The popular Alexander’s bar in the heart of Chester city centre hosted a real treat for fans of 80s stadium rock, when The U2 Experience rattled the brickwork, shook the timbers, and threatened to blow the roof off. Billed as ‘The UK’s most authentic U2 Tribute Band,’ the reality certainly lived up to the hype. The Irish rock band have had decades of success, with multiple million selling albums, from their 1970s beginnings through their 1980s heyday, and beyond. Fronted by the almost messianic personality of Bono (these days a very ‘Marmite’ figure, often parodied, but nonetheless a formidable stage presence), this is a band that only the brave or the foolhardy would attempt to replicate, live on stage.
Sequenced lighting, onscreen visuals, video clips, and special effects combined to make this a truly spectacular experience, with the four band members uniting to faithfully recreate the U2 sound. Chris Field performing as Bono has a nigh impossible job, attempting to mimic one of the greatest stage performers of all time, but he does so magnificently. There’s the sheer power and studied arrogance, combined with vocals that soar impressively to the heights that the songs demand. Complete with ever present dark glasses, and black outfit, you could be forgiven for thinking this was the man himself. A full house was bouncing with unbridled excitement, and even the more elderly attendees were dancing and singing along with newly unleashed vigour. Opening with the pulse-pounding ‘Elevation’, the night got off to a flying start with the audience joining in from the opening lyrics. The pulsating lighting effects, and video screen showing the real U2 in action, added to the overall atmosphere. U2’s sound is very much rooted in the lead guitar of ‘The Edge’, with its glacial, almost angelic vibration, and is instantly recognisable and unique. John Brown has mastered this sound, with the equally superb Clive Witcomb as ‘Adam Clayton’ on bass guitar, and Mark Owen’s ‘Larry Mullen Jnr’ on drums.
Following the crowd-pleasing opener, ‘Elevation’, came one of U2’s best known stadium anthems, ‘Beautiful Day’. Though its charm had been tainted a little when appropriated by ITV’s football highlights programme ‘The Premiership’, it still retains its classic power and sheer joyfulness. Introducing the third song of the night, we now got to hear ‘Bono’ speak. This was another highlight of the evening, as Field delivered a pitch perfect impression, with the recognisable soft Irish lilt. It was time to head back to the very early days, with a fantastic recreation of U2’s first single from 1979, ‘Out Of Control’. A near two-hour set comprised of all-time classics, and rarely-performed album tracks, with stand-out songs being a superbly effective ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ – which had The Edge moving through the delighted crowd, and a moving, barnstorming tribute to Martin Luther King with ‘Pride’. There was also time for a humorous dig at the Bryan Adams song ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’, when Bono drolly mentioned that the song that knocked Adams off the top of the charts (after a record 16 weeks) was U2’s ‘The Fly’ (which they duly performed with gusto!). The first half of the show ended with another singalong to the epic, frantic ‘Vertigo’.
‘City Of Blinding Lights’ opens the second act, and we’re up and running again with another great track. It’s a more low-key, gentle, romantic, and melancholic U2, here, but with that same soaring, stadium friendly quality. An early 1980s fan favourite ‘Bad’ showcases the epic U2 sound, with the song building and building, and demanding more and more from the Bono vocals. Written about a heroin addicted friend, it’s a real emotional rollercoaster, ending with a wailing, heart-rending lyric “I’m wide awake; I’m not sleeping”, echoed by the mesmerised audience. The song fades away, and the audience are now primed, as the band segue into the haunting, dream-like opening notes of the immortal ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. A rattling, steamrollering, chugging juggernaut of a song, The U2 Experience showed just what they could do, and had the audience cheering like crazy at their masterful rendition of the 1980s classic. Closing the evening with the truly inspiring and uplifting ‘With Or Without You’, there were more than a few tears rolling down the smiling faces of the audience. The vocals, guitars and drums fused together into one almighty, spiritual force of nature, and blew every lurking demon away. This was truly U2, in spirit, and an awesome – in every sense of the word – experience.
Reviewed on 20 August 2022