When U2 came to town
- Highlights from the band’s first performance in India include deep cuts and a spectacular light show
- Mumbai was U2’s last stop on The Joshua Tree Tour
The crowds started filing in around 5pm at DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai for U2’s first-ever gig in the country. This was the last stop on The Joshua Tree Tour, organized by Live Nation and BookMyShow in India. Some two-and-a-half hours later, the familiar urgent riff of Sunday Bloody Sunday rang out, and the band emerged. They followed this with another early barnstormer, I Will Follow, and, after a few more tracks, played The Joshua Tree album from start to finish.
U2 showed why they’re such a highly rated live act, expertly raising and lowering the tempo and maintaining a direct line to the 40,000-strong crowd. Behind them was a giant screen, with filmed footage of rural America, projected visuals of the band performing live, and during their performance of Ultraviolet, images of women achievers, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Kalpana Chawla. Here are five of our favourite moments from the show:
1. ‘The Joshua Tree’ in its entirety
This being U2’s first show in the country, the temptation to pack the set with hits might have been strong. So it was a blessing that this tour was built around playing The Joshua Tree – one of the band’s best albums – in its entirety, along with assorted tracks from other albums. Yes, it was exciting to hear the famous opening riff of Where The Streets Have No Name, but it couldn’t match the lesser-known In God’s Country in galloping intensity.
2. The light show
Earlier this month, we’d interviewed U2’s longtime show designer Willie Williams, who’d promised that “act 3" of the show was “a kind of party". It certainly was, the band switching gears after the sober last few songs from The Joshua Tree and launching into Elevation and Vertigo. The highlight was a sexy performance of Even Better Than The Real Thing, Williams’ light show enveloping everyone in psychedelic bliss.
3. The singalongs
Like any hardworking frontman, Bono kept encouraging the crowd to sing along. Sometimes it was a wordless phrase, like the “o oo o o" chant in I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For; on another occasion it was John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Give Peace a Chance. It didn’t work as well with The Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, which the crowd wasn’t familiar with, prompting Bono to say in mock-anguish, “You’ve got to listen to The Ramones".
4. Noel Gallagher turns up
Kicking off a charged performance of Desire, U2 brought out High Flying Birds frontman Noel Gallagher. The cameo might not have thrilled a younger crowd, but this one, which seemed to largely comprise people in their 30s and 40s, let out a huge cheer when the ex-Oasis man walked out strumming his guitar. Gallagher turned up again at the end, joining the band and AR Rahman on a rendition of One.
5. Ahimsa and irony
For their penultimate number, the band debuted ‘Ahimsa’, their new collaboration with AR Rahman and his daughters. By this time, news had begun to filter through about the ongoing crackdown on student protestors in Delhi. The irony of a song about non-violence at this moment, followed by a plea for oneness, was acute.
FIRST PUBLISHED18.12.2019 | 03:01 PM IST