Four years ago, U2 was lined up to perform at the Forum in Los Angeles as part of KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas. It was a pretty spectacular bit of booking for the charity event, getting one of the biggest bands in the radio station’s history to support their recently released album, Songs Of Innocence. But the performance would never happen, as U2’s leather jacket-loving frontman Bono suffered a catastrophic bike accident, resulting in broken bones in his face, shoulder, arm, and hand, requiring five hours of emergency surgery and months of rehab.
Two months before the accident, U2 offered up Songs Of Innocence in a manner that made them the ire of millennials everywhere, but the crash seemed to put things in more perspective for both critics and the band. Though he would appear to make light of the incident on Fallon some months later, it wasn’t until last year that some of the fallout really was made known. Bono admitted that he’ll likely never be able to play guitar again, and, either related or unrelated to the accident, he suffered a near-death experience that he refuses to discuss.
When you consider how omnipresent the band has felt in the four years that have followed the beginning of these health woes — releasing another new set, Songs Of Experience, last year, touring extensively in support of both recent albums, and a stadium tour celebrating the anniversary of The Joshua Tree — U2 feels like a band on a mission to soak up every opportunity they have to perform, while their bodies still let them. “Home is where the hurt is,” Bono sings on the song “Walk On.” The road, it seems, is where the hurt gets left in the dust.
You could argue that though U2 would usually wait four to six years between launching new tours, those classic runs — Zoo TV, Popmart, 360° — lasted a heck of a lot longer. Zoo TV ran for 156 shows, while 360° was 110. By comparison, 2017’s The Joshua Tree anniversary shows only played 51 dates. But focusing on this undercuts the significance of three separate tours launched within the last four years, touring behind three different albums, each with their own stage show. Sure, the recent Songs Of Experience run has many of the same features of the Songs Of Innocence tour, including the mega screen that spans the length of an arena that the band members can walk through, but the changes were so numerous to the set as a whole that it really does feel like its own unique experience.