Experience + Innocence Tour

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Experience + Innocence Tour
World tour by U2
U2 Experience and Innocence Tour poster.jpg
Promotional poster for the tour
Location North America, Europe
Associated album Songs of Experience
Start date 2 May 2018 (2018-05-02)
End date 13 November 2018 (2018-11-13)
Legs 2
No. of shows 61 total
  • 28 in North America
  • 33 in Europe
U2 concert chronology

The Experience + Innocence Tour (styled as eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour) is an ongoing worldwide concert tour by rock band U2. Staged in support of the band's 2017 album, Songs of Experience, the tour is visiting arenas throughout 2018. Comprising two legs and 61 concerts, the Experience + Innocence Tour began on 2 May 2018 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It visited North America from May through July, and is visiting Europe from August through November. The tour follows U2's 2015 Innocence + Experience Tour as the second in a pair of tours in support of the group's companion albums, Songs of Innocence (2014) and Songs of Experience.

The 2018 tour reprises the loose autobiographical narrative from the 2015 tour, along with the original's multifaceted stage comprising a rectangular main stage, circular B-stage, connecting walkway, and doubled-sided LED video screen with an interior walkway. Several enhancements were made to the set, such as a higher resolution and more transparent video screen and the addition of LED panels to the B-stage floor. The band have incorporated augmented reality into the tour, building it into a mobile app for fans to use, as well as using it to revive lead vocalist Bono's demonic stage character "MacPhisto" from the Zoo TV Tour in 1993. The band have performed their oft-requested 1991 song "Acrobat" for the first time during the tour, and have focused setlists on their Songs of Experience and Innocence albums. Having toured in 2017 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree, the band have decided not to perform any songs from that record on the Experience + Innocence Tour, leaving out some of their most well-known tracks.

Tickets for the Experience + Innocence Tour included copies of Songs of Experience, helping the album reach number one on the US Billboard 200. The tour makes use of Ticketmaster's "Verified Fan" platform for combating ticket scalping, making U2 the first group to do so for an arena tour. The Experience + Innocence Tour has received positive reviews and has grossed $61.5 million from the first 28 shows.

Conception[edit]

U2 originally intend to stage the Experience + Innocence Tour shortly after completing the Innocence + Experience Tour, which ended in December 2015,[1] but several factors contributed to a delay. Global politics shifted in a conservative direction, highlighted by the United Kingdom's Brexit vote and the 2016 US presidential election. As a result, the band decided to delay the album Songs of Experience, which they had planned to release in the fourth quarter of 2016, to reassess its tone and whether it was still communicating what they wanted it to.[2] The band also realised that the themes of The Joshua Tree, written during the last years of Ronald Reagan's presidency in the 1980s, felt particularly relevant again under Trump,[3] and they consequently decided to commemorate the album's 30th anniversary with a stadium tour in 2017. Lead vocalist Bono then suffered what he has referred to as a "brush with mortality" shortly after Christmas 2016,[4] further affecting the direction of Songs of Experience. Bono said the group intended the 2018 tour to be "less self-indulgent" and wanted to stay current by incorporating new technology and audience interaction into the production.[5]

Set design and show production[edit]

Like the original tour, the stage for the Experience + Innocence tour stage comprises a rectangular main stage (right), a circular B-stage (left), a connecting walkway, and a large video screen suspended above the walkway.

The tour reprises the same overall stage setup from the Innocence + Experience Tour, comprising: a rectangular main stage at one end of the venue; a circular B-stage at the other; a connecting walkway; and a 96-foot-long (29 m) double-sided LED screen with an interior walkway, called the "barricage", that is suspended above the walkway.[6][7] Both tours are structured around a loose autobiographical narrative about the group, grounded in the story of the death of Bono's mother and the violence of the Troubles that shaped their youths in Ireland. Whereas Songs of Innocence explicitly revisits memories of their adolescence, Songs of Experience "takes a more macro narrative stance, almost as if the narrator is writing from beyond life", according to tour designer Es Devlin. Accordingly, the narrative for the 2018 tour was reframed, using the lyric "Now you're at the other end of the telescope" from the Experience song "Love Is All We Have Left" as a guiding principle.[8]

