U2 is one of those bands that has been with me throughout my musical journey in life. I started going to concerts in the early ‘90s, and the Zoo TV and PopMart tours were some of the first concert experiences I had. At that time, I was only able to go to a couple of concerts a year. I remember being amazed at the whole experience – the music, the lights, the video – and of course, being thrilled to be in the same building as one of my favorite bands.
Today, I am officially a live music junkie and I go see 50+ shows a year. I’ve seen every U2 tour beginning with Zoo TV (including the Elevation tour, the Vertigo tour, the 360o tour, and the Innocence + Experience tour twice), for a total of seeing U2 live 7 times. So, you would think when they came around to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on a hot June evening on their latest tour, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal for me. But it was…
This was U2 celebrating the 30th anniversary of their groundbreaking album – The Joshua Tree – by playing it in its entirety during the show. The Joshua Tree is one of those albums that helped me develop the musical tastes I have today. It’s one of those albums that when asked, I always put in my top 5 or 10 albums of all time. It’s also one of those albums that 30 years later, even though I don’t listen to it very often anymore, I can still sing almost every word to every song.
I didn’t get to see the original Joshua Tree tour in 1987. I was still in high school, and going to concerts was not something a) my parents could afford, and b) my parents would even consider letting me do. So, having the opportunity to experience the album live today, was something that I will cherish forever.
But, before we get to U2, we need to cover the opening band, who is also one of my favorites and well worth your time to check out – The Lumineers!
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The Lumineers are a folk rock band based out of Colorado. The band formed in 2005 with Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums). In 2010, they added Nelya Pekarek, a classically trained cellist, to the band.
I first came across The Lumineers when they opened for the Dave Matthews Band in December of 2012. That was right around the time that their hit single “Ho Hey” was popular, and on regular rotation at alternative rock radio stations. I remember not knowing any of the other songs during their set, but being extremely impressed with the band.
Since that time, they’ve had huge success. With the release of their second studio album – Cleopatra – the band went out on their own headlining tour in 2016/17 and have had great success, including selling out two nights at Madison Square Garden. The Lumineers are known for putting on high energy shows, and their opening set for U2 was no exception.
Download The Lumineer’s latest album Cleopatra here.
After opening their set with two lesser known songs – “Submarines” and “Flowers in Your Hair” – they got right into the song that put them on the map – “Ho Hey” – followed by their most recent release “Cleopatra”.
The band then slowed things down with “Charlie Boy”. Wesley introduced the song by first wishing the crowd a Happy Father’s Day. He then explained how his Uncle Charlie (his Dad’s eldest brother) had dreamed of being a doctor, but put his plans on hold after hearing President Kennedy give a speech. After hearing the speech, his Uncle Charlie decided to enlist and go fight in Vietnam. Uncle Charlie was killed while in Vietnam, and Wesley used the story to explain how the words of our Presidents really do have an impact on people, and can change the course of their lives. It was a great moment leading into a beautiful song.
The Lumineers went into the last few songs of their set by playing their current radio hit “Ophelia”, before closing out the set with “Stubborn Love”. Wesley asked the crowd to sing along, and they had everyone out of their seats singing and dancing.
The Lumineers are opening for U2 for a few more dates in June, before heading to Europe for the month of July. They’ll be back in the U.S. in August, where they will open a few dates for Tom Petty. They wrap up their current tour schedule with a three-night stand at the end of August at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater in Colorado. Check out their website at www.thelumineers.com, and follow them on social media, to stay up to date on future shows. They are definitely a band worth checking out live!
Set List: Submarines, Flowers in Your Hair, Ho Hey, Cleopatra, Dead Sea, Charlie Boy, Slow It Down, Sleep on the Floor, Angela, Ophelia, Big Parade, Stubborn Love
U2 is one of those rare bands that have made the journey from playing small clubs, to bigger clubs, to arenas, to stadiums. Their music has evolved as they have gained popularity. They started out as a punk band, who changed their musical style to be more main stream so that they could attract more fans.
The Joshua Tree – released 30 years ago in 1987 – was really a turning point for the band. Musically, it’s when they put aside some of their old influences, and reinvented their musical style. From a popularity perspective, it’s when they made the jump from an “arena band” to a “stadium band”, and arguably the biggest rock band in the world.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with U2, they formed in Dublin in 1976. Always with the same four original members – Bono (lead vocals), The Edge (lead guitar), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums) – the band started to gain national attention with the release of their second studio album – War – which contained hits “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride”.
From that point on, U2 has reinvented themselves – both musically and with their tours – repeatedly. They’ve done everything from crazy outfits and concepts on the Zoo TV and PopMart tours, to the “claw” that made up the stage on the 360o tour. Even if you aren’t into the music, it’s an experience in and of itself to see U2 live in concert. You can be guaranteed that they will do something spectacular, and will come up with something new and innovative.
