On Tuesday night, when the band touched down in Brisbane for the first night of a six-date national stadium trek, that patience paid off.
The Joshua Tree Tour was imagined as a 30-anniversary tour for the Irish foursome’s blockbuster 1987 album. When the record dropped with Anton Corbijn's iconic black & white artwork featuring the superstars-to-be posing in Death Valley, the band already had its place in millions of hearts around the globe. “Pride (In The Name of Love)” from 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire was so hot, you thought it would melt your stereo. "New Year’s Day" from 1983 had an evergreen presence on radio, often played at year's end. Clever. And "Sunday Bloody Sunday," a fierce, politically-charged calling card which inspired drum patterns everywhere.
Hits help. And with a memorable performance at 1985’s Live Aid, U2 were being hailed as the world’s biggest cult group. With The Joshua Tree, they became the world’s biggest group. Period.
The second half of the '80s absolutely belonged to U2. The Joshua Tree was the record that blasted the barriers down. The U.S. of A. was now fully in love with the band and the record was the first of seven chart-topping LPs on the Billboard 200. Its first three singles "Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “With or Without You” were smashes, everywhere. They were again on Tuesday night at Suncorp Stadium.
U2 never does things by halves. The stage for their 360°-tour, which visited the same venue back in 2010, weighed 400 tons. Some 1,000-plus staff work each tour date and their traveling crew numbers more than 500.
You just knew you were in for something large when Noel Gallagher appeared on stage with his High Flying Birds as the support act. When a Gallagher brother is the warm-up guy, watch out. A near-full-house sang along as Noel ripped out some of his classics with Oasis: “Little by Little,” “Stop Crying Your Heart Out.”
“What’s going on in Brisbane anyway, apart from f--- all. A bit of surfing. Water sports.” Noel hasn’t lost any of his charm.
The Manc went extra-large. He rolled out Oasis’ signature song, “Wonderwall,” singalong standard “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and wrapped things up with The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.”
On an ordinary night, this would have been a case of peaking too early. Not tonight.
Dublin's finest started in the round with a four-pack of pre-Joshua Tree blasts. The opener, "Sunday Bloody Sunday," was both a kick in the pants and a timely reminder that we’ve always lived in strange days.
U2 and politics are fused at the hip, and the audience got the message loud and clear. More than once. During “Bad,” the band worked-in the chorus of Midnight Oil’s anthem “Beds Are Burning,” a song about injustices against indigenous Australians.
“New Year’s Day” and “Pride” was a band showing off what they’ve got.
“It’s good to be around such greatness. Thank-you Brisbane for letting us back in to your life in lives. Thank-you Australia for letting us back in your country,” Bono called out. “All we want from this event...is an epic night of rock 'n' roll.” It’s never too much to ask for.
Warm-up done, 40,000-plus Queenslanders buckled in as Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton took us on a fast round down memory lane. The Edge’s jangly, digitally-delayed arpeggios cutting through in album-opener "Streets" and earning roars from the crowd, one of many for the night.
The band walked us -- no, paced us -- through the album, from start to finish. “Here’s a gospel song. For those of you who don’t like gospel,” Bono said with a laugh. A distant voice yelled from the audience, “but I do like gospel.” And the band played “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Soon after, “Bullet The Blue Sky” rang through. And “Running to Stand Still”. Grown men in the audience cried. Grown Australian men.
Throughout the show, the backdrop splashed with beautiful scenery, of deserts, mountains. Nothing Queenslanders haven’t seen before, but never with U2 standing before it.
The “landscape of a country can change,” Bono explained. “Physically, spiritually, you know what I mean?”
When the lads from the Emerald Isle had exhausted all the material from that famous album, Bono reminded us of the precise moment where you flipped the tape or record. And then, they rolled back the years and the big numbers.
Summer has come early in Australia, and the eastern seaboard of Australia is currently battling vast, deadly bushfires. Back in 1993, when U2 played their Zoo TV tour at Brisbane’s QSAC (formerly ANZ Stadium or QE II), The Edge pulled a magic trick by making it rain as he hit a high note during the encore. It sure felt like a magic trick. Brisbane needs rain and U2 couldn’t bring it on tonight, but Bono did the next best thing. He led a call to arms.
“The way we live in one place, affects life in every other place, None of us is really an island,” Bono said. “From rising sea levels in one country to catastrophic fires in yours, big crisis, global crisis but we can put out these fires if we act together as one.’’
A seven-song encore wrapped up with “Beautiful Day,” “Ultraviolet (Light My Way),” “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” and “One”.
After two-and-a-bit hours of nostalgia, politics and hits, U2 left Brisbane fans hoping they won’t have to wait another decade. That said, they’re good at waiting.
Produced by Live Nation, the tour moves on to Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium this Friday (Nov. 15), followed by dates at Adelaide Oval, Sydney Cricket Ground and Perth’s Optus Stadium.
By the time it reaches India on Dec. 15, The Joshua Tree Tour will have played to almost 3 million fans in just 66 shows across Europe, North and South America, Mexico, New Zealand and Asia, including first-ever U2 shows in Singapore, Seoul, Manila and Mumbai.