Sunday 30 July 2017

On Stage: U2 @ Johan Cruyff Arena

Like many people I really started getting into U2 when they released their epic album The Joshua Tree. I was a teenager and got to see them for the first time a few years later after Rattle and Hum came out. I didn't miss any tour since then, until two years ago when I decided to skip the Innocence and Experience tour. Their musical glory days are long gone and their concerts with more show and visual entertainment than music didn't really work for me. Afterwards I regretted that when I read the reviews and heard the stories. Time to make it up!

U2 at Johan Cruyff Arena, July 29 2017

Thirty years after the album, U2 have built a tour around The Joshua Tree. Not only to celebrate the album but also because the album's themes are relevant nowadays again. Back then the world was in a dark place like today, facing many challenges, and the album was about both the dark side and the spark of hope, a tree in a dead landscape. U2 wants to plant the tree again and show there is a way out of these dark times once again. When the tour was announced I was on vacation and wasn't able to get tickets because of that. I thought it wasn't a big deal, since I also don't like this big stadium with its poor sound and lack of atmosphere.

After seeing videos from the start of the tour and reading the reviews I changed my mind. Time again to call Ticketswap to the rescue and after weeks of trying I made it through. So on a rainy Saturday night in July I find myself in the big stadium, getting warmed up by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. I like his music and it's entertaining to hear them live again together with a few Oasis songs. But he's not exactly putting a lot of effort in it to win people over. Of course he has seen it all and may not need this support slot to take it to the next level.

After a while we see drummer Larry Mullen Jr. walking to the small stage in front of the big stage with the huge screen that fills the entire back of the stadium. He's still in the dark and sits down behind the drum kit that has been put up there. Mullen starts playing the famous drum groove of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' while the rest of the band join him one by one. U2 is warming us up with a few of their most famous songs. 'New Year's Day', a wonderful version of 'Bad' including David Bowie reference. Only a few spot lights are on the band members, a rare view of this band and one we haven't seen for a long time. 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' follows, the song about Martin Luther King, a man they always have admired. During the song the giant screen switches on and we see the words of King's famous "I have a dream" speech rolling by.

The screen colours solid red and we hear the humming sound of 'Where The Streets Have No Name's intro. The band walks onto the big stage, pauses there for a moment next to the big tree before kicking into the legendary album. An empty road shows and we're on the move. We know we're going to hear the entire album tonight, track by track in the record's track list order. Every song has a stunning visual on the big screen, most of them done by Anton Corbijn, the Dutch photographer and film director, who also made the famous picture of the record's artwork. Bono salutes him a few times during the concert as he salutes a few other people and references David Bowie a few times more. The visuals are lush, incredibly clear without taking the attention away from the music. Instead they are actually supporting it, emphasizing the themes of the songs and the album.

After the opening track and hit songs of the album 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' and 'With Or Without You', the band goes into the more grim part of the record, the vicious 'Bullet The Blue Sky', working their way up to the dark end. The songs are still timeless and the reason U2 wanted to bring them alive in 2017 is quite clear and otherwise the visuals and Bono will explain it. Because this is U2 and you know the singer will address some of the world's biggest problems and give their vision. However you notice this band is no longer a young band. Besides the fact they move a lot slower around stage, the songs also sound less fierce and lack a bit of the old fire. However together with the visuals, the strength of the songs themselves and the enthusiastic fans, the music doesn't miss its impact and the message does come across.

After the album we get treated to a long encore with some of their biggest hits of the last two decades, when their music became less urgent and successful. Nevertheless U2 proves they are still a one of a kind band that still manages to maintain a unique level of live shows that is able to move and inspire a lot of people. They proved me wrong of thinking I had seen all they had to offer and had no reason to visit their shows any more. They can count me in again the next time they visit our country and hopefully the world is seeing brighter days once again.

All Pictures

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01. Sunday Bloody Sunday
02. New Year's Day
03. Bad
04. Pride (In the Name of Love)
The Joshua Tree
05. Where the Streets Have No Name
06. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
07. With or Without You
08. Bullet the Blue Sky
09. Running to Stand Still
10. Red Hill Mining Town
11. In God's Country
12. Trip Through Your Wires
13. One Tree Hill
14. Exit
15. Mothers of the Disappeared
16. Miss Sarajevo(Passengers cover)
17. Beautiful Day
18. Elevation
19. Vertigo
20. Mysterious Ways
21. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
22. One

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