Review: U2 @ Rose Bowl – Pasadena

Photo by Jessica Klausing

A U2 fan told me she stood over 12 hours in line in the 97 degree heat to see the iconic Irishmen this past Sunday. She was not alone. Thousands of other die-hard fans braved heat exhaustion outside Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium just to ensure a good spot in the general admission pit.

Performing their inspiring lyrics and soaring guitar anthems with vitality, U2 makes it evident during their concerts why they have such a loyal fan base.

U2—comprised of vocalist Bono, guitarist and keyboardist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. –came out to play a mind blowing two-hour set in honor of their groundbreaking 1987 album, The Joshua Tree.

The Joshua Tree ponders the core values of the American dream. These tracks reflect drug addiction, war, death, and discrimination. These powerful themes are every bit as relevant now as they were in the 80s.

The band took the B-stage for the opener, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” off the 1983 album, War. Next, The Edge riffed right into the ‘lightning in a bottle’ jam, “New Year’s Day.” Bono delivered a passionate plea for peace in “Pride (In the Name of Love)” from The Unforgettable Fire, which pays tribute to the late Martin Luther King Jr. before moving to the main stage, where the real treat was in store.

Fans were awed as a giant black Joshua tree silhouette was illuminated against an enormous blood-red LED screen.

“Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” provided a theme park motion simulator ride experience with a walking tour through Death Valley. The band performed “With Or Without You” in front of the majestic Zabriskie Point.  Vibrant multi-colored Joshua trees lit up the night during “In God’s Country.” A full pink moon shined on “One Tree Hill.” The song was dedicated to Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who passed away a week ago.

The tempo slowed down with the darker themed “Running to Stand Still,” which featured a beautiful musical interplay between Bono’s harmonica and The Edge’s keyboard. The duo showed off their stellar chemistry to the roaring approval of the stadium.

“Thank you for letting us Irish into your country. We promise not to leave it as it is,” said Bono.

U2’s music is well known for its politically and socially powered messages. Bono sprinkled his thoughts on equality and the need to unite rather than divide throughout the show, and utilized the screen to drive the point home.

Before “Exit” the screen played a clip from the 1958 western, Trackdown, depicting a sleazy salesman named Walter Trump who tries to frighten a small town into building a protective wall.

“Miss Sarajevo” brought the attention to the current U.S. immigration policy with a clip of a young Syrian girl who dreams of coming to America, a place she refers to as a civil land of dreams where people can be happy. A large banner of the girl was passed around the stadium as Bono cried out “Here she comes/heads turn around/here she comes/to take her crown.”

“If we don’t organize, then we agonize. Nothing scares the shite out of the government more than when millions get organized,” Bono advised.

The mood picked back up for the encore.

“Beautiful Day” brought joy accompanied by a psychedelic light show.  Bono’s signature raspy vocals weaved through The Edge’s pitch shifter during the bridge, as Bono changed the lyrics to sing about Los Angeles.

“Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” honored all women, using the LED screen to flash images of historical female figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Susan B. Anthony to name a few.

U2 closed out the show with a new song, “The Little Things That Give You Away.” This new song is to be featured on the upcoming release, Songs of Experience, which serves as the sequel to the 2014 album, Songs of Innocence.

U2: The Joshua Tree Tour is not to be missed! The band revisits their post punk roots through the desert imagery and symbolic ‘American Dream’ ideology. These classics may be over three decades old but this band still performs them with as much heart and soul as the day they were recorded. Visually and musically inspiring, U2 continues to raise the bar on the live concert experience.


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Review by Jessica Klausing (@OTFlipsideMusic) | Photos by Harlene Dryden (@HarleneDryden)

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