OK, this might be a weird post, and I might be the only one who feels this way, but I feel like I just gotta get this out of my system to someone who might at least understand where I'm coming from. I guess I should just start with the announcement:
U2 have announced that they will tour this summer, and will play the entire Joshua Tree album at each show. The official promotional materials use the phrase "every song, every show" repeatedly.
My problem? I'm having a hard time believing it. It's not that I don't want it to happen. I'm just not convinced that it will.
Adam and Edge have been the two guys to talk publicly about the tour so far. Edge has said that they will play the album in sequence, but that Where The Streets Have No Name might not be the opening of the concert. Adam's responses were less definitive. Is there conflict within the band about what to play, even after it's been announced?
I can't help but recall the Innocence & Experience tour. When that tour was announced, the official tour materials had quotes from the band (as well as a press release) that stated that the band would be doing two different shows, with Night 1 having a different feel from Night 2. The tour was booked in a unique way with two nights at every venue, and then if additional shows were added, they were added in pairs. And then, after all the tickets were put on sale, after every show already sold out, the band then quietly revealed in an interview that they would not be playing two different shows. They said instead that they'd play a show where the first half stayed the same from night to night, but where the second half would be radically different from Night 1 to Night 2. When the tour began, we discovered this would not be the cases. They did rotate a couple different songs from night to night, but for all intents and purposes, this was one show that had minor variations, and not two shows, and not two halves with one half constantly changing. I bought tickets to all eight shows in New York because I was under the impression that I'd be seeing two different shows four times each, and not one show eight times.
So now it's 2017 and it's the Joshua Tree tour, and the press release promises the band will play every song from the record every night. Then we've got Edge saying that's basically true but they haven't worked out the details yet. And then Adam says, well, that might be true but who knows. I think we'll absolutely hear Side A in its entirety. But would I really be shocked to find that the band drops a song like Red Hill Mining Town? Not at all. The band hasn't shown any interest in playing the song live before. What's to say that they couldn't try it a couple times, realize that it doesn't get the same audience response as Streets, and drop it in favor of Elevation (or some other crowd pleaser)? I just don't see that as being impossible.
I was also concerned about the Red Zone tickets. When the I&E tickets onsale, the seating charts for all venues clearly had the Red Zone surrounding the b-stage area. However, when the tour began, it was revealed that the Red Zone was actually going to be in front of the main stage, mostly to the side - in other words, a completely different spot that what was advertised and sold. If it was a cheap ticket, I'd say who cares, but for $300+ face value, the tickets really should be where they advertise them as being.
I'm a big U2 fan, I've been doing this for ages, and I'm sure I'll be happy when all is said and done. But the I&E tour was the first time that I actually ended up with a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth over the business end of things. (I don't think it's a coincidence that all of this happened on the first tour without Paul McGuinness managing.) Announcing two different shows but only playing one felt pretty close to false advertising. Showing the Red Zone as being in one location when you bought it, but placing it in a different area when you showed up seemed deceptive. And that doesn't even take into account how inflated their ticket prices have gotten in a very short period of time; it's not that they don't deserve to be paid for their work, but it feels like price gouging. But at least with the ticket prices, you know what you're paying for, and you just have to choose whether or not its worth it to you. When the band announces they will be playing one type of show, and then does a different one, or tells you that your seat will be in one place and then put it somewhere else, your ability to choose for yourself has been taken from you.
And honestly, most of this could have gone away with a couple of well-timed and sincere statements from the band. Instead of mentioning that it might not be two different concerts as a throwaway line in an interview in a local paper that not everyone who bought tickets had access to, the band could have made a statement that as they were preparing to tour, they realized their idea to do two different shows wasn't working out as they hoped. They could have offered refunds to anyone who bought tickets to two concerts but only wanted to go to one in light of this new information. I bet the number of people that actually took them up on that offer would have been statistically insignificant, but it would have been a good gesture. Similarly, people disappointed with the Red Zone location should have also been offered the chance to return their tickets or perhaps exchange them for standard general admission tickets and a partial refund. The most frustrating part about all of this was that it seems the band's organization went to great lengths to avoid commenting on the situation at all, as if they were denying that anything had been anything less than 100% of what they originally promised. It was impossible to communicate with anyone with any measure of authority. I didn't want to yell, or scream, or be rude; I simply wanted to have a polite and honest discussion about how, after decades of being a U2 fan where I felt the band had done right by me, that something had changed and I felt misled and taken advantage of. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get through to anyone higher up than the Live Nation and Ticketmaster customer service. Ticketmaster said any complaints had to be directed to Live Nation and that they weren't responsible and that all sales were final; Live Nation said all complaints had to be directed to Ticketmaster and that they weren't responsible and all sales were final. At that point, I didn't even want a refund. I wanted someone to just acknowledge "Hey, we sold you tickets and told you they'd be over here on the map by X, but yes, we realize that your tickets were actually over by Y." And it was impossible to even get that kind of basic acknowledgement from anyone. Even two years later, I really think that most of my bad feelings could be wiped away if someone just acknowledged that they said one thing and then did another.
So as we begin this new cycle, I guess some of that bad taste is still lingering to the point where I don't trust the band to do the things that have been advertised this time around.
Am I the only one feeling this way? Joy at the thought of hearing the complete Joshua Tree, but with some nagging doubts that maybe you won't? Happiness at having gotten Red Zone tickets, but concern that the Red Zone might not be where it's supposed to be? A general lack of faith in something that you previously had no trouble trusting?