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Concert Review: U2 at Hard Rock Stadium

By MANDY WYNNE

Last year, while working on its upcoming album “Songs of Experience,” U2 had the notion to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of “The Joshua Tree” LP by bringing it on tour once more, this time in its glorious entirety, to more than 1.7 million fans in just 33 shows across North America and Europe. Noticing similarities between today’s unrest in geopolitics and the Reagan-Thatcher political era that spawned the original 1987 LP, the band thought it timely to revisit an album that seems to have acquired new resonance.

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U2 rarely does anything on a small scale, and Sunday’s sold–out performance at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens was certainly no different for the Irish rock band. The group utilized the largest high-res LED video screen ever used in a touring show, spanning 200 x 45 feet—almost the full width of the stadium.

Pushing boundaries in engineering and technology, stage designers Stufish Entertainment Architects worked in conjunction with Creative Director Willie Williams to create a set of epic proportions. The gigantic, custom-built screen consisting of more than 1,000 video panels was painted to resemble golden cardboard. It featured a silver Joshua tree, which extended well above the screen and provided a central visual display for the show. (Initially, not realizing this from my assigned viewing point, the B-stage was shaped to be an exact shadow of the tree.)

Performing on two stages throughout the evening, the influential Dubliners delivered a powerful 21-song set combining highlights of the band’s extensive collection. Starting strong with the definitive melody of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” followed by mega hits “New Year’s Day,” “Bad, and “Pride (in the Name of Love),” Bono and company proceeded to play “The Joshua Tree” in sequence. The band had performed many of the songs from the album countless times but never all on the same night. “One Tree Hill,” which opened with the sweet, subtle notes of The Edge’s guitar and the soft clickety-clack of Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums, was being played for the first time in any live concert prior to the start of the 2017 tour. “Bullet the Blue Sky,” an old favorite, was belted out with the passion and ferocity one would expect from a band with such activist leanings.

In fact, U2’s message was very clear. The musicians still hold several important issues close to heart, which were visualized on the brilliant cinematic display behind them and emphasized by brief notations from Bono. A short commissioned film by French artist J.R. portraying Syrian refugees in Jordan accompanied “Miss Syria (Sarejevo).” Also extremely noteworthy and empowering was the creative exhibition of pioneering women that continued as a backdrop throughout the performance of “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” from the “Achtung Baby” album, affirming the ONE organization’s ongoing efforts in the “Poverty is Sexist” campaign.

After the somber, sobering messages of the aforementioned campaigns, the performance took on a more uplifting turn, with the heartwarming “One” and a triad of hits: “Beautiful Day,” “Elevation” and “Vertigo.”

On the whole, along with the visuals, the audio was impeccable. There was a brief moment when Bono seemed concerned about the humidity affecting the equipment, but it all came together, and the venue consistently pumped out clear, massive sound for the duration of the show. A day later, I am still partially deaf—but perhaps that’s just me getting old.

Setlist

  • Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • New Year’s Day
  • Bad
  • Pride (In the Name of Love)
  • Where the Streets Have No Name
  • I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  • With or Without You
  • Bullet the Blue Sky
  • Running to Stand Still
  • Red Hill Mining Town
  • In God’s County
  • Trip Through Your Wires
  • One Tree Hill
  • Exit
  • Mothers of the Disappeared
  • Miss Sarajevo (Passengers cover)
  • Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
  • One
  • Beautiful Day
  • Elevation
  • Vertigo