U2 in Auckland: Just four geniuses making noise to a stadium of happy fans

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
Foreign U2 superfans defend their unorthodox queuing system up at Mt Smart stadium two days before the concert.

REVIEW: Bringing The Joshua Tree to life 30 years after it first bloomed is an obvious recipe for success for U2. Last night a sold out Mt Smart got to witness the first night of their southern hemisphere tour, their first stadium show in two years, but there wasn't a shade of rust.

In many ways you expect nothing less, this isn't their first rodeo.

One of their most iconic albums, The Joshua Tree is wall to wall hits. The album has special significance to New Zealanders in the shape of One Tree Hill.

Adam Clayton with Bono in Auckland.
Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
Adam Clayton with Bono in Auckland.

The song was dedicated to New Zealander Greg Carroll, a one-time member of U2's touring crew in front of a proud, cheering crowd.

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Performing in front of the biggest video screen you ever did see, nothing is left to chance in this polished show. The sound was crisp and spectacular, the visuals sharp and amazing.

People have loved to hate on U2 their whole career. Some people will tell you they never did anything good after War.

Supplied/Elle Pea
Bono draws a "Bonogram" on U2 fan Jo Cottez's forearm while talking to fans in Auckland on November 5.

Some people tell you they lost the plot when they made Achtung Baby. Others will say once they dropped Songs of Innocence into our iTunes without our permission they crossed a line.

But even haters have a soft spot for one or two U2 songs. It's impossible not to.

U2 live at Mt Smart Stadium.
Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
U2 live at Mt Smart Stadium.

Having previously brought Jay-Z and Kanye West as support acts, this tour it was Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds turn to warm up an already sweaty Auckland crowd. A three-piece horn section, three female vocalists, he brought a big band to bring his new material to life but the crowd predictably liven up when they play Wonderwall.

Known for his quick wit, the cheekiest Noel gets on stage is to ask us what happened to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup. He good-naturedly nudges the crowd for a bit and then dedicates Don't Look Back in Anger to the All Blacks. Well played, Noel.

U2 playing live at Mt Smart Stadium.
Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
U2 playing live at Mt Smart Stadium.

The stadium goes dark, Whole of The Moon plays loudly and the crowd audibly bristle with excitement as U2 walk out one by one.

Larry Mullen Jr is first and sits at the drum kit to begin Sunday Bloody Sunday. The band begin small, on the little baby stage that protrudes into the crowd. It's as intimate as a stadium gets, lights are minimal but the sound is pure. Just four guys making noise to a stadium of happy fans.

U2 bassist Adam Clayton.
Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
U2 bassist Adam Clayton.

Where The Streets Have No Name begin and the video screens light up. Bono is out of the gate prowling up and down the massive length of the main stage. We're going to hear the whole of The Joshua Tree tonight, with a powerful film to accompany it.

The screens are devastatingly bright, vivid and clear. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For begins as images of haunting black and white deserts dwarf the band. Bursts of colour and mountain ranges in time lapse hyperrealism as we hear With Or Without You. Oh wow, there's Bono's voice. Still got it.

Bullet the Blue Sky, shall we take a moment to appreciate the genius of The Edge? Not only is he controlling that knife edge feedback crescendo and those crunching chords, he's also doing the background whoops on vocals. After years of hearing them on record and perhaps not fully registering, it sinks in what an amazing guitarist he is.

The tribute to Greg Carroll comes and Bono speaks of how feel Greg is is still present with the band today. He even attempts a little te reo, did Bono just say e hoa? Please confirm.

Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Abigail Dougherty
Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

Launching into One Tree Hill anyone in the crowd who has been holding back til now lets it all out. The blood red moon shines big on the screen and as the song comes to a close Greg Carroll's smile beams at an appreciative crowd.

To close out The Joshua Tree section of the show the band play Exit. Bono is on his knees with his back to the crowd looking at a video screen of children in hoods holding candles. I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean, but that guitar really does sound good.

The Edge with Bono.
Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
The Edge with Bono.

Then comes a quick-fire round of recent hits to round out the main set before allowing the crowd reset for a massive, deserved and predictable encore.

During Ultra Violet in the encore, names and faces of influential and important women are shown on the giant video screen. There are Kiwis there too amongst the Japanese Suffragettes and Ellen DeGeneres. Helen Clark, Kate Sheppard and our current Prime Minister of course but also Ākenehi Tōmoana, a strong advocate for women from the century before the century before this one. They've done some homework.

Before the last song Bono takes a moment to reflect on the events in Christchurch this past March. He speaks about strength and solidarity and shares that some of the people from that terrible event are here in the crowd tonight.

He launches into One, and the crowd sing in unison. It's almost like these guys have done this before.

NEWSHUB/THREE
The band pays a visit to the iconic Auckland landmark.

SET LIST:
- Intro - The Whole of the Moon
- Sunday Bloody Sunday
- New Year's Day
- Bad
- Pride
- 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
- Exit
- Mothers of the Disappeared
- 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

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