Last week my granddaughter Amanda (22), and me watched U2 do their stuff in Boston at the TD Garden– the U2 INNOCENCE + EXPERIENCE TOUR 2015.
The music was good (fuck that, perfect) but forget that for the moment. The real story was the production and the energy this old band displayed blowing all conceptions of lazy old rockers resting on their laurels out of the water. George Balanchine never produced a better or more precise ballet. This was rock as choreographed surgical strike.
The music was the easy part. Hitting their marks on a series of catwalks and movable stages, while tracking with robotic cameras, while playing, while (in the case of the drummer) actually carrying a drum kit, while climbing stairs, while being in the right place and right time for the lights to hit you to show you through the screen projecting synchronized video images, while relating to the audience in a movable feast of energy that turned every seat in the house into the best seat, while remembering a thousand cues, while using the entire space of a vast arena, while involving audience members in playing and dancing, while giving one of them a smart phone to record and broadcast and react to the show live, while doing a choreographed encore, replete with preaching on pet causes, while having more energy in the show than Cirque du Soleil on acid channeling a young Mick Jagger … proved one thing:
U2 has more hunger for art than a twenty-something wanna-be just starting out. I mean who made them work THIS hard?!
To prove that rock isn’t bullshit and that rock gods aren’t all lazy pricks.
To channel the creative spirit of the universe and a loving creator.
So what is the show? Proof that U2 cares enough to reinvent the rock show and learn very new tricks.
The Innocence & Experience show is one long fuck you to meaninglessness.
It is more ballet than music, more theater than rock, more art show than glam show. It is also the best stage show I’ve seen since watching Peter Sellars’ production of the St. Matthew Passion at the Armory in NYC last year.
Picture a catwalk the length of the arena, two stages at either end, and a suspended SECOND catwalk that is movable above that on which huge LED screens show riveting images of everything from family pics to Bloody Sunday.
Sure the designer of this show is in a way more important than the band… but who hired that person and backed them? The band.
Yes, the new music is autobiography. Yes, that’s self indulgent, but no more so than any biography or memoir. And this is a rock-biography-opera. So the question is is U2 naval-gazing. Of course they are. So is every writer and movie maker.
Sure it gets a little churchy. What do you expect? Bono is still working through the guilt all people feel who believe in a higher purpose they know they (we) can never attain. This band travels in a cloud of evangelical good will, even brings along a chaplain of sorts who I last met at a Christian music festival (Greenbelt) in the UK.
So what? You got a problem with world peace?
What’s the new U2 show finally about?
The inherent value of beauty.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace