U2 Joshua Tree Tour 2017 Comes to “The Loudest Stadium in the World” to Honor Women, Hurricane Survivors, The Royals and America, and to Shame Trump’s Hate
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO, USA September 12, 2017
U2 brought their Joshua Tree Tour 2017 to the World’s Loudest Stadium, Arrowhead Stadium, in Kansas City, MO, on Tuesday, September 12. It was the 38th stop in their 52-show tour covering Europe, Central America, South America and the United States.
The tour is named after their 1987 album Joshua Tree, one of the best-selling albums in the world, selling over 25 million copies. They played all 11 songs of the album in order, along with songs from their previous and later albums before and after the Joshua Tree set, for a total of 21 songs. This was the first time U2 ever played The Joshua Tree live in its entirety front to back, and some songs, like “Red Hill Mining Town,” had never been performed live before this tour.
Shout-Outs to Kansas Citians and the Royals
It was a beautiful night for an open air concert in Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs, which set a Guinness World Record for the loudest stadium, with 137.5 decibels registering during a Chiefs vs. Raiders game in October 2013. The stadium was at nearly full capacity for the Joshua Tree concert and the acoustics were magnificent, and every seat had a tremendous view of U2’s approximately 70 yard wide by 15 yard tall LED screen and state of the art motion graphics show. The Royals were playing the White Sox during the concert a few yards away in Kauffman Stadium, so Bono acknowledged them during the song “Beautiful Day” by changing the lyrics to “see the world in white and blue, KC Royals right in front of you.” And at one point in the show Bono asked “is there such a thing as Kansasians?” to which he added “well, you’re all Kickassians!”
Bono delivered his soulful vocals in top form, and The Edge played his special effects laden guitar licks with his usual perfection, as well as playing the piano. Bass player Adam Clayton and Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. were as tight as ever, and acted as youthful as ever as well. It was a thrill to see these legendary four performing their classics in front of the gigantic LED screen, with streaming footage of their performance integrated live into the light show with other moving imagery. The LED screen is the largest ever to be used by a band on tour according to U2 representatives, and it was curved in the center, with an extension jutting above it in the shape of the top of a Joshua tree. The stage extended far into the audience forming the shadow of the Joshua tree, making the music icons even more visible as they performed.
Joshua Tree Tour Perfect Timing in Wake of Trump Administration
The Joshua Tree Tour honors the 30th anniversary of U2’s Joshua Tree album, and the honor is timely. As Bono said, “it has taken many years for these messages to ring true,” in regard to the lyrics of the songs, which show U2’s love and appreciation for America, but also point out the disillusionment of Americans, evident now more than ever because of the Trump administration’s attack on their basic human rights. “We have to stay awake to dream, even in God’s Country,” Bono warned the audience.
Leading up to the Joshua Tree album sessions, Bono had been reading the works of American writers such as Norman Mailer, Flannery O’Connor, and Raymond Carver in order understand “those on the fringes of the promised land, cut off from the American dream.” Americans are feeling like part of this fringe now more than ever at this time in America’s history. This sentiment, as well as Bono’s love of American literature, was evident in the literary works that scrolled over the LED screen before the band took the stage. They included Carl Sandburg’s “The Prairie,” Walt Whitman’s “I Hear American Singing,” “Leaves of Grass,” and “This is What You Shall Do,” William Matthew’s “Why We Are Truly a Nation,” and Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again.” They served as a reminder of why American is truly great, a much more patriotic sentiment than any flag or any Make America Great Again hat.
Show Begins Intimately then Comes to Life with “Pride”
The first four songs were played with no LED screen or light show of any kind, just the band playing in an intimate spotlight as the sun went down and the sky slowly darkened. They opened with Sunday Bloody Sunday which contains the lyrics “I can’t believe the news today,” so appropriate for Trump’s new America. They then played New Year’s Day, which contains the lyrics “a crowd has gathered in black and white, arms entwined, the chosen few, the newspapers says, say it’s true it’s true…and we can break through, though torn in two, we can be one,” words which sound like they were written in 2017 not 1987, as they so aptly describe the protests in the street of the lovers versus the haters in our current divided America.
