U2 – Live @ Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland 2019
I’m walking with hundreds of people towards Mt Smart in the hot sun for tonight’s big concert with plenty of anticipation. The Joshua Tree Tour is a celebration of the original album and tour from 1987, a time when the world was a different place. Tonight’s recreation of the album along with highlights from the Innocence + Experience tours and vast catalogue of hits with incredible visuals on a 200-foot stage promises to amaze.
WORDS BY MONIQUE OHLSON | PHOTOS BY DAVID WATSON
As I make my way to my seat the stage certainly looks impressive with so many speakers and lighting everywhere, a literal IT man’s dream.
Creative Director Willie Williams has been with the band since 1983, and you can tell the ambience is perfect. The massive stage screen includes over 1040 individual video panels to create the largest un-obscured LED ever used on a touring show.
Huge structural beams suspend the PA speakers and lighting above the video screens, absolutely incredible to see.
Opening right on time, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds go off with “Holy Mountain” what a turn out. The weather is perfect, the music is flowing and I am pumped for tonight.
Without a skip of a beat, “It’s a beautiful world” is performed and I am really enjoying the way the band perform together and sound so seamless.
Halfway through their set, Noel takes a moment to have a small chat with us. “So that first half was more for me, now this second half will be more for you guys. If you don’t like it, tough”
And just like that, everyone knows the next song. Can you pick it? I’ll give you a hint… “Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you” Yup you guessed correctly. “Wonderwall. Everyone who turned up to watch the opening act is screaming, jumping, dancing.
It’s a sure-fire way to get everyone hyped up for sure.
Heading into one of my favourite songs, “Don’t look back in anger” I’m singing along, swaying to the beat just enjoying the moment. And just like that, the final song is played, also a cover but from The Iconic Beatles, “All You Need Is Love”.
With Noel Looking every bit the Rockstar, aviators on while the sun goes down sporting his electric acoustic guitar, he takes a brief moment to thank everyone for having them play tonight. They all take their final bow, and with a flash they are off the stage.
While the stage team take a bit of time to reset the stage, the wind picks up and so does the gathering of thousands of people, I’m set for a great night of music. With such a large diversity of people attending, young to adventurous, it’s great to see the impressive turn out of approximately 40,000 people.
The lights go out, the crowd roars into life as U2 enter the stage – and we are all on our feet. Lets do this!
Performing a fantastic classic “Sunday Bloody Sunday” we’re off to a banger start. Red lights, white lights, flashing and spotlights wow its all happening. The LED screen comes alive as a video rolls on in the background. It is so unbelievably clear, I’m in awe.
With yet another great, “New Years Day” and right into another “Bad” they are pumping it out. I am officially one of those screeching screaming fans as the songs keep coming!
Bono takes a moment to thank us for being there tonight to share in the magic. He points out that all of the band has been coming to New Zealand on and off during their lifetimes from when they were boys. The only difference now is…. Well, there is no difference. They are still boys he laughs.
“But in all honesty, ” he says “we have all changed since the and all set out to make sure that they achieve their goals and do well in their lives. The best part is that they have done it all together.”
Which brings them right into their next song, “With or Without You”. The whole stadium sings the chorus so Bono, you have a wee rest mate, we got you. I’m right in my element with such a great concert. Best Friday night, how was yours?
While still being in the thankful and slower mood of the night, Bono also talks about how much they love New Zealand, and how back in the 80’s while they were on tour a young man hits them up.
“Boys you are all amazing but I think you’re just missing something……me!”
And what do you know, honorary member Greg Carroll became a big part of all their lives. But to a sad, short end in 1986. However, as Greg left such a huge impact on all the bands lives, they wrote a song in memory of him. One we all have come to know and adore “One Tree Hill”.
The whole stadium lit up as everyone shone their lights on their phones in memory. I was so very touched to see how even 30 odd years later, we still come together as the great kiwis that we all are. Not a single person isn’t singing. You can see the emotion in Bono while he sings and you can really feel it within him as well. Each member has their own raw emotion showing tonight.
This special heart-touching tribute for the former roading is something on NZ and Aussie fans get to see. Greg, you may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.
With perfect timing, right in the middle of all this, a random red balloon comes out of the crowd and floats in the air. People throw it back up, slap it around. Quite special to see.
“Angel of Harlem” sets the crowd off into another sing-a-long, and I have to say that when there is 40,000 odd people, this is certainly quite spectacular. And I am apart of this. But alas! They take a bow thank everyone and walk off stage.
No! I am not done yet, get back here.
However, in good fashion, they come back 5 minutes later to open their encore with “Elevation” with the most psychedelic back video you could ever imagine. And let me tell you when there are 1040 individual video panels you can be sure it looks epic.
Following with the encores and yet more great classics “Vertigo”, “Even Better Thank The Real Thing”, followed by “Every Breaking Wave”, and of course “Beautiful Day. I am re-living every childhood moment that involves every one of these songs. More, please!
The night is now sadly and definitely coming to end. However, as U2 are more or less kiwi extensions, they dedicate one last final song to everyone who was affected by the Christchurch mosque shooting, “one”. And they performed it perfectly.
Taking umbrage to the lack of scores of Women making “Herstory”, Bono was his at his pentecostal best, goading the crowd with his preaching adding, when this happened it would be “A beautiful day”. During
Ultra Violent, the faces of well-known women advocates/celebrities were plastered on the giant screen to great effect. Included were our own Sophia Hinerangi (guide Sophia), Jacinda Adern (who he later praised for her handling of the March massacre shootings) & suffragist pioneer Kate Sheppard. The devil in the detail was impressive to say the least.
An end to the Kiwi leg of their worldwide tour, by the time the guys reach Mumbai an expected 3-million fans would have witnessed the spectacular. The complete Joshua Tree album played in sequence like this is a dream come true for us fans, everyone waiting for their chance to see U2 is in for a treat.
The ‘Biggest band in the world’ have really have outdone themselves tonight for the Kiwis. I thank each and every one of you for keeping it real, sharing your extraordinary talent with us, and hope to see you back again in the future.
Have the band still got it? Well, there was no doubt as Bono & the boys literally tore the roof off. It’s amazing how well the older songs have survived the decades. The sound and visual monolithic behemoth of a stage, blared and provoked with its amazing light & visuals, this only heightened the experience for punters, it was quite phenomenal to be a part of.
Full Set List
Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year’s Day
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared
Angel of Harlem
Even Better Than the Real Thing
Every Breaking Wave
Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way