Tickets go on sale today, June 12, for U2’s November shows marking the anniversary of the album, The Joshua Tree (see dates at the bottom). It’s their first tour here in nine years. Which, coincidentally, is where Wind Back Wednesday’s giant lemon pod with wraparound sunnies has landed.
As this review of their Sydney show in 2010 remembers, haters gonna hate U2 but somehow, well into their fourth decade then, the Irishmen didn’t just “get away with it”, they consistently pulled off massive-scale shows and rustled up some big concepts.
ANZ Stadium, December 13
Busy, busy, busy. Under a giant claw/spaceship/kid’s toy-on-steroids stage set, in a stadium filled to the nosebleed seats but pulsating in the inner circle of energised fans allowed close, empty seconds rarely appeared.
Across two hours and some 24 of their own songs, U2 managed to slip in lyrical, musical or visual references to the Beatles and David Bowie, AIDS and Sarajevo, INXS and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, family death and African debt, Bob Geldof and Aung San Suu Kyi, Kanye West and Amazing Grace, Oprah Winfrey and Amnesty International. Oh yes, and office Christmas parties.
Too much? Now it is true that total stimulation has been the U2 method since their early '90s reinvention of the stadium show as audio-visual immersion. Sometimes it's been a treat, sometimes it's been a distraction and sometimes, as in the first of their Sydney shows four years ago, it's been the saving grace in an unbalanced set.
But what is striking this time around is how despite the fixed-to-mega settings of everything, they have balanced the message and the medium so well.
Most of the extracurricular material was fleeting or lightly handled, earnestness was kept to a minimum (though that's hardly the worst sin a band can commit; at least they give a stuff about something) and the in-the-round nature of the stage meant that there was at least an illusion of some intimacy.
Of course, intimacy is all relative when 80 per cent of us had to watch the show with one eye on the stage and one eye on the screens, but a charged Bono and the only slightly less sparky Edge seemed more engaged with the songs and in turn the audience than they have been in years.
Even Larry Mullen Jr (who took his own walk around the outer rim of the split stage while playing congas) and Adam Clayton (who was wearing more sparkle than a bogan school formal dress) were giving out, not just looking in.
In a show roughly broken up into half-hour segments surprises came with both the old - the return of a neatly thrilling I Will Follow early in the first 30 minutes of guitar rock power and drive - and the new: the reinvention of the weakest song from their most recent album, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight, as some kind of house-infused disco number which, in the rock-as-dance third section, segued neatly into bursts of Relax and Two Tribes.
There was not as much time for contemplation or variation (I would have liked to hear superior new tracks such as Cedars Of Lebanon and Fez, and cheekier old ones such as Lemon and The Fly). And Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me still doesn’t sustain attention no matter what flashing doodads are deployed.
But this was U2 in form. Fine form.
1. Return Of The Stingray Guitar
2. Beautiful Day / Blackbird (snippet)
3. I Will Follow
4. Get On Your Boots
6. Mysterious Ways
8. Until The End Of The World
9. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
10. Do They Know It's Christmas (snippet) / Stuck In A Moment
11. Bad / Need You Tonight (snippet) / Never Tear Us Apart (snippet)
12. In A Little While
13. Miss Sarajevo
14. City Of Blinding Lights
16. Miss You (snippet) / Crazy Tonight / Relax (snippet) / Two Tribes (snippet)
17. Sunday Bloody Sunday
19. Walk On
21. Amazing Grace (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
22. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
23. With Or Without You
24. Moment of Surrender
U2 will play Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, November 8; Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, November 12; Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, November 15; Adelaide Oval, November 19; Sydney Cricket Ground, November 22; Optus Stadium, Perth, November 27.