Friday, July 17, 2015

U2 lights up the Garden

U2 has always been inventive in its staging, but Friday night, in the first of four shows at the TD Garden, the Irish rock quartet seriously amped up the wow factor in a spectacular, in every sense, two-hour-plus show that included more than two dozen songs.

The brilliant setup included a runway that ran the length of the arena and ended in a small circular satellite stage that transformed the rear of the venue into the best seats in the house; an oval array of overhead speakers to more evenly distribute the sound; and, most stunning of all, a ginormous central video screen that ran the length of the runway complete with an interior catwalk that allowed the band members to play inside it as images were projected on the outside.

But all the glitz was, happily, upstaged by the music itself. Two and a half months into the tour for its latest album “Songs of Innocence” — which some may recall showing up unbidden in its iTunes as either a treat or a nuisance last September — the band is clearly in a groove and it brought the firepower Friday.

Frontman Bono was in especially good voice. Whether he was softly crooning the tender, exquisite new piano ballad “Every Breaking Wave” or belting out the sustained power notes of the still vibrant classic “Pride (In the Name of Love),” he was pitch perfect.

The currently blond singer was also his typically chatty outsized self, at times endearingly self-deprecating and others eye-rollingly self-serious, veering from preacher to pitchman to political firebrand to pop star in his inimitable way. He talked between songs about everything from the band’s earliest performances in Boston at the Paradise to shouting out to supporters — including Patriots QB Tom Brady — of his various charitable campaigns.

At one point he noted that he and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., guitarist the Edge, and bassist Adam Clayton like to think of playing Boston as a “hometown show” and the sellout crowd certainly gave them that kind of welcome whether they were reaching back 35 years to their debut album “Boy” for charged takes of “The Electric Co.” and “I Will Follow” or muscling through the brawny rhythms of the new “Raised by Wolves.”

The screen was used to great effect throughout the night for everything from live shots of the band to eye-popping video including Bono taking a virtual stroll through his childhood on “Cedwarwood Road” and “Song for Someone.”

A female fan was brought on stage to bust a few moves during “Mysterious Ways” and then enlisted to shoot video of the band on the Meerkat live streaming app — to varying degrees of success — during the always ecstatic “Elevation,” with the crowd pitching in to help with the soaring “whoo-ooo-ooh’’ refrain.

That was among several songs that got an audience boost as hearty singalongs also met a stripped back and oddly metered “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the soaring “Beautiful Day,” slow burn brooder “With or Without You,” and an encore of “One,” which actually featured the audience as the primary vocalists.

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