Listen To This Eddie is a bi-weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
U2 are the greatest stadium rock band in the history of rock bands and stadiums. Other artists might be more effective at bringing their music to the masses in the smaller confines of clubs, dance halls, theaters, festivals and even arenas, but nobody puts on a finer performance in the world’s football and baseball palaces than these four musicians from Ireland. As magnificent as their records are, it’s this ability that’s helped them retain their place, nearly 40 years into their career, as the biggest band in the world.
I’ve personally seen U2 bring down the house in two different NFL stadiums over the years. The most recent occasion took place this last weekend at Soldier Field in Chicago. For the first time in their career, the band is doing something that most never thought they would: They’re looking backwards. U2 is currently on the road, airing out their most classic album The Joshua Tree and the show is amazing. Really, you owe it to yourself to check them out if they come to your city, and they just announced a whole slew of new dates too, so it’s still a possibility
U2’s current Joshua Tree run is a lesson in spectacle. While the stage itself doesn’t quite measure up to the tremendous dimensions of “The Claw” on their 2011 tour, the visual elements are breathtaking. The football field-sized 8K screen lend almost a three dimensional feel to the performance. But for as engrossing at the Anton Corbjin shot images of lonely highways and desert landscapes are, they fall short of matching the charisma of the actual members of U2. Bono in particular has an indefinable way of making even the biggest venues seem intimate. The way he sashays around the stage, and addresses the crowd in between songs as individual people; as old friends. It’s a skill that’s been hard won over thousands of performances throughout the years. But how did U2 become so good at doing something so uniquely spectacular? To find the answer, you have to go back, all the way back to the beginning.