May 15, 2017

U2 Joshua Tree in Vancouver – Soul Searching and Spoilers


So it’s been a full 3 days since my last U2 experience- since the band culminated their week long (or month long?) rehearsals in Vancouver for the 30th anniversary of Joshua Tree, and how do I feel about the experience? Let’s start by saying this:

My brother introduced me to U2 all those many years ago after finding one of their cassettes at a garage sale. Told me I ‘had’ to listen to this band. The cassette was ‘Wide Awake In America’- a 4 song double-sided tape that blew me away, as it did him. We couldn’t afford tickets to the band’s first Joshua Tree tour when they came to Vancouver 30 yrs ago. But since it was at BC Place, which was known for better sound outside than inside, we sat outside on the benches for the band’s first 4 songs listening, until a scalper took pity on us, and not having been able to sell his real paper tickets, literally gave them away. I still remember ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ making the hair in the back of my neck stand up. And how interactive the band was with the audience: I had never seen a band use a ‘B’ stage before to get closer to the audience.

Flash forward to 10 yrs ago and U2‘s Vertigo Tour and the band just as or more so, interactive with the fans and audience as Bono strives to promote the One Campaign in the USA and Make Poverty History in Canada – and my first general admission experience with U2 ever. 20 hours in line in a snowstorm in December in Portland. The payoff was being front row. Close enough to tie The Edge’s chucks shoelaces  together if security would let me. Close enough to hear Edge harmonizing ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ without the mic and speakers. So yes, I think that experience might have spoiled me – but I’m very used to U2 being spontaneous, interactive, and almost always a 2+ hr show, so this show was a bit of a disappointment for me.

The production was top notch! The screen behind the band portrayed old black and white footage from U2 photographer Anton Corbijn that gave flashbacks galore to the album cover and liner notes, in moving 3D. The screen was also interactive with a Salvation Army band playing along with U2 ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ at one point as the band stripped the song down, slowing it down as well.  The screen lit up in red for a few songs, punching a hole right through the sky and showing “7 towers with no way out” for other songs, and the band used it to full advantage without it being overblown or overdone.

But I missed the U2 of old! The smiling spontaneous Bono who would joke with the crowd, call a girl (or guys) up to dance, and make fun of drummer Larry. It seemed like U2 had a specific agenda and dammit they were going to get through it. Considering U2 has often said ,”to hell with paying a fine to the venue for pkaying overtime” this show seemed much too short by U2 standards- just over an hour into the gig and the band was saying goodnight. Granted they put the first ‘goodnight’ that soon in because they’d just played the entire Joshua Tree album and that would be the natural ‘break’ – they did come back for an encore, but it seeemed much much too short. And I guess we are so used to the band saying goodnight with perennial crowd pleaser ‘40‘ that when this didn’t happen it seemed a let down. It felt like a big chunk of change was missing as they wound it down with only about 6 extra songs. Definitely not one of their best shows. ANY U2 show is great. Truly. But this wasn’t ‘fantastic’ and since they’ve raised the bar this high, and since I did general admission (which meant lining up for 10 hours) I fully expected absolute ‘greatness’ even on first show out of the gate. (Go figure.)

Is this U2 tour worth seeing? Absolutely. Are they worth $400 bucks per seat? No band is. Grab a general admission ticket for cheap cheap, get there when they say doors open (or an hour sooner) , stand at the back by the soundboard where you have room to dance and see the screen and astounding production, and enjoy. No need on this tour to fight to be up front.

And yes! Bono is as political as ever. Thank God for that. He’s a little more subtle but just as passionate so some things never change. And he’s still wearing his ONE band..  Take the show for what it is and you’ll not be disapppointed. It’s worth going.

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