U2 – The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA June 25, 2017 Story, photos, and video by Stacey Rose
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I’m going to start off with an obvious pun: It was a “Beautiful Day” this past Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. A perfect day, in fact, to see the band who wrote that above mentioned song, which we did indeed get treated to, and yes, I know I’m a geek. It was warm, but cloudy, so we didn’t get pounded by the sun. We even got a couple mini rain showers, but nothing too awful. It truly was a beautiful day and it was just getting started.
I had never been inside Gillette Stadium before and it is completely overwhelming. It was a long day too. My boyfriend and I arrived very early around 2:00 pm, parked offsite, which, by the way, is the best way to go, and walked over to the stadium. It’s a pretty good haul, but we’re both runners and we had plenty of time to kill, so no biggie for us. We wandered around a bit, but I wanted to see where the Red Zone check-in table was and get the lay of the land.
If you’re not familiar with the Red Zone, it’s a special section that U2 sells and a portion of that ticket price goes to (Red) – red.org, a charity that Bono and a partner started back in 2005 to combat HIV and AIDS. In the big stadiums for this tour, the Red Zone is a sectioned off area of GA, so we were able to get right up to the barrier, essentially giving us front row at this huge event!
This wasn’t my first rodeo, of course, so I knew the drill and we got there early. It’s a special section, but it’s still “first come, first serve” for spots once you get in there. It reminded me of Iron Maiden’s “First to the Barrier” offers for fan club members, except at a Maiden show you have the entire rest of GA right behind you! We were quite surprised and heartened to see the fans waiting for the table to open handing out numbers to save spaces in line if you wanted to go get a bite to eat – and your space was honored when you got back! The lineup to board a Southwest airline flight is cutthroat in comparison!
This was simply fans being nice to other fans all of their own accord, which says a lot about the kind of people a band like U2 attracts! The regular GA section encompassed the rest of the field and looked like quite the madhouse from my little corner of the floor! Those people really put the time and effort into those spots!
Moving on to the show: the Lumineers, an alt/rock/folk band from Denver, opened. I’ve never seen them before, but was really impressed. There’s an awful lot going on onstage with band members playing multiple instruments and moving about the stage trading off instruments. The lead singer, in particular, has quite a powerful voice, but they were all singers and all terrific. What a dream come true for them! They mentioned playing at Boston’s iconic Paradise Rock Club while coming up, never imagining they’d be down the road at Gillette Stadium one day!
U2 also gave props to the Paradise citing it as one of the first places they played in the U.S. and being happy to be back in the “Celtic Capital” of America.
When you put the time in to get right up front, it means you get to the check-in at 4:00 pm, then get in the venue around 5:00 pm, then stand in the same spot, save the occasional exit from the Red Zone section until 9:00 pm when the show really starts. That’s a long day, my friend! Once U2 hits the stage though, you forget any of that and it’s all worth it! As U2 has been doing for a while now, there were two stages. The first big main stage had a huge video screen, which played powerful and beautiful images, a gorgeous luminescent Joshua tree, moving scenery, and brilliant landscapes. In fact, the reeling videos were reminiscent of the old IMAX movies of roller coasters and space scenes I’d watched as a kid. The movement was so intense, it actually made me nauseous a couple times. One audience member in my section apparently had a seizure and was lifted out by security. I did not see what exactly happened, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the visuals had triggered it. Everyone around pitched in to help, again a testimony to the fans watching out for each other.
The second smaller stage, accessed by a walkway that I was right in front of, spilled out into the GA audience complete with a drum kit awaiting Larry Mullen Jr.’s arrival. He was the first to venture out as the show commenced and when he broke into the unmistakable beginning rolls of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the crowd went crazy. The Edge’s iconic guitar lines echoed next as he sauntered to the front stage, then Bono emerged wailing the opening lines with Adam Clayton bringing up the rear with his bass guitar. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
They followed that with “New Year’s Day,” yet another classic, and “Bad” right on its heels, then launched into the entire Joshua Tree album from 1987. “Where the Streets Have No Name” with its backdrop of rolling open road, was nothing short of inspiring. All these songs make up a huge part of my life as I was just starting out on my own, so my life soundtrack rolled on with each tune. I recorded only one video that night, “With or Without You,” which is included with this review, but I tried to focus on the spectacle unfolding in front of me and not be a slave to my phone.
I missed quite a few pics of Bono singing mere feet in front of me just to be in the moment, a choice I don’t regret in the slightest.
Leading up to “One Tree Hill,” Bono referenced that bassist Adam Clayton was being honored the following night by MusiCares for his work with addiction programs and his own recovery. Clayton received the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award for addiction recovery work in NYC on June 26, 2017, crediting his bandmates for their support and his sobriety. “We couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Bono. These guys are clearly family – the same band since they started out and still going strong. The music sounds just as amazing 30 years later and Bono’s powerful vocals were still ringing the rafters.
U2 is nothing if not innovative and they have such a way of taking these iconic songs and arranging them differently, sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically, and sometimes starting out altered, but driving it home into the song we all know so well. I’d imagine this practice is just as much to keep things fresh for the fans as for themselves, and it works! To that end, for the much-anticipated “Red Hill Mining Town,” The Edge played piano, transcribing that signature guitar sound to keys – I almost didn’t recognize it at first! In fact, The Edge was playing quite a bit of piano, but his guitars weren’t neglected as he pulled out a different one for every song!
U2 has always been a band with a social conscience, and with Bono being Bono and U2 being that band who had a vision to change the world over 30 years ago, there was some political soapboxing, of course. I always say if you don’t want to hear musicians speak their minds, then what the hell are you doing at a U2 concert? An amusing satire brought an anti-Trump point squarely home, but I also found a sadness to what the band presented, as well as a hope for the future and a belief that America still can do what is right.
“Miss Sarajevo,” opened with a 12-year-old Syrian girl on the screen dreaming of coming to America for a better life accompanied by a video showing the desolation and horrific living conditions of refugees along with a flag of her passport picture billowing as it was passed amongst the crowd in the stands. A heartbreaking moment in “Pride (In the Name of Love),” when Bono swapped in the poignant lyrics, “One boy washed on an empty beach, one boy who will never be kissed” spoke volumes. Indeed, how can the “greatest country in the world” turn its back on people in such desperate need?
Bono also dedicated “Ultraviolet” to his wife, Ali, and the other wives and daughters of the band members and concertgoers alike, while a slideshow of prominent activist women from suffragettes and Rosa Park to Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres played across the screen declaring that women are the ones that will bring the world to peace and prosperity when we make it “herstory” instead of history as the words “Women of the World Unite” lit up the screen.
The encore of, among others, “Elevation” and “Vertigo” had the crowd jumping and singing along and led into a particularly beautiful rendition of “One,” with Bono and Adam sharing a brotherly embrace. It’s a wonderful thing to see how much these guys truly do stand by each other. Bringing the evening to a close with a new song, “The Little Things That Give You Away,” from an as yet unreleased new album had Bono (sort of) jokingly asking Edge if the album was done yet.
What a wonderful night full of old favorites that not only still hold up, but got kicked into a grand new existence mixed with a glimpse of what awaits from this prolific band. I can’t wait to hear more of the new album and as in an interview I saw a while ago, Bono laughingly retorted that since the Apple giveaway of the last album went so badly, they’re just going to sneak into everyone’s bedrooms and slip the new CD under our pillows. We’re leaving the door unlocked for you, Bono!
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