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Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
World's biggest band bring Joshua Tree tour to Australia for first time, but the music shines brighter without added spectacle

by Ben Smee, The Guardian

It is hard to imagine a time when U2 was not a rock and roll monolith; even harder to recall the last time the band performed their music without the giant screens and props that have for decades turned its concerts into extroverted performance pieces.

The 2019 Joshua Tree tour - the third time U2 has toured the American-inspired 1987 album but the first in Australia - seems to present a romanticised version of the band's various reinventions. The first four songs at the Brisbane opening night of the Australian leg are early-career standards, performed on a small secondary stage with room for just four musicians and a smoke machine.

This is U2 stripped of the sort of pomp that has, in their most overblown moments, managed to relegate the music to the role of circus soundtrack. There is nowhere to look but the stage. Bono even has to resort to analogue stagecraft, looking and pointing to the front row more often than the twinkling lights at the back, engaging directly with punters in a way they likely haven't since the band's first decade.

Without the distraction of a spectacle, the music shines. Who knew stadium rock didn't need constant reinvention? The key ingredients seem to be a bass drum set to the level of a Napoleonic cannon and familiar galloping tunes the crowd can screech into the Suncorp Stadium void.

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Latest U2 Concert

Opening Act(s): Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Setlist:

  1. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  2. New Year's Day
  3. Bad - Beds Are Burning
  4. Pride (In the Name of Love)
  5. Where the Streets Have No Name - California (There Is No End to Love)
  6. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
  7. With or Without You
  8. Bullet the Blue Sky - America (Stephen Sondheim)
  9. Running to Stand Still
  10. Red Hill Mining Town
  11. In God's Country
  12. Trip Through Your Wires
  13. One Tree Hill
  14. Exit - Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
  15. Mothers of the Disappeared
  16. Angel of Harlem
  17. Encore(s):
  18. Elevation
  19. Vertigo - Devil Inside
  20. Even Better Than the Real Thing
  21. Every Breaking Wave
  22. Beautiful Day
  23. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
  24. Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way
  25. One - Invisible

Remarks:

U2's first of many shows in the great big nation of Australia kicked off tonight in Brisbane, a city U2 hasn't performed in since 2010's U2 360 Tour. Bono channeled some of Australia's Midnight Oil and INXS into the setlist with "Beds Are Burning" and "Devil Inside". With the former, Bono dedicated the lyrics to the firefighters battling the current bushfire disaster occurring in New South Wales and Queensland. Also, prior to performing "One", Bono spoke about the need to battle climate change by acting collectively: "The way we live in one place affects life in every other place. None of us is really an island. From rising sea levels in one country to catastrophic fires in yours. Big crisis. Global crisis. But we can put out these fires if we act together as one" (alluding to the denialism of the current political climate in Australia).

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