Entertainment Music Reviews

Tuesday 25 October 2016

U2 Belfast review: An intimate gig - but U2 know just when to raise the roof

Andrew Johnston

Published 19/11/2015 | 02:30

Bono on stage during U2’s concert at the SSE Arena in Belfast last night
Bono on stage during U2’s concert at the SSE Arena in Belfast last night

A lot has changed since U2 last played Belfast, in 1997. Heck, a lot has happened since U2 last played a gig.

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The Irish rock legends had just completed two nights of a four-night run in Paris last week when Islamic State terrorists struck the French capital. The band's remaining shows were called off.

Last night, the band returned to live action in a city that has witnessed its own share of bloodshed over the years.

The SSE Arena must be amongst the smallest venues the supergroup has played in years. And they were determined to create an intimate atmosphere.

Bono entered from the back of the hall, striding along a walkway and holding his fist aloft triumphantly, before joining the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen on stage.

"We're a band from the northside of Dublin called U2, formerly the Hype," he announced.

The foursome were welcomed like heroes, and the feeling was mutual.

Opening track 'The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)' harked back to the days before U2 had ventured outside Dublin. But even then, they were tuned into the news coming from the North.

"What was happening up here made a big impact in our teenage years," Bono said.

The first few numbers were played punk-style, four guys in a row, blasting it out. The jolting riffs of 'Vertigo' had the whole arena bouncing, while a massive 'I Will Follow' got everyone singing along. And 'Iris (Hold Me Close)' was a deeply personal tribute to Bono's late mother.

But it wouldn't be a U2 show without some grand spectacle, and the video screens were soon sparking into life.

'Sunday Bloody Sunday' saw a procession of murals from both loyalist and republican areas, alternating with the slogan 'Remember the victims'.

And despite the events of the past week, the band didn't flinch from using explosive sound effects and a striking car bomb graphic to introduce 'Raised by Wolves'.

Nor did they drop the controversial video footage they have been using during the song itself. A roll call of notorious Northern Ireland terrorist atrocities played out on screen, from the Miami Showband Massacre to the Omagh bombing.

If things could get a bit heavy at times, the quartet also knew when to switch gears into big, roof-raising hits.

An Italian fan was hauled on stage to dance with Bono for 'Mysterious Ways', while 'With or Without You' closed the main set in epic fashion.

It may have been a difficult few days for U2 - for the world - but last night proved you can't keep a good band down.

Irish Independent

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