U2 at Olympic Stadium, Berlin - live review
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Berlin
A slick set of undisputed anthems
Playing their 1987 blockbuster best-seller The Joshua Tree in full for the first time ever, U2 insist this latest mega-tour is not a nostalgic indulgence but a re-examination of the album’s America-themed anthems in a Trump-era context. Such spurious distinctions are arguable, but the enduring power of these songs is not. Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With Or Without You and more sound thrillingly crisp, percussive, radiant and vital, even in a rain-soaked Berlin stadium.
By the high-tech blockbuster standards of U2’s recent tours, this production is strikingly agile and lean. Blazing from a huge high-resolution screen, Anton Corbijn’s newly shot footage of majestic desert vistas and close-ups of human faces is simple yet powerful. Many of the songs are similarly refreshed. Making its belated live debut, Red Hill Mining Town has agreeable shades of early Bowie in its soaring new brass-band arrangement. Indeed Bono peppers this show with lyrical tributes to Bowie, including the German-language version of “Heroes”.
The post-album encore section drags a little, despite the stadium-sized mosh-pit hysteria triggered by adrenalised riff-monsters like Elevation and Vertigo. And while this writer has a higher tolerance than most for Bono’s activist sloganeering, his windy statements about feminism and inequality feel fuzzy and trite in Berlin. But, love them or loathe them, this show confirms U2’s position as the greatest grand-spectacle band of their generation.