A letter of thanks to U2: Surrender (The Joshua Tree tour, Melbourne)

Dear U2.

Dear Bono, dear (the) EDGE, dear Adam, dear Larry.


Thank you.




It is Friday in Melbourne and our five gather from around town to participate in your Joshua Tree tour. We are five of us thrown together by life’s forces, five of us ready to be and to give; give to each other and to you. We are here.


We’d planned it months out. You are a soundtrack to many of us forty-somethings: my first album was The Joshua Tree. On cassette. But nothing could prepare me for what happens this Friday night in the showery Melbourne rain.


As your entry draws closer, we meet those squashed in around us (from Northcote, from Gippsland, from Dublin). We laugh into the teeth of this craziness that finds us all here. A life; a life that has brought us all here to the centre of this very stadium floor. Anticipation builds and falls away too, with the joy of connection (“Oh yeah, my niece’s kids went to school with the children of Larry Mullen Jr. No joke. We’re all one degree separated here.”) We are all here and the feeling builds that we are most definitely a part of something bigger.


The lights go down and I am aware that I’m on the very edge of an expansive experience. I find it all emotionally thrilling – much more so than I had expected. Swept up in the love of the moment; there are times I feel as if us five are the only ones here; other times where I am a bit awed by the scale of the event.


Suddenly the magnificently lit silhouette of you, Larry Mullen Jr, walks with upright gait, crisp haircut, to that small stage artfully tethered, deep amid a sea of waving punters. You take your seat at the drums. Every twitch fibre is set to explode…and you thwack.


Your silhouette could be that of a 22-year-old Larry Mullen Jr. Am I transported through time? And thwack-thwack-thwacker-thwack thwack the stadium is instantly alive to Sunday Bloody Sunday.


You the band are somehow there (Just there! Look! Right there!). You are under simple spotlights on the near stage. No big screen. No distractions. Pretty exposed.


Bono I remember you then kind of appealing to us as a preacher might to the flock, about us all being there together; about there being something bigger than us. About our collective being a force. About it being up to all of us to make this a memorable night. “Anything could happen!”


Something like that.


I feel every one of us five mates very close and feel also like you four guys of international reputation and enormous renown are also very close both in proximity and in spirit. I really feel as though I am in your Bono’s hands. And as incredible as this is, I really feel as though I am flirting on the periphery of being lifted up. In my chest. Lifted. There really is something bigger going on; something higher.




Then you four start on Bad.


If you twist and turn away…


Those words and that ringing guitar are right there inside me. It feels as if they are happening inside me.


Surrender. Dislocate..


As if all this is happening through me, now. Thrumming, surging bass line is broadcast from my chest. High twangs from my chest.


It is the most extraordinary experience I’ve known at a show. Am I flying? I am definitely flying. Is this possible? Is this happening? My arms are with friends. My heart fills the stadium. Tears of amazement fall from my cheeks.


If I could through myself
Set your spirit free, I’d lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day


Amidst the soaring whirl of Bad, you break into a verse from Nick Cave’s Into My Arms.


I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know darling, that you do…

It is perfect.


U2 perform “Bad,” Melbourne. (click to enlarge)


By the end of the song I am back, landed, in the centre square. I am landed but with the awareness that I have had the enormous luck to have briefly experienced another realm.


Briefly you lifted me up.


Writing this now a few days later, I remember that moment as being a little overwhelming and emotional. I’ve always liked that song – but now Bad is a part of me, part of us, forever more.


Such is the power of art.


There were so many other grand moments in your show. I guess we all take meaning from different things. Personally, I was struck with One Tree Hill, due probably to my own narrow escape as a young man from a catastrophic car accident.


Considering my experience at that concert now, I reckon I was only able to touch that higher place because us five were ready to give and you four were all ready to give. We were there and we were sharing it.


As you say: One love. We get to share it.


It is Monday morning now. A work day.

Today on the tram I wipe tears from my eyes as I again plug into Bad.


With the must humble gratitude, I want to thankyouall.


Thank you.


With everlasting love.




Friday 15 November Set list, Melbourne:


Sunday Bloody Sunday
I Will Follow
New Year’s Day
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
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
Mothers of the Disappeared
Angel Of Harlem


Even Better Than The Real Thing
Every Breaking Wave
Beautiful Day
Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way


ADDED 1 December 2019.
Clip from The Joshua Tree Tour last night, Singapore. U2 performing “Bad,” including Bono’s appeal to the crowd. “Anything could happen here…”



Read more from E. Regnans HERE




The Tigers Almanac 2019 is out soon.
Order copies HERE.





About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Kasey Symons says

    Beautiful write up ER. It was my third time seeing them and my first time seeing them with my mum. We had a wonderful time singing along and dancing together, meeting people in the crowd and sharing stories. Saw Bob Murphy up the back swaying along on his lonesome, taking it all in. The tribute to women at the end was incredibly powerful and moving. They are just one of those very, very special bands.

  2. Well played, e.r.
    Excellent review. It sounds like it was a great night, a great experience.
    Karl Quinn’s review in the Age yesterday was effusive in its praise also.

    I first saw U2 at the old Glasshouse in 1984, then at Rod Laver, then at the MCG, then at Docklands. This is the first U2 tour I have missed. After the last tour, I vowed from that moment on that I was a pub and club gig man only.

