I was a U2 doubter. Our seats were very far back. It was a great view BUT could a band fill Croke Park. Noel Gallagher struggled a little to reach us. My daughters wanted to come for the first time. It was a lot of money.
The Whole Of The Moon had us all on our feet. Dublin audiences know every word of every song and sang it like it was a U2 hit. Then Larry appeared, walked down the run way and took his seat. Two thumps at that drum, the distinctive military beat of Sunday Bloody Sunday and my heart was boomed. When Edge touched his guitar my soul leapt out of my body. My body was back on earth as Adam’s bass grounded the whole thing. Bono’s “I can’t believe the news today…” and my head is reeling.
Oh my goodness. How do they do that? Without question our familiarity and love, with these beats and riffs and words is so deeply ingrained, helps but these guys do something that few other band can do. Doubts blown away in 85,000 voices and hand claps!
The first few songs have no visuals. This is pre Joshua Tree. They didn’t get to the top with all the visuals and stage sets they are now renowned for. Before all of that there was this visceral soul. We remembered through New Year’s Day, Bad and Pride. It wasn’t at Joshua Tree that they suddenly hit their groove. The U2 juggernaut was picking up pace for years and then…
Then the big screen kicked in. The biggest you have ever seen. The red sky behind that big Tree. The band walked back up the ramp onto the big stage and the atmospheric Where The Streets Have No Name took us right into he heart of why we were here.
Later they would finish with the more recent hits. Beautiful Day. Vertigo. One. BUT tonight was about an eleven song set list from 1987 that sounded as vital, if even maybe more so, than it did back then. Thirty years on and I had forgotten how good this album is. I maybe never really did understand.
Yes, there was Streets, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With Or Without You and Bullet the Blue Sky. Yet, they were all done after four songs. What struck me tonight was how darn good every other song was. The tenderness of Running To Stand Still, the pop power of In God’s County, the loose, near busk of I Trip Through Your Wires, the spiritual sensitivity of One Tree Hill. Oh My. How I had forgotten. A Salvation Army Band on the screen adds to Red Hill Mining Town, never performed live until his tour.
It was Exit though that was worth the price of the ticket. Goodness me. Until now Anton Corbijn’s films and photo shots were spectacular but on Exit everything went overload. The sound that Edge pumps through his guitar seemed to light something in Corbijn’s imagination and the visuals duelled with the guitar to simply bombard with dramatic stimuli. Mothers Of The Disappeared brought it home with cathartic lamenting prayer.
Whatever the songs before or after the Joshua Tree songs this is why we were here. It has taken us 30 years to play and understand them Bono said. They played them like the record was out next week. What surprised me was the lack of frill. There were no elongated climaxes. Yeh, we had a wee bit of Paul Simon and two Bowie snippets elsewhere but what we got on the Joshua Tree set were the songs. Bang, bang, bang with all the shifts of shade and sound. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For even seemed a little short.
The cerebral was not spelled out. You had to have ears to hear. Put them in their context and ponder… maybe for days yet. The 50s film clip of a Western with a character called Trump building was around the town to keep it safe was the only contextualising clue. It was funny but powerful as that led us to that Exit apocalypse!
Miss Sarajevo with the refugee face being crowd surfed like communal prayer and the celebration of woman in Ultraviolet (Light My Way) came with the obligatory U2 preach. Subtle, beautiful and perfectly done. BUT I cannot over emphasis the power of Joshua Tree. Performed with conviction. Lifted by Corbijn’s genius. Left to linger. What a record! What a band! What a night!