U2 review – eye-popping show finds rock icons at their most human

Manchester Arena
Fronted by a humbler, more reflective Bono than usual, U2 lead the crowd in a dazzling celebration of oneness

No matter their stature, most rock gods eventually realise that the concert-going public no longer want new music, just classics and the greatest hits. U2 seemed to finally bow to this inevitability last year, when they toured The Joshua Tree, the 1987 album that made them the biggest band in the world. However, as bassist Adam Clayton explained recently, playing the whole album in fact freed them from its shadow: “If you wanted those songs, it’s done.” Hence the present Experience + Innocence tour, on which the Dublin four-piece shun their best-loved album in favour of an adventurous 24-song setlist, including seven songs from last year’s Songs of Experience, and take a self-deprecating, sideways look at their long career.

It is also the most visually spectacular outing yet for a band who have previously toured with a mirrorball lemon and a giant claw. An enormous “barricage”, the length of the arena, bombards the crowd with imagery before the band are suddenly revealed to be playing inside it, behind the screens. In the show’s most eye-popping moments, U2 rock on beneath arena-sized pixelated images of themselves.

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