Wednesday 10 October 2018

On Stage: U2 @ Ziggo Dome

I've been a U2 fan for many years and attended every tour since the Lovetown Tour back in 1990. But they lost me musically long time ago and after the 360 tour I thought I had seen enough. So three years back when U2 released Songs of Innocence and kind of pushed it down our throats I decided to skip the accompanying Innocence + Experience tour, but was sorry I did after reading the reviews. I kind of found back my love for the band after last year's The Joshua Tree tour. When they released Songs of Experience that same year, I really wanted to see the accompanying Experience + Innocence tour.

U2 at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, October 8 2018

That alone is quite an effort since it's not so easy getting tickets to a concert of one of the biggest rocks bands in the world playing a relatively small venue for such a big band. Fortunately I managed to land a few tickets and so we find ourselves at the Ziggo Dome on a Monday night, staring at something that looks like a narrow long cage. Of course this is U2 so when the concert takes off, the cage turns out to be a bridge with huge screens to either side. The band appears on the bridge to kick it off with a new song 'The Blackout'.

The bridge can go up and down, tilt so it becomes a slope and it connects the main stage with a smaller round stage at the other end. The huge screens flash on sometimes to show accompanying images or colours or to send some of the political messages the band always has been known for. It is a spectacular setup, but it does take away the focus from the band. I see many people watching the screens to their side while the band is playing on the main stage in front of them. But of course U2 has never been a band to keep things small.

I do like the story they are trying to tell about these four Irish boys that started a band, became bigger than anything else and even flew too close to the sun at one point. While Bono tells this story he's not shying away from self-criticism, even bringing back MacPhisto. So we have a big show, a story, but what about the music? It is clear their finest musical years have been long gone and the new songs mostly are mediocre attempts to stay in pace with the current music scene. 'Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way' sounds modern and has a beautiful theme, but simply doesn't even come close to the likes of 'Acrobat' or 'New Year's Day'. It sounds more like a filler song on an album by a band trying to be Coldplay.

Their most outstanding album Achtung Baby is heavily represented tonight, which makes sense since it holds their most daring and exciting music. During 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' the members of the band couldn't be further apart with Bono all the way on the small round stage, Adam Clayton and The Edge on small risers to either side of the floor and Larry Mullen Jr. remaining on stage all by himself. I happen to be only a few meters away from The Edge which is very nice of course but at the same time it feels a bit awkward to see the member so wide apart, fully detached from each other.

It is clear this band still is at its best when playing their finest songs. Not necessarily their biggest hits but simply their best music. Unfortunately in all fairness there are only a few songs coming out of the past two decades that are part of that. However new song '13 (There Is A Light)', with Bono holding on to a big light bulb, proves the band hasn't completely lost their ability to write a good honest song. Maybe one day they can come up with an album again that is full of these little gems. In the end most fans here tonight don't care about all of this and got what they came for: a spectacular show by a band that still is one of the biggest ones around playing some of their favourite songs. And I am mostly one of them.

All Pictures

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01. The Blackout
02. Lights of Home
03. I Will Follow
04. All Because of You
05. Beautiful Day
06. Zoo Station
07. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
08. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
09. Elevation
10. Vertigo
11. Even Better Than the Real Thing
12. Acrobat
13. You're the Best Thing About Me
14. Summer of Love
15. Pride (In the Name of Love)
16. Get Out of Your Own Way
17. New Year's Day
18. City of Blinding Lights
19. One
20. Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way
21. 13 (There Is a Light)

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