* Be fair warned, there be #U2TheJoshuaTree2017 concert spoilers below *
Well, one thing about being on a plane that is grounded for two hours due to weather – I finally have time to write this post! Now, how to put in to words all the feels from the past days???
So, maybe you don’t know this about me yet, but I am a HUGE U2 fan… I know, shocking, right? I am pretty subtle about it… It’s not like I talk about them incessantly or wallpaper my living room wall with their posters or anything… But I am (and I do both of these things :D). I love these guys. I am absolutely head over heels in love with them. I would follow them to the ends of the world… oh wait… I have. In fact I am in the process of doing that as we speak. Or at least I will, if this plane ever gets off the ground…
You see, U2 are on tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree and I am on the road with them (so to speak). The West Coast Tour – Vancouver, San Francisco (Santa Clara), and Pasadena! Happily, opening night was in Vancouver, the closest show to my current home and the Canadian city closest to my heart. Funny thing, I used to think maybe opening nights are not the best shows to go to – the bands and techs, etc haven’t worked out the kinks. At least that’s what I told myself when opening shows were very far away from me… Then last tour opened in Vancouver and for the reason above, I went. And now I am hooked! Opening shows are the best! The emotion! U2 and the fans have such huge separation anxiety from being apart from each other for so long that there is a crazy energy in the house. The anticipation is as thick as Guinness (ha, see what I did there?! Guinness… Irish… U2… Irish…). Im dead serious… U2 concert withdrawal is a real thing – there’s even a whole Facebook group dedicated to it… And there’s the newness! Being one of the first to see something! Especially in this day and age of social media, opening night is almost the only real chance to be surprised before fans post pictures, videos, setlists, and blogs like this one.
There was so much anticipation for this Friday May 12 opener that fans started lining up on the Wednesday! My friends and I, ourselves, arrived in line around 10:30am on Friday. There were already about 550 people in line when we got there. …. and we waited…. and waited… The fun thing about lining up is you get to meet fellow fans, and not just those standing next to you. Again, social media has changed fan interaction – I mean, U2 fans have been finding ways to meet each other at concerts around the world for much of the band’s 40 year career (I remember seeing posts in the fan club’s magazine), but the ease and instant nature of Facebook etc. have revolutionized fan gatherings! I had the pleasure of meeting a number of fellow fans in Vancouver that I either met during the last tour or have been chatting in various U2 Facebook groups for some time. There is something so human about meeting people that share the same passion as you. It’s an instant connection and added a new level of feels for me this tour. It is really a culture, a community – there is a shared language and knowledge, a history that brings with it a feeling of belonging and acceptance. I have found my tribe 😀 and it is such an amazing community! Funnily, a large number of the people I met were from Alberta! I’m planning on meeting more during the next stops on my tour as well – can’t wait! I’ve always said I need more U2 fans in my life!
Ok – wow when will I ever start talking about the actual show in Vancouver?? Now, right now!
As time gets closer to doors opening, I get more bouncy… I can’t help it! That anticipation is all pent up, I miss my boys, I miss seeing them play live, they are sooo good live and I know this is going to be epic. There are songs on TJT that have never been played live and there are songs that are played every single show but mean so much to me that I never tire of them. I’ve cheated and listened to the periscopes of the rehearsals in the 10 days before the concert and I got weepy just watching BC Place stadium change colours and listening to U2 bring these songs to life while sitting on my couch at home in Edmonton! Its going to be an emotional show in real life. Plus, I am just naturally impatient. I. Can. Not. Wait!
Finally, they start letting us in BC Place, we walk/run to the stage and the size of the venue is noticeable – its much further to run to the stage than the past arena shows, lol. The size of the b stage – the Joshua Tree stage – is massive. The size of the main stage is gargantuan. Apparently it is 8 feet tall… The size of the backdrop is, well, bigger than gargantuan… I cannot breathe! (Though that could be from the jaunt across the stadium…)
Waiting in line since 1030am gets you 2-3 people back from the rail. At least, that’s where we were – just a little to the Adam side of the centre of the Joshua Tree stage. (See, U2 friends will know exactly what this means :D.). The rail is the holy grail (Ha ha I kill me!). It is, of course, the closest you can get to the band and it is something to sit against for the next 2 hours before the opening act starts. It is something to lean against once they do start – and trust me – the u2 fandom are aging like the band – most of us in our 40s and 50s – after spending 3 days or 8 hours in line, you need something to lean against.
Mumford and Sons opened in Vancouver – they were pretty good – we couldn’t really see them from where we were – to many tall people all around, but they sounded great. Apparently, thousands of people were stuck outside of BC Place while they played – something happened with the credit card entry or something and BC Place couldn’t get them in in time. Someone posted on social media that eventually BC Place just opened the doors and let everyone in without scanning tickets! U2 waited for everyone to get in before starting their set, which meant a 20 minute delay.
