Paul Sexton reviews night two of #U2TheJoshuaTree2017, from CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington.
If the opening night of 'The Joshua Tree Tour 2017' saw U2 victorious in Vancouver, gig two had them seamless in Seattle. The second show on the 33-date itinerary, and first in the US, confirmed all of the promise of the Canadian opener and multiplied it several times over, in a true audio-visual feast.
By the time of the Seattle date, word had spread among devotees about the unusual format of the show, in which a complete performance of 'The Joshua Tree' is bookended by a generous selection of other U2 favourites from four decades. As the scale and confidence of the presentation grew as tall as one of those gnarly desert trees that inspired the 30-year old classic, the set also offered some notable changes from two nights earlier.
As before, Larry Mullen Jr led the way onto the B stage for an initial five-song sortie of both raw and rare power. As the citizens of Seattle rejoiced in an evening that stayed unexpectedly dry, 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' again set the tempo for an evening of spontaneous energy. 'New Year's Day' and 'A Sort Of Homecoming' kept the motor running, the compactness of the smaller stage only adding to the intensity shared between four minds with precisely one goal, to deliver a brilliant, grand-scale rock 'n' roll show.
Then one song from 'The Unforgettable Fire’ was replaced with another, as 'MLK' made way in the set list for ‘Bad’: Bono teasing the impending recreation of an album about the United States by interpolating the lead line from Simon & Garfunkel's 'America.' 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' again had fans howling its chorus with abandon.
Then to work on the main stage, on which the interaction between the band, the lyricism of the 30-year-old 'Joshua Tree' and Anton Corbijn's new films and photography was quite stunning. The Edge's guitar textures were endlessly varied and understated, as were his adept backing vocals, and Mullen and Adam Clayton were pictures of measured concentration. Bono, too, may mock his own ability on the harmonica, but he played a mean riff for 'Running To Stand Still.'
It's hard to over-emphasise what a star attraction the retooled 'Red Hill Mining Town' is becoming, in the band's realisation of the just-released Steve Lillywhite mix, with its delightful horns. To think that U2 had neved played it live before the Vancouver show, or that Bono never enjoyed singing it until now, preferring to wish Joe Cocker would cover it.
So many of the LP's lyrics had new pertinency as U2 took them back, so to speak, into the arms of America. In the words of another song, they were welcome in God's country. 'Exit' was one of several numbers to feature incredible optical effects of the quartet playing in a visual “negative” of themselves.
As the album recreation concluded with 'Mothers of the Disappeared,' the band were joined by opening guests Mumford & Sons and, to share lead vocals, by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. Bono thanked everyone for keeping 'The Joshua Tree' in their hearts for so long.
Among the initial encores, 'Elevation' was especially brooding and 'Ultraviolet (Light My Way)' was graceful in its recognition of strong women in all walks of life. 'The Little Things That Give You Away,' the new composition which Bono describes as “a song of experience” in anticipation of their next album, has taken only two passes to become an appealing addition. That looked like being the finale again before they sent a delighted crowd home with 'I Will Follow.' The entire crowd punched the air with elation.
Two shows in, 'The Joshua Tree Tour 2017' already feels like a totally compellling proposition without a hint of contrived nostalgia. Observing the sheer scope of the production, you were reminded that the number of artists that can mount live shows to these dimensions is lower than the belly of a rattlesnake in the Californian desert that inspired them.