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Live Review and Photo Gallery: U2 at United Center

| May 23, 2018

United Center, Chicago
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A mere three years ago, U2 set up shop at the United Center for five nights to unveil its ambitious “iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE” concept, accompanied by a boundary-breaking, technologically-innovative visual assault. Bono and the boys then pressed “pause” on the project to celebrate the 30thanniversary of *The Joshua Tree* with a pair of Soldier Field sell outs, only to pick right back up with the similarly structured and staged “eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE” sequel.

In the tardy “due to technical difficulties” opener of a crowded but still available two-night stand at the United Center (which continues on Wednesday, May 23), U2 provided the bookend to the coming of age journey, stacked with rallying cries against injustice, candid observations of the ills plaguing a fractured society and a shout-out to women’s empowerment to name but a few of the many subjects. Of course, Dublin’s favorite exports also delivered on a sonically satisfying trip through its alternative rock wires, placing immense emphasis on recent whereabouts with some but far from all its essential recollections.

Front man extraordinaire Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. performed in the shadows within and outside an interactive screen that stretched the entire length of the arena during the pleading “Love Is All We Have Left.” The lights stayed low for the majority of the electro-spiked “The Blackout,” but came to a near-blinding conclusion by the final charging crescendo that caused practically every smartphone to aim its way towards the foursome.

From there, U2 stayed in view, intermingling a chunk of fiercely delivered but ultimately unremarkable fresh cuts with cross-generational classics “I Will Follow,” “Beautiful Day” and “Until The End Of The World.” A sparse and somber “Sunday Bloody Sunday” took the place of the more militant original with the rhetorical question “how long must we sing this song?” adding to the chilling effect of the words relating to oppression and civil unrest that flashed above the band.

Part two kicked off on the b-stage at the end of a lengthy runaway with the triple bang of “Elevation,” “Vertigo” and “Desire,” alongside the rarely performed “Acrobat” and “Staring At The Sun” (from Achtung Baby and the typically-ignored Pop respectively). Surprisingly, nothing appeared from The Joshua Tree, meaning no “Where The Streets Have No Name,” “With Or Without You” or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which was presumably justified in members’ minds by having just played the full album, but wound up being a tremendous disservice to first-timers, especially considering the impact of all the new songs combined couldn’t add up to even one of those eternal anthems.

“American Soul” was arguably the strongest standout of today (despite a megaphone-touting Bono needing to coach the crowd on how to join in), amplified by a floor-to-rafters display of the flag with a bully and liar-shattering reminders of the country’s truly limitless possibilities. “City Of Blinding Lights” made for a fitting coda prior to an encore featuring the immortal, equality-tagged “One,” plus “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” and “13 (There Is A Light)” to cast a hopeful gaze on an audience who might not have caught the quintessential U2 set list, but were probably inspired enough by the communal nature and sheer spectacle to go forth and take on their corner of the world.

U2 returns to the United Center (, in Chicago tonight Wednesday, May 23.

-Review and photos by Andy Argyrakis

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Category: IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews

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