U2 are a band that receive mixed reactions from the general public in recent times – most likely as a result of their most recent album, ‘Songs of Innocence’, being a permanent plague on iPhones due to a deal the band signed with Apple. Despite this, however, they’ve still remained one of my favourite bands. So, when I found out they were touring my favourite of their albums, ‘The Joshua Tree’ for its 30th anniversary, how could I pass on the opportunity of attending a gig?
‘The Joshua Tree’ was released 30 years ago, in March 1987 and quickly became the band’s highest selling and most popular album. It draws influence from America and the country’s diverse culture, most prominently focusing upon socio-political and religious aspects of the country. The album in general is incredible – with cinematic songs filled with wide-open spaces, subtle guitar arpeggios from The Edge, and soaring vocals from Bono, it’s certainly the perfect album to accompany any cross-country road trip.
On Saturday at their gig at Croke Park, however, U2 chose not to open their homecoming show with songs from the iconic album. Instead they opened with hits from before the album’s release. With a mighty roar from the crowd, the band took to the arena’s centre stage to begin the night with ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday.’ On from this, they stayed on the theme of early-80s hits by playing ‘New Year’s Day’, ‘Bad’ and ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’ all in quick succession. This really served to amp the crowd up while it simultaneously illuminated the band’s beginnings, their sound that evolved into the 1987 masterpiece.
Following this, a brief intro ushered in the beginning of ‘The Joshua Tree’ album. This was a definite spine-tingling moment, as ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ began and the visuals on the large screen behind the band began to take shape. It showed a large road in the Californian dessert that houses the trees that inspired the album’s name, and helped set the tone for the night.A real stand-out moment during this song was the four-plane flyover above the stadium which drew out an Irish tricolour into the clouds.
The band continued to play the rest of the album with true precision, with Bono stating that after 30 years of playing these songs, the band are still coming to terms with their meaning and impact. Half-way through playing the album, Bono instructed the crowd that “this is side 2 of ‘The Joshua Tree’ cassette, if you would please turn over to listen to the remainder” – a cheesy comment that gathered a roar from the crowd.
Upon finishing the album, the band went on to fly through later hits. The first of these was ‘Beautiful Day’, the performance of which emphasised the song’s introduction to induce goose bumps from the crowd. The visuals during this were also notable, with the screen lighting up in technicolour. Following this came mighty crowd sing-alongs with ‘Elevation’, ‘Vertigo’, and ‘One.’
The absolute only low point of this concert came right at the end, with the final song, the band’s newest song ‘The Little Things That Give You Away.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with the song itself, but it seems to go against gig etiquette to finish with your most recent song. Seriously, U2? It felt as though it was a ploy to get as many people as possible to leave the stadium before the gig ended to reduce crowding, if anything.
Apart from the dull ending, this was a concert that was definitely flawless. It oozed professionalism and demonstrated perfectly why U2 are a stadium-rock band who have endured for so long.
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