Indecipherable peaks in Ciudad de Victoria
U2’s Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. during the sold-out The Joshua Tree Tour concert produced by MMI Live and Prestige Worldwide, and held at the Philippine Arena last Wednesday.
Ross Stewart

Indecipherable peaks in Ciudad de Victoria

BLITZ REVIEW - Juaniyo Arcellana (The Philippine Star) - December 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Lines snaked around the Philippine Arena Wednesday to watch one of the iconic rock bands for the generation that came of age before the turn of the millennium play its first concert in the country in 40 years.

The band played most of its hits for little over two hours, including the crowd pleasers Pride (In the Name of Love) and With or Without You, and when audience energy seemed to wane midway, the band relied on sheer musicianship, particularly on Side 2 of The Joshua Tree.

The slightly delayed opening of the gates could only whet the appetite of fans, as the huge led screen scrolled poems of Filipino poets based abroad, including Eric Gamalinda (The opposite of nostalgia), Merlinda Bobis, Nick Carbo and Bino Realuyo.

By the time of the Waterboys’ The Whole of the Moon faded out its opening strains and Larry Mullen’s martial drums of Sunday Bloody Sunday began, the night at the capacity-filled dome was ripe for picking.

The first set traced U2’s punk roots, more new wave than blues, improvisation limited but still concise and slashing hook filled songs. New Year’s Day has one of the more distinctive bass lines courtesy of Adam Clayton, while I Will Follow has head-spinning guitar lines typical of Edge’s sturm und drang style.

It was the Martin Luther King tribute Pride that had the crowd jumping at the identifiable anthem from the ‘80s that has held well over the decades.

The full play of The Joshua Tree album had the band moving back against the giant LED screen that featured changing images depending on the song, including that of a town band for Red Hill Mining Town and diverse recruits to America’s war in Bullet the Blue Sky: A sort of rock and roll cinema or is it noir.

They seemed to have reached indecipherable restrained peaks in In God’s Country and One Tree Hill, as well as Trip Through Your Wires, from the mostly underappreciated side B of the landmark album.

The encore was a rousing set of the band’s later hits — Desire, Elevation, Vertigo, Even Better than the Real Thing ­— varying it a bit in the last two numbers. Herstory is a tribute to women, with some feisty Filipinas flashed onscreen, while another showstopper dealt with how love is bigger than anything that stands in its way, though translation beamed in backdrop was less than accurate.

Other fans may have wanted Angel of Harlem, which was part of the encore in the tour’s other Asian legs, but we already had enough on our plate when the concert ended around 11:30 p.m.

Bono would also not be in character without his political statements, and here he raises the banner for Amnesty International, the Red Cross, human rights, women and journalists. It’s his rason d’etre some may find amusingly corny if not hypocritical, but at least his voice hasn’t deserted him, anchoring the fourth wall of what is basically a power trio in terms of instrumentation.

AFP Photo

Overall, it was actually the Edge who received the loudest applause, mainly for his sleight of hand on the fretboard which left many a guitar aficionado wondering how he produces such sound from six strings. Another guitar player who has similarly left fans dumfounded is Tom Morello of Prophets or Rage formerly of Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine; such chutzpah verging on pyrotechnics but really the crescent contrasting with the whole of the moon.

Bono thanked the Filipinos for their patience in getting into the arena, which fortitude had to be multiplied fourfold in getting out of Ciudad de Victoria premises post concert.

But that’s another story, morning glory.

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