Iconic Irish band U2 regrets waiting four decades to finally perform in the country. At least that was the opening statement of U2 frontman Bono during their first ever concert in the country for The Joshua Tree Tour 2019. He said that they should have performed in the Philippines every year. The band was overwhelmed by the “kinetic energy” of Filipinos in the jampacked 55,000-seater Philippine Arena in Bulacan on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
“Thank you, Manila, for your patience. It has been a long, long road; and it has brought us to Manila. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get where you want to go, as long as you get there,” said Bono before singing ‘I Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ from their The Joshua Tree album released in 1987. The one-night concert was definitely worth the long wait for U2’s fans this side of the world.
U2 brought the crowd to church, so to speak, from the moment they went onstage and sang ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ all the way to their finale song ‘One’. Bono’s cause-oriented spiels, sometimes politically charged, were just as powerful as his performance. It’s like he was talking from the pulpit; and the crowd, short of shouting “Amen!”, listened intently on his messages on gender equality, women empowerment, press freedom, human rights, and basically just being kind to one another. Bono is known to support various causes all over the world, so it is not a surprise that his songs and concert performances are always interspersed with socially relevant messages.
Their performance of ‘Ultraviolet (Light My Way)’ from their 1991 album ‘Achtung, Baby’ was one of the most applauded. U2 dedicated it to women worldwide while the backdrop video showed faces of empowered Filipinas and other trailblazing women from all over the world. After performing ‘Beautiful Day’, Bono also paid tribute to women: “When sisters around the world go to school with their brothers, that’s a beautiful day. When women of the world unite to rewrite history as “herstory”, that is a beautiful day.”
What made the concert even more moving – figuratively and literally – were the visuals and advanced technology used to complement U2’s songs. The accompanying videos, clips, and photos flashed on the massive LED screens were impressive and made U2’s storytelling more vivid with an almost 8K resolution. According to the concert’s production notes, it is the largest high-resolution LED video screen ever used in a concert tour. The screen is made up of 1,040 individual video panels with over 11 million pixels. The 200 x 45 ft custom built screen featured a silver Joshua Tree extending above the screen as the visual centerpiece of the show.
The crowd, who braved hours of traffic to and from the concert venue in Bulacan, could not get enough of U2. Thus, when the band said their goodbyes after performing ‘Desire’, they came back onstage after calls for more. The encore was almost as long as the first set. They performed eight songs: ‘Elevation’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing’, ‘Every Breaking Wave’, ‘Ultra Violet’, ‘Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’, and ‘One’.
The Manila leg of the Joshua Tree Tour 2019 was the second to the last stop (the last being Mumbai). The concert tour has by then played to almost 3 million fans in 66 shows across Europe, North and South America, Mexico, New Zealand, and Asia, which is memorable as it is where they performed for the first time ever in Singapore, Seoul, Manila, and Mumbai.
Bono’s parting message for all Filipinos: “From our single island (Ireland, their home country) to your thousands of islands, thank you for your warm welcome”. Did you watch the Joshua Tree Tour 2019? What was your favorite part of the concert?
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