We’ll never stop bitching about U2

Bitching about U2 may be our national sport at this stage, but tomorrow’s gig will be filed in the history books as a celebration of one of our biggest exports, A Sort of Homecoming.

Sometimes Bono doesn’t make it easy to be a fan – and even he admits his bandmates are facepalming around him all the time – but we’re guessing the music of the Joshua Tree will drown out any sniping and groaning from those avoiding Croke Park tomorrow.

In an age of nostalgia and ‘retromania’ in rock music, promoters and heritage acts can barely resist the safe bet – and they don’t come safer than a U2 home gig celebrating their biggest and most cherished album. Ask any fan – casual or otherwise – about dream setlists and they would’ve picked a run-through of the Joshua Tree at any gig in the last 30 years.

The Joshua Tree was U2’s pass to the stadium league, the States, and a seat at the table of Bruce Springsteen, Barack Obama and, OK George W Bush.

And even though they famously “chopped” it down to create their most experimental and challenging albums Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop, they tried to plant it again on their post-2000 albums All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

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But even while Beautiful Day and Vertigo aimlessly waft around us in football montages and RTE clips, the Joshua Tree songs seem to still have a supernatural grip.

U2 will be playing three mini-sets at Croker, with the Joshua Tree bookended by a warm-up and an encore. But as the Joshua Tree silhouette fires upon the bazillion-pixel hi-def screen and the ambient synth intro gives way to The Edge’s guitar shimmer on Where the Streets Have No Name, it’ll be the money shot the U2 faithful have waited a generation for.

Filmmaker and photographer Anton Corbijn, responsible for the original album’s iconography, is back as the live creative director for the tour.

And while nostalgia may be at the back of the crowd’s mind, the show avoids archive footage of the band or promo clips, opting instead for footage that evokes the sweeping Joshua Tree landscape on the first ever 8K live screen, along with a striking red background that evokes classic Kraftwerk with the four figures in silhouette.

There’s an argument that The Joshua is front-loaded as an LP. Side one’s opening three songs – Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With or Without You – is an almost miraculous, flawless opening.

But it’s side two that may grip fans tomorrow, presented in full for the first time since the 80s, and in the case of Red Mining Town, getting its live debut.

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At the band’s gig at the Rose Bowl in California in May, Bono told the crowd: “These are your songs now… they’re yours more than ours.”

It could easily be sneered at as empty stage patter, a ‘Hello Cleveland’ moment, but it’s a better gift than Songs of Innocence on your iPhone.

And as they’re finishing off with a new song, The Little Things That Give You Away, it’s assurance that they’ll be back with a new album, even if it won’t be celebrated in 30 years with this much reverence.

  • Irish Daily Star, July 21, 2017