U2 clear the air from our unforgettable fires

IF YOU were wondering where U2 could possibly go after their last Australian tour featured a giant claw towering over an in-the-round stadium stage, the answer was simple: back to the music.

Sure, it was always about the music, but as the Irish rockers continued raising the bar for stadium spectacle, it began to overshadow the band itself.

Behind the scenes of U2's Australia tour

When love came to town: U2's Brisbane history

With the Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour, whose delayed Australian leg kicked off in Brisbane last night, the music is once again front and centre, though there is still a "wow" factor with the world's biggest 8K video screen providing a stunning backdrop of the American desert and other motifs. However it augments the performance rather than competing with it.

The downside? The mixing was sorely lacking, with regular distortion from stage right, and complaints on social media suggesting the problem was widespread.

 


The quote The Edge in the Rattle and Hum movie, "it's a musical journey".

U2 start out with their early hits, played on the smaller joshua-tree-shaped stage that protrudes into the audience. They then adjourn to the main stage to play their breakthrough 1987 album The Joshua Tree in its entirety. This is followed by post-Joshua Tree numbers alternating between the stages.

Brisbane had been gripped by smoke haze the previous day, and was likely to the next day. And Australia's bushfire crisis was foremost in Bono's mind.

"Firefighters we sing to you at this moment," he said, as he incorporated lyrics from Midnight Oil's Beds Are Burning into their song Bad.

One of the stunning vistas as U2 play the Joshua Tree album in its entirety. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP
One of the stunning vistas as U2 play the Joshua Tree album in its entirety. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP

 

"Thank you Brisbane for letting us back into your lives," he had said earlier.

"Thank you Australia for letting us back into your country.

"You've always been so good to us, in good times and in hard times."

Introducing Trip Through Your Wires, Bono said: "I'll tell you something about Irish people: We sort of think we invented everything - like boats and county music."

Drummer Larry Mullen Jr then chimed in with the fun facts that the Irish invented the ejector seat and the potato chip. Then guitarist The Edge added the submarine to the list of achievements (it was unclear whether it featured a screen door).

As for country music, Bono said, "The Americans perfected it and tonight we're gonna bury it," adding, "Sorry about that!" after their performance.

When they got to One Tree Hill, the band's ode to their New Zealand friend and roadie Greg Carroll, Bono paid tribute: "He stayed on board long after we lost him in 1986. It's a long time ago, but some wounds you don't want to heal over."

The Edge and Bono on stage in Brisbane. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP
The Edge and Bono on stage in Brisbane. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP

 

For Exit Bono donned the black hat and jacket that were a signature of the original Joshua Tree tour.

While the volume was frequently ear-splitting, there was respite in the form of quieter tunes such as Running to Stand Still, for which Bono whipped out his harmonica, and Every Breaking Wave, which featured the frontman accompanied only by The Edge on keyboard (with a little Mullen drums at the end).

(Ultraviolet) Light My Way was a tribute to the female of the species, with big-screen roll call of great women past and present, including Australia's own Merle Thornton, Cathy Freeman, Hannah Gadsby, Magda Szubanksi and Nova Peris.

And for customary closer One, Bono reminded us that no people is an island.

"Sea levels rise… your country burns. We can put these fires out if we act as one."

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, Angel of Harlem.  Encore:  Elevation, Vertigo, Even Better Than the Real Thing, Every Breaking Wave, Beautiful Day, Ultraviolet (Light My Way), Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way, One.



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