“Have a great night. If you haven’t seen the show before… it’s alright,” snickered Noel Gallagher in his trademark Mancunian accent, launching the High Flying Birds into a quirky and fun rendition of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love after an epic run of Oasis hits including Little By Little, Stop Crying Your Heart Out, Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger.
The lights outside of Optus Stadium were lit up in the colours of the Irish flag and inside punters were itching for U2’s return (their last visit was in 2010 during the 360 Tour). The epic screen behind the stage (the largest high-res LED video screen ever used in a touring show) rolled through classic poems by some of the greats, including James Dickey and Langston Hughes, while punters in the swelling mosh passed around a lone beach ball.
As far as opening tracks go, they don’t come more rousing than Sunday Bloody Sunday and every snare hit from Larry Mullen Jr – who was perched at the end of the runway – felt like a punch in the gut.
U2 @ Optus Stadium. Photo by Adrian Thomson.
The Edge strolled down from the back of the stage, dancing though the song’s delicate guitar lines before the larger-than-life Bono joined them, his vocals echoing around the giant stadium. The band unleashed I Will Follow like they were playing to a small pub crowd – great for those in the front, not so much for those in the nosebleed section, with the huge screen remaining dark throughout.
“Perth, thank you for your patience,” Bono said. “The only thing we can do to make up for the past ten years is to make sure that tonight is the best show that we’ve ever played.” The praise for Australia continued alongside a tribute for the heroic firefighters currently battling devastating bushfires across the country; a touching moment reinforced by a powerful performance of David Bowie’s Heroes before Pride (In The Name Of Love) had everyone screaming their lungs out.
The Joshua Tree tour had finally arrived and with it a stadium show of mammoth proportions. The band left the runway and set up on the main stage for Where The Streets Have No Name as the huge screen finally lit up, first in bright red and then to display video of a brooding highway. They were literally getting the show on the road.
The unity around the stadium for I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With Or Without You truly captured the essence of the album perfectly, the band now surrounded by mountainous desert ranges. But the soaring vocal lines and soothing atmosphere didn’t last long as ratty guitar and thick bass from Adam Clayton grabbed hold of the audience and threw the venue into chaos as Bullet The Blue Sky’s droning guitar oozed across the stadium, Bono barking lyrics at the crowd. It was the first time the band actually appeared on the screen, albeit through a series of warped and dizzying effects.
“Welcome to side two of The Joshua Tree,” Bono announced. “If you were listening on cassette, this is the moment you would eject and flip it over.”
The vocalist gave a shoutout to the band’s longtime producer Steve Lillywhite who was in attendance before launching into In God’s Country; its drum shuffle and busy guitar created a wall of noise that carried Bono’s voice to every corner of the venue and beyond.
U2 @ Optus Stadium. Photo by Adrian Thomson.
The visuals accompanying each song were so detailed and immersive it felt like we were being pulled into a music video from time to time. Country-esque single Trip Through Your Wires, featured lasso displays and US flags, and One Tree Hill (dedicated to roadie Greg Carroll) drew focus with a hypnotic blood-red moon. Exit transported punters down another dizzying rabbit hole, Bono parading around the stage and then runway like a possessed preacher, finally falling to his knees and facing his band to bust out Mothers Of The Disappeared.
“Are you ready to get high?” Bono asked between the soaring call and response vocal intro of Elevation, the first song in an encore set that proved they were saving some of the best until last. A disco-tinge took over for Even Better Than The Real Thing and a disco ball lit up the stadium. It was an effort that fell somewhat flat given the booming sounds of Vertigo that proceeded it. Luckily, an intimate acoustic performance of Every Breaking Wave, with Bono backed by The Edge on piano, was just around the corner to iron out any creases.
In one last burst of uplifting energy, U2 whipped out Beautiful Day and Ultraviolet (Light My Way), before offering up a lasting message to everyone in attendance that summed up the night perfectly: Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way.
Given that U2 had already taken The Joshua Tree tour across the globe by the time it hit Perth – it kicked off around the iconic album’s 30th anniversary in 2017 – it’s not surprising they have the formula down pat.