- 03 Aug 17
U2 have always put more into the crucible of live performance than almost any other band on the planet, endeavouring to make every tour an artistic and creative statement in itself. In advance of the return of their Joshua Tree Tour to Dublin, we chart the circumstances of their tours, recall the iconic moments and the visual highlights and reprise what it is that makes them the world’s pre-eminent live act. By Olaf Tyaransen
These early shows generally featured only three songs from the album – ‘New Year’s Day’, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. In what was a very brave move indeed, in a time of serious political turmoil across the border, the latter was first played in Northern Ireland on December 20, in Belfast’s Maysfield Leisure Centre. Bono told the crowd, “We’re going to do a song for you now. If you don’t like it, we’ll never play it again. It’s called ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’.”
Thankfully, the audience reception was hugely positive, but thereafter the singer would clarify the song’s purpose: “This song is not a rebel song, this song is ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday!’” The War Tour was also the first one on which the lighting and stage design was done by Willie Williams, who has worked on every subsequent tour, including the current Joshua Tree 30th anniversary trek. It had a minimalist stage design with a red carpet-covered riser, on which the drums and keyboards stood, and three large white flags at the back of the stage. Very much the energetic rock-warrior, Bono soon took to climbing up the rigging and waving these flags around during ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, while encouraging the audience to chant, “No more! No war!” His OTT onstage antics didn’t always sit well with his band-mates, who were genuinely afraid that he might come to grief.
Years later, Adam Clayton observed, “If you had to reduce U2 down to the waving of the white flag, which is a moment from the War Tour, that would be the worst thing. At the time, I think it was in the spirit of the performance. But we weren’t very ironic people back then. We were pretty serious people, and we didn’t see that we could have been a little more subtle about things like that. But hey, as mistakes go, that’s probably not a bad one.”