Several technological enhancements have been made over the original version of the set. Production Resource Group (PRG), which has been involved in each U2 tour since 1992, began planning the Experience + Innocence Tour in September 2017. The firm started by trying to solve the weight problem from the original tour, an issue further complicated by the band's request to make the LED screens higher resolution, more transparent, and able to support an augmented reality (AR) element. The firm re-thought how to design an LED screen and devised a new system called Pure10.[9] They first decided that the product would have a pixel pitch of 10 millimetres (0.39 in), nearly tripling the display resolution and thus enabling an AR event to be triggered.[10][11] Ordinarily, this would have decreased the transparency, since the printed circuit boards (PCBs) attached to the LED panels were moved closer together. PRG solved this problem by slicing the PCBs into strips, rotating them 90 degrees, and mounting the LEDs on the sides.[10] Jeroen Hallaert, director of PRG Projects North America, explained that the result was "giant venetian blind" that provided 75% transparency,[9] compared to the 45% transparency of the original screen.[12] Overall, the video screen for the 2018 tour has a resolution nine times greater than the original.[12] The Pure10 video tiles are 1 m × 2 m (3 ft 3 in × 6 ft 7 in) and are about a quarter the thickness of those from the 2015 tour.[10]

PRG used their experience building the SPACEFRAME framing system for U2's Joshua Tree Tour 2017 to design a carbon fibre structure to hold the Pure10 panels, rather than one made from conventional metal.[11] This reduced the weight by almost 2 pounds per square foot (9.8 kg/m2) of panels,[10] resulting in a total weight reduction of almost half.[9] As a result, the number of trucks needed for transportation was also halved, compared to the Innocence + Experience Tour.[11] The "barricage" weighs 45,000 pounds (20,000 kg), and is suspended by eight hoist motors by Tait, each weighing 3 short tons (2.7 t), built into a custom truss.[13] With the weight reduction of the "barricage", the interior walkway can now move independently from the two video displays, compared to the 2015 version;[10] the 18 Tait Nav Hoists built into a truss inside the structure allow the walkway to be raised, lowered, or tilted by 5 degrees.[13] Other Tait products built into the interior truss are: a T-Winch, to raise and lower a staircase near the main stage; a Nav Hoist, to control a "performer platform" near the B-stage; and a Big Tow Winch, to raise and lower a drum set inside the structure.[13]

The B-stage at the end of walkway has been upgraded from the 2015 tour to include high-definition LED displays in the floor. To accommodate the round B-stage, PRG upgraded its Rolling Video Floor Riser product that had been unveiled in 2017. Each riser contains two ROE Visual Black Marble LED units with a 4 mm (0.16 in) pixel pitch. The risers have built-in magnets, allowing the tour crew to quickly set them up—1,076 sq ft (100 m2) of flooring can be assembled in under 20 minutes. The risers are transported in custom 1.6-metre-tall (5.2 ft) dollies, enabling them to be shipped via air cargo for significant cost savings.[10] Above the B-stage, an "automation grid" features a Smart Winch and six Nav Hoists by Tait to vertically move props, such as an LED ring, a light bulb, and a mirror ball.[13]

The augmented reality avatar of Bono displayed by the "U2 Experience" mobile app

The AR segment of the show is viewed using the "U2 Experience" mobile app for iOS and Android devices,[14] which overlays computer generated imagery over footage captured by a phone's camera.[8] The AR event is triggered by pointing the camera at the "barricage" video screens while they are displaying charcoal drawings.[8] Fans can also trigger it by pointing their phone's camera at the Songs of Experience album cover.[15] Long-time U2 stage designer Willie Williams collaborated with Nexus Studios on the AR technology and with Treatment Studio to design the 3D avatar of Bono. During the pre-show music, the AR experience "sees the stage recast as an enormous iceberg" that begins to melt and flood the audience; the imagery is a precursor to the tsunami wave that displays on the video screens during the final song of the show's first act, "Until the End of the World". For the opening song, "Love Is All We Have Left", the app displays an avatar of Bono hovering above the audience, accompanying the real-life Bono as he performs the song.[8] Williams justified the use of the phone in this way by saying, "If you're going to look at your phone we're going to give you something to look at that's part of the narrative rather than you just making a movie that nobody is ever going to watch."[16]

The crew, consisting of 90 traveling members and 120 local labourers, can build the stage in about ten hours while dissembling it in four. In total, the equipment hung from the venue ceilings weighs 178,000 pounds (81,000 kg). The show travels continentally in 27 trucks, and overseas requires 37 maritime transport containers or four Boeing 747 freight airplanes to transport.[12]

