:: U2 ::
:: Pepsi Center ::
June 5, 2015
Photos and review by Dan Page
U2 have always been a live band. Their songs are meant for audiences not only to hear but also to see and feel. The inclusion of the audience is not just for show – it is the show. Saturday night at the Pepsi Center was no exception.
U2 started by jumping from decade to decade. Starting with 2014s “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” to 1980s “The Electric Co.” to 2004s “Vertigo” and back to the 1980s with “I Will Follow.” “Cedarwood Road” showcased the band at its best. The Edge with simple and powerful guitar riffs that hit you square in the chest, Larry Mullen Jr. with machine gun drumming, and Adam Clayton with pounding bass lines made this track a highlight of the first set.
As with nearly all of U2’s previous tours the iNNONCENCE + eXPERIENCE stage was meant to provide the audience as much intimacy as possible in an arena show combined with big, stunning visual elements. An arena length two-sided screen provided not only graphics and video but also an elevated walkway where the band performed. The intimacy was achieved by a stage level walkway from the primary stage to a circular stage at the opposite end of the arena. The sound system used for this tour is by far one of the best ever used by any band.
In reference to the stage and technology Bono stated, “There is no them, only us,” noting the band’s efforts to break down the barrier between stage and seats. Having seen every U2 tour since 1985 I can say that iNNONCENCE + eXPERIENCE live is amazingly intimate despite the arena-length stage and screen. It is a big show that looks, sounds and feels very personal.
It was on the walkway that Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry (with only a marching band style snare drum) performed “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. The song was played a bit slower than the 1983 album track but the power and passion they played it with has not changed.
On the circular stage Bono and the Edge, and a piano that folded out of the stage, performed “Every Breaking Wave.” The song in this stripped presentation, vocals and piano only, made the big screen and stage disappear. The power of U2 is not found in the big production – but in the simple emotion of their songs.
When I saw U2 in 1985 on the Unforgettable Fire tour Bono used “Pride (In The Name of Love)” as an opportunity to share with the audience a current injustice in society. 30 Years later U2 is still working to make the world a better place with one.org and red.org. Last night Bono referenced the North Ireland Peace Process, thanking the world for their work. The song had one of the nights many shout along moments. Bono held the microphone to the audience who filled the arena with their voices.
The stage rigging had lights specifically designed to illuminate the crowd – which they did often. These lights seemed more for the band than the crowd. The band appeared to savor these illuminated moments of oneness with the crowd. Bono, Edge, Larry, Adam, and 18,000 fans were U2 – one band, one show with no audience.
It was 32 years and a day ago that U2 recorded Under a Blood Red Sky at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Bono recalled that the band used all the money they had on the production of the film, including a helicopter camera. And despite Barry Fey’s insistence to cancel due to weather the show went on.
U2 closed the show with “I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” that morphed into “Stand By Me.” Bono sang and the Edge played guitar as they walked into the tunnel to end the night.
Adam wore a shirt with ‘March 28, 1981’ printed on it – the date U2 first played in Denver at the Rainbow Music Hall. Thirty-four years later U2 is often called the ‘biggest band in the world.’ Last night U2 proved ‘big’ does not prevent a show from being intimate and connected for both audience and band.