Here there be spoilers… proceed with caution…
Ok… May 11, 2018, Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena. My boys. My loves. U2. My first concert of this eXPERIENCE and iNNOCENCE Tour, their 5th. (I can’t believe I missed the opener, but Tulsa!? Tulsa, U2???)
I feel like you already know what I am gonna say here… “Holy Crap! That show was out of this world!” “U2 are phenomenal!” “You really need to go see this tour!” “U2 are so innovative!!” “The band sounded amazing!”
And it was. And they are. And you do. And they are. And they did…
If you’ve read my other U2 concert reviews (there’s been a few, but here’s the first one I wrote for this blog), you also already know that U2 shows are a whirlwind of emotion for me – I cry, I laugh, I beam with pride (in the name of love… a-ha ha ha!), I cheer, I mourn. I learn. I grow. All the feels. And you’ve ‘heard’ me say that U2 concerts are very much like religious experiences…
And the church of U2 was definitely in the house again and I definitely had all the feels again… mixed with a small degree of sun stroke and dehydration… U2 shows are no joke people – they take everything out of you and put so much more right back in!
So what else can I say about this show?? Sometimes I feel (like I don’t know, Sometimes I feel like checking out… – that’s gonna read weird for those of you that don’t recognize that as a U2 lyric… I’m not checking out… I promise) like I want to write these concert reviews more objectively, as though I were writing for a magazine or something… but then I get to my keyboard and I can’t… There is no objectivity at all in my heart, soul, or brain when it comes to this band. None. This is personal. This is always gonna be emotional. This IS my heart, soul, and brain. I breathe and bleed U2. Thats hard to squash down into an objective review…
So here is what I am gonna say: I’m experiencing a deep internal struggle on where to place this concert in my U2 favourites… I’m not sure it was my favourite U2 concert… GASP! I know… what the heck did I just say!!!??? Blasphemy! Sacrilege!
But I say that with this caveat…. This show was unbelievably excellent. They really did sound amazing. And oh my gawd we were soooo freaking close! On the rail just at the corner of the main stage and the catwalk, Edge-side. So close! I have been on the rail (or one person behind on the rail) at least once per U2 tour since Elevation, but I don’t remember them being THIS close – just over an arm’s length away. My boys. Right there!
And it was phenomenal – the music touched my soul as it always does. It was emotional. I was in a trance. I was singing at the top of my lungs and dancing (if you can call it that) like a mad person. Swaying to the music (oh, oh woh woh). The showman gave his all. They all did.
And it really was innovative. The cage was cooler than the iNNOCENCE and eXPERIENCE cage – which is saying a lot, because that cage was mind-blowing in its awesomeness… But this one did things the other did not… (because, you know, three years have passed and U2 are never content to ignore advances in technology and design, preferring instead to advance it themselves…).
And the new songs…. ahhh, this album… it still gets to me… the raw emotion. The meaning. It tears me up and gives me such joy at the same time!
So why wasn’t this my favorite?
The downside to rail at a U2 concert is that you miss the bigger picture, the spectacle (Spectacular). (I promise you, I am NOT complaining about my super awesome, totally amazing spot on the rail, just pointing out what that spot means in terms of other super awesome vantages…)
Where we were standing, we could not see the images on the screen and could not see what was happening on the ‘e’ stage. And when the band were right there in front of us, all I could do was focus intently and passionately on the fact that they were right there… and I was right there. At these moments there were only six people at this concert for me – the four loves of my life and my bff that thrust Achtung Baby into my space all those years ago and said you must listen to this! (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!)
This does not seem like a bad thing to experience at a concert of your beloved band… this is in fact a very very good thing, and the reason why some of us line up come rain or snow or blistering deadly heat for days (sort of) or hours on our feet, eating crappy food, holding our bladders and doing all sorts of damage to our aging bodies… This is such a good thing, and this is a band that thrives on breaking down the barriers between stage and fans, hoping to make us feel this close to them, this personal, connected.
But at the same time, the larger picture is a big part of what a U2 show is. The images on the cage, the theatrics of the return of MacPhisto – that was huge, but I could see only a tiny bit of this through the arms of the people that reappeared magically when U2 were out of my space. (But I have an awesome camera that enabled me these photos.) The full impact was lost on me.
