U2’s Joshua Tree Tour 2017 returned to the U.S. on Sunday night (Sept. 3), celebrating not only its famed 30-year-old album but also the country and, specifically, the city where the show was taking place — Detroit.
In doing that the Irish quartet also brought back one of the Motor City’s adopted daughters, Patti Smith — who lived in the suburb of St. Clair Shores from 1980-96 while married to the late MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith and gave birth to her two children there — for The Joshua Tree finale “Mothers of the Disappeared.” Introducing Smith at the end of the song, an ebullient Bono told the crowd at Ford Field that, “There is no one to compare. We don’t have anyone to compare with Patti Smith. We wouldn’t have written The Joshua Tree without her. What an honor it is to have her on the stage.” He subsequently incorporated a bit of Smith’s “People Have The Power” during “Beautiful Day.”
Bono spent plenty of time honoring Detroit and its resurgence from a 2013 bankruptcy years ago during the two-hour show. Calling it “the city of invention, the city of reinvention, the city of history, fast becoming the city of the future,” during “Bad,” he spoke of the “extraordinary feeling in this city.” And during “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” as excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech were show on the massive video screen, Bono noted that it was “a dream started in Detroit, on a march for freedom.” (King first delivered the speech on June 23, 1963 during the Great March on Detroit — two months before the more famous recitation during the March on Washington.)
After spending July in Europe, U2 also had a decidedly American message as it began the tour’s second U.S. swing. While direct Donald Trump bashing was kept to a minimum — a video vignette preceding “Exit” — Bono was effusive and positive about how America “is a second home to us, not just a country but an idea, a great idea. We want to see you prosper.” U2 segued a bit of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” into “Bad,” and Bono also spoke about how through response to Hurricane Harvey “we discover who America is, what America is,” performing “One” in front of images of the Texas flag, the American flag and the Red Cross logo along with an appeal for text donations to the aid organization.
As with earlier shows in North America and Europe, Sunday’s concert began with pre-Joshua Tree songs before U2 played the album in its entirety and finished with a run of songs from latter albums — though, interestingly, not including the recently released “The Blackout” from the upcoming Songs of Experience album. U2 will be playing nine shows in the U.S. during September, which longtime production director Jake Berry told reporters last week were surprise additions to an itinerary that was originally slated to resume during October with shows in Mexico and South America.
“We weren’t coming back,” Berry said. “We were going to take a break and go to South America. (But) the success was beyond everybody’s wildest dreams, to be perfectly honest. We couldn’t get enough…we kind of think in some respect we’d started earlier so we could do more shows. So rather than give us two months off we said just take a month and we’ll throw four weeks of America.”
As for the future, Berry told Billboard that, “I think there’s always talks about doing more Joshua Tree dates — whether it’s a reality or not, I don’t know. The Joshua Tree wasn’t just big in Europe and America. It was big in Australia. It was big in South America.”
Also looming, however is the Songs Of Experience cycle; another single, “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” is due out this week with the album rumored for Dec. 1, in conjunction with World AIDS Day. A tour to support it is expected to follow, but Berry says nothing is set in stone.
“I don’t think we’ve ever stopped talking about it,” he said. “I think after the album (comes out) we’ll really have a good idea what next year holds for us.”