Several U2 shows were cancelled in the early days of their career (many for reasons unknown and now lost to history). Some might have even be cancelled due to lack of demand. The first one that we know of was actually supposed to be U2’s first show in the United States, at the Penny Arcade in Rochester, New York on 5 December 1980. Instead, show on December 6 at The Ritz ultimately became U2’s first show in the United States. Another notable cancelled show was the one on 20 May 1981 in Rochester. While doing their soundcheck at the venue, some “regulars" at the bar asked the manager to tel the band to stop playing. U2 however refused to stop and as the manager felt more loyal to these regular visitors he decided to ask U2 to leave causing the show to be cancelled the show. Two years later U2 cancelled another show in the United States, this time on 7 June 1983 in Wichita, Kansas. This show was cancelled quite late after U2 added another show in Boulder the night before in case the Red Rocks film shoot went wrong. U2 arrived in Kansas City on the evening of 7 June and saw Star Wars: Return of the Jedi at a movie theatre.
U2 planned to play five shows in the Entertainment Centre in Sydney in October 1989. After the second show the band participates in a radio interview and performs a version of Slow Dancing. After this radio performance Bono felt a burning pain in his throat which was soon diagnosed as laryngitis. A week off is what the doctor orders him to have to prevent any serious damage. As a result of this, U2 had to cancel the remaining three shows planned for 22, 24 and 25 October. Adam assures the shocked press and audience that U2 will return to play the shows later. “If there’s any way Bono can sing, he will. It’s very frustrating for him to be struck down by an illness”. U2’s organisation and the concert promoter work overtime to reschedule the concerts which eventually take place on 17,18 and 19 November. “A few weeks back I had some real trouble trying to sing. I discovered you have some very psychedelic germs over here!” said Bono during the first of the rescheduled shows.
The furthest into a show U2 ever had to cancel a show was on 18 December 1989 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. U2 planned three concerts in Amsterdam for 18, 19 and 20 December. Six songs into the first show during I Will Follow, Bono tells the crowd that his voice is not so strong tonight. Four songs later, during God Part II, Bono’s voice started to act up again (the same problem that caused the Sydney cancelations). He sings God Part II with incredible aggression, misses lines, grabs his throat and starts whirling the microphone until it hit the stage with a huge bang. Bono then lets the crowd sing as much as possible during Help, Pride and New Year’s Day before the band leaves the stage for the encore. Once Bono returns he announces to the audience: “Well, this has never happened to U2 before, but this is now a free concert in Amsterdam. We have one more song to play for you”, after which the band goes into 40 during which it becomes clear that Bon’s voice is totally lost. After 40, the concert promoter enters the stage and announces that the show has to end now and asks the audience to hold on to their tickets. The following day, after examination Bono is once again told to take a week off to prevent permanent damage. Later, U2 announce that the shows have been rescheduled to 4 shows in Rotterdam on 5, 6, 9 and 10 January. As the capacity in Rotterdam (8,000) was much smaller than Amsterdam (16,000) these four shows can only accommodate the fans who had a ticket to either the second or third Amsterdam shows. The promoter tried to add another extra show for those who were at the show that was cut short but due to limited availability of U2, BB King and issues with accommodation this was not possible. 6,000 of the 16,000 who saw the cancelled show were drawn and could go to any of the four new dates. The other 10,000 got their money back.
Milan and truck troubles. Back during the Unforgettable Fire Tour, a prankster put sugar in the fuel tank of one of the stage trucks. U2 barely made it to the venue on time and had to skip the soundcheck. Issues with trucks caused history to repeat itself seven years later. A truck got into difficulty on its way to Milan from Barcelona meaning some of the equipment did not reach Milan in time. Up to 10,000 fans had already been travelling to the venue when the cancellation was announced with only a few hours notice. This would make the show on 21 May (which went ahead as planned) the first, and then the cancelled show got moved to 22 May, where U2 put on an outstanding show hoping to make up for the troubles two days earlier.