U2 then played Bad, a song about letting go, which Bono prefaced by saying “let us all let go of the past and embrace the new. We have a prayer… that we might have one of those nights that none of us forget. An epic night of rock and roll.” After Bad, with the LED screen still off and the skies completely dark, Bono said “Willie, turn off these lights. Let’s see the lights come on in the heart of America. Let’s see the stars!” at which point the spotlights were turned off and hundreds of cell phone flashlights dotted the arena like the lighters of the days of old. At that point, the LED screen finally came to life with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as the song Pride began. Anyone who did not have chills at this point was not alive. People stood up and raised their hands during the refrain, and started singing out loud “in the name of love!”
Joshua Tree Celebrates Greatness of Americans, Points Shameful Finger at President Trump
After Pride, U2 played their full Joshua Tree album 11-song set in its entirety, beginning with Where the Streets Have No Name. The LED screen showed moving footage that made you feel like you were in a vehicle traversing a desert road passing occasional people walking along it, looking like refugees making their way a welcoming land. Next came I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, where Bono stopped singing and let the audience sing the entire first refrain and chorus for him. “I believe in the kingdom come, where all the colors bleed into one,” go the lyrics, mirroring the ideal of America as a melting pot, where people all races and ethnicities live together as one integrated group of Americans. With or Without You came next, then Bullet the Blue Sky, where images of Americans of all races, ages, genders and ethnicities where shown standing in front of an American flag and donning U.S. Army helmets, a poignant reminder of the United States’ massive military budget that Americans are forced to pay for with their tax money without having any say in the matter.
Next in the Joshua Tree song list was Running to Stand Still, the ballad about addiction, where Bono played his harmonica and The Edge played piano. Then followed Red Hill Mining Town, where the band was backed by a video of a Salvation Army band whose music that was incorporated into the music of the band member’s instruments. It was a tear-jerking reminder how rural towns in America are dying as jobs move to corporate centers in big cities.
“Flipping over to side two of the Joshua Tree cassette,” announced Bono, before playing In God’s Country. “It’s taken us 30 years to really understand some of these songs—but this one was always clear,” he added, referring to the lyrics about dreamers coming to America to find liberty and opportunity. “The Irish have been coming to America to find safety and sanctuary for years,” said Bono. “We were the original Dreamers,” he said proudly, in obvious support of the DACA Dreamers, the 800,000 non-citizen US military veterans and children of immigrants who were granted renewable visas to live and work in America without fear of deportation through the 2012 DACA program, a program that Trump is now trying to eliminate. Trip Through Your Wires came next, then One Tree Hill which Bono said was “in honor of all those we knew who have died too young,” which was written as a tribute to Greg Carroll, a roadie and close friend of Bono’s who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1986.
Exit was played next, and was prefaced by a clip poking fun at a villain named “Trump” who was trying to build a wall to “protect” us all from the “bad” guys. The lyrics of Exit were inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1980 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Executioner’s Song, written about serial killer Gary Gilmore, and by Truman Capote’s 1966 novel In Cold Blood. Bassist Adam Clayton has said that the song’s lyrics “he saw the hands that build could also pull down” were a jab at the U.S. government’s conflicting roles in international relations, hence the video poking fun at Trump’s wall. Don McLeese of the Chicago Sun-Times has written that Exit suggests “the evil that can result from moral self-righteousness,” and music journalist Bill Graham wrote “for the first time, [Bono] was owning up to the dangers of the dualism implicit in Christianity.” Exit provides a shivering reminder of Trump’s use of Christian right extremist sentiment to push his agenda of hatred toward anyone not white, straight and Christian.
