VANCOUVER — U2 treated Vancouver like a homecoming as the Irish rock band kicked off a world tour celebrating the 30-year anniversary of its beloved “Joshua Tree” album.
Lead singer Bono said it was “the city we love” during the song “New Year’s Day,” the second track in a set that spanned different eras of the group, yet anchored around a full recreation of The Joshua Tree. It was the second straight tour that U2 has started in Vancouver.
The band, with guitarist the Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton, had been in Vancouver for weeks rehearsing, with sounds of U2 leaking out of BC Place stadium and filling the downtown city streets nightly. On Friday night, fans were welcomed into the “concrete temple” as Bono called it, to see and hear the results of all the practise sessions.
The show began with Mullen sauntering alone to his drum kit to bang out the opening bars of “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” The rest of the band soon joined him and immediately the audience was on its feet pumping fists in the air.
After a rousing rendition of “A Sort of Homecoming,” Bono brought the tempo to a moody halt with the keyboard-heavy “MLK.” It was during the next song, “Pride” (In the Name of Love), when Bono said “Canada, don’t close your doors” in a “time of fear.”
It wouldn’t be Bono’s only political message during the evening. On a giant backdrop video screen projecting images during the show, edited clips from an old movie played where a character says, “Trump, you’re a liar,” before the “Joshua Tree” song “Exit.”
The black-clad singer would take aim again later with a “message to the USA.” He incited the audience to sing along: “power of the people is stronger than the people in power,” and then said, “government should fear citizens, not the other way around.”
Politics aside, the Joshua Tree section formed the centrepiece of the show and had the sold-out crowd roaring during the first three songs, “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “With or Without You.”
After those perennial classics you could feel the energy dip slightly as the band worked through lesser known tunes like “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Red Hill Mining Town,” a song they performed live for the first time. Once the final notes from album closer “Mother of the Disappeared” rang out, Bono jokingly thanked the audience “for listening to our new long player.”
The audience quickly revived with the drum-pounding favourite “Beautiful Day,” which was followed by the equally-lively “Elevation.”
Bono dedicated the song “Ultra Violet” (Light My Way) from “Achtung Baby” to “great women we know.” During the song, images of women, including Canadians Joni Mitchell and k.d. lang, flashed across the backdrop as Bono’s vocal soared into the chorus.
The concert wound down on a sombre note. After the HIV-fighting battle cry “One,” U2 played the poignant “Miss Sarajevo” while powerful images of a Syrian refugee camp flashed in the background.
However, fans would leave on an uplifting note. U2 closed the evening by premiering a brand new song called, “Little Things That Give You Away,” a piano based dirge that builds into a hard-driving rocker. The tune was well received and gave fans hope for new U2 music to come.
Openers Mumford and Sons, meanwhile, began their set to a half-empty stadium as thousands of fans waited in long snaking lines outside the building. Fans vented on Twitter about missing Mumford due to the slow-moving entry.
“U2 will be playing to 10,000 people and the other 50,000 will be still waiting in line outside. #gongshow #U2TheJoshuaTree2017,” tweeted one person.
Some made light of the their frustration with BC Place as they waited outside the stadium.
“#U2TheJoshuaTree2017 Where The Line Has No End #freetheGA @bcplace @u2,” another person tweeted in reference to the band’s song “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
By the time Mumford played their big hit “The Cave” most fans were inside.
Jason Keller, The Canadian Press