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The Joshua Tree still standing 30 years on

24th July 2017

Thirty years is a long time…in life, in history and in music. And yet when U2 brought the 2017 edition of The Joshua Tree tour to Croke Park, the only venue to host both the 1987 and the current tour, it was a day to roll back the years while living in the moment.

Three decades after its initial release and the subsequent stratospheric rise of the band The Joshua Tree remains an iconic milestone album for U2 and their global fan base. So with fond memories of a similar journey to Dublin in 1987 I set off on Saturday with a couple of friends and a headful of hopes for the concert to come. We weren't disappointed. 

Croke Park has changed down the decades and is now one of the biggest stadiums in Europe, hosting over 80,000 fans on Saturday. The spiritual home of the GAA looked and felt magnificent. 

The concert is broken up into three distant sections. Firstly a handful of pre Joshua Tree hits - the band opened with a blistering version of Sunday Bloody Sunday - before the main event, the 11 songs from the album played in sequence. That mean that for fans like me who have seen the band many times in 1987 and since, there were songs that I would hear for the first time ever, and that was pretty special. In fact Mothers of the Disappeared, Exit, Red Hill Mining Town were among the highlights of this unique night. 

You will have read of the huge screen used in the show and it really does take your breath away, and is hard to do justice with words. At times the screen displays socially commissioned images from Anton Corbijn which illustrates and accompanies the music beautifully, at other times it just showed the band at work, in amazing high definition where every pixel was crystal clear. In fact one of the upsides of this show was that it put the music front and centre. Between those early tours of the 1980s and the present day U2 have at times become too obsessed with ‘the show’ rather than the music, with the pyrotechnics and light shows taking prominence over the music. And yet U2 remain one of the tightest, loudest and most impressive music makers around. That was what was primarily on show on Saturday in Dublin. 

After the Joshua Tree section of the concert there was another round of hits drawn from the post JT section of the band’s lengthy career, the highlights being Miss Sarajevo and Ultra Violet (Light My Way) during which the screen acknowledged and celebrated women of Ireland and the world. 

In a nod to the future and in what seemed like a defiant assertion that U2 are not merely a nostalgia act, the last song was a new one. ‘The Little Things That Give You Away’ has all the ingredients of a U2 classic and comes from the yet to be released Songs of Experience which will hopefully see light of day before the year is out. It was a brave way to end the concert and you can’t help feeling that had they launched into an early classic, maybe I Will Follow or Out of Control, to close the show, the crowd would have been in raptures. 

But you can’t have everything, right? As we drifted out of the stadium U2 fans were brimful of fresh memories to stack alongside those that are now three decades old, and with a promise of more music, and more memorable concerts to come. And that was just fine with me. 

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