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A history of U2 in Tampa, Part II: The Joshua Tree Tour (1987)




(In celebration of U2 's concert Friday at Raymond James Stadium, we're revisiting some of the band's most memorable Tampa performances over the past 30 years. Today, we present Eric Snider's St. Pete Times  review of U2's concert at Tampa Stadium on Dec. 5, 1987 -- the Joshua Tree Tour.)

More than 50,000 people found what they were looking for Saturday night at Tampa Stadium: the world's favorite rock band, U2. The Irish foursome, which played without aid of extra backing musicians on a sprawling, spartan stage, delivered a rousing show for the chilled masses. The cold weather seemed a fitting environment for U2's no-nonsense, dead serious mixture of politics, dramatics, passion and seamless playing.

The concert's focal point was fiery lead singer Bono. He took the stage clad in black shirt and pants, dark red vest and a brown cowboy hat. His voice was in its usual booming form, as he wailed his way through most of the songs from the band's current album, The Joshua Tree, and earlier anthems like Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride (In the Name of Love) and Gloria. Bono's reckless, jaunty stage style included long skipping jigs across the full breadth of the wide stage; he strutted and flailed and flung his head back.

As U2 becomes increasingly entrenched in superstardom, Bono -- the band's primary lyricist -- is faced with a syndrome that affects most socially conscious rock icons: fans do not always hear the message in his songs. So he was careful to intersperse his idealism while setting up his songs. Before Sunday Bloody Sunday, a song about the violence that tears at Ireland, he said, "I'm proud to be Irish, but I'm not necessarily proud for everything Irish stands for." Bono, although he's been criticized for being heavy-handed and pretentious, appeared sincerely committed to combining exhilarating sounds with food for thought. He succeeded.

The rest of U2 takes a back seat to Bono, but are thoroughly essential to the group's presence, nonetheless. Aided by top-notch sound production, Adam Clayton's bass provided a massive anchor, complemented by drummer Larry Mullen's sturdy timekeeping. If Bono was the show's centerpiece, the Edge was the backbone. His lone guitar (augmented by occasional keyboard) was an orchestra in itself - full of ringing chords, scratchy rhythm parts and driving riffs. His talents were more impressively showcased in a live setting than on the group's albums.

Throughout, U2 consistently proved its mastery at building a song's intensity and bringing it to crescendo. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, played early in the show, mounted slowly to a strong climax and Bad swelled from a slow burn. (Click here to listen!) Others, like Bullet the Blue Sky, New Year's Day and the opening Where the Streets Have No Name, came on like gangbusters from the very start.

Unlike most stadium concerts, U2's set was consciously devoid of effects, props and gimmicks. The large stacks of amplifiers on either side of the stage were covered with a canvas on which an abstract "Joshua Tree" was painted. The words "stop the madness" were splashed -- graffiti-style -- on the right side.

The concert benefitted from two strong opening acts - both quintessentially American. Los Lobos, the East L.A. band that mixes rootsy rock, Tex-Mex and other ingredients, put on an abbreviated but punchy set, brought to a head by their hit La Bamba. Buckwheat Zydeco and the Ils Song Partis Band, a Louisiana bayou group that plays a Creole dance style called zydeco, made a big hit with its raw, catchy, accordion-driven blend.

-- Eric Snider, St. Pete Times. Photo by St. Pete Times staff. Audio courtesy of U2liveconcerts, which is an awesome site for bootlegged U2 and Springsteen concerts. Click here for more.)

SETLIST (via ):
Where The Streets Have No Name
I Will Follow
Trip Through Your Wires
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Exodus
One Tree Hill
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Exit / Riders On The Storm
(snippet) / Van Morrison’s Gloria (snippet)
In God’s Country
People Get Ready
Bad / Ruby Tuesday
(snippet) / Sympathy For The Devil (snippet)
New Year’s Day
Pride (In The Name Of Love)

Bullet The Blue Sky
Running To Stand Still
With Or Without You / Shine Like Stars
(snippet) / Love Will Tear Us Apart (snippet)
We’ll Meet Again (snippet) / Spanish Eyes
40 / Do They Know It’s Christmas (snippet)

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:13pm]


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