Monday, May 15, 2017

U2 delivers a stirring Joshua Tree tour opener in Vancouver

My review of U2's May 12, 2017 concert at B.C. Place in Vancouver was originally posted on The Orange County Register website on Saturday, May 13, 2017. This version features additional details and a review of opener Mumford and Sons.

U2 performing at B.C. Place in Vancouver, Canada on Friday night, May 12, 2017.
Photo: Kim Kinsler
U2 embarked on its Joshua Tree 2017 Tour on Friday night (May 12, 2017), performing the band’s beloved 1987 album The Joshua Tree in its entirety as well as a number of hits and rarities before closing out the night with a beautiful new song during an impressive two-hour concert at the B.C. Place in Vancouver, Canada.
The sold-out crowd of more than 50,000 were all in their seats when U2 hit the stage at 9:22 p.m.. That’s a good thing, because casual concertgoers who arrive fashionably late in hopes of snapping selfies while an artist performs their biggest hits would have missed out this night. In fact, with the exception of “Beautiful Day” and “One,” U2’s lengthy six-song encore was focused on material not as well known.
Bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. of U2.
Photo: Kim Kinsler
Before launching into the actual performance of The Joshua Tree in honor of that album’s 30th anniversary, U2 started the show by coming out to a second stage extending about 100 feet from the main stage into the audience. There the band – singer Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. – delivered a breathtaking run through “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day” (with The Edge juggling keyboards and electric guitar like a magician), “A Sort of Homecoming,” and a stirring “MLK” that segued into a spirited “Pride (In the Name of Love).”
The band’s decidedly-intimate positioning on that smaller stage allowed for a dynamic build-up when the group moved to the main stage before fully launching into “Where the Streets Have No Name,” the first song off The Joshua Tree. It was here where the music of U2 joined with a number of visual elements and conceptual videos that enhanced every song to come. The backdrop seemed simple, a massive layered screen with a gigantic silhouette of a single Joshua Tree rising high into the arena sky. But as the screen was used, it immersed (but never overpowered) the Irish quartet and audience with high-definition visuals.
The Salvation Army Brass Band seen behind U2 on May 12.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
For example, when “Where the Streets Have No Name” was performed, images of the California desert rushed by behind the band. During the subsequent “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” detailed black & white photographs of stark Joshua Trees were shown in the backdrop. During “With or Without You,” colorful, sunset-draped mountains illuminated the stage. For the first-ever live performance of “Red Hill Mining Town,” the horn section, featuring a Salvation Army Brass Band, was masterfully seen and heard to enhance the occasion.
This crowd – like the ones who will fill the Rose Bowl on may 20 and 21 – sang and clapped along during key moments throughout the set.
U2's performance of "Bullet the Blue Sky" was among
the highlights of the concert in Vancouver.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
With the exception of Bono using a spotlight that he held and used during the fiery “Bullet the Blue Sky,” the use of lasers and cutting-edge lighting was not as dramatic at this show as on the band’s recent tours. There was a more intimate feel with the use of artfully-made films and The Joshua Tree songs as the focus of the night.
This writer has seen U2 a number of times dating back to the early 1980s and Bono’s soaring vocals are always balanced with inspired, spoken thanks for those persons and nations who assist in the fight to wipe out HIV, help the poor or advance other social justice causes. There was plenty of that this night, but also blunt criticism of the current U.S. Administration.
U2 performing at B.C. Place in Vancouver on Friday, May 12, 2017.
Photo: Danny North
Before performing “One” Bono urged the crowd to send a message from Canada to the U.S., getting the crowd to sing and repeat: “Power of the people / so much stronger than the people in power.” Bono did emphasize his message was not against the American people, but rather the people in power in the U.S.
It was revealing of U2’s continuing relevancy that few in the crowd headed for an early exit. For the night’s final song, the audience was rewarded when Bono announced the band was debuting a newly written song, the lovely “The Little Things That Give You Away,” made all the more powerful because the band members had not only moved back to the more intimate stage but they all huddled together in a tight circle to bring the magical night to a close.

Mumford & Sons opening for U2 at B.C. Place.
Photo: Kim Kinsler
Opening up for U2 was London's Mumford & Sons, whose leader Marcus Mumford and his group performed an energetic set over 50 minutes. Although the band performed before a relatively empty arena at the start, soon the seats started to fill and there were plenty of cheers and applause for the troupe's infectious brew of folk rock, Americana and alt rock. Highlights included the symphonic "Little Lion Man" early in the set and alternative rocker "Tompkins Square Park" (with a Radiohead-worthy instrumental break) before the ensemble got to its best-known material including the melodic harmonies-rich "The Cave" and majestic crowd-pleasing "I Will Wait."
U2, Mumford & Sons
When: Friday, May 12, 2017
Where: B.C. Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Next: The band plays the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21. The show are sold out but tickets are available for re-sale beginning at $94.

U2 on the first night of the band's Joshua Tree
2017 Tour in Vancouver, Canada.
Photo: Danny North
U2 setlist at B.C. Place on Friday, May 12, 2017

1. Sunday Bloody Sunday
2. New Year’s Day
3. A Sort of Homecoming
4. MLK
5. Pride (In the Name of Love)
6. Where the Streets Have No Name
7. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
8. With or Without You
9. Bullet the Blue Sky
10. Running to Stand Still
11. Red Hill Mining Town (live debut)
12. In God’s Country
13. Trip Through Your Wires
14. One Tree Hill
15. Exit
16. Mothers of the Disappeared
17. Beautiful Day
18. Elevation
19. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
20. One
21. Miss Sarajevo
22. The Little Things That Give You Away (new song, live debut)

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