SPOILERS: Opening night in Auckland NZ

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams / Harry Kantas (2019-11-08)

U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour 2019 has started in Auckland NZ today. We’ll be reporting live on Twitter, but also thought we would share some things here as the night goes on.

Entrance to the venue was delayed as the band completed a sound check in the afternoon before the crowd was allowed in. The band worked on a number of songs including “Every Breaking Wave”, “Elevation”, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”, “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Red Hill Mining Town.” Like 2017, when the fans were allowed into the stadium there is poetry on display on the right hand side of the screen. We’ve been able to identify a few, and most have appeared in the 2017 show, such as “Puerto Rican Obituary” written by Pedro Pietri, “America iv” by Kate Hoyle, and “Powwow at the End of the World” by Sherman Alexie. In 2017 we followed along and identified the shared works, which can be found here. Two new poems spotted tonight are Briar Wood’s “One World” and “Ahakoa he iti he pounamu” by Louise Wallace. Wood and Wallace are both New Zealand based writers and poets.

Merchandise is similar to 2017 offerings as well, but updated for the new tour. The “I Want to Run 1987” / “I Want to Hide 2019” shirt is a slight update on one offered before. The “Love is Bigger” T-shirt for women that appeared in 2018 is also for sale, as is an Innocence / Experience shirt with the full band standing with the words in blue and white. One beautiful new addition is a T-shirt that has a “painted silhouette” of The Joshua Tree in front of a red moon. On the back is the name of the tour, and the name of the city and the date. Unlike tour shirts on recent tours, the date does not list both shows in Auckland, only the show on November 8, 2019. It is not yet known if a shirt will be made available for each stop of the tour or if this is special just for the first show. Prices on merchandise run $45 for the tour hat, $55 for most T-shirts, and $35 for a childs T-shirt. (New Zealand dollars of course.)

The printed set list for the show has been shared. It lists the following songs for this evening:

Intro: “Whole of the Moon” / Sunday Bloody Sunday / New Year’s Day / Bad / Pride / Segue into the full Joshua Tree album set list including a listing for “Trump Film” / Angel of Harlem / Elevation / Vertigo / Even Better Than the Real Thing / Every Breaking Wave / Beautiful Day / Ultra Violet (Light My Way) / Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way / One

At 24 songs that is one of the longer set lists U2 has done in recent years, but still doesn’t top opening night on the last tour where Tulsa where the band opened with 27 songs.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds took the stage just after 7pm. He opens with some of his new material, and ends the set with a cover of the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.” Before he plays his final song he tells the crowd “You are about to see one of the greatest things you will ever see!”

Shawn Mendes, who is playing a concert in the city on Saturday night is in attendance at the show and is spotted taking selfies with fans before the show.

“New Year’s Day” includes the “golden age” verse that U2 started playing in 2017. While introducing “Bad” Bono commented on how long it took the band to get back to New Zealand, “Thank you for waiting. Thank you for letting us back in your country. Thank you for letting us back in your lives.” and later told the fans “Tonight our prayer is that we have one of those epic nights of rock and roll. A night we won’t forget. A night to let go of some things and hold on to others.” He includes a snippet of “America” in the song and talks about the ideal of America during “Bad,” “All around the world, the word freedom is being weighed and measured. Even in America — a country that was born of a dream of freedom and equality.”

“Where the Streets Have No Name” makes a return to U2’s live show after being dropped during the 2018 Experience + Innocence tour. Tonight Bono includes a snippet of “California (There is No End to Love)” as the song is performed. Introducing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” Bono gives a shoutout to Shawn Mendes who is in the audience, and he finishes the song by letting the crowd belt out the lyrics.

During “One Tree Hill” Bono introduces the song and tells the audience about meeting Greg Carroll, who would work for the band, and become a close friend to them. “On our first trip to NZ a young man from the local crew told us there was something missing from our band. When we asked him what that was, he said me. And that’s where we began our relationship with Greg Carroll. We sort of adopted him or perhaps it was the other way around…” “Angel of Harlem” was played at the end of the songs from The Joshua Tree with Bono saying “That was the Joshua Tree, this is what happened next…” The song was last performed last summer at the Apollo Theater in New York on the very stage that the video for the song had been shot on.

“Elevation” opens the encore. It is accompanied from videos that had been shown with the song during the 2018 shows (the band walking out of the “barricage” video.) Mullen turns around to the camera and gives it a big thumbs up in a moment that harkens back to the 2017 tour. “Even Better Than the Real Thing” includes the 2018 introduction as well, including Bono’s declaration that Paul is dead, “I’m fucking Bono!” “Every Breaking Wave” starts out with just Bono and the Edge but Mullen and Clayton join in for the back half. “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” is accompanied by the video of luminous icons that were featured in 2017 as well. “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” is accompanied with visuals of the band on the screen while they perform.

“One” closes the show. The song had not been rehearsed on the outdoor stage this last week and was a bit of a surprise when it appeared on the set list early today. Before playing “One” Bono speaks about the terror attack in Christchurch earlier in the year, and mentions some of the people that were there were with them at the show tonight. He also speaks highly of how New Zealand handled itself with such grace in the face of that attack. The names of the victims appear on the screen behind U2 as they perform. U2’s own tour was affected by the shootings, as the initial announcement of the tour is rumoured to have been delayed when the attacks happened, out of respect for the residents of New Zealand.

Throughout the night U2 posted short video clips for every song from different vantage points around the stadium on their Instagram Stories.

Thanks to our team member, Harry Kantas we can also share this full video of “One Tree Hill” from tonight’s performance with you:

Many thanks to those who shared audio, video and photos throughout the show. Thank you for letting us see it through your eyes as well.

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