Bono Now in high definition!
U2 SAP Center, San Jose ★★★★
After 42 years together, the four members of U2 could be forgiven for wanting to spend more time with their yachts. Instead, they’re working like there’s no tomorrow.
This time last year they started a world tour, performing The Joshua Tree in full, to memorable effect. By Christmas they’d released a punchy new album, Songs Of Experience. And now they’re on another tour, which is entirely Joshua-free.
Entitled Experience + Innocence, this tour picks up where Innocence + Experience left off in 2015 and shares its party trick: a vast, two-sided video screen slicing the arena in half, with a catwalk underneath and a stage at either end. It turns bad seats into good ones. Only U2’s designers – Willie Williams, Es Devlin and Ric Lipson – could have dreamt it up.
Revolutionary in 2015, the screen still seems futuristic, and the images are sharper now. It’s as if you’d bought the biggest telly in the high street and taken it to the gig with you.
Not long ago arena crowds peered into the middle distance to make out idols the size of ants. Here they can see everything from Larry Mullen’s bootpolish hair to Adam Clayton’s small smile at the end of a vibrant Vertigo. Thanks to an app, spectators can even have Bono’s face on their phones, which may be taking stage technology too far. If the visuals are consistently satisfying, the set list is patchy. The 26 tracks include eight from the new album, which is too much of a good thing. No doubt it made sense, at a band meeting, to banish The Joshua Tree: been there, redone that. But it’s a rare case of U2 failing to please the crowd. With Or Without You, and its sisters Where The Streets Have No Name and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, are too well loved to sit on the shelf.
The classics we do get retain their power: a surging Beautiful Day, a storming Pride, a spine-tingling One. A pared-down Sunday Bloody Sunday is superb; I Will Follow is pretty fierce for a teenage anthem; Staring At The Sun, with Bono and The Edge forming a folk duo, is fabulously soulful.
Bono does bang on a bit. ‘No matter how many times he saves the world,’ The Edge said recently, ‘it always manages to unsave itself.’
But he still sings like an opinionated angel. And the production is phenomenal. Experience + Innocence plays UK arenas October 19-28. u2.com
Above: U2 on stage. Right: Bono