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U2 revisits The Joshua Tree Tour in Dallas 30 years later

Keaton Bell / Red Dirt Report
U2 takes the stageat AT&T Arena in Arlington, Texas on Friday night.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The world needs U2 now more than ever. 
 
In a world marred by division, anger, and cruelty at every corner, music has always stood as a way of bringing people together and communicating across various languages and cultures. No group understands this more than U2, who’ve never been shy about laying out their political and spiritual beliefs onto everything they touch. 
 
And exactly thirty years after they unleashed their magnum opus The Joshua Tree onto the world, the iconic rock group is taking a trip back to the desert with The Joshua Tree Tour 2017. Arguably the greatest rock album to come out of the ‘80s (or even the twentieth century, for that matter), The Joshua Tree’s cinematic nature seems almost tailor-made for sold-out stadiums and communal sing-alongs. 
 
But when U2 brought their act to the AT&T Stadium in Arlington Friday night, they made it very clear that this tour wasn’t some sort of nostalgia cash-grab. The Joshua Tree was already sociopolitically conscious and groundbreaking when it first came out in 1987. But thirty years later, seeing it played out live acts as a reminder of U2’s cultural significance as well as their (and our) never-ending fascination with “the American Dream.” 
 
After The Lumineer’s quietly engaging opening set, the already amped-up crowd was screaming in anticipation. In an arena crammed with upwards of 60,000 people, you’re gonna get a pretty diverse crowd regardless of the performer. Filled with all manner of ages, races, and creeds, the crowd in Arlington were all here to see U2 pour their hearts out and do the same in return. You couldn’t look one way or the other without seeing some dad rocking a t-shirt from the original Joshua Tree Tour
 
While it took nearly an hour between sets for the the main act to begin, that did nothing to dull the crowd’s thirst for music. The main stage had a Joshua Tree backdrop along with a Joshua Tree-shaped B-stage that extended out towards the crowd. You almost didn’t realize it was Larry Mullen Jr. walking down to his drum-set given the lights that still filled the arena and the audience talking to one another trying to figure out when the show was beginning. 
THROWBACK: U2 merchandise advertising for the 30-year old Joshua Tree album and tour on sale. (Keaton Bell / Red Dirt Report)
 
But when Mullen Jr. launched into that instantly-recognizable opening for “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and the lights went out as the stage lit up in red, the screams reached deafening heights. One-by-one the rest of the group walked out with the same swagger and ferocity they’ve possessed their entire career. 
 
Even if this is The Joshua Tree Tour, U2 opened up with some of their biggest hits outside of that album. After “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” they unleashed “New Year’s Day” onto the masses with chilling effect. Bono has always been the greatest rockstar on the planet, and his voice has only gotten better with age as proven by his impressive vocal runs on “Bad.” You’d swear you were listening to the group rocking out in 1984 by the time they reached “Pride (In The Name of Love).” When Bono proclaimed “We will find common ground reaching for higher ground!,” you couldn’t help but feel like hugging every stranger standing around you in joy. 
 
But it was time for the album the tour was named after, and U2 deserves major credit for bringing The Joshua Tree to breathing, visceral life. The sleek production is a major departure from the bombastic spectacle of their previous 360° Tour, but the more small-scale atmosphere only added to the warmth of the music. Songs like “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” didn’t need rotating stages or flashy visuals to resonate. Bono could’ve called the audience human garbage and we probably would’ve professed our love even louder. 
 
But while the stage may not’ve been elaborate, the visuals that accompanied each song were striking. Laced with pure Americana imagery, the winding roads, desert landscapes, and lush forests that backdropped each song all felt like the perfect accompaniment. For “Bullet the Blue Sky,” one of the band’s most overtly political songs, the images of men and women of various ages and races staring directly at the crowd as they put on Army helmets was chillingly effective. The same can be said of “Running to Stand Still,” which was performed with the sort of emotional intimacy that punches you straight in the gut. 
 
“From the Irish perspective, thank you for having us in your country!” 
 
Bono’s graciousness was a defining quality throughout the evening. He’d riff with audiences members about when they first played in Dallas (“Adam (Clayton) doesn’t remember the ‘80s”) and regularly go on diatribes about the modern need for love and peace. 
 
“For anyone who’s been robbed of a beautiful soul, I sing this song for you,” he said before “One Tree Hill,” definitely the most underrated track on The Joshua Tree and the song that induced the most tears of the evening (at least from me). 
 
Finishing up The Joshua Tree portion of the evening, Bono said “These dozen songs mean so much to us, that they might mean something to you all these years is shocking and wonderful.” 
 
But never one to end a night early, the boys saddled up for a six-song encore that was just as poignant and raucous as the main event. After a cover of Passengers “Miss Sarajevo” backdropped by stunning footage of the Middle East and its people, Bono veered into what was probably the biggest highlight of the evening with “Ultraviolet (Light My Way).” 
 
“Our mothers, our daughters, the women far away who sat down or stood up, who persisted and insisted, this song is for you,” Bono said. 
 
With various feminist icons like Rosa Parks and Michelle Obama flashing across the screen, Bono’s tribute to the women of the world was an absolute delight. Although because this was in Texas, there were a handful of middle fingers aimed directly at Hillary Clinton’s image when it popped up onscreen. 
(Keaton Bell / Red Dirt Report)
Ending the night with the triple-whammy of “Beautiful Day,” “Elevation,” and “I Will Follow,” U2 did something truly special with The Joshua Tree Tour. Sure there was a certain thrill in seeing the four-piece resurrect one of the greatest albums of all time in a live performance, kicking and screaming with as much enthusiasm as they did when it was released thirty years ago. But more than that, U2 infused each song with a new energy and a grander purpose that surpasses mere retrospection. 
 
It’d be easy for U2 to rest on their laurels and do a tour every few years to mark the anniversary of any number of their influential albums. But as their show at the AT&T Stadium proved Friday night, they’re far too busy being the greatest and most innovative rock band in the world to do that. 

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Keaton Bell

Born in Minnesota but raised in Oklahoma, Keaton is a senior at the University of Oklahoma...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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