Bono was Bono, purposeful and passionate. The Edge was the Edge, atmospheric and alluring. The other two guys kept the rhythm steady and driving when U2 planted the Joshua Tree 2017 Tour Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
And Anton Corbijn and team who did the visuals — oh my!
It was an uplifting, often galvanizing and totally nostalgic show. As grand as it was at times, it was not the greatest U2 stadium concert in Minneapolis or even the greatest stadium performance in the Mill City this summer.
Even though early on Friday Bono promised a night the 50,000-plus fans would not forget, “an epic night of rock and roll,” it wasn’t as spontaneous, freewheeling and us-against-the-elements fun as the band’s totally unforgettable concert in the pouring rain at TCF Bank Stadium in 2011. That one ranks as one of the top 10 concerts in Twin Cities history.
Moreover, Friday’s U2 effort wasn’t as satisfying as Guns N’ Roses’ rambunctious 3¼-hour marathon this summer. And believe it or not, GNR actually started on time. U2 hit the stage a half-hour late, and even though Bono and the boys are about the same age as Axl and the Gunners, the Irish lads didn’t spend much more than two hours onstage.
To start the show, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. walked down the runway to a satellite stage and began a military beat. Soon the Edge came waltzing down the runway, chiming on his guitar. Bono and bassist Adam Clayton joined them for “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
The crowd was amped. Bono was singing his heart out. “How long, how long must we sing this song?” The first song — a goosebump moment.
Actually, the opening quartet of tunes — including “New Year’s Day,” “Bad” (with a taste of Paul Simon’s “America”) and “Pride” — was thrilling. Performed on the small stage without any live video, it was four U2 oldies — majestic music with big ideas — that planted the seed for 1987’s “Joshua Tree,” the Irish band’s biggest seller.
The blockbuster album is something of a love letter to America, about the promise and reality of life in the United States. While an album is sequenced for your home stereo (remember them?), re-creating an LP front-to-end doesn’t always make for great pacing in concert.
“Joshua Tree” is front-loaded, with three smashes “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You.” These goosebump-inducing sing-alongs were accompanied by jaw-dropping Corbijn films of a desert highway, woods in the winter, etc.
However, when U2 flipped to Side 2, as Bono explained, the music was mostly less compelling, though “Exit” was wired musically and visually with giant close-ups of Bono on a massive screen while strobes flashed.
Prone to giving preachy speeches between songs, Bono, 57, reined himself in until late in the evening. He said his theme for the tour is “incredible women.” He talked about the importance of getting more women involved in the political process. And during “Ultraviolet,” a tune from 1991, U2 broadcast photos of important women on the screen, including Malala, Ellen DeGeneres and Minneapolis’ own Mary Jo Copeland and Sharon Sayles Belton.
After “Joshua Tree” was fully blossomed, U2 encored with a series of hits, including “Vertigo” (with a taste of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”) and “Beautiful Day,” (and included a snippet of Prince’s “Most Beautiful Girl in the World”).
Although Bono called the Vikings stadium a “beautiful, beautiful building,” that “sounds good,” the sound echoed excessively, which works to some extent on U2’s booming anthems but doesn’t reward all listeners.
Moreover, the billion-dollar stadium remains inefficient, with concertgoers complaining about security lines, the lack of signage inside and outside, uninformed staffers and overcrowded concourses.
Bono ended the evening with what has become the unofficial benediction for Twin Cities concerts — an a cappella bit of “Purple Rain” — and then declared that the concert was dedicated to the eternal memory of Prince Rogers Nelson.