Before starting this review, I have to say I have been a very big U2 fan for much of my life. I have seen each tour since the Elevation Tour in 2001. To be able to officially cover a show of theirs was a big milestone for me. I went down to Bonnaroo this year, and while I didn’t get to officially cover the show, it was spectacular none the less. Getting the green light to cover the second of two shows at MetLife Stadium was a dream come true and is what doing this for a living is all about.
U2 are an institution at this point in their career and have nothing left to prove to anyone. They have constantly changed their sound to reinvent themselves with the times and have never looked backwards. This all changed when they decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their breakthrough album The Joshua Tree. The first four songs on the album have been played at almost every show since they debuted, but it’s the rest of the album that shines at this show.
“Running to Stand Still” has been in and out of the set since the Vertigo Tour and has not lost any of its punch. “Red Hill Mining Town” was rearranged by the band so they could play the song, adding in horns and changing the tempo slightly. They always had difficulty figuring out how to perform this one, so this tour marks the first time it is being played. The eruption that took place after the song ended definitely showed how appreciative the crowd is that this great song was revived by the band. “Trip Through Your Wires” was also happily greeted by the audience as a whole as it hasn’t been played since the original Joshua Tree tour.
Easily a highlight of the set was “Exit,” with Bono turning into his new character for the tour called The Shadow Man. The song has a history with the band, both good and bad, and to bring it back to life Bono has said he needed to invent a new way of performing it. The performance he gives is visceral and captivating. The song had been off the shelf since 1989 and if they can keep performing it like this, hopefully the song stays in the set. After “Mother of the Disappeared,” the band thanked the crowd and the album portion of the show was over. The album has held up extraordinarily and seeing it front to back was stunning.
The pre-album run through of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day,” “Bad” and “Pride” is a dream beginning to a concert. Most bands would kill to have one of those songs in their repertoire, let alone all four. The seven-song encore is another example of how deep the band’s catalogue is. “Miss Sarajevo,” including Luciano Pavarotti being piped through the speakers, started the encore with a video of Syrian teen Omaima in her refugee camp in Jordan. U2, and especially Bono, have never shied away from politics and the encore was littered with praise for women all over the world who have made a difference in the world.
The run of “Beautiful Day,” “Elevation,” and “Vertigo” had the crowd going absolutely wild, but the stadium lost some of its energy when the band went into “Mysterious Ways.” The song isn’t bad, it’s just a song that didn’t really work after those three barn burners. The beautiful “Ultraviolet (Light My Way),” a fan-favorite that was reintroduced to the setlist during the 360 Tour, brought the crowd back to life. A lengthy speech from Bono about how the world only needs to agree on one thing and not everything preceded the closing song “One.” A great evening came to an end with a wave from the band and a heartfelt thank you from all four of them.
This show cannot be discussed without mentioning the amazing production designed by Willie Williams, who has been with the band since 1982. The gigantic LED screen stretched across the entire width of the field and a B stage, where the band started the show and Bono went to a number of times, juts out in the crowd in the shape of The Jousha Tree. The films shown on the screen and the lighting used throughout the stadium were just breathtaking. There was a truncated version at Bonnaroo and being able to see the full production was fantastic. Willie is a legend in the business and there is good reason. To see what he’ll come up with next is exciting for the next tour they take.
Article: Bryan Lasky