U2’s Experience + Innocence Tour Is About The Light In All Of Us During Dark Times THOUGHTS+PHOTOS: U2 @ THE FORUM 5/16/18
LOS ANGELES, CA- With over 14 studio albums and 8 EPs under their belt, U2 has the kind of repertoire that affords them the creative lee-way to do whatever it is they want when it comes to expressing their artistic and personal visions. In a time when political and social tensions are high, those visions are tempered with warnings about the paths mankind must not take.
The Experience + Innocence Tour is the final part of a trilogy (in my humble opinion) of concert tours. While many will state that this current tour is the sequel to U2’s 2015 Innocence + Experience tour, it’s hard not to feel, whether it was intentional by the band or not, that the 6 month tour commemorating their landmark album The Joshua Tree was the perfect lead-in to The Experience + Innocence.
The Songs of Innocence had the band, as Bono stated, “looking for the raw, naked and personal, to strip everything back.“. It was an album that tried to manifest a virgin perspective and nostalgia. The Joshua Tree had the working title The Two Americas because, “[Bono] started to see two Americas, the mythic America and the real America“. The Joshua Tree grappled with the overarching revelation of the hypocrisies and inconsistencies they noticed in every corner of the world.
Songs of Experience is the statement that resolves the the messages espoused in Songs of Innocence and The Joshua Tree with a vibrant and affirmative proclamation that though life is ephemeral, we are here on earth for a purpose and we can effect the change that we want. U2’s performance, filled with social and political messaging, did just that.
On the first of two performance in Los Angeles, I was there was a spectator. I got to soak in the amazing stage production and enjoy the augmented reality show that was available to view on the tour app for the opening number (which I highly suggest you give a whirl if your are planning on attending an upcoming performance). As a whole, It was a powerful performance that was carefully mapped out and directed to a tee to elicit a maximum emotional response.
I was particularly moved, with a shiver running down my spine, when I saw Larry Mullen Jr. Walk down the cat walk with his snare drum wrapped about his shoulders, rattling out the introductory drum roll for “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. One by one, the rest of the band joined Larry on the catwalk as, spaced out equidistantly from one another, with Ireland’s colors beaming down upon them.
U2’s use of other multimedia and LCD video imaging was particularly powerful as well. As soon as “Sunday Bloody Sunday” concluded, newscaster voices echoed throughout venue reporting on various car bombings. The reporters voices hastened and soon became unintelligible babble until the digital car hanging above our heads exploded.
The irony I found in this moment was that directly in front of me were a group of middle aged, blond haired women who were taking selfies and chatting throughout entire political art installation. They all left as soon as the presentation reached its climax and segued into the next song to what I assume was the bathroom to powder heir nose. I was saddened a bit that the messaging was lost on them, but who am I to judge. It’s a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless. These beautifully affluent women, obviously indifferent of the ideas being present, all leaving as Bono started to passionately sing “Raised By Wolves”, which if you weren’t paying attention sounded a lot like “Raised by Wars”. There’s something extremely symbolic to distill from this moment … but I’ll leave that for another day.
After the brief intermission, Bono and company started performing on the small circular stage located at the opposite end of the venue a portion of their set that was my favorite section of the evening. Wearing a top hat with his face caked in white make up, U2 got the crowd riled up for “Elevation”.
Before performing “Vertigo”, Bono asked, “Is Mexico City in the house? Muchas gracias, and welcome to Experience and Innocence.”
The older woman next to me proudly looked me in the eye, and in her broken English, claimed her nationality. In an spontaneously awkward but honestly heartfelt moment I hugged her by the shoulder and she gave me a hi-five. From “Vertigo” they jumped into one of my favorite songs, “Desire”, which concluded with Bono engaging in short monologue stating, “It’s when you think I don’t exist, it’s when I do my best work” which led into the performance of “Acrobat”, a powerful song hadn’t been performed before this tour which really could be a referendum on America’s current administration.
During the performance of “Staring at the Sun”, accompanying video showed images of white nationalist and neo-Nazi rallies. These dark and disturbing images were immediately contrasted with Bono shouting into his megaphone that “This Is Not America!” when the powerfully uplifting “Pride (in the Name of Love)” swoops in with accompanying images of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and protests for women’s and minority rights.
The dramatic messaging was continued through the encores, from the playing of the taped recording of “Women of The World” by Jim O’Rourke, to “One” to “Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way”, it was a focus on love and unity.
U2 finished the performed with the downtempo “13 (There Is A Light)”. Some have found that song to be an ironic way to end a generally communal performance, as Bono sang it alone, illuminated by solitary, hanging light. But what I saw, with Bono playfully tossing the bulb, letting it swing to and fro, was a a metaphoric light for someone. Bono even suggested the notion when he said, “This is a song for someone.”
As the music faded, and Bono walked into the darkness, Bono whispered, “Honey, we’re home,” as if suggesting that even though times look bleak, there is still a light, and that light is within us all.