Tuesday 20 February 2018

U2 returns to the Joshua Tree and the US heartlands for sell-out anniversary tour

Loud and proud: U2 open their Joshua Tree 30-year anniversary tour at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver last Friday night
Loud and proud: U2 open their Joshua Tree 30-year anniversary tour at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver last Friday night
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

U2 will kick off the US leg of The Joshua Tree tour tonight in Seattle. The Seattle Times is unequivocal with its front page: 'Beautiful Day. U2 Is Back In Town.'

Not quite a beautiful day though - yesterday it lashed rain and it was windy and cold. Be that as it may, in places like Fado, the Irish bar on 1st Avenue, and in the bars on nearby Pioneer Square, there were a few U2 fans warming up for the show at the 67,000-capacity CenturyLink Field.

America is fitting country for The Joshua Tree tour because that classic album from 1987 is indisputably U2's American record.

The opening trilogy of The Joshua Tree album - Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and With Or Without You - are powerful enough on their own to raise the imaginary roof off any stadium across America.

The central part of this new tour is, of course, U2 replaying their biggest-selling album from 30 years ago but Bono goes into other sonic areas, too... Last Friday night in Vancouver, Larry Mullen played the improvised, jazzed-up drum-opening to Sunday Bloody Sunday on his own before being joined by the rest of the band. U2 then played another track from 1983 - New Year's Day - before going straight into A Sort of Homecoming, MLK and Pride (In the Name of Love) from The Unforgettable Fire album from 1984 before turning to The Joshua Tree album... well, this is The Joshua Tree tour.

They began with Where the Streets Have No Name, went into I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and then into With Or Without You, before playing Bullet the Blue Sky, Running to Stand Still, Red Hill Mining Town and In God's Country, among others, like Trip Through Your Wires and One Tree Hill.

U2 then shifted to the B-Stage where they played Beautiful Day and Elevation from the 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind, before going into Ultraviolet (Light My Way) from 1991's Achtung Baby.

The finale came on the A-Stage with Miss Sarajevo by The Passengers (remember them?) and finally, the live debut of The Little Things That Give You Away from the Songs of Experience album.

In 1987, Reagan was in the White House with the Iran-Contra scandal threatening to wreck his presidency. In 2017, the US has a new president and the songs of The Joshua Tree have a new meaning.

Prior to U2's performance of Exit in Vancouver, the aforesaid Prez is inserted into a reworked clip of an old Western film - "You're a liar, Trump."

There is a lot riding on this tour for U2. Some might say the band is trapped in the past, suffer from pomposity overload, elevated expectations and, worse of all, fast-dwindling cultural capital.

Others, like me, might say U2 is a singularly great band whose songs generally have a quality you could only describe as wisdom. And with the Donald in the White House we need U2 to be great and at their best again.

By the end of this tour, U2 could again be the best live band in the world - or they could be a U2 tribute band at their own show.

Let's hope it's the former. So, can U2 step up to the plate, if even for one last time? All will be revealed tonight in Seattle.

Read Barry's review of U2's concert in Seattle from 6am tomorrow on Independent.ie

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