Variety

U2’s theme at its first concert in India: peace, love and harmony

Allan Lasrado Mumbai | Updated on December 16, 2019 Published on December 16, 2019

Irish rock band U2 singer Bono with band members performs during a concert, in Navi Mumbai   -  PTI

Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen enthral Mumbai with a scintillating performance

If it were any other band, performing a show at a time when the country was being roiled by protests and violence over the contentious changes to the Citizenship Act would have been described as being tone deaf. But this was the Irish rock band U2, led by frontman Bono, a human rights and social justice campaigner. And as one would expect of him, the message throughout the show was of peace.

U2 was performing the final show of its 2019 Joshua Tree tour, commemorating the 1987 album that brought them Grammy glory and worldwide success, at the DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai. It was the band’s first show in India. And it was an unforgettable performance.

The band kicked off with ‘Sunday bloody Sunday’, a political song about the unrest in Northern Ireland and the 1972 incident where British troops fired on civilians, leaving 14 dead. Soon after came ‘Pride’, a song about assassinated American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr, with a dash of John Lennon's anti-war song ‘Give Peace a Chance’ added to drive home the message.

 

Pilgrims to India

In between, Bono addressed the crowd of thrilled fans. “We are here as pilgrims. We have come to learn from India,” he said, paying glowing tributes to Mahatma Gandhi all through the show.

Varun Carvalho, a musician from Goa, who had travelled to Mumbai to attend the show, said: “The message that was resonating throughout the concert was of peace and how we should not resort to violence to achieve our ends. It was a very powerful message.”

Apart from Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson, the other band members of U2 are lead guitarist The Edge (David Evans), bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. The performance throughout was tight and fans were impressed by the quality of the band’s performance, with most of the songs sounding very much like their studio versions.

“I was particularly happy to watch The Edge play,” said Colin Dias, lead guitarist of The Goa Sound. “He is a great innovator and pioneer who created a unique and distinctive sound that inspired a generation of musicians around the world.”

Joshua Tree Album

Irish rock band U2 singer Bono performs during a concert, in Navi Mumbai   -  PTI

After the first few songs, the band performed the entire Joshua Tree album, with its seminal hit ‘With or Without You’ and other well-known numbers such as ‘Where the streets have no name’, ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ and ‘Bullet the blue sky’.

Before launching into ‘In God’s country’, Bono said: “Many of us consider our homeland to be God’s country; this song is about how, in the blink of an eye, the most beautiful landscape can turn ugly if we do not stay awake.”

Violence against women, a burning issue in India and around the world, came up soon after. Introducing the song ‘Beautiful day’, Bono said: “It’s a beautiful day when women are safe in their homes and walking the street. When sisters around the world are in schools with their brothers, that’s a beautiful day. When women of the world unite to rewrite history as ‘herstory’, that’s a beautiful day.”

Ahimsa, a gift to the world

The penultimate song was U2’s latest, a collaboration with AR Rahman, released last month. Rahman was very much on stage, with his daughters, to perform ‘Ahimsa’, which was inspired by Gandhi’s message of non-violence, “India’s greatest gift to the world”, as Bono put it.

The concert ended with ‘One’ a song about coming together and needing to carry each other along, written during the German reunification three decades ago, at a time when the band members were divided over their future. “We couldn’t start this tour without this song; we couldn’t start this song without this thought from Mahatma Gandhi: All of humanity is one undivided and indivisible family,” he said.

Given the difficult circumstances the country and the world at large are navigating today, it was a fitting culmination to a brilliant performance.

 

Published on December 16, 2019
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