Review by Graham Finney
“U2 first came to Manchester about thirty years ago,” announces Bono before adding “just us in the back of an old van not knowing what we were doing and we fell in love with this beautiful city!”
In 2018 though, things are very different as, barely fifteen minutes before the advertised stage time, thousands of fans are still pouring into the Manchester Arena forcing the band to delay their entrance by thirty minutes. This is the opening night of U2’s “eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE” tour and, for fans of all ages, young and old, this is a big deal.
Now, say what you want about the outspoken Bono, the frontman is the definition of a rock star. As he struts about the stage you can’t keep your eyes of him and when he speaks he commands your attention. Whether his chosen subject is a political Brexit inspired tirade or an emotional dedication to the victims of the terror attack a few hundred yards from where he is stood, when Bono addresses his fans, they listen. By his side, his band put on a show that is equally as attention grabbing with a runway and video screens splitting almost the entire venue in two. This isn’t all just for show either and, making use of the main stage, the walkway and the smaller “e-stage”, the Irish rock icons make sure you are close to the action regardless of whether you’ve shelled out a small fortune to get on the floor or are stuck in the nosebleed seats.
As for the set, the twenty two song set kicks off with “The Blackout” followed by a career-spanning set which includes “Zoo Station”, a brilliant rendition of “Beautiful Day” and “Wild Horses”. A quick interlude sees the band make their way to the smaller stage for a half hour stint before making their way back onto the walkway where the band perform dwarfed by those enormous video screens.
After over two hours on stage, an emotional “13 (There Is A Light)” brings an end to the first of multiple shows for many of the eighteen thousand fans pouring out into the cold October night and, yet again, the Dublin rockers underlined how, after starting out travelling around in a beat up old van, they became one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.