They’re used to playing the world’s biggest stadiums and arenas, but <a href=”/music/u2″>U2</a> looked equally at home performing a free gig to 7,000 people at London’s historic Trafalgar Square on Saturday night (Nov. 11).
The concert was staged by MTV ahead of U2 receiving the Global Icon award at Sunday’s (Nov. 12) Europe Music Awards (EMAs) and saw the veteran Irish group deliver a crowd-pleasing greatest-hits set that lived up to their iconic billing.
The famous outdoor setting — overlooked by an illuminated Nelson’s Column at one end and The National Gallery at the other — also proved a suitably impressive backdrop for the free ticketed event, which began with Bono (wearing an Irish flag around his neck) leading his bandmates through an impassioned “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Midway through the song, the names of the 22 victims of the Manchester bomb were poignantly spelled out in lights behind the stage.
Next came “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which Bono dedicated “to the military who lost their lives, on all sides,” followed by the live premiere of two new tracks from U2’s forthcoming 14th studio album, Songs of Experience, due Dec. 1.
“I hope we don’t screw this up,” joked Bono launching into an anthemic “Get Out Of Your Own Way” and the choppy guitar-led rhythm of “You’re the Best Thing About Me.”
Returning to more familiar material, the group powered through “Beautiful Day,” “Elevation,” “Vertigo” and a reflective “One,” before concluding the show in somewhat unorthodox fashion with the evening’s second rendition of “Get Out Of Your Own Way” — this time, for a video that the band were shooting.
“Protesting, in the end, works. It gets things done, slowly and surely,” Bono told the 7,000-strong crowd as dozens of pre-made banners displaying protest slogans like “Give Peace a Chance” and “Resistance” were handed out for the audience to hold up to the cameras.
“This song is like a protest song against yourself, really, because it turns out some of the biggest obstacles we encounter on the way to a better world is often ourselves,” said the singer, introducing the future single.
After U2 left the stage, <a href=”/music/David-Guetta”>David Guetta</a> brought the show to a triumphant close with a hit-filled hour-long DJ set of pyrotechnic lasers and smoke cannons.
Guetta will also perform at Sunday’s MTV EMAs, where he will be joined by <a href=”/music/charli-xcx”>Charli XCX</a> and <a href=”/music/French-Montana”>French Montana</a> for the live premiere of his new single, “Dirty Sexy Money.”
Also on the bill at the EMAs — which is taking place at London’s SSE Arena, Wembley and being hosted by <a href=”/music/Rita-Ora”>Rita Ora</a> — is <a href=”/music/Eminem”>Eminem</a>, <a href=”/music/demi-lovato”>Demi Lovato</a>, <a href=”/music/the-killers”>The Killers</a>, <a href=”/music/keha”>Kesha</a>, <a href=”/music/camila-cabello”>Camila Cabello</a> and <a href=”/music/stormzy”>Stormzy</a>.
<a href=”/music/Taylor-Swift”>Taylor Swift</a> leads the nominations with six, including best video (for “Look What You Made Me Do”) and best artist. <a href=”/music/shawn-mendes”>Shawn Mendes</a> is nominated for five awards, while <a href=”/music/Kendrick-Lamar”>Kendrick Lamar</a> and <a href=”/music/Ed-Sheeran”>Ed Sheeran</a> are both in the running for four.