Opening Act(s): Kelis
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, Discothèque-Staring At The Sun, Kite, New York, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, In My Life-Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, In A Little While, Desire, Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Bad-40, Where The Streets Have No Name, Mysterious Ways, The Fly. Encore: Bullet The Blue Sky, With Or Without You-Love Will Tear Us Apart, One, Wake Up Dead Man, Walk On.
Bono repeatedly chants ‘E.U.’ after Bullet The Blue Sky, before switching to chanting ‘Zooropa’ a few times. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is included for Manchester, where Joy Division originated.
U2 Turn On Blood, Sweat And Cheers
U2 kick-started their bid to regain the title of best band in the world with a sizzling show in Manchester.
On Saturday night, they started their UK tour at the M.E.N. Arena with a 130-minute show covering all 21 years of their recording career.
It was possibly the hottest, sweatiest event ever at the Arena.
Despite the millions they have earned and the global fame they have gained, Bono fondly recalled playing to just 11 people the first time U2 performed in Manchester more than 20 years ago.
It was far cry from the weekend’s concert double which smashed two M.E.N. Arena box office records.
During the show, he paid his respects to Manchester legends Joy Division, Ian Curtis and New Order before dedicating One to Noel Gallagher.
The last time U2 toured the UK was in 1997, the foursome emerged at the start of the show from a giant, mechanical lemon.
But this Elevation tour has a zest all of the band’s own making. The stage was almost barren, with little more than the foursome, their equipment and a heart-shaped runway which Bono raced around.
Bono says that U2 are back to reclaim the crown of best band in the world. And by going back to doing the simple things well, they may well manage that feat.
Whereas the 1997 Popmart tour was full of theatrical excess, the current show sees Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton turning in, tuning up and dropping out some of their best songs of the past 20 years.
Bono has developed a second career as the loudest advocate of debt relief for the Third World. But it is clear that it has not dimmed the hold he has over his audience in the First World.
The crowd responded to him in a way that goes beyond rock music. At times, the relationship was closer to that between a US preacher and his excitable congregation or the intensity that the old Stretford End had with George Best in his prime.
From the openers, Elevation and Beautiful Day, it became clear that this may be the first time that a band in their forties have been at their artistic and performing peak.
But when he took a break between songs to announce that his dad was close to death, it became clear that he had not lost the ability to wear his heart in his sleeve.
Predictably the best response was for oldies such as I Will Follow and Sunday Bloody Sunday.
Bono called on all in Northern Ireland to make an effort to ensure peace. Unfurling an Irish flag handed to him mid-song from the crowd, he said: ”Our prayer is that this week brave people make brave decisions and this little island across the little channel does not go back to war. Compromise is not such a bad word after all.”
When all four of the band came to the front of the stage for what was almost a skiffle version of Desire the crowd reacted ecstatically, as they did for Where the Streets Have No Name, which gained the best reception of the evening.
It was left to the anthemic One to bring the crowd to its feet in a finale which included Bullet in the Blue Sky, complete with Bono mooching around the stage with a high-power searchlight.
Symbolic it may have been, but no one seemed to care. They came for a good night. And they got it.
All images are © Paul White