I should probably start this review by saying that U2 is, without a doubt, one of my all time favorite bands. The Edge is the model for the guitarist I want to be: an architect of sonic bliss that stands just behind the shaman front man. The crowd focuses on Bono – as they should – but Edge is the foundation. Anything I say about this group is all sorts of biased.
The band is currently on a tour commemorating the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree. Instead of promoting new music, they are celebrating their glory days. This is not a bad thing. I didn’t really get into U2 until sometime in the mid-90s, and didn’t get to seem them live for the first time until the Elevation tour in 2001. By this time many of their early concert staples had fallen off the set list in favor of more recent work, and I had to content myself with YouTube footage for live versions of the classics.
Until, that is, I saw show #2 of The Joshua Tree 2017 tour in Seattle on May 14th.Their stage, which can be seen in the picture ahead of this post, included a Joshua tree shaped ramp extending into the crowd. The show began in twilight with Larry walking across the stage – by himself – and down the ramp to his drums, and launching into the intro of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. I thought that was a ballsy move- that song, as iconic as it is, usually doesn’t make an appearance until later. But I guess they decided to do a set of pre-Joshua Tree hits before moving onto the main event. This included “A Sort of Homecoming” and “Bad’, and I was in heaven.
And then they went right into The Joshua Tree, complete from beginning to end. I knew this was coming, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular. I completely support this is trend of bands playing their classic works all the way through. The first time I saw it was at a Springsteen show in ’09 which featured Born To Run. Talk about a transcendental experience. There seemed to be a noticeable difference from the songs U2 has been playing in their shows for years (“Where the Streets Have No Name”, I’m looking at you) and rarities like “One Tree Hill”, which felt a little shaky. I guess that’s too be expected given that they rarely play these songs and that it was only the second night of the tour. But I’ll let that slide if it means I get to hear “In God’s Country”.
One highlight of the night was when Bono introduced Eddie Vedder to sing the last verse of “Mothers of the Disappeared”. The crowd went nuts. I should have predicted this given that we were in Seattle, but I was caught by surprise, making the moment even sweeter.
And if all of this wasn’t enough, we got to here a bunch of post-Joshua Tree classics in the last part of the set. “Beautiful Day”, “One”, and “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”, which included a moving tribute to women’s right’s activists.. To end the night they did “I WIll Follow”, which the Internet tells me hasn’t closed a set of theirs since 1982.
What a way to kick of the summer and be reminded about why making music is worth the struggle.