Sunday, November 29, 2015

Imelda May Joins U2 For Final Epic Dublin Show

Bono, Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen knew that when they took the innocence + eXPERIENCE tour to Dublin, it would be an emotional time. But even their expectations were surpassed – and then some – on a spectacular final night... - 

Having kicked off iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE in Vancouver last May, tonight’s final U2 gig in Dublin – the last of four sold-out nights in their hometown – should officially be the end of the 2015 leg of the tour. However, with two Paris shows postponed, following the cowardly terrorist attacks of November 13th, the Dubliners still have unfinished business in the city of blinding lights. They’ll be playing those rescheduled shows next week.

Even so, playing in the modern iteration of the iconic venue where they once famously announced that they were going away to dream it all up again, this show feels like something really special, an alchemical culmination of everything that has led up to it. It’s as though the whole tour has been building up to this one.

From the moment they blast off with ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)’, Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam totally own the audience – and the audience in turn are happy to submit to these rock ‘n’ roll heavyweight champions of the world.

The reconfigured staging means that there’s no fans behind the band, as there have been in almost all other venues, but it makes little or no difference to the impact of the show, or the atmosphere. Indeed, it makes things feel even more intimate. In his recent Hot Press interview, Edge reckoned that they were going to blow the roof off the venue – and he was barely exaggerating.

There’s an audible “Wow!” as the onscreen visuals kick off for ‘Iris’, and the dazzling tech spectacle that comprises iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE begins to unfold. It’s a particularly emotional song for Bono anyway, but tonight he really gives it his all, howling as though he really can connect to the other side. Whatever strange energy he’s summoning – or maybe it’s just the encouraging warmth of the crowd that are driving him – but tonight he’s the ultimate alpha rock star.

There are many high points. But equally importantly, there’s also never a dull moment, from the beginning to the suitably dramatic, choreographed end. While the visual effects are truly astonishing (there were more gasps as the band appeared inside the stage), they can still pull the plugs out and create amazing music – whether on ‘Cedarwood Road’, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ or ‘Raised By Wolves’ – a segment that ratchets up the drama in powerful style. A stripped-down ‘Every Breaking Wave’ is perhaps even more emotionally entrancing.

There’s massive applause as Panti Bliss joins the band onstage for ‘Mysterious Ways’. And next up is the Queen of Rock’n’Roll, Imelda May who delivers a stirring vocal performance and dances like a dervish on a heart-thumping ‘Desire’. To bring the show to a close, their late tour manager Dennis Sheehan is remembered with a stirring version of ‘40’.

The last time U2 played this venue (“It will always be The Point to us,” Bono quipped at one point), they were four men in their thirties. Tonight, now all in their fifties, they were men in their prime. Fuck cynicism, this was proper traffic-stopping rock ‘n’ roll.

If you missed it… well, you’d never know. They might just be back this way when the eXPERIENCE leg kicks in. Start counting the days...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"Great to be Back Home"

'The most visceral and uncompromising show U2 have played in Dublin since War'.

The whole of Dublin spoke of only one thing these past few days and Bono's Instagram of the four pints of Guinness on the counter of Peter's Pub on South William St. Words will never convey how much that image resonated here.

'The Boys Are Back In Town' and Adam from Malahide is wearing a Thin Lizzy Tee-shirt. He's joined as always by Larry from Artane, Edge from Malahide and Bono from Ballymun.  A band from the north-side of Dublin called U2.

"This is a family function",  Bono proclaimed after a blistering opening which brought us from 'The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)', through 'Electric Co.' and onto 'Vertigo' in quick succession.  Tonight they felt like they'd been written in the same year. Not decades apart.
"We are all together," Bono continued, "All the relations from all over the world."

U2 and Ireland are family. We love each other through thick and thin. It's hard to convey the depth of the relationship but every Irish person gets it. A lot has gone down since U2 last played in Dublin.  It's been a hairy few years and last week was one that we'll still be talking about for decades to come. U2 offered up much needed succour tonight but it wasn't sugar-coated.

Belief and passion shone through but tonight's show was without doubt the most visceral and uncompromising show U2 have played in Dublin since 'War'.

Almost everyone in the room knows the Ireland U2 came from. It was a bleak place with no prospects that was cut off from the world.

