So, I finally got to attend a concert on The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour. I was impressed – U2 were fantastic (of course), and there were even a few surprises for me, despite the fact that I’ve been following along to every show of the tour as it occurred, but there were a few elements of my experience in Tampa that mystified me or left me cold, unfortunately. To start with, as I said above, U2’s performance was absolutely thrilling. From the very first drum beat of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, which resonated deep within my chest, to the final “yeah, yeah, yeah” of “Vertigo”, the band were on fire. My highlights included “Bad”, during which I closed my eyes and let the music move me until I had tears in my eyes, the stirring sing-along of “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, “Bullet the Blue Sky”, which was utterly ferocious, “Red Hill Mining Town”, which actually surprised me, it was so moving – the second time of the night that I was moved to tears – and “Exit”, which pummeled us hard and got my heart pumping furiously. The band played and performed with all their collective heart, and they were a joy to watch. The only negative take-away of the band’s time on stage, for me, was the piped-in Pavarotti during “Miss Sarajevo”. As I said in my review of the opening night of the tour, I feel that it is a mistake to have this canned vocal in what should be, and would otherwise be a very moving song. The sudden transition from live music to a pre-recorded performance really took me out of the moment. I wish that either Bono would perform the opera section of the song as he has done on past tours, or that the band would drop the song. My wife even suggested that they attempt the song with the opera verse excised entirely. Other than that one misstep, the band’s performance was flawless.
My biggest complaint of the night was with the crowd surrounding us. When Larry walked out followed in turn by Edge, Bono, then Adam, the audience erupted, and at first, during the first six or seven songs, I thought that the audience was going to take the show to the next level – several people around us danced and sang along passionately to the most popular songs that the band opened with, from “Sunday Bloody Sunday” through “With or Without You”, but as the band moved into the lesser known songs that occupied the middle third of the set, the crowd’s enthusiasm seemed to wane. The guy standing next to me spent the entire show playing with his phone, and there were times in the show that my wife and I seemed to be the only ones who knew the song being performed. We even got a few dirty looks from other people standing near us while we were singing along. I’ve never experienced that before, at any of the U2 shows I’ve been to. It was discouraging, and I wonder if it was a result of the crowd being full of not U2 fans, but people trying to relive their long lost youth. Of course, when the band closed with the popular hits “Beautiful Day”, “Elevation”, and “Vertigo”, the crowd got right back into the show, but by then it was too late. I hope that the band never undertake another tour that encourages nostalgia over the message that the band are trying to communicate. Maybe I was the only person to have this experience – I hope so – but as great as the band were, I felt out of place as a U2 fan at a U2 concert.