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Thirty years ago, the wild success of The Joshua Tree transformed U2 into the biggest band on the planet. Radio hits “With or Without You,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where the Streets Have No Name” catapulted them from arenas into stadiums and found then hobnobbing with Frank Sinatra, appearing on the cover of Time magazine and sharing the stage with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and B.B. King. “Certainly looking back on playing the tour at that time, it should have been an extraordinarily, freeing, joyful opportunity,” says bassist Adam Clayton. “But it was actually quite a tough time trying to deliver those songs under the pressure of growing from an arena act to a stadium act. I, for one, don’t remember enjoying it very much.”
He’ll probably enjoy it more this summer when U2 take The Joshua Tree on a victory lap three decades down the line. “I think this summer run is almost an opportunity to take it back,” he says, “and look at those songs and look at what was going on then and see where we are now.” We spoke to Clayton about the impetus for the tour, how the show will be structured, if fans can expect to hear rarities and what’s happening with Songs of Experience.
Rolling Stone: I know that the Innocence + Experience Tour was originally slated to go into 2016. What happened?
Adam Clayton: Well, the idea was really that we wanted to make sure we focused on the [Songs of] Experience album. By the time we finished the Innocence tour and came full circle to focus on the album, it was clear we weren’t going to be able to flip it really quickly into the Experience side of the material and put it right back out on tour. As a challenge that was, “OK, we’re going to have to look at this differently.” Also, in the course of that year, some kind of strange political movements seemed to start happening. First of all, there was Brexit in the U.K., which was just a signal that things were changing. I’m not sure how people took it. Then, quite quickly on the back of it, was the rise of Trumpism. And that was like, “Oh, OK, there’s something going on here. There’s maybe something we missed and we need to start watching this.” That sort of encouraged us to go away from trying to finish the record too quickly without being able to factor in some of the things this is telling us. Continue reading