Mothers of the Disappeared was finally played, the last song on the Joshua Tree album, which lyrics imply criticism of the Reagan Administration which provided support for South American military regimes, and which honors the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of women whose children had forcibly disappeared at the hands of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships during that time. The four U2 legends thanked everyone for welcoming them to America and walked off stage, allowing the audience to whistle, yell and cheer in anticipation of their six-song encore.
Encore Songs Energize and Uplift
The first song of the encore was Beautiful Day, which in 2001 won three Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The audience and stadium were lit up with multicolored spotlights, adding to the beauty and uplifting feel of the song. Next played was Elevation, to which the audience raised their hands up, danced, and rotated their hips. You’re the Best Thing About Me was played next, a single from their forthcoming new album “Songs of Experience” which is slated to be released sometime in 2017. You’re the Best Thing About Me first emerged in August 2016 as a collaboration between U2 and Norwegian DJ Kygo during the Cloud 9 Festival. U2’s international hit Vertigo was played next, to a background of black and red spiraling and pulsating graphics.
Women Honored for Activism in “Herstory” Tribute
The second to the last song of the night was Ultraviolet (Light My Way), which Bono dedicated to all of the women in the world. “To the women who have sat down or stood up for their rights, to the women who have resisted, and insisted, and persisted, you light our way!” exclaimed Bono. The LED screen was then turned into a giant motion graphic presentation featuring pioneering women and women’s movements. The presentation began with the word “Herstory” in all caps, and went on to feature women, organizations and movements that have made strides in the political, musical, spiritual, scientific and civil rights movements of the world. The women, who come from a wide range of periods of history and backgrounds, included civil rights activist Heather Heyer, who was murdered at the Charlottesville Nazi demonstration when a white supremacist ran her over in his car. Also included were groups such as the Sari Squad, south Asian women who peacefully defended multicultural gatherings in London during the 1980’s from attacks from racists, and musical artists such as Pussy Riot, the Russian female punk band who were imprisoned for several years for staging performances supporting LBGT and women’s rights and opposing Vladimir Putin. The presentation was created by Russian historian Alice Wroe and Brazilian artist and motion graphics designer Susana Yamamoto.
Hurricane and Fire Survivors and Volunteers Honored
The last song of the night was One, which Bono dedicated to the survivors of Hurricane Harvey which hit Texas on August 25th, and of Hurricane Irma which hit Florida on September 10th, and to the first responders and to all the Americans who have donated time, money and supplies to victims. Bono said of Americans, “you can land someone on the moon or pull them from floodwater. There’s nothing this country can’t do!” During the song, the LED screen displayed the Texas flag, which morphed into the Florida flag, which morphed into the American Red Cross flag, which then gave a number to text in order to donate $10 toward relief efforts. Bono praised Americans by saying “there is so much division shown in the United States, but the people coming together to overcome the floods and the fires shows the real America.”
This article is dedicated to Anne Rippotoe Scharf, a great American woman from Prairie Village, Kansas, whose generous donation of tickets made this concert review possible.
U2 Song Lists
1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983 “War” album)
2. New Year’s Day (1983 “War” album)
3. Bad (1984 “The Unforgettable Fire” album)
4. Pride (In the Name of Love) (1984 “The Unforgettable Fire” album)
Entire 1987 “Joshua Tree” Album:
5. Where the Streets Have No Name (1)
6. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2)
7. With or Without You (3)
8. Bullet the Blue Sky (4)
9. Running to Stand Still (5)
10. Red Hill Mining Town (6)
11. In God’s Country (7)
12. Trip Through Your Wires (8)
13. One Tree Hill (9)
14. Exit (10)
15. Mothers of the Disappeared (11)
16. Beautiful Day (2000 “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album)
17. Elevation (2000 “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album)
18. You’re The Best Thing About Me (2017 single from their forthcoming new album “Songs of Experience)
19. Vertigo (2004 “How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” album)
20. Ultraviolet (Light My Way) (1991 “Achtung Baby” album)
21. One (1991 “Achtung Baby” album)