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Photo by Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune

By Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune

There was beauty and bombast, tenderness and ham-fistedness, and a tale of "innocence" and "experience." It was the best and sometimes the worst of U2 in an ambitious multi-media show Tuesday, the first of two concerts at the United Center.

The Irish quartet -- Bono, still in fine voice; The Edge and his armada of guitar foot pedals; the rock-ribbed rhythm section of bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. -- isn't phoning it in, even though it just came off the type of tour that is typical of heritage bands with several decades of hits. Last year's 30th anniversary stadium jaunt for its most popular album, "The Joshua Tree," raked in nearly $317 million on three continents.

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By Jason Bracelin, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Star-spangled bullhorn pressed to his lips, his voice boomed as torches blazed.

"This is not America," Bono declared as footage of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August aired on the football-field-long video screen, displayed with a crispness that captured their anger down to their pores.

"This is America," the U2 frontman said, then pivoted as the scene shifted to an equal rights gathering, the faces changed, the passions similarly palpable.

A couple of numbers later, a three-story America flag was unfurled from the rafters of T-Mobile Arena as Bono brandished his bullhorn once more, this time in the service of "American Soul," a propulsive rallying cry with a bullying bass line and flecks of wah-wah guitar.

During the song's verses, Bono sought to articulate what America means to him.

"It's not a place," he sang. "This country is, to me, a sound."

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By Jon Pareles, The New York Times

TULSA, Okla. -- Love and hope contend with trauma and dread in U2's Experience + Innocence worldwide arena tour, which opened Wednesday night at the BOK Center here. Positive thinking isn't guaranteed to prevail; the state of the world is too unsettled for U2 to make promises. For decades, the band has treated arenas and stadiums as havens of community through shared songs. This time, the singalongs are mixed with warnings and pleas to save an endangered American dream.

Call it ambitious or call it presumptuous, but it's rock that arrives with a sense of mission -- so much so that U2's echoing chords and martial beats have long since become shorthand for earnest idealism in what remains of current rock. Becoming a voice of conscience is a job that few of the long-running rock bands who can still command the arena circuit -- Bruce Springsteen excepted -- are willing to shoulder. But on Wednesday night, U2 got its audience loudly chanting "No more war!" in the middle of "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

Latest U2 Concert

Opening Act(s): None

Setlist:

  1. Love Is All We Have Left
  2. The Blackout
  3. Lights of Home
  4. I Will Follow
  5. Red Flag Day
  6. Beautiful Day
  7. The Ocean
  8. Iris (Hold Me Close)
  9. Cedarwood Road
  10. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  11. Until the End of the World
  12. Intermission (Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me)
  13. Elevation
  14. Vertigo - It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)
  15. Desire (Hollywood Mix)
  16. My Kind of Town - Acrobat
  17. You're the Best Thing About Me (Acoustic)
  18. Staring at the Sun (Acoustic)
  19. Pride (In the Name of Love)
  20. Get Out of Your Own Way
  21. American Soul
  22. City of Blinding Lights
  23. Encore(s):
  24. Women of the World - One - Invisible
  25. Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way
  26. 13 (There Is a Light)

Remarks:

Tonight at the second of two concerts in Chicago, U2 add "Red Flag Day" back into the setlist replacing the slot where "Gloria" is performed. Though tonight's show isn't sold out, Chicago's the United Center experiences its 19th U2 concert, only second to Madison Square Garden in terms of venues U2 have played most frequently. Actress and political activist Ashley Judd is present at tonight's show and receives the shout-out from Bono during "Beautiful Day" and is also praised again later during "One" for her forthcoming humanitarian work in the Congo.

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