‘Our prayer for tonight is for an epic night of rock ‘n roll’
says Bono as U2 commence playing ‘Bad’, the fourth song in their opening, ‘entrée’ to the Joshua Tree, set.
It becomes clear that this band needs no gimmicks nor high tech hardware to take on a stadium of 40,000 people as they open, pub rock style, by themselves on the b-stage that is shaped in the form of a Joshua Tree and play a blistering roll of pre-Joshua Tree hits including Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year’s Day and Pride In The Name Of Love.
But that was later, much later, after a day getting to Melbourne and queuing up for hours to get an amazing position just behind Larry’s drumkit.
The Animal Farm
Our plane is delayed so we land a little later than planned in Melbourne. One of our friends has already been to the stadium earlier in the morning to check out the general admission queue.
Seems we are not ‘in’ on the latest system of getting a place close to the front of the field. She’s got some wristband on her already, numbered at 448. She says to come straight to the stadium. So, instead of heading to our hotel we get an Uber straight to the stadium to find out what this is all about. When we arrive a security, person is handing out wristbands to 3 people, she looks at us and says, ‘these are the last three’; 498, 499, 500. We are 501 and 502.
Apparently, Stadium staff are cooperating with a fan led system of numbering that ensures those who are in the know and turn up at designated ‘roll call times’ will get an early entry to the field and front rows position.
Annoyed? Disappointed? Yes.
But we always expected to queue up for the day. So, I guess if we got a wristband in this elite 500, we’d be chuffed but also a bit guilt stricken. It would have been a bonus; it would have made our day easier. We could go to the hotel, chill out and return at 3pm. But then we find some amazing food nearby (love Melbourne) and let it go.
Who are these elitists who end up putting the same people in front of the band every night?
We meet a trio from country Melbourne who’d queued up early in the morning but who, like us, knew nothing of this elite, 500. No-one told them about it, no-one came over and offered them a wristband in the top 500. Yet at 11am, we had just missed out on the last 3…while they sat in the queue politely. How is that a fair system? But, when the 500 went in early, some staffer scanned the trio through by accident thinking it was time to let us ‘plebs’ outside the 500, in. Thanks be to God!
Ok, enough fan angst over silly things.
Some of these fans travel to every single concert and their intentions have some good, trying to protect committed fans from getting doddled out of poor stadium entry management and cheats who push in late in the day.
It didn’t spoil our time or our night. In fact, we had a great time lining up with other fans like usual and managed to get a great position on the field anyways. 500 people is not that many and U2 have brought such an enormous screen with them that you really need to be a few rows back to appreciate it.
It’s hard to win but each time U2 tour they try hard to protect fans interests and this time is no exception, as I’m once again impressed by their generosity.
It’s always a gargantuan effort for U2 to tour their kit down under.
We are so far away, and the costs are enormous. But it’s obviously not unprofitable, right?
This time around, I was also surprised by the generosity of the setlist. Playing for nearly 2.5 hours, the boys really pack a lot in and never looked tired, hoarse, or struggling. Maybe just warming up?
In Brisbane the band seemed to race through the Joshua Tree like they were on a mission to deliver a big show before curfew shut them down at 10:30pm.
In Melbourne it was a more relaxed affair with start time not until 8:45 and no curfew issues bringing the show to a 11:10pm conclusion. But that didn’t mean it had less energy. Melbourne is a favourite city of mine to see the band as their performance often peaks as they strive to court and ‘win’ the audience.
Like Brisbane they threw in thoughtful touches, including ‘Angel of Harlem’ at the end of the Joshua Tree.
The song is offered as a tribute to BB King and a nod to the Love Town tour of 1989. ‘Now if you saw us 30 years ago, here’s what happened next’ says Bono. In that tour we had once again missed a big tour, namely the Joshua Tree tour of 1987. But they toured ‘Rattle and Hum’ down under in the Love Town tour and in that tour, in Australia, Angel was a big hit. Nice touch.
Melbourne’s opening set is fattened with the addition of I Will Follow a song from their first album and a truly great rock song that sees the stadium bouncing on its feet. During ‘Bad’ Bono tributes Nick Cave singing ‘Into My Arms’.
My first LP ever!
I’m not a nostalgic fan and prefer to see what new music they’re going to come up with, plus we are missing out on a double album tour they recently completed, called ‘Innocence and Experience’.
Instead we are getting this ‘Joshua Tree album in its entirety; 30 years anniversary show’. U2 are an incredible live act so I have faith this show will be worth the effort. It might strike other fans as odd, but I am warming to the idea of hearing to the Joshua Tree in full; enjoying hearing them play it so well and appreciating that some fans just got stuck there and never moved on.
It is the first LP I ever bought, and I remember listening to it for the first time, immediately thrilled by With or Without You (this is a hit!) and apologizing to my dear grandma for the hellish noise of Bullet the Blue Sky. I regretted jamming up the volume on Exit for the first time and burnt by the experience, didn’t notice Mothers of the Disappeared on first listen. Hearing the B side of the Joshua Tree is probably a highlight for most fans, me included. These songs aren’t as strong as side A and we’ve never heard them live. As Bono says, some of the songs are more relevant now and they’ve finally got to a point where they can play them well, live.
Bono’s favourite word
The warm up to U2 includes the full play of Kanye West’s latest album ‘Jesus IS King’ and even foul mouthed Noel Gallagher from the support act, makes mention of the ‘end of the world’ and that he’s been reading the book of Revelation (tongue in cheek, or is he?). Bono opens the night in the first set with a ‘prayer’ for an epic night of rock n roll.
But the song that really speaks to me tonight is from 2000, Beautiful Day.
Beautiful Day sounds like its name. Overriding joy.
It’s a song that is saying: ‘This day is not going to get away from me because I have something too good, something that can’t be spoiled, faded or lost’.
The sky could fall in, but I feel like it’s a beautiful day.
Beautiful day bottles the sound of joy…defiant, exuberant…beyond anything in its way.
Some days I feel like I wish I was somewhere else, that I had something else. I feel stuck. Trapped even.
Can you hear the lyric?
‘What you don’t have you don’t need it now, it’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away!’
And there you have it:
Trust God that you are where you should be. That you are in the right place and that whatever you don’t have, you don’t need, right now…
More than sufficient for you
oh, and don’t look down, look up at the beautiful day…the day of grace, un-spoilt favour that God has given you…
‘see the bird with the leaf in its mouth, after the flood all the colours came out, it was a beautiful day’
God’s grace to us in Christ is an over abundant flood of love and kindness.
It’s different to the world’s kind of grace,
‘thought you’d found a friend, to take you out of this place, someone you could lend a hand in return for grace’
I do something for you, you do something for me.
But that’s not God’s grace.
His grace is ‘God so love the world he gave his only Son’
So, remember if you’re stuck or feeling you aren’t where you should be, that God’s grace in Jesus to us is more than sufficient for you.
PS: the sound was amazing, sitting right in the middle of the speaker stacks in front of Larry’s kit about 10 rows from the front.