Planning, itinerary, and ticketing[edit]

U2 officially announced the Experience + Innocence Tour and its North American dates on 1 November 2017, the same day they announced the release date for Songs of Experience.[17] The band decided to not to open the tour in a large market such as New York or Los Angeles but instead somewhere where they would face less pressure.[18] The band chose Oklahoma, where Donald Trump received 65.3% of the state's votes in the 2016 US election. The group were curious how their progressive messages would be received in a conservative part of the US,[19] although guitarist the Edge said this was not a significant factor in their choice of where to kick-off the tour.[20]

The North American leg of the tour used Ticketmaster's "Verified Fan" platform for combating ticket reselling, making U2 the first group to do so for an entire arena tour leg.[21][22] Every ticket purchased for that leg also came bundled with a copy of Songs of Experience,[23] which helped the album debut at number one on the US Billboard 200, making it the band's eighth number-one album in the US and making U2 the first group to attain number-one albums in the US in four consecutive decades—the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.[24]

The group's 1 September show in Berlin was prematurely ended after five songs due to Bono suffering a "complete loss of voice".[25] After consulting a doctor, he said that they had ruled out any serious ailments and that he would be able to continue with the tour under proper care. A make-up concert was scheduled for 13 November, making it the final date of the European leg.[26]

Show overview[edit]

Several political and social issues are addressed by Bono during the concerts, spanning from racial issues to feminism.[27] These issues are also addressed through the messages displayed on the video screens during the pre-show, such as "Don't shoot", "Herstory", "Refugees welcome", "Give peace a chance", "Vote", and "None of us are equal until all of us are equal".[28]

During the introduction video, Bono's MRI scan is shown as the voice of a nurse says, "Breathe in, exhale".[12][29] Each show on the North American leg, other than the Apollo Theater concert, followed a similar format. Concerts began with a trilogy of songs from Songs of Experience. For "Love Is All We Have Left", Bono performs on the "barricage" walkway by himself.[29] During "The Blackout", the screens display silhouettes of the band members that Stereogum said resembled "characters in a horror movie trying to break free of a glass chamber". The images flicker and during the chorus reveal U2 inside the "barricage" performing the song.[29][7] During "Lights of Home", Bono sings on the "barricage" walkway as it inclines and he reaches for the titular lights.[30] This sequence is followed by "I Will Follow" and then a slot for a rotating song, most often "Gloria", "All Because of You", "New Year's Day", or "The Electric Co." After "Beautiful Day", the band performs "The Ocean", during which Bono introduces the show's narrative. The rest of the first act remained relatively faithful to the "Innocence" suite from the 2015 tour: "Iris (Hold Me Close)" revisits the death of Bono's mother during his childhood; "Cedarwood Road" features him performing inside the "barricage" amidst animated visuals of his childhood street; "Sunday Bloody Sunday" revisits the violence of the Troubles during the band members' youth; and "Until the End of the World" concludes the first act.[7]

During a brief intermission, a remix of the song "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by Gavin Friday is played. It accompanies a comic book–style animated video that depicts the band members evolving from innocence to experience through their encounters with a shadowy figure who presents a business card for "Wormwood & Macphisto Inc. Bespoke Atonement Services".[30][31]

U2 performing on the B-stage during a show in Tulsa on 2 May 2018
Bono portraying his stage character MacPhisto, whose facial image is applied as an AR video filter

U2 begins the second act of the shows on the B-stage, with Bono wearing eye makeup and a top hat, a look that Q described as "part Mick Jagger in The Rolling Stones' Rock And Roll Circus; part the 'preacher stealing hearts at a travelling show'" described in U2's song "Desire".[29] This segment begins with performances of "Elevation", "Vertigo", and "Desire". Afterwards, Bono adopts the stage character "MacPhisto", a representation of the devil that he previously portrayed on 1993 legs of the Zoo TV Tour.[31] The character is depicted through a video filter applied to Bono's face on the video displayed on the screens. As MacPhisto, he comments on recent events in the US such as the Charlottesville rally by riffing on the lyrics from the Rolling Stones' song "Sympathy for the Devil".[29] MacPhisto punctuates this monologue by saying, "when you don't believe that I exist, that's when I do my best work".[32] This segues into a performance of the 1991 song "Acrobat", which the band had never performed live prior to the tour.[33] Bassist Adam Clayton confirmed that part of the reason for finally playing the song was because devoted U2 fans had been requesting it.[34] Critics noted the relevance of the song's opening lines "Don't believe what you hear/Don't believe what you see" in the post-truth world of the time.[7][35]

