U2 played a sold-out show at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Coliseum, on Saturday, supporting their 2017 album Songs of Experience. The eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour highlights the experiences that shaped Bono’s life and features many scarcely played gems.
“What’s the use of innocence? Experience is so much more fun!” Bono quipped.
As one of the most famous bands in the world, U2 went big, as expected. A traditional stage was connected to a round platform by a long walkway that sliced sharply through the crowd on the floor. The path, dripping with digital sparkles, was flanked by see-through LED video screens, sometimes trapping the band members inside and sometimes allowing them to interact with the digital imagery in a wondrous way.
Coming off 2017’s The Joshua Tree Tour, U2 chose to leave out some of their biggest hits—“Where The Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You”—from that album, as well as “New Year’s Day” and “Mysterious Ways,” which in the past have made frequently appearances.
It’s hard to complain about the lack of Joshua Tree tunes when their absence left room for so many rarities, including “Acrobat“ from Achtung Baby, “The Electric Co.,” a tour debut, “The Ocean,” both from Boy and “Staring at the Sun,” when Bono grinningly acknowledged their “psychedelic period” called Pop.
Despite being part of the tour title, the setlist included only two tracks from Songs of Innocence—“Iris (Hold Me Close)” and “Cedarwood Road.” Played early in the evening, these are personal to Bono’s upbringing and were accompanied by immersive images of his mother, Iris, and the formidable experiences of his youth.
The controversial 2014 iTunes release of Songs of Innocence seriously bummed out and actually angered critics so much that the album never got a fair shake, except, surprisingly, from Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott on their comedy podcast, U Talkin’ U2 To Me?, that breaks down the U2 canon album by album.
Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. next gave a somber rendition of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that matched the tone of the lyrics. About one of the deadliest days of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, for more than 30 years the song has been used to promote a message of tolerance and choosing peace over war. The performance concluded with a disturbing car bomb explosion to Mullen Jr.’s militaristic drumbeat.
During a short intermission, fans were treated to a graphic novel featuring handsome cartoon versions of the Irish quartet on a journey to be continued.
Next, the crowd was hit with “Elevation,” “Vertigo” and “Desire” in quick succession from the smaller “E” stage.
In a bizarre use of a SnapChat filter, Mr. MacPhisto, Bono’s alter-ego from 1993’s Zoo TV Tour, made an appearance. The devilish fiend reminded us that “the KKK is alive and out on the streets of Charlottesville without their silly costumes” as the lead-in to “Acrobat,” followed by a chilled out version of “You’re The Best Thing About Me.”
Bono paused to introduce the next song. “When we escaped from Dublin into the great wide world…some of us got a little dizzy, and sometime in the ’90s, we made an album called Pop,” he said self-depricatingly, and the crowd erupted. “I don’t remember actually writing this,” he joked. “It seemed to write itself.”
Bono and The Edge performed an acoustic version of “Staring at the Sun,” while recent images of neo-Nazis paraded across the screens and the lyric “happy to go blind” struck a chord.
The band known for mixing politics with its music next played one of their most iconic songs, “Pride (In The Name of Love),” with imagery of civil rights demonstrations and Martin Luther King Jr., the subject of the tribute, giving way to video of the Women’s March on Washington.
Back on the main stage, the boys raised the American flag for “American Soul,” whose lyrics beg the question if you have to say ‘you and I are rock and roll,’ are we really rock and roll? However, it’s a hopping tune with punchy verses and a great hook that had everyone bouncing.
“We are reminded by our daughters that the world’s problems will not be solved without using all of the brains we have on the planet,” said Bono.
After “One” and “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way,” the encore ended with “13 (There Is a Light)”—not the strongest choice, but did bring the show full circle theme-wise, topped off with a glowing lightbulb swinging overhead.
The crowd genuinely responded to the story-driven show and message of unity. “There’s no us. There’s no them. There’s only us,” Bono stated.
U2’s larger-than-life presence filled the Coliseum as well as the hearts and minds of those in attendance. Unfortunately, the venue has not improved wait times getting through security since reopening last year. Somehow lines continued to wrap around the building as the concert began.
Catch U2 at Madison Square Garden on June 25 and 26. For tickets, visit tickemaster.com.
1. Love Is All We Have Left
2. The Blackout
3. Lights of Home (St. Peter’s String Version)
4. I Will Follow
5. The Electric Co. (Tour debut; with “Send in the Clowns”)
6. Beautiful Day
7. The Ocean
8. Iris (Hold Me Close)
9. Cedarwood Road
10. Sunday Bloody Sunday (with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” snippet)
11. Until the End of the World (with “The Garden of Love” and “Introduction” snippet)
Intermission: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (Gavin Friday version)
12. Elevation (Influx Mix Intro)
13. Vertigo (with “Rebel Rebel” snippet)
14. Desire (Hollywood Mix)
15. Acrobat (with “Sympathy for the Devil” snippet)
16. You’re the Best Thing About Me (full band acoustic)
17. Staring at the Sun (Bono and The Edge acoustic)
18. Pride (In the Name of Love)
19. Get Out of Your Own Way
20. American Soul
21. City of Blinding Lights
22. Women of the World (Jim O’Rourke song)
23. One (with “Invisible” snippet)
24. Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way
25. 13 (There Is a Light)
Keep up with U2 at www.u2.com.