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Toronto - U2 The Joshua Tree Tour 2017

Max Tsukino
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· Edited by Hwy_Girl

   1 of 1 member found this review helpful 1 / 1 member



A circle:

-a perfectly round shape

-a line that is curved so its ends meet and every point on the line is equally far away from a single point inside.


I was thinking about many things after the show in Toronto on Friday June 23rd. A U2 show is a lot to process and I’m not sure I have even fully done that yet. I am, however, very thankful I will get to see the show again from a different vantage point. This night, I was fortunate to be front and center on the floor by the main stage. Being close enough to see the band member’s faces is something I know I will never forget. Even so, I know there are nuances that I missed. Reflecting back, somehow I kept coming back to the idea of circles and the various ways they were represented in this show.   


It began with a crack in the ceiling then a strip of light as the Dome began to open shortly before U2 went on. This wasn’t a given as it had been raining earlier in the evening. Letting the light in was powerful agent for change, shifting and lifting the mood inside the stadium. That semicircle of light transformed the Rogers Centre from a concrete cavern to a hemisphere cradling thousands that literally got a breath of life and light.  It was so fitting, then, that Bono had Leonard Cohen on his mind that night.

“There is a crack in everything.

That's how the light gets in."


When the “twinkles” for Bad began, the Rogers Center became its own galaxy. During Bad (with an extended snippet of Cohen’s Suzanne) we were all points of light in some semicircular constellation pulled inexorably into the band’s orbit. The spirit of Leonard Cohen, I’m sure, was present in our galaxy that night too.  


A cycle is such because when you reach the end, you begin again. Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year's Day and Pride feel as powerful and anthemic as they did when first released.

"I, I will begin again..." proclaims a new cycle and by singing the album lyrics the song gets a new twist in live performance.


One narrative thread of the show seen most clearly during Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bad and One, In God’s Country and Miss Sarajevo has Bono encouraging us to break cycles of addiction, behavior, violence, governance and negative power structures. Many of the organizations supported by the band recognize the cyclical nature of these issues and work to break and interrupt them to promote positive change.


That gorgeous, endless highway seen during Where The Streets Have No Name is like a circle that has no beginning and no end but in the context of the giant screen filled with Anton Corbijn’s sparsely beautiful imagery, manages to undo itself into a linear path that for multitudes stretches to another, higher place in our hearts and souls.


Black and white Joshua trees fill the screen for I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For reminding us of the tree as it lived and stood tall in 1987.  Seeing these vigorous live trees and knowing the original Joshua tree has fallen brings to mind cycles of living and dying. The album tree’s image is echoed in outline towering above the stage, its fallen counterpart the footprint that makes up the “tree stage” used at the opening and closing of the show.


Bono releasing the songs to the fans during With or Without You, "These songs are yours now! Sing your heart out!" takes them out of the stars, out of unreachable orbit, and brings them back down to earth, to us, the fans, both those who embraced and believed in them thirty years ago and those who continue to do so today. For a gift like that, I'll give up a coda.


Bullet the Blue Sky is a shape-shifter, spiraling into a new version to fit the times and tone of the day. Always pointed, poignant and hard-hitting, its many iterations over its 30 year existence are described in-depth in the Tour Book.


The beautiful oxymoron that is Running To Stand Still describes that circle of destructive behaviour, like a dog chasing its tail. How Running to Stand Still winds up being bleak but not hopeless is just one of the musical miracles in this album.  


With the invitation of "Welcome to Side 2!" the circle flips. This has been a nostalgic moment during the show hearkening back to albums and cassettes for fans who remember the interaction of having to turn the media to keep listening. Hearing Bono say, "This band is finally getting to know this album – Side 2 of it anyway, which we haven't played in all these yrs." is an absolute highlight!


Bono's delight with his performance of Red Hill Mining Town was clearly evident this night. Singing, "From father to son..." invokes the circle of family succession - another layer of meaning that must be an element in this presentation of the Joshua Tree tour. Perhaps the theme of family wasn't so much at the forefront in 1987. Certainly a song like Mothers of the Disappeared takes on new weight when you have children of your own.  I missed watching for the visual of Bono's son and Edge's daughter on the screen at the end of the show. It is a nod to the future and the circle of life.


Side 2 has another circle supported very clearly with visuals on screen. Witnessing this one is much more fun:  That circle of a lasso looping around - circling, circling, never touching in the sexy courtship dance that is Trip Through Your Wires.   


During  One Tree Hill the full, round, red orb of moon shines; the perfect shape of a circle is a fitting tribute to those who have left us too soon.


Then, suddenly, there’s a break and another narrative takes over:  Life imitating art. With the help of an obscure black and white 50s film clip, our Irish shaman is preaching in his latest incarnation as the Shadow Man. Bono swirling and circling around the mic stand / pole has us mesmerized. When he calls, “Hold out your hand!”  - we comply. We are transfixed as the show reaches its zenith. Repatriating Exit to the live set is exhilarating and satisfying.


The encore brought to mind concentric circles rippling out from a pebble thrown into a pond illustrating the effects of individual and corporate activism during One, Ultraviolet and Miss Sarajevo. It’s said the victor writes history. During this tour, Ultraviolet undergoes a metamorphosis from an intensely personal song to become an anthem for the cause of starting a new lap in the race that is human history with “Herstory”.


This tour has me thinking about the circle is a round disc of vinyl. Pressed with grooves, it makes an album. Respecting that body of work that is an album by performing it in its entirety, in sequence, opens an interesting dialogue for planning shows and perhaps opens a door for future album performances (feel free to read Achtung here!).  


Indulge me for a few other circle references in closing:

A circle of trust between fans helping other fans to get tickets.

Arms encircling friends old and new with hugs as fans met each other for the first time or again after years.

Fans echoing the chorus to Mothers Of The Disappeared after the band left the stage for the encore break looped me back to the October 3rd, 1987 show singing 40 while exiting Exhibition Stadium after the show.


Calling for I Will Follow which was not on the printed set list closed the show and brought it full circle. "Your eyes make a circle..." had the band simultaneously looking ahead to Songs of Experience and glancing over their shoulder in a nod to their genesis with Boy.


Thirty years ago I was pulled into the band’s orbit on the first Joshua Tree tour and I’ve been pulled by the gravity of their music ever since. For myself, and many other fans, this tour brings us full circle.





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