When SOI was released we knew that there was a follow up album SOE. And, we all knew that e+i 2018 would follow i+e 2015. These bookend albums and tours were very exciting for fans. But, have the shows lived up to the anticipation?
Yes, but maybe not a strong, resounding yes.
When it comes to spectacle, our boys set the bar and set it very high. From technological wizardry to innovative set design to old-fashioned, kick-ass performance, they have blended the classic with state-of-art that has been imitated by so many.
U2 fans have come to expect that ever since ZOO TV (‘92 – ’93). With each tour, they’ve gotten bigger, brighter, louder and it has been impressive. So, when the e+i Tour was announced, I wondered where they would take us. If 360° (’09, ’11) took us to outer space, then i+e (’15) brought us home. With the band looking back to their beginnings, we followed them to our own. Perhaps it was when we first became fans—or even further—when we first heard their music. But, it was time and place most of us would associate with home.
So where are they taking us this time around?
Bono said that the band took some to time reshape SOE to reflect the times that we are currently living in. He also hinted at a near-death experience that changed the writing of the songs. For me, there is a sense of melancholy throughout the album and that translated to the tour.
The opening song Love Is All We Have Left definitely set the mood. It was muted; and in a way, a little sad. The band has always found interesting ways to start the show and this was no different. The massive LED screen shows a digitized version of Bono’s face and opens to reveal him standing on a beam of light. But there is no big launch like previous show. Instead, it’s a bit slow and the song feels like a plea, but I’m not sure to whom—maybe everyone.
It was strange, but not unpleasant. Two months later I still don’t know what to make of it.
One of the less-than-great things about being that the beginning of the tour (San Jose 5/7 & 5/8) is that the band is still working things out. I read that they spent a month rehearsing and I don’t know whether that is enough time or not, but I wish the West Coast was at the end of the North American leg instead of the beginning.
Granted, I did not notice any wrinkles that needed to be ironed out, but I do know that shows on the East Coast are more polished. It would be great to see them perform after they’ve learned what works better.
With i+e 2015 the band returned to arenas. I think they mentioned wanting to go back to to the intimacy of Elevation (’01) and Vertigo (’05). As awesome as 360° was, there was a bit of distance between the band the audience. I sensed it even though I was on the rail.
This current tour—like the one in 2015—is in arenas and using the same layout. There is not a bad seat in the house, except in the balcony at the north end of the main stage—maybe. I did notice that that area was curtained off and wondered why at the time. I thought the area was closed due to some type of hazard. But, later realized it was the area that had not sold (more on that later).
Given that much is the same, the only thing that is different is the set-list. Fans knew this is as well, so the band needed figure out where they could pull rabbits out of hats.
I must admit that I was not one of the armies of fans that wanted to see this performed live. It’s a great song and I’ve always liked it, but there are only so many that they can play. I wondered why they never took it on the road and figured it wasn’t ever strong enough to make the cut.
That being mentioned, the B-man killed it. It is a song that should be performed live. When he hit it high note, it felt like it could shatter glass. It was an elevating moment during the show.
There were other points in the show that were nice surprises—like Desire. It had been a while since I’ve heard it live and it was a welcome change. It plays so well electrically or acoustically. For me, I prefer the full electric version with a heavy emphasis on the rhythm section.
Somber beginnings and endings
The choice of Love Is All We Have Left and 13 (There Is A Light) to open and close the show, respectively, is a shift from some of their more uplifting tours. Usually, the band ends on a high note. Everyone leaves the show in stratosphere. The selections time seems to have grounding effect. It might be due to the band wanting to recognize the volatile times we are currently in or simply a stylistic change from i+e. Whatever it is, I did leave feeling somewhat restrained. The normal euphoria I have was tempered by the tone. Or, maybe I was just tired.
This is a different tour.