Northern Ireland

U2 in Belfast: It's a comfort that some things never change

U2 play Belfast SSE live on Saturday night. Picture by Hugh Russell
U2 play Belfast SSE live on Saturday night. Picture by Hugh Russell

U2, SSE Arena, Belfast

Saturday October 27

U2'S eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour is a sequel to their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE jaunt, which saw Ireland's biggest rock band packing out Belfast's SSE Arena three years ago.

A lot of ‘innocence’ has been lost in the seismic changes since then, from the election of Donald Trump and the rise of #MeToo to Brexit and the collapse of Stormont.

However, the most important evolution for Belfast U2 fans on Saturday night concerned the band's set-list: Bono and co are resting Joshua Tree hits Where The Streets Have No Name, With Or Without You or I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For for this tour.

Read More:

Bono lauds John Hume and Belfast in emotional U2 performance

Happily , the band weren't caught short for crowd-pleasers: I Will Follow, New Year's Day, Pride, Even Better Than The Real Thing and One all went down a storm with the 10,000 strong throng, while Elevation, Vertigo and Beautiful Day had Belfast properly bouncing.

Fans lapped-up Bono’s freewheeling riffs on his band's ‘experience’ with our “beautiful European city” and the north over the years, including a verbal tribute to John Hume and name-checks for Van Morrison, Terri Hooley, Derry musician Soak and Belfast’s Booker Prize-winner Anna Burns.

There were also appreciative whoops when MacPhisto materialised in mocking praise of the inactive Stormont’s “bonfire of vanities” and “ash to cash" (sic).

Dazzling visuals throughout the show urged us to reject violence and embrace inclusivity, underlining themes that have fuelled U2’s work for 40 years.

Now more than ever, it's a comfort that some things never change.