Known for their very intricate, out-of-this-world stadium shows, U2 honors the 30th anniversary of their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, by taking a robust, cinematic set and the albums legacy hits on the road for a stadium tour across North America and Europe.
After reuniting with their fans at iHeartRadio’s Music Festival and Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference, the Irish rockers cemented the idea to celebrate the Joshua Tree album with the Joshua Tree Tour, making it the first time the band has ever taken an entire album from their back catalog on tour.
Written in the mid-eighties, the Grammy award-winning album focuses on the cultural richness, spiritual vacancy and cynical American environment created by political scandals during that era. Ironically, that same political upheaval has since resurfaced under this new political regime and U2 was ready to use their popular platform to spread the word of love. As Edge explains in a Rolling Stone article, “we were looking at the anniversary of The Joshua Tree album, and it started to dawn on us, which is that weirdly enough, things have come full circle. It feels like we’re right back there in a way. I don’t think any of our work has ever come full circle to that extent. It just felt like, ‘Wow, these songs have a new meaning and new resonance today that they didn’t have three years ago, four years ago.’”
In a separate Rolling Stone interview, Bono speaks about The Joshua Tree tour stating, “It’s so not like us to throw ourselves a birthday party. We didn’t know if we could pull off a tour that honors The Joshua Tree without it being nostalgic. That’s an oxymoron.”
Though a throwback may seem out of character for these modest legends, U2 didn’t skip a beat kicking off their show with a performance of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ perched on their tree-shaped stage before making their way to the mainstage.
In order to showcase the Joshua Tree album to its fullest potential, the tour requires a team full of innovative U2 vets who have grown with the evolution of production expectations for stadium shows. Having worked on several of U2’s previous tours, TAIT was requested to build the stage under the creative direction of Willie Williams.
TAIT custom-built a massive, 192 ft. wide, mainstage that stretches parallel to a cinematic video screen which displays high-definition scenes of sunny, desert-like landscapes to mimic the infamous Joshua Tree theme. Likewise, the enormous set mirrors the Joshua Tree silhouette with a custom scenic tree top header, attached above the video screens, in addition to a 75 ft. long runway which leads to the tree-shaped b-stage.
When asked by Rolling Stone how to follow a tour like U2 360°, longtime set designer, Willie Williams explains, [The Joshua Tree Tour] can be a nod to how it was 30 years ago and the spirit of that stage can be there.”
The fully loaded stage is equipped with three prop lifts; one piano lift on the mainstage and both a piano lift and drum kit lift on the b-stage which permits for audience interaction that U2 is known for at their shows. The b-stage lifts are programmed, via TAIT Navigator, to lower below stage level to enhance the sightline of the band performing on the mainstage.
After performing the entire Joshua Tree album, U2 brings fans back to present time during their encore with new songs from their up and coming album, Songs of Experience, which is said to release later this year. The Joshua Tree Tour will come to a close later this summer but until then, U2 continues their stadium trek reminding the world of how far they have come and the incredible journey that got them where they are today.