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by Jon Bream, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Rolling Stones vs. U2. Mick vs. Bono. Keef vs. the Edge.

Who is the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band? Baby boomers might argue the Stones. Gen Xers might advocate for U2.

Last week, this baby boomer had the rare opportunity to see these iconic bands on back-to-back nights: the Stones on Tuesday in Milwaukee, U2 on Wednesday in Chicago.

How were the shows? Outstanding. Was one better? Yes. Which band was the greatest? I'll answer that later. First, impressions and experiences.

Just given their ages, the four Stones, 68 to 74, have to be in the autumn of their 53-year career. U2, a quartet ages 53 to 55, are in midcareer -- year 39, to be exact -- sort of like the Stones in the mid-1980s. U2 is coming off two slow-selling, hits-devoid albums, the latter of which, "Songs of Innocence," resulted in bad karma because it was sent for free last year to hundreds of millions of iTunes users, some of whom saw it as unwanted spam.

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Innocence + Experience Tour pauses for a rare club show

By Steve Appleford, Rolling Stone

Bono knows how to work a room, only for decades he's been working arenas and stadiums, offering sweeping gestures on the most epic stages. Last night at the Roxy Theatre on L.A.'s Sunset Strip, U2 showed they could still dial things down to the most intimate level, playing a thrilling set for 500 ecstatic fans.

The band is currently in the middle of five shows at the 17,000-capacity Forum. Their Innocence + Experience tour is high-tech and high-concept, but here they seemed excited to deliver a straight-ahead rock show of passion and drive with a set list that included four songs from their 1980 debut, Boy. Even the band's first L.A. show in 1981 was at the old Country Club in suburban Reseda - a venue with about twice the capacity of the Roxy.

Things kicked off with the post-punk swirl of "The Ocean" before the Edge's slicing guitar signaled the transition to "11 O'Clock Tick Tock." Bono stood centerstage in black motorcycle jacket and shades, leaning into a forest of hands aiming cell phone cameras at his face. He was soon splashing water into the crowd as the band dove into U2's explosive first U.S. hit single, "I Will Follow."

U2 tour review: Seeing is disbelieving

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Jon Swartz, USA TODAY

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A U2 show comes with heightened expectations and an almost euphoric anticipation for a cultural touchstone. It's an impossibly high bar to meet.

For more than two hours last night, the seminal Irish rock band did just that.

A blistering start and finish book-ended a tech-tinged show that is bombastic, brilliantly absurd arena rock.

U2 kicked off its U.S. leg of the Innocence & Experience tour under vexing circumstances: a physically damaged lead singer and a record, Songs of Innocence, that sparked a backlash after it was distributed for free to 500 million people via iTunes in September. (U2 is working on a new album, Songs of Experience.)

From those setbacks, the venerable band saw the opportunity to turn uncertainty into a platform to redefine its place in rock 'n' roll's pantheon.

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Eight ways in which U2 changed things up for night two of the 'Innocence + Experience' tour

by Andy Greene, Rolling Stone

U2's Innocence + Experience tour nearly came to an extremely premature end at the end of opening night when the Edge took a nasty tumble into the audience, and on the second consecutive show at Vancouver's Rogers Arena Bono joined the many people on the Internet today cracking jokes about the incident. "Somebody said that the Edge had downloaded himself into the audience without asking permission," he said. "I thought that was great."

Considering this was only the second show of a tour utilizing an incredibly complex stage and a ton of brand new songs, the group could have easily played it safe by replicating opening night, but they opted to mix it up. Here's eight ways in which it differed.

They Honored B.B. King. It was a given that U2 would find a way to honor the blues legend since they recorded and toured together in the 1980s, becoming close friends in the process. It came fifteen songs in when they moved to the B stage. "This is a very special occasion for anyone who loves the blues," Bono told the crowd. "For this is the day that the world got to say goodbye to the great B.B. King. That is a special occasion indeed." They then played "When Loves Come To Town" for the first time in 23 years. Hearing the tune with Bono covering all of King's lines was a sad reminder that B.B. truly is gone. "Wow," Bono said at the end. "The thrill will never be gone."

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Vancouver 'Innocence + Experience' kick-off mixes hits with classics and showcases the band's stunning new stage

by Andy Greene, Rolling Stone

It was about 10 minutes past 8:00 p.m. when the lights dimmed at Vancouver's Rogers Arena and "Beat on the Brat" by the Ramones began blaring out of U2's massive sound system, kicking off the group's long-awaited Innocence + Experience Tour. As the band took the stage to a deafening roar from the sold-out crowd, they launched into "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" under a single light bulb suspended from the ceiling, meant to evoke Bono's childhood bedroom.

The group that took a 29,000-square-foot stage known as the Spaceship around the globe on their last tour was now moving forward by going all the way back to where it began. They were honoring the music that first inspired them to pick up instruments, as well as the physical space where that happened. To drive the point home further, the song transitioned directly into "Out of Control," U2's debut single from 1980. "We're a band from the north side of Dublin called U2," Bono told the crowd, as if he'd traveled back in time. "This is our first single. Take it, the Edge." Not a single screen was activated, giving the crowd at the front of the general admission floor the sensation of seeing the band at tiny club in Dublin 35 years ago.