Then Larry walked on stage and all the way down to the JT stage to the sound of 50,000 people losing their minds… I’ve loved past tours where he is the last one to leave at the end of the show, playing us out on drums, nothing but the beat. As he is the one who put that infamous note on the board at school looking for musicians to form a band, it is fitting to end the shows with him alone. This time, he started the show. It is significant in meaning and emotion to have him start out – this is, after all, the Larry Mullen Band.
Then the rest walk out and what’s left of our minds is completely blown. They start with Sunday Bloody Sunday – a crowd pleaser everywhere except, perhaps, Belfast (the silence during this song at the Belfast show last tour was shocking for me, but as one Belfastian (?) explained, although U2 have said over and over that it is NOT a rebel song (meaning on the side of those wanting a united Ireland – i.e. Supporting rebellions against the British rule..), many in the North take it as such. It is a divisive song there, and so, no reaction.)
Next is New Year’s Day, followed by A Sort of Homecoming. I love this song, this is my travel to Ireland song. “I’ll be there, I’ll be there, tonight…” “Tonight, at last, I am coming home.” Home is where the heart is and for me, that is Ireland. This night though, for U2, I think in many ways they are talking about the stage, the Joshua Tree album, and Vancouver as the homecoming. The stage/this tour is an obvious homecoming- this is a live band. As phenomenal as their recorded music is, U2 shine live. I’m going to go ahead and say it is why they are as big as they are – I personally think they are amazing musicians, truly gifted, but it didn’t start that way… however they’ve always had that gravity that pulls people in when they play live… the stage is their home and so this is their homecoming – the opener after 17 months hiatus from the last tour. Honouring the Joshua Tree is also a sort of homecoming – this album catapulted them to fame – and with that came a lot of baggage – to the point that Bono at one point referred to Achtung Baby as “the sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree.” Thirty years later, this is still their biggest album and it has stood the test of time. This tour is a return of sorts to this album. And Vancouver, this band loves Vancouver, they’ve opened two tours now, closed a leg of a third tour and have rehearsed here for another tour. Bono has said that Vancouver is good for their new tour anxiety, they feel free in this city. This tour is a sort of homecoming to Vancouver as well.
MLK and Pride finish off the pre-JT era of their music and they start walking to the main stage and things go red. That massively gargantuan backdrop is a massively gargantuan, super clear, high definition video screen and it is now the red of Streets and the Joshua Tree comes to life, in lights, and in song. That screen soon displays some of the most gorgeous video of the Joshua Tree National Park and area and other images taken by Anton Corbijn, the photographer who took the iconic photos for the Joshua Tree album. These songs and these images are breath-taking.
The visual aesthetics are simple in that it is just a screen and some lights, compared to last tour’s cage screen and previous tour theatrics, but they are stunning. This is another reason why U2 are phenomenal live – they and their team know how to put on a show and in each tour they break ground in technology, art design, etc. This may be stripped down in some ways, but the cinematic experience is touching all the feels and visual stimulation.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs and the emotions are pouring out of me the whole night- pure joy, a whole lotta love, gratitude to be seeing them again and for the music that has framed my life, sadness, frustration, anger; these songs take me through the gamet of emotions, all wrapped in the rapture of loving this band. These are my Rock Gods and we are in the Church of U2.
I love these songs. Ask me my favourite off the album and I will probably say With or Without You, it is classic. It is the perfect song, with perfect emotion, emoting. But then there is Red Hill and the passion in Bono’s voice; In God’s Country; Running to Stand Still and Exit and the devastation of drug abuse. One Tree Hill, you wanna talk emotions… this song and the loss of a loved one. I just can’t even… that last part of the song…Bono, jeez, are you trying to make us cry our hearts out… There is so much relevance to today’s world and Bono takes us to war torn Syria, to the refugee crisis, he thanks Canada for our welcome arms but we know there is so much more to do; he takes us to the wall – strangely there is this old western where this guy called Trump says he is gonna build a wall.. I thought it was overdubbed – at least Trump’s name, but no, its real. Surreal.
U2 somehow focus on the present and future with the delivery of these 30 year old songs, I don’t know how but it doesn’t feel old to me. They do, however, add a few meaningful touchs from the past – Bono brings back the handheld spotlight to shine on the Edge during Bullet the Blue Sky and he comes out on stage at one point in his hat and vest fashion of 1987… It took me awhile to notice, distracted by the hat and vest, that he also wasn’t wearing his glasses! This blue-eyed boy! Be still my beating heart!
And after TJT, they came back for an encore of songs post TJT, including Ultraviolet, dedicated to all the women in the world and all we do… and a new song, a beautiful number called The Little Things That Give You Away. New Music, people! What a lovely gift to hear it live before it is released!
And just like that it is over… This, my friends, is why I go to more than one show a tour; because the moment it is done, I instantly miss them, I miss the rush, the excitement leading up to the concert and the emotions during. I am always reminded of Kirsten Dunst in Interview With A Vampire, after drinking her first blood as a vampire, she whispers in that addicted, life depends on it, doesn’t know how or when to stop, would drink it all till she dies tone “I want some more…” Yep. That’s the feeling…