Irish band gave to italian fans a show to remember
In 1987 I was 6 years old: “tree” was one of the first english words I was learning. But if you had asked me what a Joshua tree was, my answer would have been “A tree named Joshua.” Some years later I found out it’s also a famous U2 album, inspired by a mythical America, distant from the real one, today more than ever.
I like the idea I ended up attending the Joshua Tree Tour in Rome, right after my trip to California, because I went through the Mojave Desert (the one Anton Corbijn chose for the album photoshoot) and I saw in person how those trees are made: they look like reckless children with messy hair, a bit like U2 in the late 1980s.
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree so, yesterday, I was expecting an outstanding show at the Olympic Stadium: after all, this is the album that made U2 the biggest band in the world. As always, my concept of greatness is always inferior to what they have in their minds.
At 7:30 p.m. Noel Gallagher and The High Flying Birds open the show with powerful original songs and some Oasis hits (from Champagne Supernova to Wonderwall): many U2 fans are also brit pop aficionados and they address the Manchester artist and his band a warm welcome.
U2 arrive at 9:30 p.m.: Larry Mullen Jr. walks boldly to the smaller stage, he launches into Sunday Bloody Sunday and his drum intro is enough to hypnotize the audience; but as The Edge, Bono and Adam join him, the 60.000 of the Olympic Stadium go into raptures.
The first set includes New Year’s Day, A Sort of Homecoming and Pride. Then the band moves to the main stage to start the complete performance of The Joshua Tree: Where The Streets Have No Name is an emotional explosion, the screen displaying images of California freeways, the italian crowd singing with one voice. Bono stopped more than once to let the audience sing With or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and some other songs.
He also took time to talk about The Joshua Tree: even when the American dream seems to be shattered «America is an idea we have to stick to» says Bono, before singing In God’s Country. Speaking of Red Hill Mining Town he tells the audience: «It took us 30 years to figure out how to play this song. Maybe we did it.»
The encore starts with Miss Sarajevo, renamed “Miss Syria”: U2’s heart breaking condemnation of all wars was paired with the devastating images of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, and the face of a syrian girl stating: «I want to become a lawyer to defend the rights of all the people living here.» The version of the song is the original one, featuring Luciano Pavarotti’s prerecorded voice.
The show continues with some of U2’s catchy singles: Elevation, Vertigo, and Mysterious Ways, with Bono inviting a young woman on stage. Women are also the protagonists of Ultraviolet when, on the screen, the word “HISTORY” turns into “HERSTORY”: Bono dedicates the song to mothers, sisters, wives, women who made history and those who are still fighting for civil rights. As he sings, the images of Rosa Parks, Virginia Woolf, Emma Bonino, Malala Yousafzai, and other female icons, appear on the screen.
One marks the end of the second and final U2 concert in Italy for this year: people can’t stop singing even when the band leaves the instruments to greet the audience. The fans have tears in their eyes, but Bono promises: «We’ll be back.»
Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year’s Day
A Sort Of Homecoming
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
Mothers of the Disappeared
Ultraviolet (Light My Way)