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Christine Connallon By

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Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
July 30, 2015

Eight sold out shows during a residency at Madison Square Garden is no small feat, even for a band of U2's stature. The four man band that formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1976 and has kept the same lineup for nearly 4 decades is still going strong, displaying staying power that only the formidable can accomplish.

At a SiriusXM Town Hall on a rare night off between shows at MSG, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. sat comfortably in director's chairs facing a small audience of 36 subscribers and fans who asked questions and fought the urge to whip out cell phones, a taboo established early in the session by station management. Hosted by Jenny Eliscu from the channel known as The Spectrum, the band lounged, comfortable in their jeans, leather jackets and most obviously ,in their own skin. A hint of their rebellious younger selves still apparent, they discussed the intricacies of their live show and the need for technology to give all of the fans at their live shows the same experience, whether they were sitting right up front or in the last row of the arena. A labor of love, their collaboration on making live shows an event is one that they are proud of.

Another source of pride for the band is their philanthropic endeavors, one of the earliest and most prominent is the (RED) campaign which began in 2006 to raise money and awareness for the fight against AIDS. As a part of this tour, (RED) has raised over $300 million dollars to fund HIV/ AIDS programs in Africa. Bono pointed out these facts to the small group, saying, "Americans are the first to beat yourselves up when you do something wrong," going on to explain that the contributions to fight AIDS from America are staggering and that citizens of the states should be proud of doing so much.

Regaling with stories that included The Edge's mother being their first roadie, Bono charmingly referring to the venue as Madison Square Gardens more than once, to Adam Clayton as their first manager, the band gave the audience the biggest surprise when they were invited to attend their sold out show on July 30th, a few nights later. After group photos and good natured interaction with the fans, the band took their leave among shouts of "thank you."

The palpable feeling in midtown Manhattan was obvious on the street outside the Garden, through stairways, security lines, turnstiles, mazes of hallways and winding corridors of wafting food smells. The night wore the feeling of a one off spectacular event filled with possibilities, not the vibe of one of a number of shows. Electricity and anticipation hung above, like a canopy of stars. Even the layout of the arena had people talking. The floor of the Garden was general admission standing, sectioned into quadrants that guests were placed into to avoid overcrowding. The square iNNOCENCE main stage stood at one end connected to a narrow platform running the length of the venue, slicing the floor in half. A long video cage ran the length of the venue above the runway and at the other end was the round eXPERIENCE stage, which stood bare. The runway represented the transition between the two stages of life. The layout was stunning both in form and functionality.

Bono entered through the crowd on the floor, causing a frenzy and entering from the eXPERIENCE stage, much to the delight of the fans on that side of the venue and joining his bandmates for "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)." A single large light bulb swung above Bono's head, bare and sparse, echoing the feel of the scaled back stage. The fans responded to the new material but went equally wild for older favorites as they washed over like waves.

"This is a song of surrender," Bono told the crowd during "I Will Follow," "and we surrender to you this evening at Madison Square Gardens. You are the reason we're here. You've always been. So we surrender," he said, turning slowly with his arms raised. The band members were lit with spotlights and blue lights bathed the throngs of fans standing from the floor up to the rafters. As the song continued and lights moved across the sections of the audience, fans could be seen jumping ecstatically as Bono did on the runway.

The video cage brought a completely innovative and amazing element to the show. With videos that highlighted the new material and the innocence of growing up, including video of what appeared to be a young Bono playing guitar in his old bedroom (which was actually Bono's son in the footage, he admitted during the Town Hall session), Bono took his place within the confines of the video cage, becoming part of the video experience rather than just beneath it.


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