It didn’t take long for U2 – one of the most political rock bands in history – to touch on Washington, DC’s favorite subject during an epic, two-hour show at FedExField Tuesday night.
But the topic wasn’t what you might think from the famously left-leaning band. Moments after hitting a massive stage that jutted nearly 50 yards into the audience, U2’s iconic frontman, Bono, sent a shout-out to none other than Rep. Steve Scalise, a right wing Republican who was shot by a madman last week during a practice for the annual congressional baseball game.
“We are so grateful that Congressman Scalise and his comrades made it through – so grateful,” he told a massive, near-capacity crowd that included Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and seemingly everyone else from Capitol Hill and beyond. “We hold them up as love holds us all up.”
The unequivocal, humanitarian and bipartisan statement triggered an eruption of cheers. And with that, U2 did what they do best. They rocked. Man, did they rock.
The centerpiece of the show was U2’s 1987 masterpiece, The Joshua Tree, which the band played in its entirety. Those 11 songs were bookended by a smattering of other U2 classics: “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Beautiful Day” and more. U2’s giant, ringing sound – led by the Edge’s chiming, effect-laden guitars and anchored by the clean, precision snap of Larry Mullins’ drumming – was in full effect, seemingly piercing every corner of the cavernous stadium.
But Bono, of course, is the star of the show. At 57, the Dublin-born singer doesn’t move around the stage quite as frenetically as he did 30 years ago, and his voice doesn’t always reach for the highest registers anymore, but he remains a master showman, carrying tens of thousands of people on his every word – many of those sung right back at him.
U2 thundered through their set with jaw-dropping power and precision. “New Year’s Day” – one of the band’s earliest hits about the solidarity movement in Poland – was big and brawny and came two songs in, revving up a crowd that was eager to hear the hits. “Bullet the Blue Sky,” off of The Joshua Tree, was equally powerful, as Bono wailed its blues-tinged vocals over Mullins’ monster drumbeats.
For all of its goosebump-inducing moments (and there were several), the show’s sheer scale was also its weakest link. Flanked by a gigantic – and frankly, at times distracting – video screen, U2 aimed to light up the heavens with every song. That generally worked, and indeed, is probably essential at a massive stadium show. But at times, it also threatened to obscure the magic being made by the small men on that gigantic platform. But that’s a minor quibble considering the effort, expertise and sheer love for their fans that U2 delivers. The band’s outspoken frontman wanted everyone to know he appreciated them, no matter what their political stripes.
“Whether you come from the right, the left or the middle, you are welcome here tonight,” Bono said. “We will find common ground in the higher ground.”
Learn more about The Joshua Tree tour here.