Gaelic Power : U2 (London O2 Arena – 29th October 2015) / The Waterboys (London Apollo, 6th December 2015)

I had in mind from the start to do joint reviews of these great Irish bands. The events that happened in the meantime only reinforced the importance of U2 in the story of people who became men in the 80’s as if they have been and will always be here, sometimes for better or worse.

  • U2, 29th October, O2 Arena

Only my third U2 gig in so many years, the first two ones having occurred in 1989 with the late great B.B. King as opening act and more recently in 2009 when they had their amazing spaceship.

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I must say I was very excited as their last album is actually a grower and gets better and better after each listening. One of the main reasons is probably that the “iTunes” controversy is now behind us and one can concentrate more openly on the music. The other reason of my eagerness to see U2 live is that their setlist is always fantastic (our #52 band!) and that I wanted to share this with my whole family which I had succeeded in bringing for once to see rock’n’roll (not a complete success there I am afraid…but I will not give up!).

As usual in U2 arena or stadium shows, these guys make you feel as if you are actually very close to the stage. This is due to their great showmanship and music skills but as well to the set-up of the stage. For this tour, they have chosen a main stage linked to a very small one where the band can feel like a real gang. In the middle of both was a huge screen in which the band could actually play or sing. Very impressive.

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First part of the show was mainly focused on the last LP and as written above, there are very moving sons about Bono’s youth in Ireland. However, the more the show was going forward, the more the fans were in a position to hear their favourite songs. I feel like when I am at a zoo when listening to songs such as “Where the streets have no name“, “Even better than the real thing” or “Bullet the blue sky“, i.e. like a young child full of hopes and dreams. The way they played “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was particularly amazing, with the four of them lined up in the middle of the arena.

Everyone was looking for a British artist to meet them on stage for the encore after Noel Gallagher the night before but we were lucky enough to actually have Patti Smith that night. They closed the show by playing “People have the Power” with her and they did it again recently in Paris when the Eagles of Death Metal joined them on stage.

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U2, London, 29-10-15, The Edge

I understand that Bono might annoy a few people sometimes by his will to change the world amongst the powerful but I personally find it great for one to use the little power they have to do so as long as they keep integrity in their art. Not a final word without reminding everyone how creative and inventor of beautiful sounds and melodies The Edge is as a guitarist. Set list here.

  • The Waterboys, 6th December, Eventim Apollo

Lead by Mike Scott from Scotland, the Waterboys can be considered as an Irish band too as their music has always been very much influenced by Ireland and its mystique. After a long hiatus in the 00’s, the band has been back a few years ago and have been regularly played since then. They even gave us this year an excellent LP with “Modern Blues“. And tonight indeed, band members were either coming from Ireland, the UK or the USA.

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But enough about nationalities and back to the show, which was indeed very good. The Waterboys came to fame at the same time that U2 and both bands with others such as Simple Minds or Big Country were supposed to be about “the big music”. This is true that The Waterboys had such songs with “A Girl called Johnny” or “The Whole of the Moon” but with time they went towards more subtlety and one felt the real change in their career when “Fisherman’s Blues” went out and showed the world that Mike Scott was as much a rocker as a lover of traditional folk sounds (…and songs).

The fact that they played their most exuberant anthem “Don’t Bang the Drum” in an acoustic violin and piano version was a good example of what I was trying to explain above.

Musicianship was particularly excellent as well as every player brought craft and power to the other members of the team. Setlist here.

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