U2's 'iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE' tour is up and running, and nearly 20,000 Canadians have a memory they will treasure forever. The opening night of the band's long-awaited new itinerary took place last night (Thursday) at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, where a delighted, sellout crowd were treated to more than two hours of undeniable performances from every chapter of the U2 songbook, and surely one of the most stunning and innovative visual presentations mounted in rock history.
The show began to the apparently modest illumination of one giant lightbulb centre-stage, as the band boldly opened with 'The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone).' It proved to be the first of no fewer than seven selections from 'Songs of Innocence,' an admirable and deserving showcase that was warmly received as this fresh and vibrant material alternated with the band's undisputed classics.
Soon the very new segued into the very old, as they dug deep for 'Out Of Control,' from the 'Boy' debut of 1980. Songs from every phase of U2's epic development were united by the almost boyish fervour with which they were delivered, as the four men made it obvious how delighted they were to be off the leash and back at the day job, so to speak.
'Vertigo' was followed by another delve back, for 'I Will Follow,' and soon we realised that the giant fence-like construction in the centre of the arena was about to become the fifth star of the night. It served as a screen for animations, moving images and huge, high-definition projections of the band as they went about their work.
Known as the "divider" among the road crew, the double-sided mounting had a corridor within, allowing the band, especially Bono, to walk through it, often appearing as a real character in the breathtaking tableaux presented to us. No wonder Bono said "technology can be fun.".
The sheer nervous energy of the early numbers gave way to a performance of great light and shade. 'Iris (Hold Me Close),' inspired by Bono's mother, had the singer crouching in almost foetal style and actually sucking his thumb at one point; he then invited us back to another part of his childhood for 'Cedarwood Road' and prefaced 'Song For Someone' by telling us about his teenage love for Ali Stewart, the woman who became his wife.
Those and other new songs felt immediately integrated and accepted into a set in which one classic after another made its powerful appearance. 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' sounded just as forceful in its acoustic framework, while 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' included the first use of a conventional live band projection. 'Mysterious Ways' even had Bono including a mischievous quotation from Talking Heads' 'Burning Down The House.'
If not burning it down, U2 were tearing its roof off, now on the small "b" stage for 'Desire,' after which a female fan was invited up to film the band up close, for our big screen delectation. Bono made an appearance at the piano for another of the new album's best-liked pieces, 'Every Breaking Wave,' and another visit to the distant past came with 'Bullet The Blue Sky.'
'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' was as huge as always, and the main set ended on 'With Or Without You,' but there were of course more staples waiting in the wings. Reappearing on a brightly-lit, angular main stage, appropriately for 'City Of Blinding Lights,' U2 finished with a triumphant last flourish that included 'Beautiful Day,' 'Where The Streets Have No Name' and the sheer, joyous audience participation of 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.'
"You, our audience, are the strength of this band," said Bono. "We salute you." That emotion was clearly a two-way street, as U2 started another global adventure with a winning combination of grace and strength.
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