The band then performs an acoustic version of "You're the Best Thing About Me". Bono and the Edge remain on the B-stage for an acoustic version of "Staring at the Sun". Bono introduces it as a song about "willful blindness", as footage of the Charlottesville rally and white nationalists marching is played.[30][36] The main set of the concert concludes with "Pride (In the Name of Love)", "Get Out of Your Own Way", "American Soul", and "City of Blinding Lights". The band returns for an encore of "One, "Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way", and "13 (There Is a Light)". During the final song, Bono walks out to the B-stage and opens a small replica of his childhood home to reveal a hanging lightbulb that he swings around the venue;[7] the lightbulb prop was used at the beginning of shows on the original Innocence + Experience Tour, bringing the two companion tours full circle.[31]

Having played their 1987 album The Joshua Tree in its entirety at each show of the prior year's Joshua Tree Tour 2017, U2 decided not to play any songs from the album on the Experience + Innocence Tour. The Edge, Bono, and Williams had begun discussing set list ideas for this tour while still touring in 2017, and thought that by dropping songs that were staples of the group's live act, they would force themselves to take a fresh approach to structuring their shows. The Edge acknowledged the effect that omitting some of U2's most popular songs might have, saying the Experience + Innocence Tour was for "the more committed fans who really listen to everything and go to everything".[37]

Sirius XM U2 radio station and concert contest[edit]

On 1 June 2018, Sirius XM satellite radio launched a limited-time U2-exclusive radio station called "The U2 Experience" on channel 30. It featured the band's music as well as interviews with the members.[38] Initially intended to last until 30 June, the station was later extended through 31 July.[39]

Sirius XM organised a contest in which the service's subscribers could win tickets to a special U2 concert at New York's Apollo Theater on 11 June 2018.[40] The band were accompanied by the Sun Ra Arkestra for performances of "Angel of Harlem", "Desire", "When Love Comes to Town", and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of". Bono also paid tribute to the recently deceased celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. The show was broadcast in North America on the service's U2 channel. [41]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

U2 performing in Berlin on 31 August 2018

The tour received generally positive reviews, with critics praising both the staging and content of the tour. Jennifer O'Brien of The Times praised the group for delivering a message that espoused tolerance and denounced the political climate, and she thought the reliance on new material and absence of The Joshua Tree songs did not hurt the setlist. O'Brien said the group were "still at the top of their game, embracing state-of-the-art technologies and moving forward, a direction they clearly hope the US can go".[42] Dave Egan in the Irish Independent called the opening night "One of the bravest, most powerful and even angriest performances U2 have ever done" and praised the reintroduction of MacPhisto after an absence of 25 years since Zoo TV.[43] Reviewing the first show at the Forum, Roy Trakin in Variety said that "when it comes to performing live, the band remains the gold (and platinum) standard" and noted that U2 refused to rely on nostalgia, with almost half the set being taken from the last two albums. His review also said that the band were performing as a well-oiled machine despite being on the road for only two weeks at that point.[44]

Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune called one of their Chicago concerts "sometimes stupefying, sometimes riveting, and brimmed with ideas, if not always the most proficient means of realizing them", while singling out the quietest moments as the most resonant. Kot lauded the Innocence suite in the act's first half, as well as the "series of songs that savaged the reawakening of the white-supremacist movement in America", but said the latter was undercut by the performance of "American Soul", which he called U2's "clumsiest and least persuasive" political song.[45] Nashville Scene said, "When it comes to matching musical themes with jaw-dropping visuals, U2 concerts are the Steven Spielberg films, the James Cameron epics, the Star Wars-sized events of rock." The publication praised the group for being "determined not to rest on its laurels", but judged that their emphasis on newer material towards the end of the show at the expense of well-known hits was the one flaw of the concert.[6] Dan DeLuca of the Philadelphia Daily News found the segment of the show that addressed the rise of white nationalism the most moving, believing it showed the U2 songs most relevant in 2018 were their older ones. He thought the use of their newer tracks to tell a coherent narrative worked "well enough" and closed by saying "U2 still delivers the goods and can be truly thrilling at times".[46]