U2 (and particularly lead singer, Bono) is one of those bands that you either love or hate. There is no denying that Bono has very strong opinions, and is not afraid to express those opinions on stage. He also has an ego, and that can come across in the show. After the show last night, I heard someone comment that they were surprised U2 didn’t invite The Lumineers up to do a song. That is very unlikely to happen during a U2 show. Once the band is on stage, it’s all about them.
As a band that is always introspective, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree, they took an interesting approach. The show was broken up into three segments – U2 pre-Joshua Tree, U2 Joshua Tree, and U2 post- Joshua Tree. It gave the sold out crowd in Philadelphia a quick peek into their musical progression, and allowed us to hear some of the hits we love, in addition to the album that was being celebrated.
If you want to relive the album, download The Joshua Tree here.
As usual, the stage and the special effects are as much a part of the show as the band. Behind the main stage, there was a huge video screen that was utilized throughout the show. Off the main stage was a walkway, that led to a smaller stage in the middle of the general admission section – right about the 30-yard line of the football field.
The band opened up their set on the smaller stage, with four songs from their pre-Joshua Tree catalog – “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”, “Bad” and “Pride”. All four songs are classics, and popular with both die-hard U2 fans, as well as more casual fans. Even with their earlier work, the Edge had already established a guitar sound that is recognizable immediately. Additionally, their lyrics were already reflective of the social consciousness that the band has become famous for.
As the last notes of “Pride” were played, the lights went down and the band started making their way towards the main stage. Soon, you could hear the unmistakable opening guitar riff of “Where the Streets Have No Name”. The video screen lit up a reddish orange color, with a picture of a Joshua Tree. And we were off!
The first three songs from the album – “Where the Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, and “With or Without You” – are by far the most recognizable songs from the album. Followed closely by “Bullet the Blue Sky” (one of my personal favorite U2 songs), those songs not only received a lot of radio play in their day, but very typically make appearances in the set list for most of U2’s tours. In fact, I can’t recall a U2 show I’ve seen, where they didn’t play “With or Without You”.
The rest of the Joshua Tree album is less well known, but not lower in quality. In fact, I think some of the best songs on the album are the ones that weren’t the big hits. They moved into the less recognizable songs with “Running to Stand Still”, which is a beautiful quiet song ending with Bono playing the harmonica.
Of course, the highlight of the show for any die-hard U2 fan, was when the band got to the B-side of the album, and played “Red Hill Mining Town”. It’s a song that the band has never played live until this tour, so it was a special treat for fans of the album and of the band. They continued through the album, including Bono introducing “Trip Through Your Wires” by saying he apologized for playing an instrument that he didn’t really know how to play (the harmonica). The band wrapped up the album with Bono and Adam out on the small stage for “Exit”, and Bono finishing things up on the small stage by himself for “Mothers of the Disappeared”.
After a very short break, the band walked out to play what Bono called “U2 future”. It featured songs post-Joshua Tree, all of which were some of their biggest hits.
For the last portion of the show, Bono started to get a bit more political. After opening with a cover of Passengers’ “Miss Sarajevo”, a huge banner was unrolled in the crowd that had the passport picture of a Syrian refugee named Omaima to highlight the plight of refugees around the world.
This was the springboard for Bono to speak about women’s rights, which led into the tour debut of “Mysterious Ways”. During the song, pictures of famous women such as Gloria Steinem, Hilary Clinton, Malala Yousufzai and Oprah Winfrey appeared on the video screen.
The political commentary continued, as Bono introduced “One”. He started out speaking about how America had played such an important role in helping to eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS, and he stressed the importance of politicians from both sides of the fence being critical to that happening. He then spoke of President Trump’s desire to destroy everything that had been accomplished with budget cuts.
The show wrapped up with three of U2’s biggest hits – “Beautiful Day”, “Vertigo” and “Elevation”. Even though it was after 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday night, the energized crowd stuck it out to the end. Although it was late after a long and steamy day, Bono had the crowd built up into a frenzy – dancing and singing along at the top of their voices.
I left the shows on the Innocence + Experience tour in 2015 a bit disappointed. I left the Joshua Tree 2017 tour on a total high! Not only did I feel like U2 was back and better than ever, but I got to experience something that most people don’t ever experience – seeing one of my favorite albums played by one of my favorite bands live, start to finish. It was a little disappointing that some people seemed to be bored with some of the B-side songs that weren’t as popular. But those of us who still know the words to all of those song after 30 years, were thrilled!
The Joshua Tree 2017 tour continues in the U.S. through the end of June, before the band heads to Europe to continue the tour there in July. They’ll be back in the U.S. for another set of dates in September, before heading to South America in October. While there is no doubt that the band will be back with more music and more tours in the future, catch this one if you can. It’s a classic! You can get more information at www.U2.com.
Set List: Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year’s Day, Bad, Pride (In the Name of Love), Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, 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, Exit, Mothers of the Disappeared, Miss Sarajevo, Mysterious Ways, Beautiful Day, Elevation, Vertigo