U2 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY 16-JUN-2017

Written By: Michael Deinlein

After a 32 year absence, the Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour brings U2 back to Louisville with their first ever stadium show in the Blue Grass State at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.


For two plus hours, U2 rocked and inspired Cardinal Stadium with a set that included songs from their extensive catalog of work along with their 1987 milestone release Joshua Tree in its entirety sandwiched in between. With a main stage that nearly spans the width of the stadium, the band opted to begin the show from the smaller B stage situated in the midst of their most stalwart fans. Kicking the night off with the anthemic “Sunday Blood Sunday” as part of a collection of songs that predate Joshua Tree, got the crowd up and engaged from the get go, followed by New Year’s Day and an inspiring performance of Pride (In the Name of Love). The massive 200 X 45 ft screen projected the words from Dr King’s I Have A Dream speech to emphasize the message of the song.


When it came time to launch into the Joshua Tree album, the band took their places on the main stage, the image of the Joshua tree from the album towering above them on the massive video screen, reducing the band to tiny silhouettes against the flaming red background. Bono admitted that over the past 30 years, their audiences probably knew the Joshua Tree songs better than the band did. He said during the course of this 33 date tour, they were getting to better know these songs and were pleased to realize that they were as relevant today as when they were written. During With or Without You, Bono plucked a girl from the crowd and brought her on stage to walk with him as he sang the song. It was a tender and intimate moment which this girl handled with aplomb. Bono warned the crowd that he was about to “commit a crime of the highest order for playing this instrument in the Blue Grass State thatI don’t know how to play.” He then proved himself more than capable as he played the opening of Trip Through Your Wires on harmonica, tossing it into the crowd at then end. One Tree Hill was dedicated to Republican Congressman Steve Scalise and former Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who were both critically wounded in politically motivated shootings. Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly were both in attendance for the show. 


After wrapping up Joshua Tree, U2 delved into material that came after that album. Ultra Violet (Light My Way) was dedicated to women everywhere, with the screens behind them showcasing women through history who have been activists in one way or another. Bono dedicated the song that night to the memory of Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament who was assassinated during a contentious election in the UK exactly one year ago. He spoke repeatedly throughout the night of the importance of both sides coming together, that what divides us is stronger than what divides us. The night wrapped up with a series of uplifting songs including One, Beautiful Day, Elevation and finally Vertigo. A fitting end to an incredible set of classic U2 songs.


It is notable that aside from an impressive set list, executed with the musicianship and command one would expect from U2, the video screens played a huge part in bringing everything together. Anton Corbin, whose iconic photographs accompanied the original Joshua Tree album, returned to some of the same sites to revisit the landscapes in Death Valley and other scenery from America’s heartland to produce a series of films that accompanied the Joshua Tree songs. The screens themselves were the highest resolution LED screens used on a tour and enabled the beauty of the backdrops to leap out so you felt like you could reach out and touch the painted desert or the dusty highway being shown. It was truly the perfect complement to these songs, adding an element that accentuated the love of Americana that U2 has had over the years. The stunning visuals combined with the uplifting and empowering performance of such an iconic body of work took this show to another level.

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