U2 at the O2 Arena, 30 October 2015

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On Friday, still a bit jet-lagged, after arriving back from New York at nine that morning, I went to see U2 at the O2 arena, aka the Dome. I’d had tickets for the Tuesday, but gave them away after I realised I’d be in New York. Fortunately a colleague at work had a couple of spare tickets on the Friday evening, right up in the Gods; and so I got to see the band after all.

I was keen to see them as I had a feeling that this might be something of a valedictory tour. But I have to say that there was no sense of that at all at the O2 that night. This was a band absolutely at the top of its game. I’ve seen them a few times in the past and I would say this was the best. It might be because it was indoors rather than at Wembley stadium, but the sound, the passion, the quality was absolutely all there.

The first thing about the show was that it really brought the latest album, “Songs of Innocence”, to life. I reviewed that album in my “Have You Heard?” series last year. I liked it, but it didn’t feel like anything new. I read about how it was a return to the band’s roots – lyrically, at least. But I didn’t completely get it. Live, it really worked. The show generally was simply presented. No lasers, no interviews with celebrities or politicians. Just a very high quality set of screens which added to the intimacy of the show inasmuch as you can have intimacy in a large venue. The first seven songs included four from “Songs of Innocence” – “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”, “Iris (Hold me Close)”, “Cedarwood Road” and “Song for Someone”. Two more of the songs were from really early days: “The Electric Co” and the awesome “I Will Follow”. This was U2 exploring their roots: personal and musical. I loved it. There was a vibrant “Vertigo” thrown into the mix too.

One of the things the band did to engage the whole audience was to wander along an extended stage with a circle at the end, so everyone got a close take on them, and not just those in the posh seats near the front. Whether those in the posh seats appreciated this I don’t know, but I certainly did!

The rest of the show was a procession of U2 classics – there are just so many! We had “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “Until the End of the World”, “Even Better than the Real Thing”, “Mysterious Ways”, “Desire” and “All I Want Is You” in midstream. We had a lovely version of “Every Breaking Wave” off “Songs of Innocence” with just Bono singing and Edge on piano, in that circle.

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And the last five of the main show were the sort of thing only a band like U2 can do: “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “Zooropa” (which bizarrely I don’t really remember: Setlist FM tells me it was there – maybe it was a snippet, unless I dozed off with the jetlag and beer combination!), “Where the Streets Have No Name”, “Pride” and “With or Without You”. Awesome, as good as it gets. Played, sung brilliantly. Rock music at its very, very best.

And then the encore! An epic “City of Blinding Lights”, “Beautiful Day” rescued from the thrall of ITV football, Bono indulging himself with a poignant take on Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion”, and to end, an inspiring “One”. It couldn’t get much better.

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This whole show was U2 showing the love: for the audience, for their own musical beginnings, and the music that has inspired them. I was so pleased to be there, sharing the feeling.

So I think I was wrong about the valedictory sense beforehand. This is a band that still have a lot to give. Still one of the very best.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
This entry was posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to U2 at the O2 Arena, 30 October 2015

  1. Rick says:

    I saw them a few years ago when they came to Nashville. It was an amazing show. Florence and the Machine opened for them, and that was awesome, too.

  2. dc says:

    very similar set to what we saw. Out of Control was the second song in instead of Electric Co. At the end Noel Gallagher strummed a few chords in One and then did a bit of the Beatles “all you need is luv”.
    I thought Bono could have eased off on the political stuff but I guess it’s part of who he is- he almost apologised to the band for going on too much.
    fantastic guitar sound from the Edge- especially in Bullet which almost redefined power chord.
    Agreed on venue- much better than Wembley stadium which is just too big.

    • John S says:

      Agree Edge was on top of his game. And Bono – the man has done great things. They are conscious that they aren’t regarded as the coolest, but actually they are better than just about anybody. In my view!

  3. Dood says:

    Enjoyed your review, John, and welcome back. Look forward to hearing about the celestial city.

    Sounds like a cracker. You’ll recall that I was with you at Wembley Stadium, when even at their most bonkers and bombastic (was it the Zooropa tour?), they couldn’t properly boss that space. By contrast, the O2 must have veritably rocked..

    As for Bono, as you say, he is what he is. He’s revered and reviled in equal measure – but although he sometimes gets on my nerves, I have no time for those who think his personal tax arrangements make him the consummate hypocrite. He’s done a lot more good in the world than bad.

    U2’s public image as a whole is by means positive. Remember the rumpus about their giving the last album away, and all that righteous indignation? It’s a shame, because as a purely musical experience, they are truly amazing. That set list of yours shows just what they’ve done in the last thirty years, and it is extraordinary. Yea, verily.

  4. John S says:

    I remember that Wembley show well. It was great (but the latest was better) and at the end they announced that Wembley Park station was closed! Thus began a 30-40 minute walk down to Alperton, catching a late Piccadilly line to Acton Town, and then, in my case, walking home to Ealing in a light but steady rain! Sometime after 1am I got home rather wet and thought, I think I saw a good concert tonight! London life.

  5. Resa says:

    A very positive post, & it sounds like a great show from a fab band! Lucky you getting tickets when you got back from New York!
    Well, I hid out for a few days and finished a new Art Gown. Hope you’ll come by and see her!
    PS I like your new Gravatar photo!

    • John S says:

      Thanks Resa. Just a bit behind on reading posts at the moment, having been away and v.busy at work. U2 are an awesome band and proved that once again at the O2. Glad you like the photo! Bit of a pose – my guitar playing is rudimentary.

      • Resa says:

        I was hoping you had a book deal in NYC.
        I am 100% sure your book is a great work that should be published.
        Is it all text, or have you included photos!

      • John S says:

        No, pure holiday. Photos coming soon! long way off a book deal.

      • Resa says:

        Really want to read your book, so am rooting for you!
        I’m sure you will get much cooperation for legal allowances as it is a positive, historical retrospective.
        I have a pal who made a Punk Rock film … by chance in the late 70’s. “The Last Pogo” He has a new take on the project & I know he has been working hard to get rights.
        It seems The Ramones is a hard one!

  6. Great review! I agree with you about the later songs bullet and the zooropa blend into streets was epic!!

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