Read that title again and tell me you don’t get subtly excited. The idea of U2 & The Lumineers playing at the same venue, let alone in a setting as massive as Gillette Stadium for U2’s The Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour, is a spine-tingly concept to say the least. This past Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts, modern gem met future classic, your favorite album from the past year met one of your parents’ favorite albums of the past thirty years, and disparate generations joined together for an unforgettable experience.
Considering the Lumineers were the initial draw to bring me to the concert in the first place (no disrespect to U2), there could have been a number of improvements to their set. First of all, only a fourth of the songs played were from their recent 2016 album Cleopatra. Their self-titled 2012 debut album was a masterpiece of folk, but a sizable chunk of the stadium’s viewership were freshly oriented into The Lumineers music over the past year and only familiar with 2016’s Cleopatra and the single “Ho Hey”. In turn, focusing on their 2012 album’s B-sides seemed like a strange attempt at diversifying an arena’s knowledge-base in too short a time-span. As time went on the audience was obviously enjoying themselves, but they were doing so in their seats. Telling the crowd to stand up for the finale of “Stubborn Love” was a an fantastic move that was executed about an hour too late. People stood up out of their chairs and started shimmying about with much more enthusiastic vigor, but all that dancing left the lingering question: “Where was this an hour ago?” All that being said, The Lumineers still proved they are expert raconteurs that can be enticing through both melancholic and upbeat ballads. The performance itself was landmark of contemporary musical trends that reflected agreeable optimism for the direction of nationwide tastes.
U2’s emergence from backstage to the tune of “The Whole of the Moon” by The Waterboys was a bold move that introduced a proven identification of their target market right from the start. Younger generations that came for The Lumineers looked around in confusion as over 50,000 overjoyed attendees belted out an 80’s song that those young satellite fans had never even heard before. With their great unveiling out of the way, U2 opened with attention-grabbing hits like “Sunday Bloody Sunday, “New Year’s Day”, and “Pride (In The Name Of Love).” From there, I’d argue that their transition into The Joshua Tree was borderline iconic. The band slowly walked from a smaller, crowd-mobbed stage back towards the raised rear wall while the backdrop illuminated into a field-wide video monitor that displayed an infinitely long desert road. The emblematic intro to “Where The Streets Have No Name” ruptured through night sky as the audience screamed with elation. The videography and production value displayed on that giant monitor through the remainder of the show was otherworldly, beaming exponentially enhanced themes of each song into the starry-eyed faces of the bewildered crowd. Political speeches were just as expected as an encore with an activist like Bono running the show, but he stayed surprisingly ambiguous and unspecific in most of his rants, most of which surrounded women’s empowerment and immigration laws. The encore was a never-ending 7 song dream, but I would have hoped that U2 would conclude after “One” instead of plugging their new song “The Little Things That Give You Away.” The visual effects assisted the reveal of U2’s new song, but I can’t say I was impressed with the latest venture of this established band.
Below is a playlist featuring the setlist of each band in order, discluding the new unreleased U2 song that was featured as the final tune of the night (not intended to be shuffled).