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Review: U2 bring the hype to Belfast... and the disappointment

RHI, Stormont and the great European city of Belfast get Experience treatment from Irish rock legends

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Pacemaker Press 27/10/2018
U2 perform at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Saturday night , as part of their eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE Tour 2018.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 27/10/2018 U2 perform at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Saturday night , as part of their eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE Tour 2018. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 27/10/2018 U2 perform at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Saturday night , as part of their eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE Tour 2018. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

The world's greatest band rolled in for a Saturday night in Belfast to finish a fight they started nearly three years ago.

November 2015 saw the band U2 - formerly The Hype - rock it with their Innocence set. Near three years on it was time for the Experience conclusion.

In the first part the band emerged from the crowd, last night, lights out they were behind the big screen, elevated above the crowd belting out The Blackout. Much may have changed but the music is just as good.

 

Just a band from the north side of Dublin - but "the greatest rock 'n' roll band of the northside of Dublin," we're told and truth is they ain't wrong.

They divide opinion - that's mainly between those that have seen the band live and those that haven't.

The stage the same set-up as back in November '15 - two stages, a huge screen in the middle and even a few of the same songs thrown in. But new routines, new messages. They're older, wiser, been in a few scraps, been told the lies rock stars are told.

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Much changed from the free show they played in Belfast in '79. And we're taken from there right up to the Vertigo period when it all went to their heads.

 

Despite the huge expanse of the stage the band have the ability to shrink the Arena. The Edge was in touching distance for me - and many other thousands - or so it seemed.

Tributes were made to the 'women of the world'. Derry Mercury Music Prize nominated Soak performing in the choir for the band.

John Hume - who Bono stood hand-in-hand with alongside David Trimble in the heady days of 1998 when peace and the future ahead knew nothing of the realities of 2018 - was hailed a peacemaker for the opening of the iconic Pride.

And of course Bono being Bono has to have his say.

His devilish alter ego MacPhisto told us he was there when "those devils burned cash-for- ash" and for us to do nothing would see Stormont "spontaneously combust".

 

Later literally the band pinned their EU credentials to the board.

"Blessed is the train from Dublin to Sandy Row, blessed is Cyprus Avenue, Anna Burns, Oliver Jeffers, Terri Holey... blessed is Belfast .. still a great European city," Bono proclaims  in front of a huge EU flag.

"When the dust settles," the frontman told the packed SSE.

"Come hard or soft border we need to trust each other.. together it's easier."

No matter how good they are and no matter how great the show - and it was. Better than the real thing.

For me there's always the disappointment.

And that's because of the experience. Yes I want Pride, the Real thing, Vertigo, New Years Day (over and over and over again), I Will follow (over and over) Beautiful Day and One.

But I want, want, want Bullet in the Blue Sky, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Streets, Walk On and absolutely anything from Pop. But they never play Pop - that's my favourite and I don't care what anyone thinks.

Ah but they won't play play Joshua Tree songs because they played a whole tour of the album last year - but Streets is that song that is U2.

I and a nine-year-boy - who just saw the best thing that could ever happen a boy - discussed the show after and we rhymed off the songs we wanted and didn't get.

And that's the problem when you've 40 years of a back catalogue. To cram it all in is a big ask for a two-hour show - although they could have played more on Saturday night. I'm still in a little bit of disbelief the show is over and I'm writing this at home in the last few hours of summer time on a Sunday morning.

That being said they are the greatest and Bono the greatest showman.

"Experience teachers us it's ok to depend," Bono told us.

"I'm a quarter of an artist without Larry, Adam and the Edge and that's ok.. I'm half a man without my wife Ali and that's ok."

And you know what I've seen U2 countless times over the past 21 years and they never play all the songs I want and you know what - that's ok.


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