Arts

What U2 fans can expect from next week's Joshua Tree 2017 gig at Croke Park

If anyone lucky enough to be going to U2s home-turf gig in Croke Park next weekend fears that The Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour might not pack the punch of first time round, they can rest assured that it absolutely does, writes Richard Purden

U2 perform Joshua Tree live on stage at Twickenham Stadium last weekend Picture: DavidJensen/PA

REVIEW  - U2, The Joshua Tree Tour 2017

Twickenham Stadium, London, July 8

NOEL Gallagher doesn’t open for many other bands these days. As he walks on stage one fan shouts “England’s no 1”, perhaps illustrating the depth of feeling that still exists for a generation weaned on his old band.

Two rock giants for the price of one, this is essentially Oasis without Liam (including Noel there are now four touring Oasis members in the band) and they deliver a solid set featuring crowd pleasers such as Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall.

It isn't not long before Larry Mullen Jnr walks on stage to rapturous applause – this is, after all, his band. When he launches into Sunday Bloody Sunday with military command the spiky post-punk energy of U2’s early years feels truly alive. It remains one of their biggest anthems and has lost none of its power; in light of current events in British and Irish politics this song feels as relevant as ever.

In the home of English rugby U2 summon memories of their game-changing Live Aid performance in 1985.

Bono holds back, opting to let the likes of Bad and Pride (In The Name of Love) get their message across all by themselves. In the aftermath of the recent terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire these definitive popular songs bring an almost cleansing feeling and sense of release to the city.

U2 – from left, Adam Clayton, Bono, Larry Mullan jnr and The Edge –  on stage at Twickenham Stadium in London on Sunday
Picture: Joel Ryan/Invision/AP

This time without the cowboy hats and boots of 1987, when The Joshua Tree was originally released, he, Larry, Adam Clayton and the Edge soon revisit the album on which they became "rock’s hottest ticket”, as Time magazine put it.

When they play a treble of hits from the record in order – Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With Or Without You – it already feels like they have delivered three of the album’s knock-out punches in a tight cluster.

Significantly they have also chosen to work with collaborators who have helped them achieve some of their finest moments. Anton Corbijn, who snapped those moody and iconic pictures of the band in the California desert, has returned there to make a series of short films which are projected on cutting edge screen technology, giving the songs a fresh and modern context.

It is perhaps the deep cuts from the 1987 album that shine the brightest, such as Exit which references the 1950s television show Trackdown. The segment features an unsettling villain known as Trump who believes a town’s problems can be solved by building a wall.

There’s a genuinely disquieting feeling in the stadium which is enhanced by one fan shouting “No More Trump”.

Mothers of the Disappeared, critical of another American president, makes its point with one of the most haunting and beautiful melodies in U2’s canon.

Beyond The Joshua Tree, Ultra Violet (Light My Way), dedicated to murdered Labour politician Jo Cox, is played as images of female figures from Anne Frank to Patti Smith are projected via the big screen.

There are not many acts this size who would hand their encore over to the support act but when Noel Gallagher returns to play Don’t Look Back In Anger in light of the many recent tragedies it made perfect sense.

Critics who suggest this is a nostalgia show are wide of the mark; written during our lifetimes, these are the folk songs of a generation. Played late in the set, The Little Things That Give You Away proved that there’s more in the tank from this punk four-piece who emerged from the north side of Dublin in 1976.

The Edge, Larry Mullen jnr, Bono and Adam Clayton of U2 on stage at Twickenham Stadium in London Picture: DavidJensen/PA

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