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A SLUMBERING giant awoke last night near the snow-capped Grouse Mountains in Canada.

by Barry Egan in Vancouver at U2, Irish Independent

Or to put it another way, U2 came back to the world stage last night in front of 20,000 fans at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

It was not quite the return of four all-conquering superheroes but more like four men who have been through the wars before coming out the other side... with a brilliant new album that got denigrated.

The brilliance of the current Songs of Innocence album was obscured by the PR disaster that was the iTunes download debacle.
"Divisive" wouldn't begin to describe it.

So U2 had a lot to prove last night.

Fail on this tour and U2 would be looking at a fatal loss of relevancy.

So no pressure, then.

Would Bono - after his dreadful accident in Central Park last November - be able to cut it as a performer?

No longer jumping Jack Flash - more limping hack trash. No longer the young Dub who jumped down off the stage at Live Aid during Bad ... now a battered 55 year old man held together by surgical pins, like a rock-star Frankenstein.

The answer to most of the above questions is, mercifully, that U2 - on the basis of what they did onstage last night in Canada - have no worries about the future.

Jim Carroll on Bono's New Year's Day blog post

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The U2 singer's 6,218-word screed is an A to Z of 2014, including the Apple debacle, his bike crash, and a veiled cry for help to his band's former manager, Paul McGuinness

by Jim Carroll, Irish Times

We have a winner. The new year may still be yawning to life, but there won't be another blog post in 2015 on a par with the 6,218-word screed delivered by U2's Bono on New Year's Day.

Laid up since his bike accident and unable to resume his rightful place in front of microphones and cameras for another long six months, U2's frontman instead went online to review his annus horribilis from A to Z.

There was much to talk about. We got the irony bypass of the singer using a blog post to fume about nasty bloggers not liking his band's new album. We got another bizarre defence ("bottle of milk" and "bowl of cereal") of the U2/Apple distribution snafu. We got plenty of references to his friends and family.

But there was one entry that stood out. In between O for the Oscars and Q for Quincy Jones, Bono wrote with fondness, affection and generosity about the band's former manager Paul McGuinness.

You Too Can Hear U2 Overthink Its New Song

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By Andrew Romano, The Daily Beast

The new single 'Ordinary Love' comes with a tasteful lyric video, but there's been a bothersome trend in U2's music lately.

For nearly five years, the world has been U2less.

Sure, the Irish rock juggernaut has continued to play live shows, setting the record, in 2011, for the highest-grossing tour of all time. But not since No Line on the Horizon came out in early 2009 have Bono & Co. released any new studio material. No soaring choruses about faith and love and Africa. No reverby, ricocheting guitar lines. No martial drum beats. No chart-topping uplift.

Until now. Yesterday, Bono & Co. finally ended the debilitating U2 shortage of the last half-decade and delivered a new song. It's called "Ordinary Love," and it was written specifically for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the new biopic about South Africa's legendary anti-apartheid crusader and eventual president. It comes complete with a tasteful lyric video and limited-edition 10-inch vinyl release for Record Store Day.

U2 here is still larger than life

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Concert Review

By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When you travel with a stage that rises 168 feet in the sky and looks like a space invader from "War of the Worlds," you risk making the performers themselves seem, well, tiny.

Unless, of course, you have a Bono handy.

Despite standing less than 5 feet 9, the 51-year-old U2 singer has a mighty big presence, which cast its shadow for the first time Tuesday night in the Steelers' house, Heinz Field.

Pittsburghers have been on the sidelines hearing about this record-breaking, $700-million-grossing "360 World Tour" now since the spring of 2009, and we managed to squeeze in there on the last week as the penultimate show (it ends Saturday in Moncton, Canada).

Having gone through the paces through 60 shows over three years, U2 might be burned out on this 360 number and ready to move on to the next album cycle, but it didn't show as the band barrels to the finish line.

Stuck in these U2 moments

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Article by Jon Bream and Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune staff writers

These were the most unforgettable sights and sounds of Saturday's wow-inducing show at TCF Bank Stadium.

As the battalion of roadies broke down the mammoth "Claw" stage late Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, we similarly cleared our minds about what we'd just witnessed. The sensory overload that was U2's 360° Tour left us with these lasting impressions of what was unquestionably one of the most memorable rock concerts in Twin Cities history.

Singin' in the rain
Bono has been compared to Dylan, Springsteen, the Pope. Add Gene Kelly to the list. Toting a U.S. flag umbrella, he relished singin' in the rain. He and the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. were undaunted by the downpour, which gave the nearly 60,000 soaked fans a glorious feeling.

(Note from our electrician: The Edge and Clayton wouldn't get electrocuted with 12-volt batteries on their wireless guitars, but there was a concern about the electric pickups on those instruments getting wet.)

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