Joshua Tree Tour (night two)
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Often times, one can’t expect to go to see a band in a 92,000 plus seat arena and experience a simple, authentic and intimate performance like one would see at a much smaller venue or nightclub. While U2 has always been (for the most part) about grand, sweeping and often theatrical gestures, their saving grace is their strong and memorable songs that are political, universal, personal and spiritual in nature. Their vast musical catalog has touched and resonated with fans on a personal level for many years, with songs that have become commercial and critically-acclaimed anthems. So, at the Rose Bowl on May 21st — the second of a sold-out, two night stint — U2 managed to transcend the liability which comes with a large venue. Despite physical distance from a massive audience, they achieved intimacy on a huge scale.
U2 continue to be relevant by writing and recording new, original music. Over the course of their 35-year history, they have successfully evolved their image and style to keep up with changing times, even experimenting with different musical genres. Now in concert, U2 is looking back. They are reflecting and celebrating what they originally introduced to stadiums in 1987. “The Joshua Tree” was the centerpiece of this two-plus hour sold out show focusing on the LP’s 30th anniversary. Breathtaking panoramic visuals showcased stunning, picturesque visual landscapes, diversity of cultures and people, as well as a variety of politically charged images. U2 also performed a number of songs pre- and post-Joshua Tree including “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”– songs which have not lost their potency and send messages that are just as important as they were when they first came out. There was also a timely and moving tribute to singer/songwriter and guitarist Chris Cornell (Soundgarden and Audioslave), who committed suicide on May 17. U2 performed “Running But Standing Still” in Cornell’s honor, and Bono spoke briefly about the heartbreak and tragedy of addiction.
Musically, the band sounded fresh and dynamic. There was never a static moment during their exciting performance. The thrill is still there, and U2 never once seemed like they were just going through the motions. The onstage chemistry and magic between The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullin, Jr. were apparent during the live performance. Bono, the charismatic frontman, was passionate, engaged and dramatic. Bono’s vocals were not always consistent, however; he seemed to struggle to reach the heights of his renowned raw, soaring range. Often, Bono sang in a lower register, perhaps to compensate for the challenges his voice could no longer frequently accommodate. “Bullet The Blue Sky” was an example of this mixed effect, and it felt a bit less inspired and compelling. Still, Bono managed to rise to the occasion and give satisfying power to the songs in the gripping way which draws in fans.
Earlier this year, U2 was set to release a follow-up album to their 2014 LP, “Songs of Innocence,” titled “Songs of Experience.” The new album’s release was shelved to give U2, according to The Edge, “A chance to think about these songs and make sure they’re really what we want to put out.” When Donald Trump won the presidential election, the band decided to, “put the album on ice.” In the meantime, they decided to tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree.” It was probably a good choice for the time being as the band is in a state of flux creatively. The timing couldn’t have been better, as The Edge himself stated, “Things have come full circle since the 80’s. It was a period when there was a lot of unrest…it feels like we’re right back there.” The band’s instincts are apparently right given the tense and uncertain political climate in the U.S. The music of “The Joshua Tree” has the pulse on that feeling, and concertgoers loved the show. It may have seemed nostalgic and crowd-pleasing on the surface, but no one in the audience seemed to mind. The fans happily stood often and sang along to their favorite songs at the top of their lungs.