Five things about U2’s return to Vancouver for new tour

TORONTO — Legendary rockers U2 have clearly found what they’re looking for in Vancouver.

The famed Irish band is drawing plenty of local attention with a return to the city for the launch of the 30th anniversary “Joshua Tree” tour on Friday.

It’s the second time they’ve picked Vancity as the starting mark for a tour — it was almost exactly two years ago that they kicked off support for the album ”Songs of Innocence” in the B.C. city. They also chose Vancouver as a base for rehearsals in 2005 before embarking on the “Vertigo” tour.

Unlike past shows, the band is performing its 1987 album ”The Joshua Tree” in its entirety each night. That includes running through favourites like “With or Without You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name,” as well as performing ”Red Hill Mining Town” for the first time live.

Social media has been flooded with Vancouverites revelling in the band’s arrival to the city where they’ve been rehearsing since earlier this month. Some fans have posted clips from outside the BC Place stadium where echoes of the songs could be heard through the walls.

After playing Vancouver, the band heads south for a batch of U.S. tour dates before hitting Toronto on June 23.

Here are five things about the tour and the band’s Canadian connections:

HUGE DEMAND: While U2 packs stadiums on every tour, it’s shocking to consider they originally planned to mark the highly anticipated “Joshua Tree” anniversary with a very short run of dates. Bono recently told BBC Radio 2 that he intended to perform ”three, four or five” shows to honour the occasion. Instead, the tour ballooned to 33 shows covering North America and Europe.

TIMELY COMMENTARY: Rarely has U2 shied away from a political statement and this tour will be no exception. The band has licensed two poems by Canadian parliamentary poet laureate George Elliott Clarke to appear as projections before every show. “Kaddish for Leonard Cohen” was written as a tribute to the late Montreal songwriter, while “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred” addresses the Quebec City mosque shooting in January that left six people dead.

LOVE FOR CANADA: The band’s return to Vancouver coincides with Canada’s year-long sesquicentennial celebration. Bono famously honoured the country during a 2003 Liberal convention for incoming prime minister Paul Martin by saying, “I believe the world needs more Canada.” Since then, variations of the rocker’s tribute have been repeated by other famous admirers, including former U.S. president Barack Obama.

WHY VANCOUVER?: Finding reasons to extend their visits to the city are easy for Bono and his crew. In 2015, the singer told Vancouver radio station Rock 101 that Vancouver offered a welcoming vibe that helped the band overcome its pre-tour insecurities.

“We always had a thing with Canada in general, but Vancouver has been very, very welcoming of us at a time when we’re very fragile,” he said.

“Because you get quite vulnerable when you are preparing to launch a tour. And I know that sounds odd, but there is a level of nausea and, sort of, you feel ill in the pit in your stomach. It’s a really anxious time…. Here in this city we feel very free. And I like to get out of the city and I go wandering, I go cycling, I get lost around here, and I like getting lost in B.C.”

PUBLIC SIGHTINGS: Several fans spotted Bono on his numerous outings throughout the city. He was seen taking a ferry ride on False Creek and winding down at comfy Gastown cocktail bar the Diamond. Larry Mullen, the band’s drummer, was seen clearing his head with a walk down the seawall.

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