U2 became a household name back in the late 80s, and judging by the age of the crowd that filled the Superdome Thursday night, they remain just as popular with the middle-age, pre-grunge crowd. Though titled The Joshua Tree Tour, U2 opened and closed the set with their most popular songs from other albums. Kicking off the show with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and closing it with “I Will Follow” got the crowd rolling early and kept them engaged throughout.
For the opening four songs, Bono belted out the hits from a Joshua Tree-shaped riser in the center of the floor section before heading to the main stage in front of a massive two-hundred-foot video screen. Unfortunately, the band’s set designers predominantly chose to show landscapes and lonely highways instead of members of the band. Thus, if you were anywhere besides the floor in the cavernous dome, you rarely got to glimpse the emotion on Bono’s face or the power in The Edge’s hands as he shredded the guitar. It sometimes left you disconnected from the show and also wondering where the extra baseline or vocal backing was coming from. That’s not to say the crowd was disappointed. Most of the fans were happy to hear the hits and sing-along to the choruses. But for me, it felt like a cookie-cutter show that rarely challenged the aging superstars.
One moment that didn’t seem as prefabricated came toward the end of the show as Bono deviated from the pre-selected tour set list. Conjuring up memories of their short pre-game concert with Green Day at the Dome’s rebirth in 2007, The Edge launched into the opening refrain of local favorite, “The Saints Are Coming,” that other cities surely didn’t get. There were also several heartfelt tributes from Bono, including a surprising prayer for our injured Congressman Steve Scalice. He gave a shout-out to The Edge’s Music Rising Charity that replaced instruments lost in Hurricane Katrina, and mentioned how sorry he was that it had been twenty years since the last time a U2 tour passed through New Orleans.
Aside from the second-to-last song “You’re the Best Thing About Me” off their soon-to-be-released album, “Songs of Experience,” fans of U2 got exactly what they wanted. It was a chance to rehash their high school daze and rock out to the band that made an indelible mark on their lives over the past thirty years. If you were expecting anything less, or anything more for that matter, you were probably disappointed. For most, getting to see U2’s biggest album in its entirety was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And that is why they can still fill at 40,000-seat arena and why a majority of the folks had big smiles on their faces throughout the show.