U2 kicked off their 30th anniversary tour in celebration of The Joshua Tree last night in Vancouver, cramming BC Place with generations of fans. After a crowded and disappointing entry for many into the stadium, a humbled Mumford & Sons played a selection of largely high-energy tracks from across their discography to those lucky enough to have squeezed through security. Their more rock-oriented songs from 2015's Wilder Mind emphasized the influence U2 has had on their work — lead singer Marcus Mumford commenting that his band had always revered them. The band got the audience clapping and on their feet during their more upbeat, folk rock tracks, like "The Cave," complete with banjo, upright bass and horns. They were a fun opening act that satiated fans as many waited to travel back in time with U2, experiencing a seminal record.
Poems scrolled down the arena's screen as the room filled with concertgoers, a pre-show playlist catered to the range of ages. The Pogues' "A Rainy Night In So-Ho" introduced the men of the hour, who took to their b-stage, which extended into the crowd, launching into "Sunday Bloody Sunday" followed by "New Year's Day." The opening track in particular was explosive, bringing the entire crowd out of their seats, singing along to one of many universal messages Bono extended throughout the evening: "Tonight, we can be as one."
A more downtempo energy was conveyed in the verses of "A Sort of Homecoming." The band played with great comfort and fluidity — to be expected after so many years together. The Edge, Bono, and Adam Clayton often moved to respective corners of the vast main stage, performing as if it was second nature.
The bulk of the set was dedicated to the performance of The Joshua Tree in full, executed with great passion by the band. The audience loved hearing its classic singles, but the most arresting performances were of the album's deep cuts. "Bullet the Blue Sky" was undeniably powerful rock, while "In God's Country" soared. Bono dawned a change of outfit for "Exit," jabbing at a handheld camera with furor, adding a touch of "Eeny Meeny Miny Moe."
Of course, Bono didn't shy away from addressing the crowd about political issues. He expressed the band's support for women, before "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)," when the screen behind the band showed a variety of female leaders such as bell hooks, Joni Mitchell, and Malala Yousafzai. He also denounced Trump, expressed his admiration of Canada for its openness and the country's "mosaic," and thanked those in the audience who had supported (RED). A poignant moment occurred when an interview with Omaima, a Syrian refugee in a Jordanian camp, played on the screen. She expressed her wishes to become a lawyer and fight continual injustices, before a giant silkscreened image of her face was passed over the crowd by audience members.
Post-Joshua Tree, it was time for 21st century material, including "The Little Things That Give You Away," a piano-driven debut from upcoming album, Songs of Experience. Despite being the closer, it showed the band remaining in fine form after a lengthy set, coming together on the b-stage with gratitude for the city. "Elevation" elicited cheers and hugs between concertgoers, a clear fan favourite that upped the energy in the room once again.
U2 brought together a nostalgic crowd in Vancouver last night, which included children and millennials seeking to experience one of the band's most celebrated albums. The band in return gave concertgoers much more than an album play through — they carefully selected tracks from their back catalogue which were heightened by just how powerfully the band's members work together. The continuation of U2's dialogue regarding political and social issues was welcome, as many don't associate such discussion with attending a rock show. The band have begun this tour strongly, proving their continued ability to put on a great show that digs into their back catalogue and grapples with far ranging issues — even on an anniversary tour.
Pre-order the 7 LP, super deluxe anniversary reissue of The Joshua Tree on vinyl here.