We’ve officially hit a benchmark as music connoisseurs. U2, the Irish juggernaut of a band that actively moonlights as social crusaders, celebrated the 30th anniversary of their landmark album, Joshua Tree, the only way they knew how—by throwing a concert in Miami Gardens and shouting out Marco Rubio.
But more on the latter, later.
Held Sunday at the Hard Rock Stadium as part of the 12th leg of their Joshua Tree Tour, the concert was essentially your typical U2 fare, which to be honest, rocked.
The band, whose opening act were pop rock purists, One Republic, started the tour by aptly performing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to the delight of tens of thousands of concert-goers (including myself).
Sidebar: One Republic performed a number of their hits, including the Timbaland-produced and Miami favorite “Too Late To Apologize.” (And yes, its a bop that’s always refreshing to hear live.)
U2 is a lot of things. A US reconnaissance aircraft, a type of battery, a clothing line—and one of the biggest bands in the world, selling more than 170 million albums worldwide. What other music band can equally pull at your heart strings, incite political action and still make you feel like you can hold a slither of a note akin to Bono for 120 minutes? No one, my friend—just U2.
And boy did these fine men from Dublin deliver. Like the tour name suggests, the concert was a full, chronological, set of their classic 1987 album, Joshua Tree, which reflected the group’s newfound awareness after performing at Live Aid in 1985. Dare I ask, but has U2 been woke since pre-Twitter? (*insert shock emoji eyes here*) Except this time, they weren’t playing to stop the ongoing famine crisis in Ethiopia.
Lyrics such as “Midnight, our sons and daughters/Cut down, taken from us” sung during “Mothers of the Disappeared” could have easily been a tribute song to the Black men, women and children who died senselessly at the hands of law enforcement, but forever remembered through the Black Lives Matter movement, in the past four years.
Eerily enough, the concert reflected a sign of the times, which shows why after 30 years later, U2 still reigns as a prolific band in terms of discussing topical issues within music.
As any millennial who was in attendance can tell you, it was lit—literally.
When the crowd wasn’t illuminating the arena with lighting from their cellphones and lighters during classics like Surrender, they sung along, wholeheartedly, karaoke-style to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
Other notable sing-along sessions included “In The Name of Love,” “With or Without You,” “Bullet The Blue Sky,” and “New Year’s Day.”
Although U2’s music pulls fans across all cultures, (Sunday night’s show featured an array of flags representing Ireland, Venezuela, and Brazil in the audience), another aspect of the band is their ability to convey a level of intimacy that’s unheard of at a concert of such magnitude.
For example, Bono, in all his chill-like, DILF-glory, interrupted their “Bad” set to lead the audience in a meditation for the country.
Later when the group performed “Where the Streets Have No Name” attendees watched an Anton Corbijn-directed film that showed the home of Joshua tree—an empty desert in southwest America. This marriage of the visual and musical continued throughout the venue, on massive high definition displays, saturated with color or a lack thereof, jumping from abstract to literal images.
At one point Bono dedicated “One Tree Hill,” in loving memory of his 26-year-old Maori friend, Greg Carroll who died tragically in a motorcycle accident in Dublin. According to pop culture folklore, Carroll brought Bono to One Tree Hill, a spiritual volcanic peak in Auckland, New Zealand which inspired the band’s namesake song.
Speaking of the classics, U2 also visited a litany of their other hit tracks, but none as poignant as the overwhelmingly endearing and melancholic ballad, “Beautiful Day.” (Before you even ask, of course, I sung along, word for word—thankyouverymuch.)
The concert’s unspoken message wasn’t lost on me. The fact that U2’s songs are still relevant 30 years later shows that we’re still fighting for the same rights—freedom, peace, and equality—just set against a different backdrop.
And like any U2 concert, it got incredibly political. Bono spoke about his ONE campaign, a global initiative designed to fight AIDS and HIV during his “One Love” set (see what they did there?). Things quickly delved into the strangeness when Bono commended Rubio for his support to continue programs that give vaccines and medication to Africa. An odd move for anyone whose not Bono considering the ONE campaign’s disapproval of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts that would affect US AID and the State Department.
The band’s new version of “Miss Sarajevo,” came complete with a feature by Luciano Pavarotti, got an encore from the crowd. While U2 played their set, the large displays showed a clip of Omaima, a 15-year-old Syrian girl, stuck in a refugee camp in Jordan. The original track was performed by Bono in 1995 to raise awareness about Yugoslavian war victims.
Florida’s Republican senator wasn’t the only one who got a shout-out from U2. The band dedicated a track to powerful women such as Michelle Obama, Mother Theresa, and Malala Yousafzai, saying “we don’t agonize, we organize” in regards to their activism and paid homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during “Awakening.”
U2 will perform Wednesday at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.