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Concert Review:  U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour at the United Center in Chicago – June 25, 2015

U2The first U2 album I bought was 1983’s War. I was a relatively new Christian at the time and had read about this mainstream band in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine in which some of the members were Christians. (Note: Bono mentioned in 2005’s Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas that all were now believers, with bassist Adam Clayton being the last to come to faith). Among the songs on War was “40”, which contains the words of Psalm 40, and is a song that the band has closed their shows with often over the years. I’ve been a fan of U2 ever since, especially enjoying the spiritual aspects of their music.

Thursday’s concert at Chicago’s United Center was the second of five at the venue on their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, featuring seven songs from their latest album Songs of Innocence, which Rolling Stone magazine named as the top album of 2014. The album, their first since 2009’s No Line on the Horizon, was also my top album of 2014, narrowly edging out Lecrae’s excellent Anomaly. This was the seventh time I’ve seen my favorite band in concert and the first in an arena setting since the 2005 Vertigo tour, with outdoor stadium shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium since that time.

U2 often does unique things with their stage. This time, the stage had two large locations at each end of the arena, with a long walkway across the United Center floor connecting them, where just a few nights before the Chicago Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup Championship. Our seats were supposed to be in the lower section at the end of the main stage. Due to a mix-up (either the wrong floor map was posted when we purchased tickets through the band’s fan club, or the stage was flipped) our seats were actually behind the stage. Those sitting around us were all very disappointed with this, but as it turned out there were some benefits to sitting only about 25 feet from drummer Larry Mullen. It was amazing to watch him working (behind the scenes) throughout the show. The close proximity to the band was a stark contrast to my last U2 concert, when we were more than three hundred feet away from the U2 360 stage placed in center field at Busch Stadium.

The two and a half hour concert started with Bono in his trademark black leather jacket and sunglasses appearing alone on the far end of the arena. As he walked toward the main stage he began singing “Oh, Oh, Oh…” from “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” as the rest of the band (Edge, guitar and keyboards; Adam Clayton, bass; and Larry Mullen) took their places on stage. The concert did not include an opening act and had only a short intermission of Johnny Cash singing “The Wanderer” from Zooropa on the video screen; it featured twenty four songs, including three during the encore. Here is the complete setlist, which changes a bit each night as the band plays multiple dates in each city on the tour.

Although the concert featured seven songs from Songs of Innocence – which sounded even better in concert than on the too perfectly produced album – the band did a nice job of playing songs from throughout their thirty-five year career. Here are the albums that the songs originally appeared on:

Boy (1980) – Out of Control, I Will Follow

War (1983) – Sunday Bloody Sunday

Unforgettable Fire (1984) – Pride (In the Name of Love), Bad

The Joshua Tree (1987) – With or Without You, Bullet the Blue Sky, Where the Streets Have No Name

Rattle and Hum (1988) – Angel of Harlem

Achtung Baby (1991) – Even Better Than the Real Thing, One, Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways

All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) – Beautiful Day

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004) – Vertigo, City of Blinding Lights

No Line on the Horizon (2009) – Moment of Surrender (portions performed before and after “Bad”).

Invisible 2014 single (not available on an album)

Songs of Innocence (2014) – The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone); Iris (Hold Me Close), Cedarwood Road, Song for Someone, Raised by Wolves, Every Breaking Wave, Volcano

The band’s main stage was directly in front of us at one end of the United Center. A long catwalk/walkway with a huge see-through video screen above it, added much to the experience, but also created some challenges as only those on the sides of the arena could fully see the band when they were inside the screen. That’s right, the band would enter the screen and be part of the video experience. The screen would move up and down throughout the concert. However, when it was down, it made it difficult for people seated at the ends of the arena to see the band.

The band also set up at the far end of the arena for a few songs. By moving around and playing at a number of different places on their stage they added variety and gave everyone unique views of the band.

The show featured a few themes. The first half of the show featured many of the new songs from Songs of Innocence, so growing up was a theme – much as it was with Lecrae on his recent Anomaly tour – as Bono sang about his mother Iris (“Iris (Hold Me Close)” and his neighborhood growing up “Cedarwood Road”. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with Larry playing a sobering snare drum effectively led into “Raised by Wolves”. Later, Bono would say that after grief comes anger as he led the band into “Volcano”. With songs like “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” there were references to “I can’t breathe”, Ferguson, MO and Charleston SC. Later, the theme of surrender came up with parts of “Moment of Surrender” sung before and after “Bad”.

A few other thoughts:

  • The couple in front of us were from nearby (to Chicago) Grayslake, Illinois. This was her thirteenth U2 concert. When Bono introduced their second song “Out of Control” as their first single, she was completely overcome emotionally, with tears streaming down her face during the entire song. I’ll never forget how the song impacted her.
  • “Every Breaking Wave” is my favorite song on the new album. I actually prefer the alternate version released on the deluxe edition, so Bono performing it with only Edge on piano at the far end of the stage was a highlight.
  • Bono pulled a young woman from Costa Rica out of the crowd to help him film “Mysterious Ways” and “Angel of Harlem” around the world as Twitter comments from literally around the world were projected up on the large video screens above us.
  • My favorite song was “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, which was followed by “Beautiful Day”. The energy in the building during those two songs was incredible.

Though Bono seemed less energetic than past tours (could be due to his recent bike accident, or what the Chicago Tribune referred to as his bout with “nagging bronchitis”), it would not have been noticeable to those who hadn’t seen him on previous tours when he would sprint around the stage.

Thirty-five years after their first album U2 is still relevant and going strong. Incredibly there have been no band member changes during that time. I hope to see them on the next leg of the tour with songs from the rumored Songs of Experience album.

 Song of the Week

Jubilee by Michael Card

Michael’s Card’s ministry (music, books, teaching) has had a profound impact on my life for thirty years. This is one of my favorite songs of his. I particularly enjoy the line:

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Here are the lyrics to the song:
The word provided for a time for the slaves to be set free
For the debts to all be cancelled so His chosen one could see
His deep desire was for forgiveness
He longed to see their liberty
And His yearning was embodied in the year of Jubilee

Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time His deep desire to give a man
The heart of all true jubilation and with joy we understand
In His voice we hear a trumpet sound that tells us we are free
He is the incarnation of the year of Jubilee

Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Watch Michael perform this wonderful song in concert here.

musicnewsMusic News

  • Angels of Fenway. Watch James Taylor perform this song (about his Red Sox defeating my Cardinals in the 2004 World Series) from his excellent new album Before the World on Late Night with Seth Myers.
  • Charleston Shooting Comes From Deeply Rooted Racism & Injustice. Lecrae writes “We don’t need a cliché and a proof-text for every social issue. We need hands and feet in the cities, institutions, and infrastructures. The same gospel that frees the soul, frees us to live selflessly toward others with genuine compassion.”


Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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