U2 rediscover the Joshua Tree. It’s either a stadium sized midlife crisis, or showboating their finest moment.
It says a lot about 1997’s Pop that its recent 20th anniversary passed without a whisper, yet 1987’s Joshua Tree has barely recovered from its 25th anniversary shenanigans before another deluxe release and slew of 30th anniversary celebratory playback shows.
Perhaps they’d have avoided front-loading the album with its three strongest songs had they foreseen this, but they address it by cheating. With no giant lemons to get stuck in, and before the crowd realise what’s going on, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. has strolled down the catwalk to the front intimate stage like he’s late for a waiting cab to kick off Sunday bloody Sunday.
The rest join him, and four men are lost amidst a sea of hands belting out Pride, Bad and New Year’s Day. Then wide screen visuals of a blood red sky bathe Twickenham with the ageless romance of the road. At Where the streets have no name’s simmering intro, the band retreat to the main stage, as the camera tracks the vanishing point through Anton Corbijn’s breathtaking black and white backdrop of the Mojave desert. If Achtung Baby found four men chopping down the Joshua tree, then tonight finds four men replanting it. It’s surprising rapprochement for a band renowned for adventure, but perhaps they’re more bruised by giving away Songs of Innocence on iTunes than they let on.
They’ve yet to beat the universal simplicity of I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, or the elegant With or without you. Despite models doffing military hats and beautiful (pre-recorded) Salvation Army horns contributing to Red Hill Mining Town it unavoidably becomes the Bono show, as he grows increasingly patronising and preachy, although remembers heartfelt thanks to Brian Eno who’s in the crowd.
In God’s Country, (‘punch a hole right through the night,’) could have been a single, but despite the pristine visuals, the album drags before the lengthy encore. And it’s best to out Bono’s Malibu villa out of mind while they display displaced people of war zones.
Technicolor effects meet a rippling Beautiful Day, which ignites the crowd, like it did Coldplay’s entire career, while exposing Joshua Tree’s filler. The sweeping synth beauty (from the Passengers side project) of Miss Sarajevo rightfully elbows its way in, complete with a majestic recorded return of Pavarotti. As is custom for Mysterious Ways, Bono hauls up a girl from the audience, who does her best rabbit in the headlights impression while Bono leers on. It’s a 20-year old party trick and slightly unsettling.
They play the songs as well as they do the crowd, yet it’s Larry’s giant wink, drumstick poised aloft, that seals the night, that and Achtung Baby’s One following the searing
perfection of Ultraviolet.
My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available here – – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance It’s a farcical road trip around Europe: ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’
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