PASADENA—The hot air hung over the Rose Bowl on Saturday, May 20, as U2 opened their sold out two night stint of the Joshua Tree Tour in a surprising manner. The four members walked onto a small circular stage devoid of pyrotechnics, lights and other bells and whistles prior to launching into, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

U2 is celebrating the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree,” the themes revolving around the mythology and reality of the American Dream ring true in 2017. The bands optimism and energy was a breath of fresh air; the discord and political upheaval was silenced by joyous singalongs.

Bono gives it his all at the Rose Bowl on May 20.  Photo by Michael C. Floch.
Bono gives it his all at the Rose Bowl on May 20.
Photo by Michael C. Floch.

The Joshua Tree released in 1987, is the album that catapulted U2 into superstars. It went on to sell more than 25 million copies around the world, and won several Grammy’s including Album Of the Year.

After four songs of warming up the crowd, the band appeared on a stage more befitting U2. The Irish rockers moved to a much larger main stage; behind the band, the screen displayed striking high-definition landscape scenes by the photographer Anton Corbijn, who’s managed U2’s visual approach for decades.

The 200 foot screen was visually stunning, U2 playing in front of the winding desert roads proved to be a tremendous symbol of their 30-yr plus career.

This was no greatest hits, nostalgia show- U2 has never rested on its laurels. These songs not only resonate with a new generation, they also serve as a reminder of the political strife both in the United States and abroad.

Highlights included “Where The Streets Have No Name,” a ferocious, “Bullet The Blue Sky,” “With Or without You,” and the rarely played “Red Hill Mining Town.”

“Thanks for allowing us Irish into the country,” Bono said after “In God’s Country.” The charming front man was dressed in a black suit, playing the role of a southern revivalist preacher.

One dark cloud hanging over the otherwise gorgeous Pasadena evening was the tragic death of Chris Cornell. “Running to Stand Still” was dedicated to the late singer, “the Lion that was Chris Cornell,” the Soundgarden frontman died last week by hanging himself in a hotel room in Detroit. Minutes before the concert began, the haunting, signature Soundgarden track, “Blackhole Sun” blared from the PA speakers. The crowd hugged one another, while belting the chorus.

After the final Joshua Tree song was complete, U2 delivered an electrifying encore. The singer used the introduction to “One” as a chance to congratulate America on doing the lion’s share of work in developing AIDS drugs, saying citizens should be pleased their tax dollars are at work saving lives.

During “Elevation,” the Rose Bowl shook so violently it measured on the Richter Scale at Cal Tech.