Review: U2 relive epic 'Joshua Tree' at Ford Field

Sep 5, 2017 at 9:59 am
click to enlarge U2 at Detroit's Ford Field. - Tomas Laverty
Tomas Laverty
U2 at Detroit's Ford Field.

Nostalgia is an easy medicine for a nation wrought with uncertainty of the future. And what better medicine than a record that has never waned in its profundity?

It’s no surprise that when U2 set out to recreate 1987 by touring The Joshua Tree (an album I wouldn’t mind being non-consensually uploaded to my iPhone) in its entirety that fans, casual listeners, and even those who consider U2 a tolerated inconvenience (much like going to the dentist), rejoiced with the shared desire to move the clock back a few years. 

click to enlarge Review: U2 relive epic 'Joshua Tree' at Ford Field (3)
Tomas Laverty

“Nothing has changed, everything has changed,” Bono said in one of his many uplifting (though obtuse) asides to a nearly full Ford Field. Opening the set with three pre-Joshua Tree tracks was Larry Mullen Jr’s stirring kick drum lead in to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” that kicked off the show on a modestly sized and modestly lit satellite stage. The band dusted off “New Years Day,” “Bad,” and “Pride (In the Name Of Love)” before relocating to the mega stage, the silhouette of the album's original tree imagery changed from black to red, engulfing the stadium in a brooding light for the trifecta of all trifectas: Joshua Tree’s openers “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “With Or Without You.”

click to enlarge Review: U2 relive epic 'Joshua Tree' at Ford Field (2)
Tomas Laverty
The majority of the audience seemed to be an endless gaggle of dads living their best lives (while tethered to their teenage children who likely had to Google “Who is Beck?” when their parents used his performance as U2’s opener in an attempt to bait them into joining). As a non-dad with my teenage years blurred to abstraction in my rearview, I reluctantly stared my future in the face as Bono landed a geriatric jump from the drum platform which roused a collective (and relieved) celebration. Sure, there was a larger-than-life 200-foot LCD screen with a well choreographed selection of Anton Corbijn footage of ambient desert landscapes, dirt roads, and politely diversified Americana portraiture that felt, perhaps, a bit too U2, but this particular set was designed sans frills, a far cry from their usual indulgent antics and staging.

click to enlarge Review: U2 relive epic 'Joshua Tree' at Ford Field
Tomas Laverty
But maybe that’s what a record as impactful as The Joshua Tree deserves. No gimmicks, no flash — just an authentic attempt at reliving an album that defied expectation, transformed an Irish rock band into fucking legends, and even thirty years later resonates with a power and spirit no amount of Bono douchebaggerry can deflect.