U2 returns to the Superdome for their first Crescent City tour date in almost 20 years. An even bigger milestone for fans, however, is that the performance celebrates the 30th anniversary of their career-defining triumph, The Joshua Tree, which will be performed in its entirety mid-way through the show.
The Joshua Tree transformed U2 from rock stars to rock gods and remains their highest-selling and most critically acclaimed accomplishment to date. Still, it was important to the band that their anniversary performance feel fresh.
In keeping with U2's tradition of one-upping their stage production each tour, the show will feature an 8k IMAG screen—the highest resolution ever featured in a stadium performance—showcasing sprawling desert landscapes from the site of the actual Joshua Tree in California's Mohave Desert.
But it is the music, not the spectacle, that retains The Joshua Tree's significance. The album's examination of the endless possibilities of the American dream—both for redemption and damnation—are as symbolic today as they were 30 years ago during the final act of the Reagan era. Revisiting the record's 11 tracks, it appears our nation is still comfortably sitting in the shade of The Joshua Tree.
To help you get ready for their approaching performance, here is a quick look back at each of the songs from the original 1987 release of The Joshua Tree.
Where the Streets Have No Name
This track opens The Joshua Tree with a slow build: from the quiet calling of an organ to the rollicking guitar chords and pulse-pounding drums picking up the pace more than a minute in, it is an epic introduction that perfectly captures the essence of what is to come. Bono's lyrics, painted with images of the barren desert from which the album takes its name, begin with a longing optimism later crushed by life's cruel reality. At its conclusion, the song calmly fades to black, exiting just as gently as it first entered, like sand strewn in the desert wind.
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
In looking to make an album that captured the essence of America, U2 broadened their musical range to infuse elements of gospel music into this track. This is most evident in Bono's high vocal range, as well as a backing choir provided by guitarist The Edge and producer Brian Eno. The lyrics are rich with religious imagery, a recurring motif throughout The Joshua Tree.
With or Without You
Built on a minimalist drum beat and delicate chords, the song gradually rises to a crescendo of soaring vocals and thundering drums before a gentle guitar solo calms the mood again for the finale. Much like the duality of doubt and belief expressed "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," the lyrics find Bono wrestling between his role as a lover and a rock star.
Bullet the Blue Sky
Along with closing track "Mothers of the Disappeared," this track was inspired by U2's visit to El Salvador with Amnesty International in 1985. The track is not only painted with shades of biblical bloodshed (defeated angels, demon seeds, the crucifixion), but calls out our country for taking sides in the struggle ("See the rain comin' through the gapin' wound/Pelting the women and children/Who run into the arms/Of America").
Running to Stand Still
This tale of a heroin-addicted couple in Dublin is just as poignant today as it was when The Joshua Tree was released 30 years ago. With politicians and health professionals currently conflicted about how to best address this accelerating epidemic in our country, this song is an example of the album's themes coming full circle.
Red Hill Mining Town
Another track that eerily resounds within the modern U.S. political and social milieu, it illustrates the struggle of workers fighting to make ends meet during a British mining strike in the early 80s. Due to the track's complexity and melancholy, the current tour marks the first time the band has performed this song live.
In God's Country
"In God's Country" is a vitriolic renouncement of American values during the Reagan era. Punctuated with images of barren skies, falling crosses, and the Statue of Liberty left standing for an empty promise, it is the album's bleakest and most aggressive track. It doesn't take a fortune cookie to affirm Bono's feelings on our current commander in chief. However, he stated in an interview that political posturing will be absent from this tour. Thanks, Bono.
Tripping Through Your Wires
What's most interesting about the folk/blues rhythm of this song is not that it hinted at the sound of the The Joshua Tree's follow up, 1988's Rattle and Hum. Rather, the song's original companion piece and "Where the Streets Have No Name" B-side, "Sweetest Thing," was voted off the album in favor of this track. While the latter would go on to become a hit single 10 years later, "Tripping Through Your Wires" gelled better with the rest of The Joshua Tree, both musically and thematically.
One Tree Hill
The album's most personal track was written as an ode to Greg Caroll, a close friend and employee of the band who died in 1984. The song is named for the New Zealand landmark he visited with Bono the night they became friends. Because of the song's emotional weight, Bono was unable to perform it during their inaugural tour and has reserved it for only a handful of shows until now.
Bono's lyrical attempt to see through the eyes of a killer, the track's slowly creeping baseline and grinding guitars give its dark subject matter an ominous tone. Lending to its macabre legacy, the song was later cited as inspiration for the actual murder of 21-year-old actress Rebecca Shaeffer by her stalker, Robert Bardo, who is currently serving life in prison. The band previously abandoned live performances shortly after his confession.
Mothers of the Disappeared
"Mothers of the Disappeared" tells the story of the mothers of political protesters, demanding answers for their children's disappearance during the El Salvador civil war. The song washes away the veneer of optimism and wonder painted in "Where the Streets Have No Name," revealing the violence just underneath the varnish of freedom. Yet those who are willing to dream continue to fight for the world they deserve. Brian Eno's touch is best heard on this song, offering whispers to his later work with Coldplay.
Not to be outdone, The Joshua Tree performance will be bookended by sets of the band's other singles. Throw in an opening act by alt-indie OG Beck, and this will be one show you will not want to miss.
General admission tickets start at $70. Visit LiveNation.com to purchase tickets and for more details.