I think that I heard live Bono singing along with the remix. The remix then transitioned into a live performance of “Elevation,” still as uplifting as ever. This arrangement sounds a little poppier to me…it might just be the stream that I am listening to, but the guitar sounds less heavy and more “jangly,” for lack of a better word, and the drum beat is a little different, I believe. Next up, we’ve got Vertigo, and this song is just as hard-hitting and rocking as ever. There is a new coda, though, where Bono does band introductions. “Desire” is up next, with an electrifying full band performance. If I’m not mistaken, there is a new guitar part in this song, too. Maybe Edge is playing the song on a different instrument than the one he has used in the past?

I can barely type what is happening right now. Bono is talking and some very familiar guitar notes are being played in the background. I just noticed that Bono is talking like Mr. MacPhisto…it is hard to hear over this stream, so I’m not sure how long this has been going on. Is Mr. MacPhisto back? I’d heard rumors but…just as importantly, right now…the band is launching into &%$ing”Acrobat.” In case you don’t know, this song is from Achtung Baby, which came out in 1991, and this is the first performance of the song ever. In 2018. I AM LOSING MY MIND. It sounds incredible! Even if the rest of this concert had been a complete disaster, which it most definitely has not, that alone would have been worth the price of admission. Coming down off of that incredible high, the band eases us back to reality with a mellow and smooth acoustic performance of “You’re the Best Thing About Me.” This is such a special, romantic song, with a solid gold hook, and this performance is quite lovely. And another surprise! U2 are actually acknowledging their ninth studio album, Pop, which I thought might never happen again, with an acoustic performance of “Staring at the Sun.” I personally have been waiting a very long time for this. “Staring at the Sun” is followed by U2’s first top forty hit in America, “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a song that never gets old.

Now we’re back to the new songs! I was starting to wonder if the band were only going to play that small handful of tunes from Songs of Experience. I needn’t have worried, as U2 spring from “Pride” into what I believe is the best song they’ve written since “Beautiful Day,” “Get Out of Your Own Way.” I was assuming that “American Soul” is next, since this song and that are joined by the Kendrick Lamar rant between them, and I was right. Bono breaks out his bullhorn for this song. The reception from the crowd for this song isn’t as strong as I had expected. Then again, they might still be stunned by what has come before. Still, the band gives the song their all. Bono gives a nice aggressive scream after the “Refu-Jesus” line. The next song on the play-list tonight is “City of Blinding Lights,” a song which the band apparently really enjoys playing live. I have to say from where I sit right now that I can think of better uses for this spot in the setlist, but every time I’ve ever seen the band play this song live it has been a real stormer, so maybe those in the arena are enjoying it, and that live experience is what really counts. U2 certainly knows better than I do how to make a setlist.

After “City of Blinding Lights,” I believe we’ve got a pre-recorded intermission. The song sounds like “Women of the World,” although I’m not sure of the artist. The next U2 song we are treated to is another surprise, as the band take the stage for the encore with an impassioned performance of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,” a long time favorite of mine. I’m glad to hear that some of the more obscure tracks from Achtung Baby are getting played on this new tour. And now, the exact opposite of obscure, the song that seems to get played every time U2 appears anywhere, “One.” It is a great song, a powerful, honest, emotional song, but I’ve heard it so many times that it has lost its power over me. Still, we didn’t get many of the traditional warhorses in this concert, so I shouldn’t complain. And now, I’ve been waiting all night for this song…at last, “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way.” I was starting to worry that they wouldn’t play it, but I felt that it had to come at (or near) the end, so I’m glad that it hasn’t come sooner. Even now, I’m not ready for this concert to be over. It has been an incredible night. Maybe they’ll surprise me again and play another song. Or two. Or three.

I’m pretty sure that this is the last song of the night, now…”13 (There is a Light).” It really is a perfect closer, both for the album and the concert. As this night wraps up, I should say thanks again to those who streamed the show from Tulsa, and thanks to the band. To coin a phrase, Thanks for giving me a great life. I apologize to anyone reading this…I know that i switched tense several times, but I tried to keep from going back to edit as I wanted to keep my feelings on the show genuine, unfiltered, and plain to the reader. Overall, I feel that this is a fantastic setlist, even without “With or Without You,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” or “Bad.” It will be interesting to see how the band tinker with it in the coming months, but I honestly hope that they don’t change it too much. It is pretty fantastic as it is. Good night, and thanks for reading.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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