U2 @ THE FORUM
Don’t let anyone tell you Bono doesn’t have a sense of humor. “This is our newest song,” he deadpanned near the beginning of the first of U2’s two nights at the Forum, before the band launched into their 1980 classic “I Will Follow.” Though they’ve come a long way (nearly four decades!) since the Joy Division-worshipping Boy, The Edge’s chiming Stratocaster riffs fill arenas just as well as they did clubs, and Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen, Jr. – each taking solos after being introduced by Bono – still make a case for the tightest rhythm section going.
A set full of the classics would’ve been enough to sate most fans, as they did with last year’s massive Joshua Tree anniversary tour (which was advertised on countless shirts and jackets throughout the crowd). However, U2’s luxury seat at the top of the touring market has never left them content to rest on their laurels – even that legacy production was breathtaking and dramatic, and they’ve dropped a new record, Songs of Experience, since then. The Innocence & Experience show, like nearly every production of theirs since ‘92’s legendary Zoo TV run, is an extravagant, high-concept affair that few rock bands have the means to pull off, let alone the ambition to attempt nearly 40 years into their career.
Their use of a larger “A” stage and more intimate “B” stage is standard procedure by now, with this tour having each light up as “I” and “E,” respectively. However, the “and” is the real catch here, as a massive two-sided LED screen ran between the two stages, encasing a catwalk that could be seen through either side. (Before the show started, a U2 AR app would show you a waterfall pouring down from it onto the crowd. Hey, it’s something to do that’ll slow your roll on that $12 Bud Light.) The band got the most mileage out of this on Songs of Innocence’s “Cedarwood Road,” where Bono walked along a rainy Irish road and interacted with various characters – Jesus, Bowie, a younger version of himself. But while it might be easy to poke fun at that self-seriousness, the screen also provided a platform for political confrontation.
Before the show, statements like “REFUGEES WELCOME” and “EDUCATE A GIRL, EMPOWER A COMMUNITY” flashed repeatedly, and Pop rarity “Staring at the Sun” (which, Bono reminded us, is “a song about political blindness”) featured still-chilling footage of Nazi salutes and burning torches from last year’s Charlottesville rally. Of course, U2’s ultimate message is hope and perseverance, and they washed the screen of hatred and bigotry with footage of MLK, to the ever-relevant “Pride (In the Name of Love).” You get the sense that part of why they’re still alive and kicking – why four successful guys in their late 50’s can put on a two-and-a-half hour show every night – is because the themes that they’ve been preoccupied with their whole career are just as relevant now as they were back then. And by the looks of some of their fans shifting uncomfortably in their seats, U2 might still be a necessary voice to address them.
Setlist via setlist.fm
Love Is All We Have Left
Lights of Home
I Will Follow
Red Flag Day
Gloria (with Van Morrison’s “Gloria” snippet)
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Sunday Bloody Sunday (with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” snippet)
Raised by Wolves (with “Psalm 23” snippet)
Until the End of the World (with “Alabama Song” and “Introduction” snippets)
Elevation (Influx remix intro)
Vertigo (with “The Jean Genie” snippet)
Acrobat (with “Sympathy for the Devil” snippet)
You’re the Best Thing About Me (acoustic)
Staring at the Sun (acoustic)
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Get Out of Your Own Way
City of Blinding Lights
One (with “Women of the World” and “Invisible” snippets)
Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way
13 (There Is a Light)