As was, to a large degree, the emotion of the community of fans behind me. Part of the intensity of a U2 concert for me derives from being one of thousands experiencing the same feels at the same time – the communal energy, the catharsis of expending tears and joy as a whole, watching and being awed by allllll these people loving on my band… and that feeling was lost this time.
Because I honestly forgot about the thousands of people behind and around me. I’m actually having my mind blown as I write this, as I am realizing what I actually experienced this time… It was like having an out-of-body experience, but rather than floating above my body and seeing the bigger picture, I somehow managed to lose the world around me and focus in on the music and my boys. This is still a good thing, a mind-blowing thing.
There were moments, of course, when the people around me came into focus. It was cool when the cage raised up and we could see the raptured faces of fans on the other side of the catwalk. Or when the new friend next to me pointed out Adam on our side in the middle of the floor when I was focussing on the Edge on the other side (they were both out on mini stages in the centre of the floor by themselves, one per side. And now that I think about it, on their opposite usual sides of the stage!)
So you see my dilemma – ultimate intimate experience where it feels like there was just four members of U2 and an audience of two in that arena, yet missing the bigger picture and feeling of community throughout the show.. and missing MacPhisto…
Luckily, I had that community experience before and after the show, having met a number of my U2 buds in line, in the audience, and around Las Vegas. This truly is one of the joys of loving this band over so many years and the advent of social media. There are a large large number of people that go to multiple shows and travel to do it. You start to recognize faces and meet the most interesting people! I even met fellow Tea Party and Depeche Mode fans!
Other things to point out from this night:
- I met Terry Lawless of Terry’s World 😀 (U2’s keyboardist / programmer) thanks to the fellow Tea Party fan who Terry came over to say hi to. He’s super nice. He is another of the U2 touring family that has been with the boys for decades. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, the loyalty that reciprocates between U2, their people, and fans is a large part of why I love them to the depths I do…
- There were NO Joshua Tree songs played… which makes sense considering they just completed a tour celebrating that album and played all the songs every night! I hope this means, though, that next tour when they bring back With or With Out You, they bring back the stars refrain – its been two tours without it! :D…
- I love Adam’s sparkly bass guitars, especially the purple one 😀
- Larry was wearing glasses! He looks awesome in glasses! (See above photo and Photo Gallery!)
- Bono was NOT wearing glasses for parts of the first song!
- Songs of Experience is a gorgeous album live! Lights of Home is right up there with my all time fav songs ever. One day I want to see them play it live with an orchestra!
- But they didn’t play The Showman!! What!? this song was born to be a live song! Its right there in the title!
- Oh My Chuck, they played Acrobat! And The Ocean…
- Staring at the Sun… I love Pop. It kills me that this album gets such grief. I find it a masterpiece and illustrative of U2’s pension for experimentation and refusal to rest in their laurels… I once had a colleague ask why I loved them so much and he mentioned that all their music sounds the same… I was so flabbergasted all I could say was that they do have a distinctive sound thanks to the Edge’s guitar and Bono’s voice. I wish I had been quick enough on my feet to mention POP (and Passengers, and Achtung, and …)
- The ending… They ended this concert the way they began the iNNOCENCE tour, with that lightbulb! This, to me, is another purposeful connection to William Blake’s use of repetition of imagery in his works Songs of Innocence and Experience. Repetition of the lightbulb. And the mirrorball for that matter. I was wondering if and how U2 would play with this aspect of Blake’s inspiration on their last two albums. With the number of songs that share lyrics, I wondered if they would combine them in the tour, at least sampling bits of the songs together, but I don’t think they did that. Instead they used repetition of imagery from the ie Tour to this ei tour… I love that depth of detail…
- The ending… Though I deeply appreciate that use of imagery, this ending was so anti-climatic… which I also kind of appreciate… they just left the stage. It felt awkward and unfinished, which I’m guessing was the point. Also, experience has taught them dramatic exits can be dangerous, lol.
And there you go… That’s all I have to say about that! I next see them in New York, twice, and I have both a seat and another GA… we shall see what these new perspectives bring!
For more photos from Las Vegas 1, check out my Photo Gallery.