U2’s tribute to great Australian women


U2 pay tribute to an awe-inspiring roll call of inspirational Australian and indigenous women during their long-awaited Joshua Tree tour of Australia.

As they perform the 1991 hit Ultraviolet (Light My Way), the images of more than a dozen "luminous" women from Olympics champion Cathy Freeman to world-renowned comedian Hannah Gadsby are broadcast on the giant screen.

The band partnered with the Herstory project, which uses feminist art to engage people of all genders with women's history, to spotlight influential trailblazers with Melinda Gates, Ellen DeGeneres and Greta Thunberg among those who have appeared on the video wall during the Joshua Tree concerts.

During the New Zealand concerts, politicians Jacinda Ardern and Helen Clark, as well as actor and activist Lucy Lawless were featured during the montage.

The Australian roll call of women U2 and the Herstory team included at the opening night in Brisbane was dizzying in its eclecticism and scope.

The first indigenous woman to win an Olympic gold medal and former politician Nova Perris shared her image on social media and declared herself "honoured" to be included.

"An honour! On the big screen … alongside other formidable female leaders and activists from around the world in a dedicated montage," she wrote, adding the hashtag #povertyissexist

There were several indigenous women featured in the Ultraviolet display including artist and language conservator Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher James, social justice commissioner June Oscar and youth activist Aretha Brown.

LGBTQ leaders including marriage equality campaigner and beloved actor Magda Szubanski and pioneers of lesbian advocacy Phyllis Papps and Francesca Curtis also appear on the big screen.

The screen montage should prove hugely educational for U2 fans who are quick with their camera phones and want to dive deeper into the stories of the featured women.

Inspirational figures such as champion swimmer Annette Kellerman, one of the first women to wear the one-piece bathing suit in the early 1900s - and arrested at the height of her popularity in 1907 on Revere Beach, Massachusetts for indecency.

Or modernist photographer Olive Cotton, surfer Isabel Letham and feminist Merle Thornton, who famously chained herself to the bar rail of the Regatta Hotel in 1965 to protest the exclusion of women from public bars in Queensland.

Feminist Merle Thornton with actor daughter Sigrid. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter.
Feminist Merle Thornton with actor daughter Sigrid. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter.

The Ultraviolet tribute sprang from frontman Bono's wish to include an "ode to women" in the concert.

The band's longtime creative director Willie Williams told u2.com that the singer and human rights campaigner wanted to inspire fans during the Joshua Tree concerts.

"He'd observed that at various times in human history, a more feminine spirit has taken the lead; the Renaissance and '60s counterculture being examples," Williams said.

"The thought was that we are currently living in a time when we could really use a more feminine spirit in our leadership and a way to illustrate this might be to celebrate some of the great female pioneers of the past."

The rockers also paid tribute to some of their male Australian friends, including a slice of Midnight Oil's Beds Are Burning during Bad.

Bono's friendship with Michael Hutchence was also highlighted with a mash-up of Devil Inside during Vertigo, with INXS drummer Jon Farriss in the Brisbane crowd on Tuesday night.

U2 head to Melbourne for their Marvel Stadium concert on Friday.

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