Thursday, June 29, 2017

U2 at MetLife Stadium

The Edge, Adam Clayton, Bono
Curiously, U2's performance at Metlife Stadium opened with vocalist Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. unceremoniously walking the long, descending catwalk of the Joshua tree's "trunk" to the smaller shrub-shaped second stage surrounded by fans; bands usually wait until a strategic mid-point in a show to use a B stage, but this was where the band chose to launch its pre-Joshua Tree mini-set. The two-hour performance began on this smaller stage with four of the band's earliest and most iconic songs, "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "New Year's Day", "Bad," and "Pride (In the Name of Love)," played in the sequence in which they were released and each played much as the audience expected to hear them.

As the band sauntered back up the runway to the main stage, the video screen illuminated with the Joshua tree silhouette against a blood-red background. The main event, the 11 Joshua Tree tracks in sequence, began with more U2 signature songs, "Where The Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "With or Without You."

For The Joshua Tree portion of the show, the band performed on the main stage against a backdrop of visuals on the video screen. If the show was not already a spectacle, the realistic, seemingly three-dimensional visuals became intrinsic to the multi-media totality, immersing the audience deeper into The Joshua Tree. "Where the Streets Have No Name" was accompanied by a slow tracking shot of a desert highway, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a forest of trees, "With or Without You" with images of Zabriskie Point, and "Trip Through Your Wires" showed the Edge's wife, choreographer Morleigh Steinberg, dressed as a cowgirl while an American flag was painted on a wooden shack. Some of the videos were interludes that served as introductions of songs rather than backdrops; prior to "Exit," a clip from the 1950s television series Trackdown was shown, in which a con man named Trump visits a western town and promises to build a wall around the citizens to ensure their safety. Every song had its calculated visual partner.

Like most concerts, U2's set began and ended with better known songs, either setting a frenzy of excitement or concluding with a memorable blast. The middle of the U2's set consisted of lesser-known songs, or what would have been known as the B side of the album. These included songs never-before performed ("Red Hill Mining Town") and rarely performed live ("In God's Country", "Mothers of the Disappeared").

After the main set, U2 returned to the small stage for the encore of post-Joshua Tree songs, and Bono went full on with his social messages. The band began the encore with a stirring rendition of "Miss Sarajevo," a song dramatizing the Bosnian War in 1995, but now repurposed to the civil unrest in Syria. On screen, amidst bleak images of urban destruction, a 15-year-old Syrian in a Jordanian refugee camp said, through subtitles, "I would love to go to America, because it's a very beautiful country, and one can be happy there. It's a civil country. It's the land of dreams."

"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" became an ode to women, including visuals of many groundbreaking women in contemporary history.

The show closed with "One." Prior to "One", Bono promoted the ONE Campaign by discussing the fight against HIV/AIDS. As the word "one" appeared on the screen in many languages, Bono at length acknowledged many of his peers in the fight against HIV/AIDS, many of whom he said were in the audience.

Bono also addressed the immigration controversy without overtly naming a political figure or the travel ban that took effect that night in the United States. Bono noted that America is a country of immigrants. "This city, this country have given us Irish safety and sanctuary for hundreds of years," Bono said. "We would like to say thank you." Indeed, Bono thanked the audience "for letting us into your country."

Bono also spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in prayer form. "Dr. King, in a time of terror, keep us tolerant. In a time of fear, keep us faithful," Bono said.

Bono also urged members of the American media to remain "vigilant." "I would like to thank all of those that keep us vigilant, like journalists, in this country," Bono said.

Throughout the concert, the visuals, the underlying commentary and the musical performance were so interweaved that they were futile to fracture into compartments. The acoustical challenges of performing amidst outdoor elements perhaps hindered Bono's ability to make his singing sound unique, but the force and integrity of his delivery rallied even the fans dancing at their seats more than a half-mile away. The Edge's guitar work was smooth yet biting, and the rhythm section powered the songs admirably. In the end, this U2 concert was not about how cleverly the quartet reworked or updated the original compositions, but how effectively they masterminded a spectacle for thousands of fans to enjoy. This tour may have been the spectacle of spectacles for the rock history books.

  1. "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
  2. "New Year's Day"
  3. "Bad" (with a snippet of Simon & Garfunkel's "America")
  4. "Pride (In The Name Of Love)"
The Joshua Tree
  1. "Where The Streets Have No Name"
  2. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
  3. "With Or Without You"
  4. "Bullet The Blue Sky"
  5. "Running To Stand Still"
  6. "Red Hill Mining Town"
  7. "In God's Country"
  8. "Trip Through Your Wires"
  9. "One Tree Hill"
  10. "Exit"
  11. "Mothers Of The Disappeared"
  1. "Miss Sarajevo" (Passengers cover)
  2. "Beautiful Day" (with a snippet of Patti Smith's "People Have The Power")
  3. "Elevation"
  4. "Vertigo" (with a snippet of Patti Smith's "Rock 'n' Roll N----r")
  5. "Mysterious Ways"
  6. "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)"
  7. "One"