Review - U2 at London Stadium, London 2017
“There are more than 300 languages spoken in this city. Is London not the capital of the World?” These were the words of iconic front man Bono, as Irish rockers U2, performed in London on Saturday night in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their 1987 ground-breaking album, The Joshua Tree. Nostalgia was tangible in the air and Twickenham Stadium was packed with excited fans that likely were at this very album’s promotional tour three decades ago.
The warm summer’s eve was opened by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ hour set that included a few Oasis songs, like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Little by Little’. Aside from the 200 x 45 feet gigantic cinematic screen stretched behind the main stage and the Joshua tree-shaped smaller stage that extended 100 feet into the crowd, the performance set-up was simple with a drum-kit set up on each of the stages. I’ve heard that U2’s performance always comes with a deeper political message and as the stadium continued to fill up, this was evident with poems scrolling up the arena’s screen with poetry of somewhat controversial Jamila Woods, Naomi Shihab, Nye and Walt Whitman.
At around 20h30, the stadium volume increased and the intro to “You saw the whole of the Moon” sparked the crowd to erupt and U2’s drummer Larry Mullen to walk down the ramp to take his seat at the second drum kit on the unpretentious smaller stage. As he played the opening percussion of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, lead guitarist, The Edge came on and broke into the well-known opening guitar riff, followed by Bono and bassist, Adam Clayton joining amongst a plethora of cheering fans.
After finishing the band’s first anthem, Bono thanked the crowd for “letting us back into your lives (again)” and mentioned that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. In celebration of the Pride in London Parade earlier on the day, Bono referred to the crowd as the “rainbow people of the streets of London” and following loud applause to the commentary asked the crowd to raise their arms for ‘New Year’s Day’. For the first three songs the screen was turned off and with the band performing on the tree-shaped smaller stage amongst adoring fans, it felt more intimate. During ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’ the famous words from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a Dream…” floated over the screen.
As the band moved to the main stage to kick of The Joshua Tree album in its entirety, the crowd reached thunderous pitch with the opening chords of ‘Where the Streets Have No Name.’ The 8K-resolution screen was put to real use and turned bright red with the image of a Joshua tree, followed by a short film of a never-ending lonely stretch of desert road. The complementary visuals continued to amaze throughout, with images of amongst others, desert landscapes, mountain ranges and a few short films, some by Dutch photographer and film-maker, Anton Corbijn, whose photography accompanied the original recording.
The band’s performance and Bono’s vocals remained powerful and confident through the extraordinary speaker set-ups around the stadium. As the night continued the energy continued to build, anthem-after-anthem with the crowd singing, dancing and reliving the soundtrack to their youth. Highlights were “’With or Without You,’ with an image of a magnificent sunset covered mountains that lit up the stage; ‘Bad’ that had Bowie’s “Heroes” worked into it and the performance of ‘Red Hill Mining Town,’ where, during the horn section, they featured a Salvation Army Band on the LED screen, flawlessly incorporated into the song and finally, and undoubtable, the impressive high-definition visuals that consistently added to the experience but never overpowered the quartet of seasoned musicians.
The band played for almost 2 hours and sequentially performed all the songs from The Joshua Tree with more recent years popular songs, ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘Elevation’ and ‘One’ thrown into the mix as a closing. Surprisingly, the mammoth night was brought to a less mammoth close with Noel Gallagher joining U2 on stage for an acoustic-led finale of Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger.’
Is it just money talking or a clever tactic to make a comeback by touring your most successful album? Will this commemorative tour be followed with a new release? For the moment, who cares? U2 hardcore fans had an unforgettable night and the boerie-roll I bought from the South African braai stall outside the stadium was just perfect.
Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year’s Day
Where the Streets Have No Name
Still Haven’t Found
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared
Miss Syria (Sarajevo)
Don’t Look Back In Anger