It was a madhouse navigating the Friday afternoon traffic of the Memorial Day weekend. Frowning drivers were giving hand signals telling other drivers they were #1 and lip readers saw words only used in Quentin Tarantino movies. After parking and walking past SWAT officers armed with machine guns following the recent events in Manchester, though, the staff at AT&T Stadium couldn’t do enough to make everyone feel welcome.
My 90,000 new best friends began filing in as soon as the doors opened and continued until the sold-out crowd was ready to begin a night with rock royalty in U2. The excitement increased as it got closer to downbeat time and Facebook exploded with posts of “Guess where I’m at!” Fans around me had stories of previous concerts and expectations for this one. They passed around my setlist and reminisced about where they were 30 years ago when The Joshua Tree album came out.
The beach balls came out early as Larry Mullen, Jr. dropped a beat on the B-stage in front of the standing audience on the floor. The Edge strummed his guitar while walking down the plank connecting the two stages, followed by Bono singing “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” The crowd almost drowned out the music as bassist Adam Clayton joined in while wearing a black leather jacket to match the lead guitarist. Cameras filled the arena and captured images of the singer who has an unbelievable stage presence.
A blue light bathed the stage as a deaf interpreter moved to the music and signed the lyrics to “New Year’s Day.” The acoustics were clear and delivered each crisp note from the instruments and Bono’s commanding voice. The Edge started the song on keyboards before switching back to guitar for a solo that captivated the crowd. Mullen pounded a throbbing beat and the audience sang along to “Bad.” The crowd danced, then added even more energy at the first stirrings of “Pride (In The Name Of Love).” The band was in perfect harmony as they walked back to the main stage with Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech flashed on the background screen.
The Hall of Fame band began the Grammy Award winning The Joshua Tree in its entirety starting with “Where the Streets Have No Name.” The record that explored their Irish roots and America’s wide open spaces was matched by the winding road images on the screen. Bono and his band-mates soaked in the well-earned applause. Guitar and bass highlighted “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Couples danced in front of their seats as the 200-foot-long screen showed images depicting lyrics from the song. Following the album’s order, “With Or Without You” showed a time-lapse of clouds to go along with the well-known lyrics. The crowd let go of all inhibitions to sing along.
“Bullet The Blue Sky” was a meaningful song and the artists gave it the respect it deserved on a Memorial Day weekend as they honored veterans and others affected by war. Bono produced a harmonica for the ballad “Running To Stand Still.” It was surreal to watch him commandeer the entire crowd at Jerry World with his impressive persona. “Red Hill Mining Town” finished side one as the band was accompanied by the Salvation Army Horn Band on the screen. “In God’s Country” featured a melodic guitar solo as well as a lyrical tribute to our country.
Continuing with the appreciative theme of the No. 1 record, Bono thanked the crowd for having them in our country and a patriotic visual played behind them during “Trip Through Your Wires.” He played more self-described “chronic harmonic,” which energized the audience again.The musicians captured the crowd again with “One Tree Hill,” which they performed for all the beautiful souls in attendance. Bono walked alone to the B-stage during a Western movie vignette before singing “Exit.” The album part of the show ended with the heart-wrenching “Mothers Of The Disappeared” as it turned into a candlelight vigil.
A quick break preceded the encore of “Miss Sarajevo” with it’s images of destruction to go along with an operatic solo by Luciano Pavarotti. Images of a 15-year-old Syrian girl saying she wanted to come to America to be happy flashed across the screen as a large banner was unfurled and passed overhead through the crowd. A dedication to the impact of powerful women in our nation’s history preceded “Ultraviolet (Light My Way).” The rest of the band made their way to the smaller stage as the humanitarian spoke of our tax dollars directly saving the lives of 18 million AIDS patients.
Mullen and Bono played a one-to-one musical interlude as the bass player was the musical focal point of “One.” The singer introduced the band members before launching into “Beautiful Day.” That hit song and “Elevation” from the All That You Can’t Leave Behind album were a return to back-to-basics rock in their storied career. The final song of the night, “I Will Follow,” from their live album, Under A Blood Red Sky, was a fitting end to the evening. Bono threw his complete soul into his performance and the rest of the band jammed away until the end of the two hour-and-15 minute concert.
The fans exploded in applause for the 22-time Grammy Award winners. It was easy to see why they’ve sold over 170 million albums with insightful lyrics, personal themes and sociopolitical concerns. All contained in a melodic rock sound that keeps the fans engaged. This has created a few detractors over the years, but their immense talent is undeniable.
It’s difficult to put together a setlist with so many great songs from which to choose. Several hits had to be sacrificed in order to play one of the biggest-selling albums in history. Always known for their live shows, they didn’t disappoint. Their harmonious instrumentals and larger than life vocals enthralled the adoring fans from the first sound to the final note of the night. The 30th Anniversary Of The Joshua Tree Tour continues through July 1 in the US and August 1 in Europe. If in your area, see them as millions of fans have done before.
LIVE IMAGES: GUZPIX
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS