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Review: U2 play Belfast iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE gig at the SSE Arena

By Andrew Johnston

Published 18/11/2015

U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
U2 pays tribute to Paris #StrongerThanFear Photo: Ross Stewart
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/11/2015 U2 in concert this evening at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Security was ramped up this evening in Belfast in the wake of last weeks terrorist attacks in Paris. Photo Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast - 18-11-2015 / U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015 in The SSE Arena, Belfast Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 18-11-2015 / U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015 in The SSE Arena, Belfast Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 18-11-2015 / U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015 in The SSE Arena, Belfast Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Pacemaker Belfast - 18-11-2015 / U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015 in The SSE Arena, Belfast Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 18-11-2015 / U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015 in The SSE Arena, Belfast Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 18-11-2015 / U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015 in The SSE Arena, Belfast Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/11/2015 U2 in concert this evening at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Security was ramped up this evening in Belfast in the wake of last weeks terrorist attacks in Paris. Photo Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/11/2015 U2 in concert this evening at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Security was ramped up this evening in Belfast in the wake of last weeks terrorist attacks in Paris. Photo Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker Press
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
(Left to right) Larry Mullen Jr, The Edge, Bono and Adam Clayton of U2 performing at the first of the band's sold-out homecoming gigs at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
(Left to right) Larry Mullen Jr, The Edge, Bono and Adam Clayton of U2 performing at the first of the band's sold-out homecoming gigs at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA
Bono performing with U2 at the first of the band's sold-out homecoming gigs at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA
Bono performing with U2 at the first of the band's sold-out homecoming gigs at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA
Bono performing with U2 at the first of the band's sold-out homecoming gigs at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Picture - Kevin Scott Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 18, U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/11/2015 U2 in concert this evening at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Security was ramped up this evening in Belfast in the wake of last weeks terrorist attacks in Paris. Photo Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/11/2015 U2 in concert this evening at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Security was ramped up this evening in Belfast in the wake of last weeks terrorist attacks in Paris. Photo Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker Press
U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. (Photo by Kevin Scott)
U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena for the first time in almost a decade. Its also their first concert since cancelling their Paris gig following the tragic events that have unfolded , Northern Ireland on November 18 (Photo by Kevin Scott )
Increased security at the SSE Arena in Belfast for the U2 concert. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
U2 bring their Popmart tour to Belfast in August 1997.
U2 play Botanic Gardens. August 1997.
U2 play Botanic Gardens. August 1997. Bono and Adam Clayton.
U2 at Croke Park - Dublin Friday July 24, 2009. Photo Julien Behal/PA Wire ...A
U2 Play their final 360 concert at Croke Park. Larry Mullen on drums - U2 U2 Play their final 360 concert at Croke Park supported by The Script, Dublin, Ireland - 27.07.09. VIPIRELAND.COM
Thousands of fans travelled to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of three for their the U2, "360" world tour. Friday 24th July 2009. Pictures by Liam McBurney
U2 at Croke Park - Friday July 24, 2008. Photo credit Julien Behal/PA Wire ...A
Thousands of fans travelled to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park Friday 24rd July 2009 Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured L-R The Edge, Larry Mullen, Bono, Adam Clayton. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Friday 24rd July 2009 Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Friday 24rd July 2009 Pictures by Liam McBurney
U2's singer Bono on stage during the second Irish date of their Vertigo Tour at Croke Park Stadium, Dublin Saturday June 25, 2005.
Bono (right) leans on guitarist The Edge as U2 perform their second song 'I Will Follow' at Croke Park stadium
Fans stand in light drizzle before U2 perform at Croke Park stadium
Bono, lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, sings early in the first of five sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden in New York, Friday, Oct. 7, 2005. The band is on the third leg of their Vertigo 2005 Tour, which kicked off six months ago on the West Coast of the U.S.
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured lead singer Bono. Pic Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured GV of the crowd. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured lead singer Bono. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured GV of the stage and crowd. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured lead singer Bono. Pictures by Liam McBurney
housands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured Adam Clayton. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured drummer Larry Mullen. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured lead singer Bono. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured The Edge. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured lead singer Bono. Pictures by Liam McBurney
U2 Play their final 360 concert at Croke Park...Bono - U2 U2 Play their final 360 concert at Croke Park supported by The Script, Dublin, Ireland - 27.07.09. VIPIRELAND.COM
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured lead singer Bono. Pictures by Liam McBurney
U2 Play their final 360 concert at Croke Park...Larry Mullen - U2 U2 Play their final 360 concert at Croke Park supported by The Script, Dublin, Ireland - 27.07.09. VIPIRELAND.COM
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured GV of the stage and crowd. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured lead singer Bono. Pic: Liam McBurney
U2 at Croke Park - Dublin...Adam Clayton (left) and The Edge from U2 playing at Croke Park in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 24, 2008. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire ...A
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured L-R The Edge, Larry Mullen, Bono, Adam Clayton. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured GV of the stage and crowd. Pictures by Liam McBurney
Thousands of fans travelled down to see Irish super group U2 perform live at Croke Park, Dublin for the 1st night of 3 for their the U2, "360 (degree)" world tour. Pictured GV of the stage and crowd.
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 24/7/09. Bono on stage tonight at Croke Park as the Irish supergroup played their homecoming gig in front of 80,000 fans. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Bono, lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, sings early in the first of five sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden in New York, Friday, Oct. 7, 2005. The band is on the third leg of their Vertigo 2005 Tour, which kicked off six months ago on the West Coast of the U.S.
U2 CONCERT AT KINGS HALL, BELFAST in 1987
U2 CONCERT AT KINGS HALL, BELFAST in Jun2 1987.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 19/05/98 Unionist leader David Trimble, SDLP leader John Hume and Bono and U2 pictured together on stage at the Waterfront hall in Belfast this evening for a concert to promote a YES vote in the referendum on Friday
U2 CONCERT AT KINGS HALL, BELFAST in June 1987.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 19/05/98 Unionist leader David Trimble, SDLP leader John Hume and Bono and U2 pictured together on stage at the Waterfront hall in Belfast this evening for a concert to promote a YES vote in the referendum on Friday PHOTO PAUL FAITH

A lot has changed since U2 last played Belfast, in 1997.

Heck, a lot has happened since U2 last played a gig.

U2 pays tribute to Paris #StrongerThanFear Photo: Ross Stewart
U2 pays tribute to Paris #StrongerThanFear Photo: Ross Stewart

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 shows on Saturday and Sunday were dramatically called off, with frontman Bono lamenting, "This is the first direct hit on music that we've had in this so-called 'war on terror' or whatever it's called."

And on Wednesday 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 for their fans.

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

"We're a band from the northside of Dublin called the U2, formerly the Hype," the sunglasses-sporting vocalist announced.

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

Read more

U2 Belfast: Bono and the gang rock SSE Arena with Innocence & Experience gig  

"You are heroes to us," Bono told the sold-out crowd.

"It's great to be here in the heart of Belfast."

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, ending with a dedication to all the victims of the Troubles, with an emphasis made on 'all'.

There was no explicit commentary about Paris during the set, though the iconic Eiffel Tower peace logo was shown alongside the message, 'Stronger than fear'.

The Syrian Civil War was also referenced in powerful images during a brooding Bullet the Blue Sky.

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 - or their audience - down.

4/5

Online Editors

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