With 'Iris' we get a glimpse of the pain that drove these four to make something of themselves beyond our beautiful island.

"It's a strange thing for a grown man to say", Bono offers as introduction, "That losing my mother aged 14 was what sent me on the path with these three guys."

Leading into 'Song For Someone', Bono pays the first of many tributes to Ali as he brings our attention to the screen, "That's me aged 18 playing a guitar my brother Norman gave me. Writing a song to impress Alison Stewart. Still working on that one, but she's here tonight."

Adam has taken Sunday Bloody Sunday and re-worked it as one of the funkiest dub cuts you've ever heard. It still sends shivers down the spine though as we confront our past.  We sing our hearts out as decades of pain is represented in Oliver Jeffers' stylised re-workings of Belfast's tribal murals.

'Raised By Wolves' is in many ways the emotional fulcrum of the show. It recalls the unresolved Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 17th 1974. The bloodiest day of the 'Troubles'. The haunting face of a deceased toddler stares out from the screen. One face amongst many victims U2 force us to remember 41 years later.

It seems like every week there are new faces now destined to stare out at us from screens. Lives frozen forever as terror takes them at random. 'Bataclan' was the word not mentioned that was on everyone's mind. Music lovers have been attacked and being here amongst family helped. A lot.

From Monaghan to Baghdad, from Beirut to Paris there's a line of suffering that U2 help us process. Understanding what it's like to live through tough times defines this show.
It's a theme returned to towards the end as we're stunned into silence by the footage of Kobanî in Syria. A city devastated.

This was a show that combined not just iNNOCENCE and xPERIENCE, but also pain and joy.
In Ireland we combine sadness and elation. Funerals are as ecstatic as weddings. We 'carry each other' through light and shade.

We bopped like born again teenagers as the band played 'Pride' for the Heaney family. For Seamus Heaney, who was our greatest living poet the last time U2 played Dublin. For those he left behind.

This night wasn't morbid. It was a wake up call. We need to prioritise. Hold close what's precious, look out for those that need our help and celebrate the very fact of being alive. An emotional night with a simplicity and punch that won't be forgotten quickly.

So much about last night couldn't have happened anywhere but Dublin. At one point Edge leaned over to Bono and reminds him to thank "Fr. Crosbie for the use of the hall". It's a throwaway line that would take about a thousand words to explain.

That's the greatest thing about being amongst family. You don't have to explain yourself.

As Bono had put it earlier, 'Do you know what? We've spent the last nine months travelling the world trying to explain the Northside of Dublin to people. But we don't have to do that tonight because tonight we are here...'

A whispered 'Oiche Mhaith' serves as a goodbye. 'Good Night' in Irish but there's lots lost in the translation.

It's a blessing you use for those you truly love. 'Oiche Mhaiith U2' we whispered back, meaning every last syllable.

Night One of four.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fans say U2's 3Arena gig like a 'pub show'

The lads are enjoying their time back in Dublin

U2 super fan Beth Nabi, who travelled from the States to see all four 3Arena gigs, told TEN after the gig: "It was special. U2 were so well received and you could tell they were so happy to be here playing for that home crowd."

Her partner Chris LeClere said: "After seeing them in all the other cities and all the other shows, this felt more like just a hometown show. It was like you were in a pub listening to a band on a stage and everybody's just having a good time and getting into it."

Beth added: "You felt like you were in Bono's house", with Chris interjecting: "You did, it wasn't a big concert, it was a pub show from a group of guys who were just playing for fans and the fans loving them.

U2 frontman Bono has said he's thrilled to be back on the Northside of Dublin and thanked fans for their patience and sticking with the band at the 3Arena on Monday night.

The homecoming gig is the first time Bono and the lads have played Dublin since 2009 at Croke Park and all four gigs this week on their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour are sold out with many travelling long journeys to see the famous foursome perform on home turf.

Speaking to the cheering crowd at the gig, Bono said, "Do you know what we have spent the last nine months travelling the world trying to explain what the Northside of Dublin is and we don't have to do that tonight because we're here.

"This is a great feeling for us to be home," he said.

He later thanked fans, saying: "Thanks for giving us this life. Thanks for your patience. Thanks for sticking with us."

One American fan said that she had sacrificed Thanksgiving celebrations with her family to come to the gig.

"I just couldn't miss it, I had to come no matter what. I'm missing Thanksgiving which is a big deal in the United States, so my family had to forgive me....I had to go to Dublin to see U2", she said.

Another Italian fan said "such a great place being here in Dublin, it's like being at home. It's the home of U2, the home of every U2 fan actually".

Another man who's also been swamped by fandom is Tom Ryan, the owner of Bono's boyhood home on Cedarwood Road in Glasnevin.

He told RTÉ that fans have long been making a pilgrimage to the singer's old homestead but that attention has really picked up after the band wrote the nostalgic song Cedarwood Road for their last album Songs of Innocence.

"Oh that's really escalated it. This period with the concerts going, its escalated the fans bigtime. If I charged them a penny for each photograph, I'd be a rich man", he joked.

Over the weekend Bono and co were spotted out and about in Dublin ahead of tonight's gig.

The lads are back in town and they are making sure they catch up with friends and family in their favourite establishments ahead of their gigs at the 3Arena this week.

The Edge was spotted dining out with his wife Morleigh Steinberg at Luna restaurant in Dublin on Saturday. Bono later joined the couple with some of his friends.

According to reports fans did not bother the famous diners for autographs or pictures, leaving them to enjoy their meal in peace.

U2 also shared a pic on Twitter yesterday of four pints of Guinness standing in a row on a table in Peter's Pub on South William Street. If you look very closely at the mirror in the background of the pic you can see that it was Bono taking the snap.

Enlace permanente de imagen incrustada

The €2 million proceeds from this week's gigs meanwhile will go to Music Generation, Ireland's national music education programme.

Its director, Rosaleen Molloy, said:  "Music Generation would not exist without U2's vision. It was the band's very own personal experience of music education as children and teenagers that has driven their commitment to kick-start this ground breaking project."

Monday, November 23, 2015

U2 and the Ireland Funds donate €3m to State’s music programme

Rock band U2 and philanthropic network the Ireland Funds have made donations totalling €3million to the State’s national music education programme.

Music Generation is to be expanded following the announcement by U2 that it is to receive €2million from their Irish concerts, and a further announcement from the Ireland Funds that it will donate € 1million.

Music Generation provides access to high quality subsidised music tuition for thousands of children and young people across the country.

U2’s the Edge said the organisation is “continuing to grow” and the donations would “bring us closer to achieving our ambition for every child and young person in Ireland to have access to music tuition”.

Kieran McLoughlin, president and chief executive of the Ireland Funds said the music education programme has been “extraordinary” and “brings so much benefit” to young people and communities throughout Ireland.

“The Ireland Funds is delighted to be supporting this flagship initiative and, together with U2, will also seek to raise additional support as part of our commitment to unlocking the musical talents of the next generation,” he said.

Music Generation national director Rosaleen Molloy said the programme provides access for 26,000 children and young people and creates employment opportunities 330 people.
The programme was established by Music Network in 2010 following a €7m donation from U2 (€5 million) and the Ireland Funds (€2 million) to implement its national strategy for music education in Ireland.

“The impact of the original €7m philanthropic donation from U2 and the Ireland Funds has been extraordinary,” said Ms Molloy.

“Every day, the lives of thousands of children and young people are being transformed through access to a variety of music tuition opportunities – everything from song-writing initiatives to brass bands, orchestras, choirs, rock groups, rap projects, grupaí cheoil and composers clubs.”

Saturday, November 21, 2015

U2 bring pomp, bombast and defiance to Belfast

Band’s first show in city since 1997 combined big songs with overwhelming visuals

 U2 on stage at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
U2 on stage at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

You expect a lot of pomp and bombast from the word go at U2 concerts. It’s just how they tend to (rock and) roll. Sure enough, Bono’s entrance - a stately swagger up a long central catwalk, one arm held aloft - to the Patti Smith song The People Have the Power, set the expected tone. But this time, alongside the prancing and posturing and high-octane showmanship, there was something different: a new desire to reach out and connect with the audience, to tell them a story, to bring them on a journey.

Perhaps this was due, at least in part, to the context. The Belfast show in the SSE arena was the band’s first gig after their cancelled Paris concerts, and although the terrorist attacks were not referenced until the very close of the night, there was a sense of heightened emotion, defiance and solidarity in the air.

