I remember thinking when I first heard it that it was as close to perfect as a record could be. But it must be 15 years since the last time I listened to it all the way through.
Irish rock band U2 are touring North America at the moment, celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree by performing the album in its entirety, something they have never done before.
I have mixed feelings about bands doing that. I was at a Rush concert a few years ago and they played, I think, Moving Pictures in its entirety. It is not one of the Rush albums I own, so I was less than impressed. Bored actually.
Even with The Joshua Tree, I think of the album as a snapshot of a particular time and place. I have memories that go with the songs, and I would have put them in a different order. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” belongs at the end of the record, an anthem of future hope to close out the disc. Instead it is the second track. That combination of worship and prayer to me would be a more fitting conclusion than the lament that is “Mothers of the Disappeared.”
Fans of a band tend to like all of their work, but giving up a half of a show to one album from a band with a forty-one year history is a bit much. Playing The Joshua Tree means there are a lot of great songs that the audience won’t get to hear this time around. Mind you, that is going to be the case no matter what songs they play. There just aren’t enough minutes in a show to keep everyone happy.
I will admit to having a soft spot in my heart for U2. Even at their worst (which in my mind was the critically acclaimed Achtung Baby) they have stood head and shoulders above their contemporaries. As they have aged their songwriting has matured, and the band has become more relevant not less. They are not content to recycle past glories but have something new to say each time out.
The last time I saw them live was in Montreal in 2011. They were doing an outdoor stadium tour. Montreal didn’t have a stadium they liked, so they built one for the show. If I remember correctly the cost was four million dollars, but with 80,000 people there for each of two nights, I think they made a profit on it.
That was an excellent concert, though I remember thinking at the time that it was the most disappointing U2 show I had ever attended. My expectations are high. From U2 I expect (demand) more than an excellent rock show. I am looking for a worship experience. It was the first time they had failed to deliver.
On this tour I am expecting the magic to return. I am expecting a musical bridge between God and man. More on that later I think. Past history suggests I will not be disappointed.
Last year, when I wrote about Bono, the band’s vocalist, and his conversation with theologian Eugene Peterson, I referenced that I had written about the band before. But when I searched past postings all I found was a CD review.
That left me kind of puzzled. I could remember several posts detailing some of my interactions with U2. What had happened to them? Then I realized it; the posts weren’t for this blog, but written for my friend Bruce. So, with the band on tour now, it seems to make sense to revisit those posts for a new audience. Which means that the preceding words are really only an introduction to tomorrow’s post (and a couple more after that). I hope you enjoy them.