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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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The rock icons come to grips with the future - with flashes of their past - on 'Songs of Experience'

**** 1/2 (four and a half stars out of 5)

By David Fricke, Rolling Stone

It is nearly business as usual. "Nothing to stop this being the best day ever," Bono declares in "Love Is All We Have Left," at the start of U2's sequel to 2014's Songs of Innocence. But the singer's delivery is striking in its restraint: like cautious prayer or a fragile wish, suspended over the rippled-sea strum of the Edge's guitar and Adam Clayton's bass-guitar gravity. Bono quickly straps on his bravado in "Lights of Home": "One more push and I'll be born again," he crows, framed by the Edge's skidding-blues licks and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.'s rock-grip twist on hip-hop stride.

You hear near-fatal reckoning too. "I shouldn't be here 'cause I should be dead," Bono admits in that song's first line, alluding to his recent "brush with mortality" (as the Edge put it in a recent interview). If Songs of Innocence was rock's most persistently hopeful band looking back in wonder at its punk-rock origins and unlimited dreaming in late-Seventies Dublin, Songs of Experience is U2 in late-middle age coming to grips with an inevitable reality: They no longer have all the time in the world.

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**** (Four stars out of 5)

By Neil McCormick, music critic, The Telegraph

U2's 14th studio album opens with one of the most vulnerable and fragile songs of their 41-year-career. Love Is All We Have Left swells on trembling strings and synths, with Bono's close, cracked vocal blending into digital auto-tune as he conjures a space age lullaby for an impending apocalypse. "This is no time not to be alive," he sings.

It's a short, strange, sparse vignette, its spectral beauty interrupted by a gnarly distorted guitar riff as the veteran band turn on the power, and roll exultantly into Lights of Home, a chunky anthem brushing off near-death experience ("I shouldn't be here cos I should be dead") to reach for the light at the end of the tunnel. "Free yourself to be yourself," choral voices command in a coda purpose built for mass singalongs. This is surely closer to the idea that most listeners have of U2 as an upbeat, inspirational, anthemic rock band. And Songs of Experience is full of such moments: big meaty hooks matched by singalong aphorisms ("Get out of your own way!" "Love is bigger than anything in its way"). But the sound of a man in conflict and crisis also runs through the centre of this highly personal collection of songs, undercutting and ultimately deepening the spirit of can do positivity.

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Photo by © Kyle Gustafson/The Washington Post

By Chris Richards, The Washington Post

No red ballcap, but Bono still wants to make America great again. So he's taken U2 on a tour across our damaged nation to perform "The Joshua Tree," his 1987 love-letter to the home of the brave that remains his band's most enduring document. These are U2's most capacious songs, and despite being filled with the best of intentions, there's still lots of room for everyone to pile on in. "Whoever you voted for, you are welcome here tonight," Bono declared at FedEx Field in Maryland on Tuesday evening. "We will find common ground reaching for higher ground."

That's nice, but the between-banter music didn't feel like too strenuous of a reach. Instead, the band ceremonially delivered its signature blend of grandeur and uplift, hoping to repair the burning bridges of 2017 by transporting its adoring crowd 30 years back to a moment of global optimism, when prosperity was on the rise and the Cold War was drawing to a close. Strangely, U2 won the night the same way that Donald Trump won the presidency: by promising to improve tomorrow by making it feel more like yesterday. (Plus, there must be some morsel of cosmic significance in the fact that Trump first published "The Art of the Deal" in November of '87, a mere eight months after "The Joshua Tree" sprouted.)

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Massive retrospective features previously unreleased concert recording, remixes, B-sides, outtakes and a book of photography by the Edge

*****

By Kory Grow, Rolling Stone

The Joshua Tree, released in 1987, is U2 at their biggest: 11 sweeping, aching anthems to self-doubt, humanity, hope and America-focused anxiety - all straightforward and pop-savvy enough to propel them from arenas to stadiums. It was the fastest-selling album in U.S. chart history when it topped Billboard in 1987, and currently sits at 10 times platinum, an album so huge that the band is playing the record in its entirety on an arena tour 30 years later. The second retrospective box set (the first appeared in 2007) is a giant, four-CD (or weighty seven-LP) collection that features the pristine-sounding original album, a previously unreleased concert recording from New York, new remixes, B-sides, never-before-released outtakes and a book of photography by the Edge.

The band sound energized and even playful on the Madison Square Garden performance (fans may recognize the gospel-tinged "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with its Bob Marley outro from 1988's Rattle and Hum). Bono does his best preacher impression on "Bullet the Blue Sky," while the Edge plays soaring, Led Zeppelin-y slide guitar. The ominous meditation on a psycho killer, "Exit," features a snippet of Them's "Gloria," à la Patti Smith. Bono yells, "Fuck it up, Edge" before the solo in "In God's Country," and he calls the "Trip Through Your Wires" "sort of a love song" that he dedicates to himself. It's a brilliant snapshot of the band, even if it omits the cover of the Beatles' "Help" and their own "Bad" and "Spanish Eyes," all played that night. (A concert film of this show, or any other on the original Joshua Tree tour, is the only missing ingredient in the box.)

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."

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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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