In the music spotlight: U2

BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

The last three times veteran Irish rockers U2 performed in Chicago, they filled Soldier Field. That thought should help make the quartet’s upcoming shows seem relatively intimate by comparison. Compensating for lack of stadium capacity, the band offered Chicago fans five opportunities to snatch tickets for United Center dates. According to U2.com, only tickets for the final two shows remain.

The “iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE” tour marks 35 years since the release of U2’s debut album “Boy.” The set list has included the clarion call of The Edge’s guitar on “I Will Follow.” The bulk of the show, however, resides in the present. The band is playing most of 2014 album “Songs of Innocence.”

iTunes users will remember controversy surrounding the album, which was offered free of charge to anyone with an account. Those with push settings enabled to download purchased content saw the album automatically added to their iPhones and other devices. Many were thrilled. A vocal minority cried foul, stoking arguments about privacy issues.

In a video statement released by U2, singer Bono claimed the gesture was a “drop of megalomania, touch of generosity,” as well as a “dash of self-promotion, and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard.

Many critics and fans agreed that “Songs of Innocence” was reinvigorated following 2009’s “No Line on the Horizon.” Produced by Danger Mouse, songs including “Volcano” and “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” possess a scrappy intensity well suited to the stage.

Newer material also reflects personal content from the band’s collective past. “Iris (Hold Me Close)” is an emotional tribute to Bono’s mother, who died in 1974 when the singer was 14. “Raised by Wolves” recalls bombings in Dublin and Monaghan, Ireland that same year. The deadly events had profound impact on Bono and those around him, with repercussions previously addressed on vintage single “Bad.”

* U2, June 24, 25, 28, 29 and July 2, United Center, 1901 W. Madison. $30-$275; Visitticketmaster.com

SPOTIFY playlist: http://bit.ly/U2SPOT

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.

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