ST. LOUIS - Superstar rockers U2 delivered on a promised show Friday at the Scottrade Center, following a cancellation last September.
While this was a different tour with a different song selection, anyone thinking the eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE show would bring less spectacle and less scale than the Joshua Tree Tour would have been sorely mistaken.
This is a show that was built for arena venues. With a stage that covered the event floor from end to end – and more, but we'll get to that in a moment – and a video wall that would make any sports franchise weep with envy, the tour showcased the musicality of U2 more than just the “big hits” with a few deep cuts thrown in for good measure. For a band that arguably hit the peak of their popularity with the general listening audience with The Joshua Tree album, there was not a single song from that tour included. But this makes perfect sense when you consider U2 just came off of a tour playing that album in its entirety.
The set list for this show is not a disappointment, however. From amazing performances on “The Blackout,” which saw the band delivered to the stage from the middle of nowhere (or at least the middle of the room via concert tour magic) to “Beautiful Day” that had the packed house singing along for all their worth, this band shows why they are still at the top when it comes to box office numbers for their tours.
Other notables from the setlist include “Acrobat” from the Achtung Baby album, being added to the live show for the first time ever for this tour. U2 staple “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was played acoustically, with the band standing on a lighted stage representing the Irish flag while a video reminder of darker times in the Emerald Isle reminded us all that those darker times are not as far in the past as we would like to imagine.
After a brief intermission with a fun animation playing over a new recorded mix of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” the band moved to the "B Stage" for what almost felt like a miniature concert-within-a-concert, with hits like “Vertigo” and “Desire” played like they were being debuted for the first time – with energy and excitement to share with an audience hungry for every note.
The "third act" of the night was one that, if you're a fan of the band, you knew was coming, and it was delivered with all the style and class that only U2 can muster.
Instead of making their way directly back to the main stage, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., made his way back to his kit on that end of the floor, while guitarist the Edge and bassist Adam Clayton took up positions on small satellite platforms on opposite sides of the arena from one another, surrounded by hordes of fans. Bono kept his place on the "B Stage," leaving the band at the four cardinal points of the compass. With the sounds of the anthemic “Pride (In The Name of Love)” filling the arena, images of the marches in Charlottesville filled the screen before going dark and showing only a single image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a poignant moment that no amount of words can capture.
Closing out the night, what Bono described as a prayer for us all, the band played the first half of “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” with no lights, not even their stage lights. The last song of the evening was a moving rendition of “13 (There Is A Light)” that was breathtaking in its simplicity and visually stunning, to say the least.
There's nothing I could add that can convey what kind of power this show had through the entire set, from start to finish. Nothing less would be expected from this band, fronted by a man whose activism is as legendary as his music, but not one time did it come across as "preachy."
It was a simple message, delivered with few spoken words, but powerful lyrics, music, and visual imagery instead. The message was one that we can all take to heart: Never forget the past, always remember those who were lost and continue to reach for a better day for every single person, equally.