Review: U2 rocks Capital One Arena

WTOP's Jason Fraley reviews U2 at Capital One Arena (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — It was a night of innocence lost and experiences had, as U2 rocked Capital One Arena on Sunday for the D.C. leg of its “eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE” tour, named after the band’s two latest albums: “Songs of Innocence” (2014) and “Songs of Experience” (2017).

If you missed Sunday night’s show, don’t worry. The Irish rockers return on Monday night.

Here’s what went down in the first concert so that you have an idea of what to expect:

The band’s entrance was electric, appearing inside a giant, rectangular screen floating in the middle of the arena. The double-sided structure flashed with on-screen images before becoming transparent so we could see the band suspended in mid-air over the crowd.

After a trio of brand new jams — “Love is All We Have Left,” “The Blackout” and “Lights of Home” — the band took the main stage for a pair of old-school tracks with “I Will Follow” off their debut album “Boy” (1980) and “Gloria” off their sophomore album “October” (1981).

After these five lesser-known numbers from past and present, the band unleashed arguably its most mainstream hit, “Beautiful Day,” off their tenth album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” (2000). The album won seven Grammys and became the only album in history to feature two Record of the Year winners with “Beautiful Day” in 2001 and “Walk On” in 2002.

Next came a deep cut with “The Ocean” off their debut album, followed by two new tracks, “Iris (Hold Me Close)” and “Cedarwood Rood,” the former written about Bono’s mother who died from a cerebral aneurysm at her father’s funeral when Bono was just 14 years old.

As images of violence filled the screen, U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. methodically marched with a snare drum to signal the drumbeat of war with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1983).

From there, the band dipped back to “Achtung Baby” (1991) for the highly underrated “Until the End of the World,” sang in the first person perspective of Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus Christ. During the song, Bono’s giant hologram held the real-life Edge in the palm of his hand.

The slick visuals continued for a comic-book display of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” (1995), a reference to the song’s place on the superhero soundtrack “Batman Forever” (1995).

This allowed the band members a break before their on-screen shadows transitioned into their real-life selves, taking a side stage on the opposite end of the arena. They immediately erupted into their Grammy-winning hit “Elevation” with its signature refrain “wooooooo!”

Immediately after, Bono counted down the Spanish intro of “Vertigo” — “Uno, dos, tres, catorce!” — as Edge shredded to spiraling imagery, recalling Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 movie masterpiece. Fans will also remember the 2004 song from Steve Jobs’ original iPod commercial, in which U2 wore white earbuds over Saul Bass-style black paper cutout bodies.

Next up, Bono belted “Desire” from the band’s sixth album “Rattle and Hum” (1988), followed by the lesser-known “Acrobat,” “You’re the Best Thing About Me” and “Staring at the Sun.”

The crowd became visibly uneasy upon footage of the 2017 white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, including neo-Nazi salutes and Confederate flags. Suddenly, these images of hate were washed away by images of peace, as U2 performed “Pride (In the Name of Love)” with images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marching through the streets of the nation’s capital.

Bono grabbed the mic to say, “This is a great country that gave us Elvis Presley and Miles Davis,” before singing the new single “Get Out of Your Own Way,” a symbolic suggestion to America. This was fittingly followed by “American Soul” and “City of Blinding Lights,” which was played as the soundtrack to then-candidate Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential rallies.

Notably absent were “With or Without You,” “Mysterious Ways,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “New Year’s Day,” “Walk On,” “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” and “Where the Streets Have No Name,” which should be played at every U2 concert like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” Oh well, after four decades of hits, you can’t play everything.

In the end, the crowd was treated to a trio of encores, including a touching rendition of “One,” followed by new singles “Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way” and “13 (There is a Light).”

As Bono introduced “One,” he spoke of female empowerment and bipartisan cooperation: “We’re not going to solve the world’s problems with only half of the world’s brainpower. We also need left and right. There’s too much at stake: the idea of America. The most important word in English language is ‘compromise.’ There is no us and them. This is ‘One.’”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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