Bullet trains, blue skies and 64-degree weather comprised the initial ingredients of the Silicon Valley version of U2’s much-anticipated “The Joshua Tree Tour 2017”. Add in a sea of predominantly black-dressed 40-somethings, some of whom took the day off to make the trip to Santa Clara, and a pinch of their kids (and I say a pinch because there were less than ten I ran into throughout the night) and you had an almost perfect recipe for an amazing night. Missing of course was the secret sauce; the ageless voice of Bono, along with The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr., who make up one of the biggest bands in the history of the planet.
While some fans initially endured 30-45 minute waits in confusing will call and ticket services lines, the early arrivals enjoyed Mumford and Sons who opened while slivers of daylight still lurked at dusk. “I Iove Mumford and Sons,” one fan said at the conclusion of their music. “I MIGHT stick around though.”
While it was another 45+ minutes until U2 took the stage at 9pm, there was no doubt that the band’s biggest fans WERE sticking around. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” started it off, and an ecstatic crowd welcomed them with cheers summing up more than 30 years of respect and admiration. It was THIS music and THIS band that pushed a generation through the awkward, angst-ridden and challenging years of middle school, high school and college.
“New Year’s Day” followed, and I was amazed that the music instantly put my 45-year-old mind into rewind and I flashbacked to my 17-year-old self. It wasn’t long until the fans were singing in unison the lyrics “in the name of love” and closing their eyes and immersing themselves in a spectacular rendition of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The only glitch of the two hour performance seemed to be at the beginning of “With or Without You”, but Bono and the band recovered nicely and the song finished how we all remembered it. That Joshua Tree CD, most likely purchased from Tower Records or The Warehouse in the 90’s, was being replayed and re-experienced through our aging ears and we loved it.
Eventually, bladders became filled and legs needed to be stretched, and some fans roamed Levi’s Stadium concourse fifty minutes into the set. Yet once “Bullet the Blue Sky” started, more than a few fans could be seen sprinting back to their seats. Bono later broke out the harmonica as the crowd watched him on the enormous high-contrast black and white video feed that spanned across the crystal clear videoboard. “One Tree Hill” and a Trump-mocking video short soon followed.
Bono of course was Bono. Humanitarian, philanthropist, and an all-around impressive intellectual, he dedicated songs to women, acknowledged the presence of the Reverend Cecil Williams, and promoted One, his international campaigning and advocacy organization with nearly 8 members. In a world of 15-minute reality tv ‘celebrities,’ U2 reminded us why the world needs musicians with knowledge, intelligence & relevant messaging.
As the night progressed, it was clear this performance was less about what the fans were seeing and hearing and more about what it was making them remember and feel. Many of the entirely standing crowd began to settle their tired legs at the end of the first set, and the crispness of the air began to envelope the stadium. After a brief break, hearts were delighted as the band returned with the more contemporary favorites “Beautiful Day” and “Elevation,” and images of historically relevant women plastered the videoboard during “Ultraviolet.”
All in all, there shouldn’t be a U2 fan that regrets showing up to work late on Thursday morning. I eventually boarded the public transportation (VTA), which pledged to run until 30 minutes after the show, around 11pm with signage from the stadium clearly marking my way back to Mountain View. The woman seated next to me immediately offered up her highlights recapping the night but eventually remembered her present-day reality and responsibilities and checked in on her cell phone with someone who sounded like her babysitter. About 5 minutes later she was asleep in her seat, most likely dreaming about the end to her beautiful day.