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Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 26, 2017    
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U2 - Twickenham Stadium, London (UK) - 08 July 2017

When a band becomes a certain age, or should that be middle-aged, they are often called 'heritage bands' or 'vintage artists'. But when a band digs deep into their back catalogue to dust down and spruce up a seminal piece of work, it's fair to dub this as reinvention and, in some cases, resurrection even. So it is, of sorts, with U2 hanging their current tour around the 30th anniversary of their Daniel Lanois/ Brian Eno produced 'Joshua Tree' album. This was the milestone release that firmly ushered U2 onto the worldwide arena stage and made these four Irish musicians into superstars. From which point, they have never looked back ... until now.

Having a prominent and voluble singer - with a Jesus complex much bigger than his fellow Irishman Bob Geldof - the whole stage presentation should revolve around Bono who, thankfully, was not in full on preachy mode. As The Waterboy's 'The Whole of the Moon' pumped out of the P.A., which heralds the start of all of their concerts, it's followed by the needle-sharp riff of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' as the band emerged from below the stage ramp - which trails out into the fist-pumping dedicated crowd - in this not quite full to capacity rugby stadium. 'New Years Day', 'Bad' – with snippets of 'Heroes' and 'Where Are We Now?' ̶ and 'Pride' followed each other with a blast of high octane energy, finding Bono's bellow in fine voice. These songs reminded what a vital and energetic band U2 once was to almost everyone.

It was at this point that both the energy levels and momentum of the show tanked, somewhat. It was visible that Bono had used up quite a bit of his unforgettable fire. This left the other three guys looking like the ordinary, and invisible, blokes that they clearly are in life as well as on stage.

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To liven things up, a roar of approval boomed around the vast stadium as the mammoth, panoramic blank screen covering the whole width of the stage blinked into life and Anton Corbijn's black and white film of the Mojave Desert revved up and rolled along. This cinematic road movie, in National Geographic style, of the immense and sparse emptiness of this desert plain, only served to emphasise the same feeling with the band's current performance of songs from the Joshua Tree album. What were once songs played with passion and verve, they now seem to meld into one another and pass by without much ado.

Playing the album's tracks in order, it's the hits 'Where The Streets Have No Name', 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For', 'With Or Without You' and 'Bullet The Blue Sky' that still stand out. But the following seven songs that make up the Joshua Tree drift by like tumbleweed through the stadiums of the world; it seemed to be over as soon as it started. The atmospheric and edgy 'Bullet The Blue Sky' is the exception, as the rest of this album's lacklustre anniversary celebration lost its shine and simply ran out of gas.

As the band gathered together to take their first bow, I couldn't help but wonder how U2 pale in comparison to arena/stadium bands such as Queen, Guns 'N' Roses or the 'Stones with their gusto, theatrics and ability to constantly entertain huge audiences. When a singer lacks the energy and charisma to captivate an audience for the whole nine yards, that's when a virtuoso guitarist/musician should step in to fill the void and shoulder responsibility. But The Edge is no lead guitarist ̶ not one jaw dropping solo or star turn ̶ as he disappears behind his phalanx of sound effects and harmonics.

An encore including 'Elevation', 'Vertigo' and 'Ultraviolet' quickly livened things up again. Alas, it was the final encore song 'Don't Look Back In Anger', played with support act Noel Gallagher, which served to illustrate how a show which started with the passion and anger of bygone years was, thereafter, lacking for the remainder of the concert.

Review and photo by Paul Davies

U2 Live Twickenham 2017

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