By Luis Lucero
One type of tour that seems to be all the rage these days is the album retrospective tour. In this type of show, a band will play an album, usually their most popular record, in its entirety as a key part of the show. Some artists that have done tours like this include Rush (Moving Pictures), The Who (Quadrophenia), and especially Roger Waters (The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall). And now, U2 is getting in on the action in celebration of their 1987 breakthrough album, The Joshua Tree.
While their last two studio albums left something to be desired, I still really enjoy U2 and consider them to be one of the best live acts around. And when I heard that they were not only going back on tour, but playing one of their best albums in full, I knew damn well I had to be at MetLife Stadium when they came by the New York area.
The night got started with a set from The Lumineers, who are the primary support for the North American dates. I never heard of them, so I went into their set with a fair degree of curiosity. While they’re not terrible per se, and I can also see why some people would enjoy the folky atmosphere of their music, they didn’t do much for me, and I left after the first song to charge my phone until their set finished.
At around 9:30 pm, “The Whole of the Moon” by The Waterboys came over the stadium PA. While the place was jamming to the song, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. ran over to the aptly shaped Joshua Tree b-stage to man his drumkit. As soon as the song ended, he launched into the oh so familiar drum beat of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” with the rest of the band gradually joining him. While this is an undeniable classic song, I really liked the slowed down version that U2 played during their Innocence + Experience Tour, since it made the lyrics have a much more haunting impact on the listener.
U2 -“Sunday Bloody Sunday”- Acoustic Version
After this song, the band went through selections from War and The Unforgettable Fire, mainly consisting of classics like “New Year’s Day” and “Pride (In The Name of Love)”. One magical moment came during “Bad”. When Bono announced that they were going to make the stars come out, everybody in the stadium took out their phones and turned on their flashlights. At one point, the combined light was even brighter than the nearby carnival that was setup in the Meadowlands parking lot. After the fourth song, a whirring synthesizer and quick dash to the A-stage marked the beginning of the main portion of the show.
Classic albums are timeless, that really goes without saying. But very rarely does an album actually resonate even more several decades after its release. With its lyrics about America, oppression, and people coming together to fight back, The Joshua Tree is an album that we need just as much now, as the record buying public needed it in 1987. While the crowds were definitely getting into the first three songs/hit singles, they were also gaining a newfound appreciation for the rest of the songs, many of which don’t get the same amount of radio airplay as the album’s hits. After this show, the main refrain of “Bullet the Blue Sky” is still ringing in my head. One particularly clever moment of the show came before the song “Exit”. The band opens the song with a clip from an old western TV show and features a scam artist who tries to warn a small town about a cataclysmic event. His idea of saving the town is taking the townspeople’s money and building a wall to hold back the threat. The name of the seedy salesman: Trump. To me, this is how musicians should interject politics into a concert. Rather than an overly preachy speech, a simple use of humor to convey the message goes a much longer way without offending a certain side.
After the Joshua Tree set, U2 returned for the obligatory encores. But this time around, they made it a lengthy encore to compensate for the slightly shorter run time of the new tour. The band made some slight alterations each night, with a handful of nights introducing a brand new song from their upcoming Songs of Experience album. Sadly, I wasn’t lucky to get an up close and personal preview of a new song. But I was thoroughly satisfied with the selection of songs that were played at the end. And to end the show on a very high note, the show closed with “One”, hands down my favorite U2 song ever. Compared to their performance of the song at Madison Square Garden in 2015, the venue didn’t partake in a lengthy sing along, but Bono still belted out an emotional rendition nonetheless.
They may not have had a new record under their belts, but it was a lot of fun to see U2 dig into their catalog and celebrate the past. Hopefully in 2021, they do a similar tour for my all time favorite album from the band, Achtung Baby.