Last night's performance was very much A Sort Of A Homecoming as I remembered watching The Joshua Tour in 1987 at BC Place.
13 year old me in '87 was floored by the sounds and spirit of 4 lads from Ireland. Just a year before I had discovered "Wide Awake in America", drawn to U2 from an obsession for The Beatles that my father instilled in me, as well as the searing passion of the live version of "Bad" found on WAIA. (When I say "floored" I'm being literal...I had chaotic floor seating, battered by the punishing reverberation caused by BC Place's old roof)
13 year old me in '87 was massively impressed by a young Bono Vox (clearly losing his voice yet giving it his all) who ensnared us all with his pony tail and Stetson and charisma, drawing each and every one of us +50,000 Vancouverites onto the massive stage they trepidatiously explored.
13 year old me in '87 lost his voice that night. I distinctly recall losing my sh*t when the opening chimes of "Bad" began. I've read that "Where The Streets Have No Name" is about going to heaven. How apropos...that's exactly what happened on that cold and wet November day in 1987.
43 year old me in 2017 at BC Place. The Joshua Tree Tour again. And I went to Heaven again.
Except this time round it wasn't a voice-breaking euphoric high Heaven. It was a reverent, transcendent Heaven, where every song I knew and loved came to life with new visuals and meaning. Like reconnecting with long lost friends who have clearly aged but wear their wrinkles and silver streaks proudly and beautifully. It was a visit to Heaven where St. Peter welcomed me to the Pearly Gates, stopping me at the entrance with hallowed stories of old (Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year's Day, A Sort Of A Homecoming...which I admit losing my sh*t to, MLK and Pride) as I stood and cheered and sang while somewhat confused yet anxious to get in. Then "Streets" started with the familiar crimson (just like 1987) and then the gates flew open. And it was the whole album. Through and through.
A few years ago Roger Waters rolled through town and played The Dark Side Of The Moon from start to finish. I loved it, but part of me wished Gilmour, Mason and Wright were onstage too. So for that reason, seeing Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry, ALL silhouetted against the red screen of "Streets" was truly transcendental.
Unlike previous outings, this tour is truly for hardcore fans of U2's music rather than just their "hits". Between "Running To Stand Still" and "Trip Through Your Wires" a fellow 2 rows behind me kept yelling "Play 'Beautiful Day'!!!". Even my wife wondered why I was singing so loudly to "Red Hill Mining Town". I could sense a quarter of the audience thinking "WTF???" as they played the trippy visuals and predatory sounds of "Exit".
For me, it was fitting that poetry was projected onscreen beforehand, because the show was very contemplative once the The Joshua Tree was played in sequence. In my mind, the show is an observance of 4 young men and their discovery of a new world, from the perspective of those same men years later. It wasn't a cynical retrospective, by any means...rather, it was a done with appreciation and without shame. Through Anton Corbijn's visuals, the whole album came to life like a document of the feelings the band must have had when American opened up to them for the first time.
Highlights for me were the revamped "A Sort Of A Homecoming", the searing red intro for "Streets", Edge's timeless stinging guitar on "In God's Country", Las Madres and 'El Pueblo Vencera' during the hymnal "Mother's Of The Disappeared", and the reworking of "Ultraviolet" into a long overdue ode to Womankind.
My only complaints have to do with the underwhelming live version of "Red Hill Mining Town" (for a song I was so highly anticipating hearing live for the first time, shelving Edge's guitar in favour of piano and brass really fell flat for me), as well as the choice of "Beautiful Day" to start off the encore set. Maybe it was the fellow 2 rows behind me, or maybe its just a song I've heard live too many times, but it felt out of place after leaving Heaven via "Mothers...".
As the lights came up and my wife and I queued to leave I couldn't help but imagine seeing my 13 year old self wandering around the general admission floor, half-deaf and drunk on the lingering sounds of "40" from that cold and wet November day in 1987. And my 43 year old self thought of the wide-eyed wonder and innocence that he thankfully outgrew, as the lingering sounds of "The Little Things That Give You Away" faded into that cold and dry May night in 2017.