It was also the first time that U2 had played Belfast since 1997, which meant that the crowd greeted them like long-lost cousins.
And what a story this band can tell. The visual impact of the show was extraordinary, even overwhelming at times, especially during their new song Raised By Wolves, which was inspired by the car bombs that killed 33 people in Dublin and Monaghan on May 17th, 1974.

Stage set

The centrepiece of the set was a vast metal cage, suspended over the catwalk, carrying a series of LED screens which flashed images, messages, film footage, and newsreels.

The effect was almost hallucinatory. At one point the set-up allowed Bono to walk down the street of his childhood home, Cedarwood Road; on another occasion he grew to the size of a giant, and appeared to be lifting The Edge in the palm of his hand.
Later, a woman was plucked from the audience, and given a camera to film the band on a live-stream as she danced with them.

“That’s what the technology is all about - getting close to people,” said Bono.
Sometimes it was all too much. It was disorienting to see pictures of distressed refugees, or bombed-out Syrian towns, while Bono boomed Bullet the Blue Sky through a megaphone, and audience members swayed drunkenly, plastic pint glasses slopping in each hand.
The big songs were all there, of course: Vertigo, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride, With or Without You, Beautiful Day.

But in many ways, the music was just the soundtrack to the visuals.

Belfast: Stronger than Fear

First show in Belfast for 18 years, first show since Paris and lots of fans taking part in #whiteoutbelfast to 'make a statement in the name of peace, love and music and pay our respect to the victims of terror and violence all around the world.'

Powerful and poignant. #strongerthanfear

'What's going on?', asked Bono before introducing Iris.

'Turns out an awful lot since the last time were here... you lot are heroes to all of us... It's great to be back in the heart of Belfast...thanks for sticking with us.

'If you'll indulge us  for the next few songs we'd like to take you on a very personal journey to the Northside of Dublin, to streets not far from here that gave life to this band... it’s the view of a teenage boy – forgive me the melodrama when a lot of you have had much greater dramas to deal with...but those first fights in the playground, first loves, first losses...they also form you.'

'U2's first Irish show of their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour - and, amazingly, their first gig in Belfast since 1997 - was a triumph of pure rock theatre.’ reported RTE, noting the closing encore tribute to events in Paris.  ‘The encore is deft and deeply felt. To a dazzling visual display of Paris at night, U2 perform a shimmering City of Blinding Lights for the City of Light.   

Urgent, political and still hungry after all these years, this latest incarnation of the U2 live show is never less than gripping.'

'Raised by wolves
Stronger than fear
Raised by wolves
We were raised by wolves
Raised by wolves
Stronger than fear
If I open my eyes,
You disappear...'

Powerful new visuals for Sunday Bloody Sunday and Raised by Wolves among the highlights on the second night in Belfast.

Out of Control was back in the set tonight, after missing six shows, according to @U2gigs, who also noted that the last time time the band played more than one show in Belfast was back on the War Tour. In fact it was 36 years and four days ago that the band first played this city, at Queens University, their first show outside of the Republic of Ireland, when they were on the bill with  poet Patrick Fitzgerald and, headline act, Squeeze, featuring Jools Holland.

'Streets' really took off tonight, from the moment Bono introduced it as a prayer, 'that we don't turn into a monster to defeat a monster.'

The press seem to agree, as the Irish Daily Mail put it, 'There was simply nothing old or hackneyed about this show and new bands could learn a trick or two from the sensational production values. And thanks to a giant  mobile screen, the band once again brought a live concert experience to a new level.'

Or The Irish Daily Mirror:  'From the time the first chord is struck until the last note is played, fans will be captivated by a mesmerising performance that's a lot of fun. While the visuals and lighting effects are spectacular, most of the messages are in the music, the songs from the 80s right up until the present day which still speak to fans old and new. This is a perfect performance from band on form at the top of their game.' 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

" Woke up, had it all, then came night fall, I've got nothing left but a heart shaken down"

Bono and band members from the band U2 place flowers on the pavement near the scene of yesterday's Bataclan Theatre terrorist attack on November 14, 2015 in Paris, France.

U2's message: "Woke up, had it all, then came night fall, I've got nothing left but  a heart shaken down... Love for lovers... Of music... Of Paris
Love is bigger than anything in its way!