Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno

Mojo JULY 2017 - by Chris Nelson

U2: THE JOSHUA TREE - SUPER DELUXE EDITION

Desert Storm: As the world takes a hard turn to the right, U2 head back to the barricades.

The line on The Joshua Tree is that it was the last self-righteous move before U2 started second-guessing. 'Hubris & Hum' followed almost immediately, and from there it was back to the drawing board. But while the '90s saw them swap American influences for electronics, they never truly foreswore the righteousness.

Three decades on - with Brexit underway and an American president more terrifying than Reagan - the band is in a mood to reassess. U2 released a Joshua Tree: Deluxe Edition a decade back, with a bonus disc of outtakes and B-sides. Today's behemoth includes that expanded version, along with a disc from the September 28, 1987 show at New York's Madison Square Garden, and another disc with a half-dozen remixes by old friends and new.

The righteousness is on full display in New York City. On Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bono howls, "We're so sick of it!" If such declarations were beginning to sound sanctimonious at the time, thirty years of legit activism - including sitting down repeatedly with ideological adversaries such as Trump VP Mike Pence - casts Bono's piety as the real deal. U2, and Bono in particular, are more willing than most to do political work that's significantly harder than howling.

The live show focuses squarely on Bono's eagerness to lead. Where Springsteen portrays himself as his audience's companion, and Dylan famously pegged himself a song and dance man, Bono is comfortable driving and directing the band's followers. It feels hackneyed when he calls out the names of U2's canonical tracks, until you hear it as a deacon instructing churchgoers where to turn in their hymnals. Bono is assembling the thousands, getting them on the same page. Accompaniment this night by the New Voices Of Freedom gospel choir on I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For accentuates the point, but it holds regardless.

In 2017, assistance comes from remixers. Unsurprisingly, given the events that sparked this box, the more engaging mixes are those that speak directly to our times. The electronic voices in Jacknife Lee's Bullet The Blue Sky reimagine the song for the drone era. Its pulsing bass conjures a remote pilot's adrenalin rush, or the heartbeat of waiting villagers watching bombs discharged from the robots above. Original engineer Flood throws Where The Streets Have No Name into supreme disorientation. Listening to it distort and fade is like hearing the song while drowning. Which is precisely what midnight November 8, 2016 felt like to Americans who began the day thinking we'd elect our first female president.

Thirty years later, U2 continue their pursuit of the righteous; looking back to be sure, but suited to this moment all the same.


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