“After watching this concert, I think I won’t see another concert again.”
Exaggerated, no doubt. But who can blame this awestruck fortysomething lady coming out of the Philippine Arena on Wednesday, December 11, even if that hellish prospect of that traffic standstill going out of the complex in Bocaue would spoil her plans the next morning. It was an epic, colossal night, not just for a band that meant a lot for a generation of rock enthusiasts, but for the advocacies, the messages, and the charisma of four Irishmen and their sound that continued to reverberate for four decades.
U2 was not just a concert actually, but an experience like no other—from the mesmerizing onstage visuals to The Edge’s exhilarating riffs, Adam Clayton’s thunderous bass, and Larry Mullen, Jr’s riveting beats and of course, the poignant and deep words and verses that idyllic frontman Bono screamed and sung in his classic, mesmeric tone.
[related: In Focus: U2—Once The Only Band That Mattered For A Generation]
Here are six of what we most vividly remember from The Joshua Tree Manila Tour 2019, made possible by Smart Music Live and MMI Live.
Massive, unprecedented two-stage set. A lot of people might have heard about it or have seen clips of U2’s previous stops on their social media feeds, but nothing still prepared the audience from the unprecedented set—the first of its kind in the Philippines. There were two stages—a smaller stage for the initial act and the main stage with the mammoth 200 ft by 45 ft high 8k resolution LED screen that left our jaws drop. Haunting and evocative images and films from Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn supported the band’s comprehensive set. Imagine these visuals at the backdrop of U2’s compelling music—it was a fascinating feast for the senses!
A tribute to “Heroes.” Bono is certainly not a man of few words especially for causes he believes in—and for the people he admires and supports. Before singing lines from the David Bowie classic “Heroes” mashed up with a stirring rendition of “Bad,” Bono gave tribute and asked prayers for Red Cross volunteers “who keep us safe from physical harm…the journalists, the truth-tellers, the activists who keep this country spiritually safe. We salute you.”
Rewriting history to “her story.” Towards the end of the show, the band paid tribute to women who rewrite history into “her story.” Performing “Ultra Violet,” U2 had images of women world icons throughout history that defined empowerment, including national hero Melchora Aquino, late former president Cory Aquino, singer Lea Salonga, Sen. Pia Cayetano, activists Lidy Nacpil and Marinel Ubaldo, and feminist movements Grrrl Gang Manila, #BabaeAko, and #OneBillionRising onstage. But Bono among all of them, made special mention of journalist Maria Ressa as an “incredible woman” who light up history.
Bono reveals The Edge and Larry Mullen, Jr.’s “cowboy past.” As part of the lighthearted jabs between them during the show, Bono would uncover some trivia about guitarist The Edge and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. In between “In God’s Country” and “Trip Through The Wires”—both showing rock/country music influence—Bono revealed that The Edge and Larry were part of the band The Drifting Cowboys in their teens. After they revealed how they were “enriched” with the experience, Bono would ask bassist Adam Clayton about it and he said he actually didn’t pass the band audition.
It was their 2,050th show, to be exact! No one else could have admitted it better—Bono said he and his fellow Dublin lads have really been around for quite a while—with the Philippine concert as their 2,050th gig to be exact, but he said it “doesn’t feel like it.” He even apologized to the crowd at the start of the show for the long wait—not just entering the vast indoor arena, which they recognized as indeed the world’s largest, but more importantly performing in the Philippines after a good four decades! “We should’ve come here every year,” he said.
Bono’s unfailing voice and showmanship. After mesmerizing the world with his magnetic stage charisma, extraordinary showmanship, and of course his entrancing voice at Live Aid in 1985, Bono never lost even a small ounce of his energy, his vocal vibe, and his impact to the audience who watched him. From the time he first entered the stage singing the first lines of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” until the last stanzas of “One,” their 25th song in their near three-hour set, with just a three-five minute break, his vocal chords remained in full-throttle, enthusiastically gyrating with his signature moves, and never lost his endearing connection with the appreciative and fantastic crowd.
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Photos courtesy of MMI Live