Ever since I was a young boy, whenever me and my father drove somewhere on a long journey, we would put a U2 CD in the car and I would sing along to all my favourites as we drove. When I heard they would be touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree album, I could barely contain my excitement. I immediately rang my father and told him that we had to go. Saturday 8th July 2017, U2 played Twickenham to a capacity crowd, and it was a gig to remember.
With support from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the night was already off to a tremendous start. Playing a variety of old and new music, from ‘Champagne Supernova’ and other Oasis hits, to ‘AKA…What A Life!’, they acted admirably as the warm-up, and the crowd were even more pumped for the arrival of the main act. Twickenham glistened in the evening sun as the crowd slowly filled the pitch and the three sides of the stadium which were available to watch from.
There are some bands who can’t quite command the stage as much as they used to when they were younger and in their prime. U2 are not one of those bands. Roaring into life with that familiar drumbeat and opening guitar riff to ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, each member of the band came bounding down the Joshua tree-shaped stage and Bono’s voice rang out clear and true across the London evening sky. The Edge sauntered down the stage, proudly wearing his guitar and custom beanie hat, indulging the crowd in classic U2 guitar riffs. Transitioning from old to new was easy for the veteran performers, but it was the album set that stole the show. Performing classics from The Joshua Tree, such as ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, and ‘With or Without You’, U2 lit up Twickenham with a vibrant performance as though it were 30 years ago. Fans were treated to classics such as ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘One’, and ‘Pride (In The Name of Love)’ as U2 played hits from down the years, after completing their Joshua Tree album set.
“There are some bands who can’t quite command the stage as much as they used to when they were younger, and in their prime. U2 are not one of those bands.”
I had heard tell of the wonder that is a U2 light show but the lights throughout the night were unlike anything I’d seen before. What I initially thought was just a board the width of the pitch, made to act as a background, turned out to play host to videos for each song, ranging from empty roads in a desert, to the colours of the Irish flag, to shots of a lone Joshua tree. When the Edge wildly attacked his guitar strings, creating swarms of glorious chaos, the arena was engulfed in strobes of black and white. Each song had a carefully constructed light show to accompany it, filling the stadium with vibrant colours all through the evening.
“The concert wasn’t just a concert; it was an experience, and a celebration of the capability that humans have to love one another through times of trial.”
Across the whole night, the gig was spectacularly spiritual. From moments dedicated to the victims of the Manchester bombing at the Ariana Grande concert, to women throughout history, to speeches defiantly speaking love against all odds, the concert wasn’t just a concert; it was an experience and a celebration of the capability that humans have to love one another through times of trial. The finale was spine-tingling when Bono invited Noel Gallagher back out to sing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, with just an acoustic guitar and thousands of voices singing along. Lights from phones filled the stadium and what felt like every voice erupted into a choir of love amidst the hate in the world that had preceded the gig.
U2 lived up to my already extremely high expectations, and in some ways, exceeded them. For a boy who’d grown up with U2, and only ever dreamed of seeing them live, the gig was a dream come true and, musically, it was a truly phenomenal performance.