Review: Bono sings ‘Iris’ for the first time in public

The Edge fell off the stage during opening concert of the band’s tour

U2 begin the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, their first indoor arenas concerts in a decade, in Vancouver. Video: Reuters


U2 brought a heap of ire on their heads when they released their last album Songs of Innocence free to all iTunes users.

Being accused of behaving like unwanted guests in one’s album collection or devaluing their product and by extension that of other musicians by their actions would rattle the confidence of any band, even one as seasoned or accomplished as U2.

Before the concert The Edge wondered out loud if any of the 25 million people who downloaded the album actually listened to it.

Bono put it bluntly that, after 35 years, the band were ready to “just fuck off and get out of the way” if the new songs did not connect with audiences.

Judging by the evidence of their first show of the iNNOCENCE + EXPERIENCE, their anxieties are unfounded.

From the opening number The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) with its call and answer to which the audience responded with lusty intent to the piano ballad Every Breaking Wave, cue the smartphones, the new songs sounded like they belonged with the old ones and the audience responded accordingly.

Love them or loathe them, it is an indisputable fact that U2 are among the most innovative and ambitious live bands in music history.

This tour’s set piece is a giant rectangle screen running down the middle of the arena, which is part projector and doubles as a cage out of which the band play elevated above the audience.

This innovative prop comes into its own during the sequence from the new album, which starts with the song Iris (Hold Me Close), which Bono wrote about his late mother who died when he was 14.

This was the first time that Bono has sung this song in public. He performed it down on his knees while footage discovered recently of his mother at a rounders’ game is played in a loop on the big screen behind him.

For those who know the back story and how hard it has been for him to come to terms with his grief, this was a moment in U2’s live history of great poignancy.

Iris was followed by Cedarwood Road, one of the standout tracks on Songs of Innocence.

Bono sings while running through a cartoon sequence of the street on which he grew up while the band play beneath him.

He seems to hover above the audience except he isn’t there. It is him as hologram and you think you’ve seen everything at a U2 concert.

Rarely has an unprepossessing suburban Irish street looked so magical or interesting.

There’s rain, green telephone boxes, a Morris Minor, square televisions with David Bowie on Top of the Pops and platform shoes - all the paraphernalia of a seventies Irish childhood.

The audience loved it. The trickle of U2 fans visiting Cedarwood Road will turn into a flood after this.

During the song Raised by Wolves about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, images of those who were killed are projected on the big screen along with the words Justice for the Forgotten.

The band played for two hours and 10 minutes and still managed to leave out One and wisely perhaps, included nothing from the underwhelming No Line on the Horizon.

They will be mixing the setlist up as they go along.

The energy levels hardly wavered. This did not feel as an opening night. Save for a smart phone sequence, which didn’t quite come off, “we’re still getting the hang of this,” exclaimed Bono, everything went to plan and the long hours of rehearsal spent in this beautiful west coast Canadian city were well spent.

The band finished with two perennial favourites from The Joshua Tree Where the Streets Have No Name and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

The Edge had an unlucky fall off the walkway stage during the performance of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

Unfortunately, the band still have not found what they are looking for in their attempts to bring this show or a variation of it to Dublin.

The Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks ice hockey team, can seat more than 20,000.

It makes the 3Arena look like a dance hall. The ramp, second stage and projector screen would consume half the floor space in the 3Arena.

How U2 tailor their ambitions to accommodate a hometown audience is still a work in progress.