U2 + Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Live review | Suncorp Stadium Brisbane | Tuesday 12 November 2019

It has been nine years since U2 – one of the most iconic bands in rock music history – last hit Aussie shores with their 360-degree tour.  Brisbane fans rejoiced and revelled last night as the long wait was finally over for the band’s return, and the Australian leg of The Joshua Tree tour kicked off at Suncorp Stadium.

Diehard fans had been lining up all day to secure their prime general admission spots and passionate tour-shirted U2 fans of all ages swarmed to fill the stadium to capacity.  The excitable nostalgic energy was palpable and Suncorp Stadium was heaving like a busy beehive.

The Joshua Tree tour kicked off in 2017 and it is the first time the Dublin four-piece haven’t toured with a new album release.  Tonight promised to be a trip down memory lane with the band revisiting their back catalogue to play their iconic chart-topping and award-winning 1987 album ‘The Joshua Tree’ in its entirety.

Noel Gallaher’s High Flying Birds opened the night with a selection of tracks from his solo album; of course a few Oasis classics were thrown in for good measure. ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ kept the Oasis fans at bay, and they finished with a cover ‘All You Need Is Love’ by The Beatles.

The lights dimmed, the crowd roared, and the stadium became awash in a bright crimson glow. Larry Mullen’s unmistakable iconic drum intro of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ rang out from the B stage sending a hair-raising awakening electric current through the crowd.  The collective chorus of recognition and adoring screams were roof-raising.

Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton had made their way down to join Larry and ‘New Years Day’ followed.  Bono dedicated ‘Bad’ to the tireless firefighters on the ground currently battling the bushfire devastation in Queensland and New South Wales and song Lyrics from ‘Beds Are Burning’ by Midnight Oil filtered through the song.  ‘Pride’ followed to finish the intro and then the band made their way back to the main stage where they remained to smash out the full ‘The Joshua Tree’ album in sequence.

The stage set up was a spectacular jaw-dropping feast for the eyes.   A monumental 60 metre LED wide high-resolution screen was the backdrop to the band, which displayed visually spectacular cinematic sequences. Live feeds were displayed from Bono’s handheld camera during ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ and from behind Larry’s drum riser looking out over the crowd.

The gigantic LED screen became alive with a black and white scene from Death Valley for ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ and colourful and vibrant images continued to backdrop ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For’ and ‘With or Without You’.   Hit after hit just kept coming in a welcomed cinematic sensory overload.

Forty-three years on and these guys still have such a good craic together. Huddled around the drum kit and playfully taking the mickey out of the Irish, Bono said “Let me tell you something about us Irish… we sorta think we invented everything, like boats and country music and stuff. Did we invent country music, Larry?” Larry responds, “No Bono, we did not” and the crowd laughed.

Bono announced that we had reached “Side two of The Joshua Tree, and if you had been listening to us by cassette, you would have flipped us over”.

The band played a heartfelt tribute to Greg Carroll, the band’s Kiwi roadie who died in a motorbike accident in 1986 in ‘One Tree Hill’ and The Joshua Tree set finished with ‘Angel of Harlem’.

Larry’s merciless commanding drumming, The Edge’s trademark guitar changes, Bono’s charisma and flawless vocals and Adams funky bass combined seamlessly to create a truly epic performance of an iconic album.

The band briefly left the stage to reappear with Bono in a top hat resembling a ringmaster to finish strong with an encore of their more recent material.   ‘Elevation’, ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ and ‘Beautiful Day’ featured and song lyrics from ‘Devil Inside’ filtered through ‘Vertigo’ in a tribute to INXS.

An absolute standout moment was during ‘Ultraviolet’ in the encore.  The words ‘Women Of The World Unite’ were illuminated on the screen as pictures of female trailblazers flashed across the colossal screen. A number of Australian women featured in the display and included comedian, personality and marriage equality activist Magda Szubanski, feminist Merle Thornton and Indigenous athlete and politician Nova Peris. Bono said, touchingly, “Luminous icons, women writing history, and there are many here this evening about to write history, we salute you”.

The night ended with ‘One’ and Bono asked for the lights to be turned off.  The crowd illuminated their phones and the stadium lit up like fireflies.  Bono said, “Sea levels rise… your country burns” “We can put these fires out if we act as ONE”  The message was loud and clear.  The crowd’s collective voice was deafening and moving.

This had been an epic nostalgic trip down memory lane and certainly one that will not be forgotten any time soon.  These iconic four mates from Dublin are as tight as ever and showing no signs of stopping any time soon.  The Joshua Tree was a World-Class production that left fans in awe of these music legends who forged rock’s frontlines for decades.

The Joshua Tree tour now heads to Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Perth then onto Tokyo.  If you have been lucky enough to secure tickets, get excited and be prepared to be blown away.  You are in for one hell of a show.

Header Image Credit: Dara Munnis

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