Thirty years ago, U2 released one of their most critically acclaimed pieces on their discography, their fifth studio album, ‘The Joshua Tree’. Thirty years later, with major success along the way, the Irish superstars took to the stage to honor the album and deliver a stunning performance incorporating spectacular visuals and a contemplative, political message.
Opening for U2 was the Denver-based, acoustic, folk rock band, The Lumineers. With a 40-minute set consisting of songs like, “Ophelia”, “Cleopatra”, “Stubborn Love”, and “Dead Sea”, The Lumineers excelled in energizing the crowd with their reverberating cello, crescendoing drum beats, staccato piano, and sweeping, rhythmic guitar. Incorporating mandolins, accordions, and tubular bells into their set, The Lumineers garnered a lot of support from the crowd filtering in. Since the audience was of an older demographic, the exposure for the relatively new folk rock band was sure to have made some new fans.
As crowds filled into the stadium, it was obvious that the stage design was carefully curated to fight a nostalgic tone. Backing the stage was a 200 ft., 8K video screen, embracing a modern twist to the classic album. By using the largest, unobscured LED screen ever seen in a touring show, U2 encouraged the audience to view the album in a more modern-day context, instead of retrospectively.
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The show was split into a three-act structure, starting with upbeat, energetic fan-favorites including, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”, “Bad”, and “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”. U2 performed these songs on a stage, shaped like a Joshua tree, that extended into the general admission area. The four selected intro songs served as a prime appetizer for the kick off of the album. As the intro act concluded, the band took the main stage with 60,000 reverent fans buzzing for the main act to begin.
Throughout the concert, the band’s stellar performance was supplemented with crisp, striking visuals by photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn, which made for many wow moments. As U2 kicked off the album, the band stood in front of a solid red backdrop with the Joshua tree illuminated in obsidian black, dwarfing the band members, but magnifying their presence. As “Where The Streets Have No Name” began, the crowd roared along, seemingly shaking the stadium with their enthusiasm.
The rest of act two maintained a steadfast energy level, spiking with dizzying rawness on tracks like, “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “In God’s Country”. This is mostly owed to The Edge’s adept and inventive instrumental ability. Bono also shined throughout the evening giving a dynamic, soulful vocal performance that seemed to never falter. Another highlight in the main act included the song, “Running To A Stand Still,” which featured a quivering harmonica solo by Bono which delicately complimented the lyrics that limn the story of heroin addiction in Dublin. Though the album is front-loaded with its biggest hits, later tracks like, “Exit” and “Mothers of the Disappeared”, were brilliantly executed leaving the audience with a subdued, but emotionally chilling conclusion.
During the encore, the song ‘Miss Sarajevo’ had a different, but also painfully relevant, accompaniment in a specially commissioned film by the French artist J.R. Filmed at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where some 80,000 Syrians have been forced to temporarily settle, the film showcased a young woman named Omaima who described America as her dreamland. She gave a small speech praising the US that was dignified, authoritative, and touching. Over the years, Bono has become somewhat of a “rock diplomat” to the world, crusading for human rights, justice, equality, and more recently, peace within the Middle East. He dedicated this song to Omaima and gave powerful rhetoric on the importance of humanity, acceptance, and support.
Sound-wise the show hearkened back to the band’s heyday where raw passion, intensity, and punk-rock influence trumped the sonic innovations of their later work. U2’s performance proved they are indelible within the rock genre, and from the reactions of the audience, they aren’t stopping anytime soon.
Dates for the remainder of The Joshua Tree Tour 2017:
07-01 @ Cleveland, OH – FirstEnergy Stadium
07-08-09 @ London, England – Twickenham Stadium
07-12 @ Berlin, Germany – Olympic Stadium
07-15-16 @ Rome, Italy – Olympic Stadium
07-18 @ Barcelona, Spain – Olympic Stadium
07-22 @ Dublin, Ireland – Croke Park
07-25-26 @ Paris, France – Stade de France
07-29-30 @ Amsterdam, Netherlands – Amsterdam Arena
08-01 @ Brussels, Belgium – Stade Roi-Baudoin
09-03 @ Detroit, MI – Ford Field
09-05 @ Buffalo, NY – New Era Field
09-08 @ Minneapolis, MN – US Bank Stadium
09-10 @ Indianapolis, IN – Lucas Oil Stadium
09-12 @ Kansas City, MO – Arrowhead Stadium
09-16 @ St. Louis, MO – The Dome at America’s Center
09-22 @ San Diego, CA – Qualcomm Stadium
10-03 @ Mexico City, Mexico – Foro Sol
10-07 @ Bogota, Columbia – Estadio El Campin
10-10 @ Buenos Aires, Argentina – La Plata
10-14 @ Santiago, Chile – Estadio Nacional
10-19 @ Sao Paulo, Brazil – Morumbi Stadium