U2: The Joshua Tree Tour 2017
Miami and Tampa, Florida, United States
11 & 14 June U2017
"We're like pilgrims in one sense. For Irish people, you know, America is the Promised Land. And I feel like an annoying fan sometimes, following America into the bathroom with the liner notes, saying, 'You know, you didn't play the Declaration of Independence!' I'm that guy. We're that group. We love this country and we love the landscape. It's not just the physical landscape, it's the psychological landscape, it's the spiritual landscape."
Bono on Jimmy Kimmel Live!1
"It's a U2 thing.
You wouldn't understand."
Seen on a woman's T-shirt on the GA line at Hard Rock Stadium
I'm a little skeptical of the album anniversary tours, the ones in which artists celebrate an album's xx anniversary and play the entire album during the show. Last year, Springsteen did it with The River. This year, U2 took a break from the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE project started with Songs of Innocence (and anticipate continuing with Songs of Experience) in order to revisit The Joshua Tree on its 30th anniversary.
The band also hit pause on Songs of Experience in order to digest recent world events. There was Brexit last summer and the Trump election in the fall, plus a generally hotter international climate as the world staves off terrorism and grapples with migration.
In October U2016, U2 performed at a music festival in Las Vegas and also headlined a show for Salesforce in San Francisco. Those shows featured a robust, pre-election atmosphere and a performance in which Bono "debated" with video clips of Donald Trump.
In taking The Joshua Tree back on the road, U2 also have taken the opportunity to reassert their deep and abiding affection for the United States. Indeed, one of the happiest surprises for me was how so deeply thought out the new tour truly is. This isn't a slap-dash, cash-in effort. They took what was initially toyed with as a set of two shows &mash; one in the U.S. and one in Europe — and expanded it into a show in search of healing, equality and joy.
That doesn't mean U2 have shied away from politics. Hardly. But they've elevated the discourse into one of hope and optimism.
References to Trump have been relegated to a rather humorous jab involving a classic movie clip, the name "Trump" and chatter of building a wall. The immigration debate has been given a new face, that of a young girl who wishes to come to America. Her story is accompanied by Miss Sarajevo and the staging involves a giant canvas of the girl's portrait, carried across the lower level of the stadium by audience members helping it move along above them.
That's U2 once again doing what only U2 can do. Bringing it home, making it meaningful and interactive. It reminds me of their efforts during the 360° tour, while Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest in Myanmar. During Walk On, audience members were invited to don paper masks of Suu Kyi and send out wishes for her freedom.
She leads the country now.
During Red Hill Mining Town, U2's "backed up" by the Salvation Army band on their giant, field width-spanning high-res screen. The video effect of following an open-country roadway during Where the Streets Have No Name is downright discombobulating from the vantage part of general admission on the field. It's a sense of virtual movement that is sensational.
Throughout the show, the band reinforces their appreciation for the U.S. As Bono puts it, they're pilgrims to the U.S. and they love our freedoms and liberties. They shouldn't be taken for granted.
So, after taking attending U2's phenomenal stadium shows in Miami and Tampa, I headed off to Cuba. That'll be the first major mind-bender of the trip. Going from the land of the free and the home of the brave to a country that's easily romanticized and shrouded in mysteries.
1Footnote: Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Jimmy Kimmel's by far my favorite late night host. I've had the distinct pleasure of being in the studio audience in Hollywood twice.
Jimmy also happens to be a U2 fan. I wasn't in the audience when U2 appeared recently, but the following clip shows U2 doing what U2 do best. And they show how a rock band truly takes over an entire show, including the speedy removal of Jimmy's desk by none other than Larry Mullen, Jr., himself.