Accolades[edit]

U2 received a nomination at the American Music Awards of 2018 for Tour of the Year.[47]

Commercial performance[edit]

According to Billboard, the North American leg of the tour grossed $61,495,884 from 28 shows with a total attendance of approximately 438,069. The leg grossed an average of $3.6 million per market. U2's three shows at Madison Square Garden sold 55,575 tickets and grossed $8.7 million, while two shows at the Bell Centre in Montreal sold 42,974 tickets and grossed $4.58 million.[48]

Set list[edit]

This setlist was performed at the 25 June 2018 concert held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It does not represent all shows throughout the tour.[49]

Tour dates[edit]

Date City Country Venue Attendance Gross
North America[50][51][52][48]
2 May 2018 Tulsa United States BOK Center 16,570 / 16,570 $2,188,948
4 May 2018 St. Louis Scottrade Center 16,300 / 16,300 $2,001,462
7 May 2018 San Jose SAP Center at San Jose 28,579 / 28,579 $3,703,304
8 May 2018
11 May 2018 Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena 30,776 / 30,776 $5,104,662
12 May 2018
15 May 2018 Inglewood The Forum 32,163 / 32,163 $4,432,426
16 May 2018
19 May 2018 Omaha CenturyLink Center Omaha 14,742 / 14,742 $1,735,259
22 May 2018 Chicago United Center 32,463 / 32,463 $4,135,008
23 May 2018
26 May 2018 Nashville Bridgestone Arena 16,717 / 16,717 $2,700,706
28 May 2018 Duluth Infinite Energy Arena 12,982 / 12,982 $2,420,795
5 June 2018 Montreal Canada Bell Centre 42,974 / 42,974 $4,580,121
6 June 2018
9 June 2018 Uniondale United States NYCB Live: Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 14,629 / 14,629 $2,260,713
11 June 2018 New York City Apollo Theater 1,500[53] [a]
13 June 2018 Philadelphia Wells Fargo Center 31,238 / 31,238 $3,549,210
14 June 2018
17 June 2018 Washington, D.C. Capital One Arena 32,053 / 32,053 $4,319,994
18 June 2018
21 June 2018 Boston TD Garden 35,139 / 35,139 $5,539,769
22 June 2018
25 June 2018 New York City Madison Square Garden 55,575 / 55,575[b] $8,705,673[b]
26 June 2018
29 June 2018 Newark Prudential Center 16,612 / 16,612 $2,523,388
1 July 2018 New York City Madison Square Garden [b] [b]
3 July 2018 Uncasville Mohegan Sun Arena 8,557 / 8,557 $1,594,446
Europe
31 August 2018 Berlin Germany Mercedes-Benz Arena
1 September 2018[c]
4 September 2018 Cologne Lanxess Arena
5 September 2018
8 September 2018 Paris France AccorHotels Arena
9 September 2018
12 September 2018
13 September 2018
16 September 2018 Lisbon Portugal Altice Arena
17 September 2018
20 September 2018 Madrid Spain WiZink Center
21 September 2018
29 September 2018 Copenhagen Denmark Royal Arena
30 September 2018
3 October 2018 Hamburg Germany Barclaycard Arena
4 October 2018
7 October 2018 Amsterdam Netherlands Ziggo Dome
8 October 2018
11 October 2018 Milan Italy Mediolanum Forum
12 October 2018
15 October 2018
16 October 2018
19 October 2018 Manchester England Manchester Arena
20 October 2018
23 October 2018 London The O2 Arena
24 October 2018
27 October 2018 Belfast Northern Ireland SSE Arena
28 October 2018
5 November 2018 Dublin Ireland 3Arena
6 November 2018
9 November 2018
10 November 2018
13 November 2018[c] Berlin Germany Mercedes-Benz Arena
Total

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This was a promotional show for winners of a competition organised by Sirius XM Holdings, so no tickets were sold.
  2. ^ a b c d The score data for the shows held at Madison Square Garden in New York on 25–26 June and 1 July 2018 is available only as a three-show total.
  3. ^ a b The 1 September show was prematurely ended after Bono suffered vocal difficulties, resulting in a 13 November make-up date being added.

References[edit]

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