U2 are one of the biggest stadium acts in rock history, undisputedly. After having a string of hit singles in the early – mid 80s (culminating in a sensational Live Aid performance), they became the superstars they are today largely due to 1987’s album The Joshua Tree, which is often labelled as their magnum opus. Whilst I enjoy the albums leading up to The Joshua Tree, it is apparent that this is the culmination of musical creativity they had been building towards in the early 80s and would continue into the early part of the 90s. What makes The Joshua Tree a spectacular album is its mix of themes and musical genres; you can hear elements of blues, country and folk music mixed in with the stadium rock sound U2 have come to perfect.
I was ecstatic to hear that U2 had decided to go out on the road this year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their most famous record, as I had not had the chance to see them before and felt this tour would be the ideal place to begin my experience of U2 live shows. Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame opened the show with a string of Oasis and High Flying Birds hits; I can’t really think of many support acts better (Noel joined U2 with a rendition of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ to close the show).
Bono commented how it was the first time they had revisited many of the songs
The U2 show was split into 3 segments, opening with ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ from 1983’s War and followed with three other 80s hits including ‘New Year’s Day’ and ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’. Following on from this they played The Joshua Tree in full, starting with ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ and concluding with the beautiful ‘Mothers Of The Disappeared’. Part of the joy of hearing the album in its entirety was hearing gems like ‘Running To Stand Still’, ‘In God’s Country’ and ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ played live as they wouldn’t ordinarily make the set list. Bono commented how it was the first time they had revisited many of the songs on the album’s second half since it was released, breathing new life into the album tracks. The show had a lengthy encore consisting of many of the bands 90s and 00s hits including ‘One’, ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Beautiful Day’, as well as the song ‘Ultraviolet’ being dedicated to late Labour MP Jo Cox, who Bono worked with on various charity ventures.
The band sounded spectacular, having been active over 40 years and continuing to record, with the follow-up to 2014’s Songs of Innocence due later this year. Visually the show was a treat to behold with dazzling animations accompanying many of the songs, with a large screen behind the band allowing the designs to complement the songs, ranging from a highway moving with the band to accompany ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, to a horn band on ‘Red Hill Mining Town’, to gorgeous animations of the Joshua Tree itself for ‘One Tree Hill’. I would strongly recommend seeing U2 on their next tour as it is an incredible spectacle visually and sonically, conducted by four men at the
peak of their musical prowess with a strong command of the audience and constant creativity with putting out their music live. I hope their new album is a fine companion to this tour and perhaps allows the public to redeem them following the controversy surrounding the release method of Songs of Innocence.