Written by Emilee Lindner • Photography by Colleen Callahan, Live Nation • May 17, 2017
This weekend, U2 kicked off its Joshua Tree Tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1987 album. The trek is U2's first ever group of shows centered around an older release -- which is monumentous since the Irish rock band have been at it for decades. According to The Edge, revisiting the seminal LP has a lot to do with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which mirrors the political unrest of 1987: "It just felt like, 'Wow, these songs have a new meaning and a new resonance today that they didn't have three years ago, four years ago,'" he told Rolling Stone.
The tour made its first stop in Vancouver on Friday, and moved down to Seattle on Sunday night with Mumford & Sons as the opener. And for those who didn't make the two West Coast shows, we're here to wrap up what exactly happened. Let's dive in, but before you go any farther, get your tickets to the other shows first.
U2 always make sure to add some sort of innovative design to their shows, so this time around, they projected a silhouette of a Joshua tree -- much like the one on the back of their album -- on a big screen. The B-stage, which has the band in the middle of the floor, is shaped like a tree as well.
Bono turned 57 last Wednesday, and it seemed like the debut anniversary show was the perfect way to celebrate. "It was a birthday gift to myself," Bono wrote on Twitter, accompanied with a blurry photo of him onstage. His shout-out to his bandmates was especially heartwarming.
The Joshua Tree Tour setlist gives the band five songs to open with and six songs to end with. In the middle, there's The Joshua Tree, played from start to finish, in the original song order. Above, is the set list from Vancouver. Below, is the set list from Seattle, which swapped "MLK" for "Bad."
Glancing at the setlist, you might've seen an unfamiliar song title. "The Little Things That Give You Away" is a brand-new song from U2, and they're taking it for a spin on this tour. The song is an epically charged anthemic ballad, much like U2's signature fare, and when fans learn it better, there's sure to be even more fist-pumping than there was in this video. "The Little Things That Give You Away" is the first track on their upcoming album, Songs of Experience.
And since this The Joshua Tree shows are chocked full of treats for die-hard fans, there was even more rare experiences to be had. The setlist also revealed that they played "A Sort of Homecoming," the first track from 1984's The Unforgettable Fire, for the first time in 16 years.
When U2 announced that they'd be playing The Joshua Tree in its entirety, many fans speculated if they'd break out "Red Hill Mining Town" for the first time ever on stage. Those fans had their curiosity quenched when the band made the track's live debut in Vancouver. The performance featured footage and added sound from a brass band recorded on the big screen. Recently, "Red Hill Mining Town" was remixed by producer Steve Lillywhite and released on Record Store Day on a picture disc.
Even if you got nosebleed tickets, you could clearly see the majestic imagery spanning out behind the band. A lot of the footage appears to be from the famous Joshua Tree National Park.
Bono has never been one to hold back, so he made the Joshua Tree stage his soapbox. The frontman took on Donald Trump and women's rights, saying, "I see my own daughter with her clenched fist and her ‘Pussy Power’ hat on at a woman’s march and I’m so proud of her."
"It’s women who are really grabbing a hold of the protest and dissent against what’s happening now," Bono said. "And the women’s movement needs to be recognized and saluted for taking this leading role."
The Edge agreed, saying that more protest needs to come from music: "Music has been very muted in its response. The only connect and the only response to what is happening is coming from the women’s movement. They have the vision and they’re doing important grass-roots work."
Bono also added that people who voted for Trump are welcome at the shows, but the president himself is not.
Fans freaked out when Bono invited "spirit of Seattle" Eddie Vedder on stage to help sing "Mothers of the Disappeared." And the Pearl Jam frontman wasn't the only guest. Openers Mumford & Sons -- "spirit of our great island," Bono said -- joined the supergroup under the spotlight as well. They all howled out the song's chorus, leading a singalong until the closeout of the Joshua Tree part of their set.
Before playing "Exit," U2 played footage of a man called Walter Trump who makes false promises and tells people that they need to build a wall for safety. The eeriely relevant clip is actually from a TV show called "Trackdown" from 1957. People cheered as one of the actors said, "You're a liar, Trump."
With the massive stage, nature imagery and protruding skyline of Seattle, photos were meant to be taken.
If none of this interested you somehow, here's U2 in a golf cart.
FIND TICKETS FOR
FIND TICKETS FOR