U2 wins Texas hearts, minds

Managing Editor Lew K. Cohn and his wife Betty enjoyeda catered VIP cocktail party and reception before the show, which included a special commemorative 30th anniversary gift and a photo with this likeness of the band.

Lew Cohn

Managing Editor/Highland Lakes Newspapers

 

“Outside is America.”

Those words from lead singer Paul “Bono” Hewson resonated from the stage at AT&T Stadium Friday night as U2 performed their magnum opus, “The Joshua Tree,” from front to back, top to bottom, for a crowd of more than 80,000 people, in addition to 10 other gems from their lengthy catalogue.

That album, released 30 years ago in 1987, captured the dichotomy of America — the flashy, mythical, mystical, “desert rose” the band praises and the gritty, all-to-real one where people are “beaten and blown by the wind, trampled into dust.” It was an honest painting of the United States, warts and all, from Ireland's superband, which had fallen in love with the world's largest superpower, not because of what it represented but because of what it could be.

As guitarist Dave “Edge” Evans has noted, the album has come full circle today in 2017. It's universal themes of transcendence, inclusiveness, wanting, spiritual and religious doubt, fear, conflict, violence, struggle for identity, and love are just as important and heartfelt now in President Trump's America as they were 30 years ago in President Reagan's America.

“Across the field you see the sky ripped open. See the rain through a gaping wound, pounding on the women and children who run into the arms of America,” Bono sang in the final lines of the album's fourth song, “Bullet the Blue Sky,” which could as easily be a reference to Syrian refugees seeking asylum in 2017 as it was to El Salvadorean refugees fleeing in 1987.

Throughout Friday's concert, Bono delivered message after message to the crowd, calling for unity over dissent as he sang his hope to “Wipe Manchester's tears away” — referring to last week's horrific terrorist bombing in the United Kingdom outside an Ariana Grande concert which killed 22 people — during the band's opener, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

He even praised the work of the administrations of both Republican George W. Bush as well as Democrat Barack Obama in helping fight the global AIDS epidemic. And this year, the Trump administration is poised to earmark $34 billion for global HIV research and prevention efforts and, Bono noted, “18 million lives” have been saved, thanks to worldwide HIV programs.

“The left and the right working together is a beautiful thing,” Bono said.

But the one thing that stood out most Friday night was that, even after more than 40 years together, the quartet of Bono, Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton can still perform beautiful music together, even in a stadium that has become notorious for making great acts sound awful.

Every song was as crisp as the production value on the Anton Corbijn photography and videography which illuminated the giant 8K screen behind the band. There was none of the atonal echo which plagued opening act The Lumineers. And the crowd was invested even before the first note rang out, simply cheering the sight of Mullen walking down the gantry to his drum set on the front stage, which was shaped like the famed Joshua tree on the album cover.

When Mullen kicked off the familiar drum cadence that signals the beginning of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the place went nuts. And it stayed that way all night.

It was not one of the best rock concerts ever held at Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones' temple to his massive ego. It was perhaps the best concert ever held in “Jerry World,” which comes as no surprise to anyone who has been a fan of these lads from Dublin over the years.

U2 came, they saw and they conquered hearts and minds at AT&T Stadium, where, for several hours at least, the Lone Star State found what it was looking for.

 

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