The Joshua Tree was released one year before I was born, but it became the first album I got to know really well. You see, my mom was not only a U2 fan, but she had a big, fat crush on Bono. She used to rent band documentaries from Wherehouse Music and entire car rides would be dedicated to a particular U2 album. In middle school, she even bought me a pair of jeans from Bono’s newly launched fair-trade brand, Edun.
So when I found out that U2 was coming to Levi’s Stadium for The Joshua Tree’s 30th anniversary, I knew I not only had to go, but I had to bring her, too. The following review consists of our combined perspectives and opinions on the night.
Mom: When we were driving there, I was wondering what kind of people would be in the crowd. I was a little nervous that I would stand-out because I’m a little old to be going to concerts. It turned out to be a really eclectic mix of people. I was surprised. There were a lot of younger people there who were just as into it as I was when I first saw U2 in 1992 at Dodger’s Stadium in Los Angeles.
Jessie: The crowd was pretty much what I expected: People between the ages of 20-50, and a lot of women (especially moms).
Mom: The minute the lights went down, my feelings of unease at being at a concert immediately dissipated. Bono and the other three members of U2 walked down the runway onto the stage in the pit as “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” — the first track on the band’s third album War — trickled through the speakers. Throughout the concert, U2 played a few songs that weren’t from The Joshua Tree, like “Beautiful Day” (All That You Can’t Leave Behind); “New Year’s Day” (War); and “A Sort of Homecoming,” “Pride (In The Name of Love),” and “Bad” (The Unforgettable Fire). I was transported back in time because their instruments and their voices sounded just as brilliant as they did back in ’92.
Jessie: First of all, Bono looks great for 57. I recognized lead guitarist and keyboardist Edge right away (he hasn’t changed either!), and the whole crew looked like they could be in a GAP commercial with their overabundance of denim and jean.
Mom: While I agree — they looked great — what I loved is that the performance was nothing theatric or over-the-top. It was pure, raw energy and conviction. The only thing that bugged me was when Bono introduced the band. I almost felt possessive and thought if people don’t know the members of U2, they don’t deserve to be here. But I loved how they didn’t resort to dramatics.
Jessie: The main thing that struck me from the get-go was the absence of screens projecting up-close footage of the band for those, like myself and thousands of others, who had seats far from the stage. Granted, they did start showing some closer footage halfway through the concert, but it was more artsy and stylized than informative. While I think it’s cool that U2 seemed to care so little about the performative aspect of their show — it was more of a shut-up-and-play-the-hits concert— it was pretty different from what I was used to seeing. The last few arena concerts I’ve been to were for Beyonce, Kanye West, Metallica, and G-Eazy, all three of which had screens depicting footage of them, as well as tons of props, lighting tricks, back-up dancers, and guest artists.
Mom: I’ve seen my fair share of concerts and I loved that this was just about the music and the lyrics. They did nothing to detract from that. What was cool about the U2 footage was that it was grainy and black-and-white, which followed suit with the show’s minimalist theme.
Jessie: I usually find qualms with the sound at live shows, but I found nothing to complain about at U2’s concert. The band played their guitar-heavy tunes exactly how they recorded them three decades ago, and there were no random, extended guitar or drum solos. Unlike most bands, U2 didn’t play any cover songs, and when you hear their records live, you realize just how similar the instrumentals in The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire are. Bono’s voice was also great and sounded as if no time had passed.
Mom: At first I was skeptical at how a 30 year old album would hold up, but once I was there — pretty much from the very first song — I realized the relevance of the lyrics in today’s world. I didn’t know if I should be amazed or depressed that they were still so applicable.
Jessie: Throughout the show, Bono slipped in encouraging one-liners, like “No more war! We’re so sick of it!” and “Awaken!” There was also a short anti-Trump video made of spliced footage from old black-and-white movies. I always associated The Joshua Tree and other early U2 albums with songs about love and romance, and it finally hit me last night just how political they are.
Mom: I have to admit that I’ve been feeling pretty disenfranchised lately, especially after the election. But after seeing U2 last night, my first reaction was to say “thank you” to them, because rediscovering their music and knowing that there’s a positive way to express these feelings and thoughts is reassuring and gives me a little bit of hope.