Concert Review: How U2 Dazzled Mumbai
The final show in The Joshua Tree Tour featured on-stage collaborations with Noel Gallagher and A.R. Rahman
Fans waited patiently for over two hours, with some of them believing a rumor that A.R. Rahman would begin the proceedings. To their delight, at 7:36 p.m. on Sunday night, they heard the opening notes of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” Till the clock struck 10, U2 played like magicians.
The concluding concert in The Joshua Tree Tour 2019 was preceded by successful shows in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. And typical of them, vocalist Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. added an Indian element to their Mumbai gig at the D.Y. Patil Stadium, Nerul. As a build-up to their new song “Ahimsa,” featuring Rahman, Bono repeatedly talked of the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi.
As per the theme, the Irish superstars played the entire 1987 album The Joshua Tree in sequence. But this was after a mood-setter that included the hits “I Will Follow,” “New Year’s Day,” “Bad” and “Pride (In The Name of Love)”. There was also the interlude of John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance,” with the crowd singing along, flashing their cellphone torchlights.
From the seats in the stadium, the quartet looked like ants, and even the giant back screen wasn’t used in the earlier section. Naturally, those in the pit or standing upfront had a clear view.
Masterpieces flowed out from the U2 set list like bottles at a soft drink manufacturing plant. The screen turned red suddenly, as Bono launched into “Where The Streets Have No Name” against the backdrop of black-and-white images of a highway. The next two songs – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You” – had the crowd jive in euphoria.
There were many other stunning renditions. From The Joshua Tree, “Bullet The Blue Sky” had some intricately textured and incredible work by The Edge. Bono’s vocal chords were heavenly on the moving “Running To Stand Still,” which was about a heroin-addicted couple in Dublin, Ireland. The frontman’s Dylan-esque harmonica climax gave the audience goosebumps. A personal favorite was “Exit,” which talks of the life of a serial killer. The Edge showed perfection and precision, and the piece was so atmospheric it took one into another stratosphere.
Even as the crowd was reeling under other Joshua Tree songs like “Red Hill Mining Town,” “One Tree Hill” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared,” they were in for what was probably the biggest surprise of their concert-attending lives. As if he was dropped on a parachute from an invisible airplane, Noel Gallagher of British band Oasis landed on stage, joining the Irishmen on “Desire.” Nobody expected that, and excitement levels zoomed.
Crowd favorites “Elevation,” “Vertigo,” “Beautiful Day” and “Even Better Than The Real Thing” added to the hysteria. Bono’s vocals on “Every Breaking Wave” were a class apart. True to his image of being an activist and a philanthropist, Bono talked of human rights and equality of people. He even spoke on how women should make history by turning the world into her-story. The frontman promised that this would be their best-ever concert in India, which sounded strange for some as it was the first time they were performing here.
Though the “Ahimsa” song seemed a shade out of place, the concert ended appropriately with their anthemic track “One.” Originally inspired by German reunification in 1989, its theme was applied in various other global contexts. With the Indian flag appearing on the screen, this proved to be a memorable climax, something that will linger on in hearts and minds.
In terms of production, the show was as perfect as could be. The sound was first-rate too, though on a couple of occasions, one heard an awkward buzz. The musicianship was flawless, and while Bono and The Edge were in their element, there was plenty of virtuosity from Clayton and Mullen Jr.
The organization could have been better-planned and tighter though. While the entry and exit points were well-manned, the food counters were quite a mess, as stalls ran out of stocks and replenishment was slow. The merchandise stalls had limited stocks and looked more like roadside tea-shops. Once outside the stadium after the show, it was a nightmare.