Before U2's Popmart tour set out to play Raleigh, North Carolina, the band played in Washington D.C. on 26 May 1997. Unfortunately, when in D.C., a severe storm with high winds damaged part of the stage. The storm, which reportedly produced a tornado funnel cloud at some point, damaged the video screen which needed a repair that would take up to three days. This resulted in U2 cancelling their show in Raleigh on 29 May 1997. This was again reported to have been a very late cancellation, causing inconvenience to fans who were already travelling to Raleigh. "We cannot come to Raleigh because we are drying our television screen," U2 publicist Susan Rosenberg said about the cancellations back then. "[The tour is] not coming at all at this point. We're playing North America, then Europe, then North America again. So maybe later." In the end, U2 did not play Raleigh at all during Popmart. Part of the reason for it was suspected to be the lack of demand as U2 had only sold about 20,000 tickets for a stadium with a capacity of at least twice this number. In the end U2 spend four days in DC rehearsing for their upcoming shows in New York.
17 years after Raleigh U2 were faced with another show cancellation, this time during the Innocence and Experience tour in 2015. U2 played four shows in the city of Stockholm, Sweden in September 2015. The third show, scheduled for 22 September, started out as planned. Fans had entered the arena and everything looked fine. Suddenly, fans outside were told there were ticket scanning issues and they could not enter the venue, causing huge queues to form outside. Inside, staff were spotted looking for something or someone (at this stage it was unclear what for what or for who). Meanwhile, fans inside were asked to exit the venue, then were let back in again. Ultimately it became clear the ticket scanning issues were a mask for the real problem: a security threat. As this could not be resolved (the person or object could not be located) local police had no other choice but to cancel the show. All fans were told to leave and the show was rescheduled for two days later. Fans could either attend that show or get a refund on their tickets. Later, someone on the security staff talked to the head of security and told him about the incident. The head of security decided that the person must be located and escorted out of the venue. Despite a thorough search the man could not be found/ As his whereabouts remained unknown, the police and venue staff had no other choice but to cancel the show. The Edge later revealed more about the incident to Hot Press: ''a man wanted to enter the venue with a disassembled gun, which was put in his girlfriend's bag. The bag was searched and the gun was found. Despite this, he was still allowed into the venue (rumour was that he was an (ex-)police officer)''. Many rumours were and are still doing the rounds about the story, which can be read here.
Two months after the Stockholm incident U2 faced another setback on their Innocence and Experience tour. Midway through their four show residency in Paris, on Friday 13 November, a series of terrorists attacks in the city killed 130 people and shocked the world. One of the attacks, at the concert hall Le Bataclan, happened close to the venue where U2 were rehearsing at the time. France declared a national state of emergency which meant that all events had to be cancelled, cancelling U2's shows on 14 and 15 November. The show on the 14th was of particular significance as it was due to be broadcast live by HBO and potentially released at a later date as an official concert film for the tour. The band members stayed in Paris for a day or two to pay their respects and lay flowers at Le Bataclan before heading home. A week later U2 announced they would reschedule their shows to 6 and 7 December, making the Paris shows the last two shows of U2's tour in 2015. The second Paris show (and final show of the leg) will be broadcasted on HBO (as was originally planned for the show on November 14th). "So much that was taken from Paris on the tragic night of November 13th is irreplaceable," said Bono, speaking from Dublin ahead of tonight's opening show of four in their hometown. "For one night, the killers took lives, took music, took peace of mind - but they couldn't steal the spirit of that city. It's a spirit our band knows well and will try to serve when we return for the postponed shows on December 6th and 7th. We’re going to put on our best for Paris."
On 16 September 2017 U2 was scheduled to play a show in St. Louis in The Dome at the America's Center for The Joshua Tree 2017 tour, U2's first St. Louis show since 2011. In the day leading up the show protests erupted in the city of St. Louis after a judge acquitted a (white) former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley for killing Anthony Lamar Smith (a black man) following a high-speed chase in 2011. As protests were accompanied with violence and unrest, all events in the city became uncertain. In the early morning of the date of the show the only event that was still not cancelled happened to be U2's show, until LiveNation and U2 were informed by the St. Louis Police Department that they were not in a position to provide the standard protection for U2's audience. Live Nation and U2 could not "in good conscience risk fans' safety" and cancelled the show, U2's first show cancellation since 2015. Fans received a refund and at the time of writing a replacement show was not and will probably not be in order.