Any suggestion that U2’s ‘iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE’ world tour would be a scaled down affair, since it marks their first time playing this size of venue in a decade, was roundly dismissed last night (Thursday) in Canada. The band opened the itinerary with the first of two shows at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, where the sellout audience of some 19,000 could hardly believe their eyes and ears.
The visuals began relatively modestly, the stage lit chiefly by one outsized lightbulb hanging just above Bono’s head as he sang ‘The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone).’ That was the first of no fewer than seven tracks from last September’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ album to make their full live debut at the show, and the body language was plain: U2 were overjoyed to be back in their workplace.
From this end of their careers, they then went all the way back to the other, reviving ‘Out Of Control,’ from the 1980 debut ‘Boy.’ Then came ‘Vertigo,’ The Edge’s guitar choppy and lithe, with Adam Clayton’s bass and Larry Mullen Jr’s drums the ever-expressive backbone. Mullen, indeed, had only recently arrived back in the city from the funeral of his father, who passed away last Sunday, as Bono would later respectfully observe.
Then the fifth star of the show began to emerge. A giant fence-like screen, suspended above the entire middle of the arena, became the vehicle for animated and movie projections, and for live, cleverly treated images of the band from the main stage. But in what is surely a production first, it also allowed the musicians to walk inside its central corridor, creating the effect that they were often inside these imaginative visuals, never more remarkably than when Bono invited us to walk with him through his childhood home of ‘Cedarwood Road.’
At other times, his face was projected onto the screen, gazing out like some behemoth 20 feet high. Apart from being one of the most arresting effects ever mounted in a rock show, the device also meant that everyone from the top tickets to the gods had a perfect view of this super-scale spectacle. “Technology can be fun,” as the frontman put it.
So the show developed over some 135 minutes, tilting back and forth between early history such as ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ and new inclusions like ‘Every Breaking Wave’ (with Bono at the piano, now on the small b-stage) and ‘The Troubles.’ As the show roared and rumbled towards the home stretch, ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ sounded as big as ever and the main set concluded on ‘With Or Without You.’
By now, all the band were having fun on the walkway that connected the stages — and as an aside, very few in the hall even noticed The Edge’s fall at the conclusion of ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’ They were too busy singing their heads off and celebrating the return of one of the very few bands who could even think of mounting an indoor spectacle on this scale.
Words and photos: Paul Sexton
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