Thursday 21 September 2017

U2 The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, Seattle review: 'An unambiguously powerful concert by a band back to their visceral and epic best'

U2, The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, CenturyLink Field, 14 May 2017
U2, The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, CenturyLink Field, 14 May 2017
The Edge (L) performs with Bono during the opening concert of rock group U2's global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. Picture taken May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

The Gods long ago equipped Bono with the antennae of a wise man. So, he must have known that the future of U2 possibly rode on The Joshua Tree Tour 2017.

It is not about U2 holding market position or this tour being a commercial success — it is already a success with shows sold out all over America and Europe.

Ever restless as artists, U2 need to find themselves as a band again in a sense. Or fuck off.

And I mean that out of love as a fan

The Edge and Bono, members of U2 kick off their world tour of the Joshua Tree in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, May 12, 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Edge and Bono, members of U2 kick off their world tour of the Joshua Tree in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, May 12, 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Rammed down our iPhones’ throats, U2’s The Songs Of Innocence was hardly a runaway success on many levels.

Bono will know — or at least he should know — that the next U2 record is critical if the band are to be taken seriously as anything other a touring band trying to revisit the glories from their past. (Gavin Friday - Bono"s friend from childhood and the artistic director on this tour - told me before the gig: "This tour has absolutely nothing to do with nostalgia.  The songs are more relevant than they were 30 years ago.")

The stakes were high for U2 on the opening night of their American tour last night in Seattle.  Fatefully, then, the news from America was very good. . .

_______

U2 on stage during the opening concert of their global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. Picture taken May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick
U2 on stage during the opening concert of their global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. Picture taken May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick

8.40pm. 75,000 fans wait expectantly inside the Century Link Field stadium . (Mumford & Sons had been on earlier and were absolute crap.) Suddenly, the lone figure of Larry Mullen junior appears, walking out of the shadows down the ramp, which extends 100 feet into the crowd, to a smaller stage with The Pogues’ A Rainy Night In Soho playing in the background.

He sits down at the drum kick and starts up the famous military style beat to Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Irish rockers U2 perform during their world tour celebrating the 30-year anniversary of their
Irish rockers U2 perform during their world tour celebrating the 30-year anniversary of their "Joshua Tree" album in Vancouver, British Columbia, Friday, May 12, 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Within 15 seconds, you can see and hear The Edge walking down the ramp playing the opening echo-y chords of Sunday too, quickly followed by Bono going “Ohh ohh ohh wooah wooah” with Adam Clayton on bass behind him.

The hairs on the back of the neck of 75,000 people rise as Bono sings, “I can't believe the news today/Oh, I can't close my eyes/And make it go away.’

Bono sings during the opening concert of rock group U2's global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. Picture taken May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick
Bono sings during the opening concert of rock group U2's global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. Picture taken May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick

That momentum was kept up when they launch into another classic track from the War album, New Year’s Day, with The Edge somehow playing both keyboards and electric guitar. U2 then performed three tracks in a row from 1984 Unforgettable Fire album — A Sort of Homecoming, a storming Bad and a bewitching Pride (In the Name of Love).

The words to a Martin Luther King speech appeared on the giant screen as Bono he told the crowd, as only Bono can, "Awaken! Awaken ! Awaken within you the American tradition of compassion and justice and spirit. "

The crowd are going wild, everyone dancing and feeling uplifted by what the four fellas from Ireland  are doing up on that tiny stage.

Then, the band relocate to the gargantuan main stage to kick off The Joshua Tree album in its entirety — U2’s 1987 hymn to the States, their immigrant’s tale of how the American Dream went bad. The gospel of heaven and hell in the Mojave desert.

Bono sings from the drum stage during the opening concert of rock group U2's global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick
Bono sings from the drum stage during the opening concert of rock group U2's global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick

They kick off this set with a rollicking  Where The Streets Have No Name — with Anton Corbijn's new pictures of ‘The Joshua Tree' area and the desert behind U2 on giant screens — before going into I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and then, With Or Without You.

During the seismic spirituality of With Or Without — with a reddish sunset-covered mountains lighting up the massive stage — Bono, as he often is, was transformed for those moments. He sang with a passion that went beyond performing. Indeed U2 performed with a passion that went beyond, well beyond, mere performance.

With a huge silhouette of a single Joshua Tree shooting up into the sky behind them, this was something special on what Bono called a concrete temple.

U2 on stage during the opening concert of the rock group's global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. Picture taken May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick
U2 on stage during the opening concert of the rock group's global The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 12, 2017. Picture taken May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick

Then it’s the ferocious Bullet In The Blue Sky — with Bono moving about the stage like an Bible Belt preacher on acid — followed by Running To Stand Still and, the live debut of Red Hill Mining Town.

Before U2 perform Exit, an original clip from American western TV series Trackdown is played on the screen — featuring a double-dealing snake oil salesman with a familiar name who is trying to con the townspeople with a crackpot idea.

Bono reveals new song is inspired by Eamon Dunphy and says Donald Trump is not welcome at US gigs 

Trump: I am the only one. Trust me. I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate.

A cowboy: What do we do? How can we save ourselves?

Trump: You ask how do you build that wall. You ask, and I’m here to tell you.

Another cowboy: You’re a liar, Trump.

Some Trump followers in the audience might have seen it as 'You're a liar, Bono', but there you go.

U2 then burst into a eardrum-bashing and intense version of Exit. 

They went off for a well earned  breather before returning with Beautiful Day.  The reaction among the crowd was pure euphoria. 

This was an unambiguously powerful concert by a band back to their visceral and epic best.

After Beautiful Day, there was even more euphoria, courtesy of Elevation, followed by Ultraviolet (Love My Way) dedicated to " the great women of the world who stood up or sat down for their rights, who insisted, who persisted." Images of Pussy Riot, Virginia Woolf, Patti Smith, Rosa Parks, Mary Robinson, Angela Merkel etc flashed up on the screens. Inspirational stuff.

"Government should fear its citizens - not the other way round," Bono said to the crowd before launching into One.

"It's too late to drag the past out into the night. " Indeed...

Some powerful images from the refugee camps of Syria were played on the giant screen as U2 performed an emotive Miss Sarajevo.

Like Bruce Springsteen helped heal the soul of America after the 9/11 attacks with The Rising album, U2 with the Joshua Tree Tour are helping treat America's psychic wound after the election of Donald Trump.

U2 finished their two hour show last night with The Little Things That Give You Away from the as yet unreleased Songs Of Experience album. 

Then they actually played I Will Follow. And were gone.  Walk away, walk away. A magical might.

 

JT2017 Set List - SEATTLE - 14 May

Sunday Bloody Sunday

New Year’s Day

A Sort of Homecoming

Bad

Pride

 

Where The Streets Have No Name

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

With or Without You

Bullet the Blue Sky

Running to Stand Still

Red Hill Mining Town

In God’s Country

Trip Through Your Wires

One Tree Hill

Exit

Mothers of the Disappeared

 

Beautiful Day

Elevation

Ultraviolet

One

 

Miss Sarajevo

The Little Things That Give You Away

 

I Will Follow

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