The Irish mega-rock band U2 opened five nights at the Forum on Tuesday with a set that drew from throughout its 30-plus years as a band. The Times will have a full review of their heavy debut later in the morning, but until then, five quick observations.
1. The Forum is oval shaped, which usually relegates many of the cheap seats to binocular views. But U2 made great use of the space, and did so in a way that felt inclusive to nearly every fan in the house. Though the main stage was still at one end of the oval, an extended catwalk connected it to a smaller stage at the opposite end. The setup allowed all four to move among the length of the arena and connect with a huge swath of the crowd.
Above the catwalk hung a double-sided billboard-sized video screen that projected images, drawings, set-pieces and whatnot at precisely timed intervals throughout the night. Best, the screen was semi-transparent and held within it a second catwalk that rose and fell. At one point all four stood on the raised stage and played while a precisely positioned video moved with kinetic energy around them.
2. As with many of the dates thus far on U2's "Innocence + Experience Tour," the band greeted its fans with the 2014 song "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)," one of a few early indications that the band had '70's-era New York on its mind. Before U2 arrived onstage, it warmed up the crowd with guitar band Television's "Marquee Moon," followed by music from Talking Heads' "More Songs About Buildings and Food." As the band moved toward the stage, the sound system played Patti Smith's "People Have the Power."
3. At one point mid-set, Bono spied a lookalike in the crowd, and pulled him up on stage. Indeed, from the cheap seats the guy was a ringer. In fact, the imposter was a professional lookalike who plays in a Los Angeles cover band called Hollywood U2. In what must have seemed like an impersonator's wildest dream, Bono and fake Bono did a duet of "Sweetest Thing." (Unlike in such dreams, nobody was naked.)
4. As is often the case, the band left plenty of room for free-form musical Bono-isms -- musical references that suggested the range of the band's influences. Over the course of the night amid U2's new and old work, Bono tossed in melodies and lyrics from songs by the Beach Boys, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Ramones, the Who and others. During the encore, the band covered part of Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion."
5. The full set list, courtesy setlist.fm:
The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
The Electric Co.
I Will Follow
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Song for Someone
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Raised by Wolves
Until the End of the World
Intermission: The Wanderer
Even Better Than the Real Thing
California (There Is No End to Love)
Every Breaking Wave (acoustic)
Bullet the Blue Sky
Pride (In the Name of Love)
With or Without You
City of Blinding Lights
Where the Streets Have No Name
Mother and Child Reunion
Check back in a few hours for a full review.