EVERY time I witness U2 live, I’m reminded conclusively of why they’re the biggest band in the world.
SECC Hydro, Glasgow
Star rating: ****
Quite simply, no one delivers grandiosely theatrical arena rock better than these solid gold, seasoned pros. The occasional flabbiness of their music becomes irrelevant when placed in this context. More so than on record, this is where they reign supreme.
Currently on the final leg of their worldwide Innocence + Experience Tour, they showed no sign of road-weariness as they arrived in Glasgow for the first of two performances at the Hydro. “We’re so close to home,” smiled Bono by way of salutation, as he introduced the connective theme of reflection and nostalgia which defines the first hour of this ingeniously staged show.
Rampart-charging oldies such as I will Follow, from their first flush of fame as young, hungry post-punk proselytisers, were interspersed with explicitly autobiographical selections from their Songs Of Innocence album.
With assistance from the second star of the show, a double-sided “video cage” hovering above the walkway at a length of almost 100-feet, Cedarwood Road found Bono striding along an animated backdrop of the streets where he grew up. Hardly subtle, but who wants subtlety from a U2 show?
They’re still the undisputed kings of the grand, dramatic, heartfelt political gesture. Led by the ageless Larry Mullen’s single snare drum, they lined up on the walkway during Bloody Sunday Sunday as photographs of the 33 victims of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings flashed overhead. It was a genuinely powerful, moving tribute.
Following an unprecedented intermission – they’re no spring chickens, after all – they returned for a crowd-pleasing hour of greatest hits, including an hilariously bombastic Bullet The Blue Sky, a charming performance of Sweetest Thing with Bono on tack piano, and a grin-inducing version of Mysterious Ways accompanied by a thrilled fan filming the performance on her phone (she was invited on stage, it wasn’t an invasion).
Watching peerless stadium ringmaster Bono, looking for all the world tonight like a diminutive Terminator, it struck me just how much he clearly loves his job. Even after all these years, he looks delighted to be up there in front of his vast, adoring throng. Only a churl would begrudge him that pleasure. He’s more than earned the right to his throne.