  3. Thanks ER. Made my peanut butter sandwich much better this lunch time.

  4. Beautiful stuff ER. Love the “Joshua Tree” album and the early stuff. Been tossing up whether to loosen the Springsteen Retirement Tour Mega Fan World Tour Fund pursestrings to take in U2. Optus Stadium in Perth as a venue puts me off a bit – but I’m sure the lighting will transform the concrete canyon. Off to check out the superannuation balance…….

  5. Hi K Symons- that’s lovely that you went with your mum. I’m with you on that tribute to women- women who have acted on the world stage to the benefit of others. Ultra Violet (light my way) was already a personal favourite.

    Thanks Smokie – that was my first time seeing a U2 show. Probably third or fourth time ever visiting Docklands. I remain amazed that somehow an intimacy was created amid a crowd of tens of thousands. We were massed bang in the middle of the playing surface.

    JTH – I’m fully cognisant of the ability of a peanut butter sandwich itself to elevate the spirit.

    PB – Yeah I cannot stand the Docklands for footy, but such is the mastery of these guys, the venue had very little bearing on the night. A tight 4-piece band for Act 1; same band set before some cinematic (beautiful) big screen work for Acts 2&3.

  6. Have seen Springsteen 4 times – Docklands roof closed; Rod Laver Arena; RAC Arena in Perth twice. Rod Laver Arena was easily the best. Not sure if it was that we had better seats or better venue acoustics. Such is life when it comes to big stadium acts. Upper income percentile first world problems.
    Now that Bruce is over 70 and surely can’t keep doing many more 3 hour E Street Band concerts our plan is to join him on the European leg of his World Tour next year (guns terrify me so that rules out USA) and keep going until he gets to Australia probably late 2020 (or the money runs out – sorry kids – sorry Eagles no home games for us).

  7. Sounds brilliant, but missed it.

    Great presence in your words though.

  8. Peter_B – European tour with B Springsteen? Outstanding idea. I imagine you as Christopher Robin putting on his Big Boots.

    Kate – thank you. The experience far and away outstripped anything I expected. Something tapped right into me. Thank you.

  9. “They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace;
    Christopher Robin went down…………”
    (Things just aren’t so innocent since Prince Andrew – but I’ll take it as a compliment ER)

  10. ER, nice review and great to hear someone truly uplifted by a performance. Joshua Tree is one of my favorite albums and I am going to see the band in a couple of weeks. PB. I have always had a good experience at Rod Laver and not enjoyed the big stadiums where the band is just too far away or the sound bounces off the walls. I saw the Boss at a stadium and was disappointed in the sound and lack of intimacy, whereas at Rod Laver it was great!

  11. quite beautiful write up er.
    i was there also.
    ‘bad’ was indeed good. a highlight.
    the unforgettable fire was my introduction
    to european alternative pop.
    but i was there for ‘the joshua tree’.
    and ‘the joshua tree’ only.
    i used to be able to play that whole album on guitar.
    ‘exit’ was my true highlight.
    took me back to when me and a few mates
    would take a slab of beer to a rehearsal studio
    somewhere in brunswick
    weekend after weekend
    crank up the marshall speakers
    and let loose on that outro chord progression
    for hours.
    we nailed it
    probably once.
    and i danced to ‘angle of harlem’
    couldn’t resist.


  12. Thanks David.

    Side 1 of Joshua Tree is one of the great sides with the intro to Where The Streets one of the great openings to an album (and song). As an accompanying documentary, Rattle and Hum is magnificent too. Your story reminds me that music can be spiritual.

  13. Most definitely a compliment, Peter_B.

    BJ – I thought more about the role of venue in the experience. On reflection it probably does make a difference. The shows I’ve enjoyed the most have been those where I can stand and move about. And usually out-of-doors. Last Friday’s U2 show began under an open sky but when the showers started (Bono: It’s raining F*ck’s sake. Good of you to make us feel at home) someone decided to close the retractable roof.

    HaikuBob – The Joshua Tree. Yes. In its entirety. I love that image of you guys surfing the Exit wave “weekend after weekend.” Like searching for the perfect break.

    Mickey – Most definitely spiritual. I had not anticipated such an experience. And I wonder how it happened. As I said elsewhere, the show became one of mind & body & spirit. The collective far greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t know how such things happen but I give thanks that they do.
    U2 – you were magnificent.

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful ER. I’ve never caught U2 live, sounds like I’m missing out big time. Had a mate go to that same show and he was just as much in awe as you.

    I’ve had a similar experience that you had with ‘Bad’ at a couple of gigs, in that a song I’ve known has come across in a totally different light live and hear it differently and with the memories of the gig afterwards.

  15. Thanks ER. Really, enjoyed this and I really enjoyed the show too. I actually drafted something similar today that I was about to send in (maybe I still will).

    I’m newish to the Almanac, I’ve only had two things published so far, but I really enjoy your writing style. Very evocative. Ultra violet and One Tree Hill were the hidden gems for me last Friday. Loved the Salvo band for Red Hill Mining Town too.

    Thanks for this and all of your pieces. I’m really enjoying reading your work

  16. Hi Luke – thanks and yes I note your keen participation with live music – something kind of magical can happen. You just never know.

    G’day Shane – I see your story posted this morning. Good stuff. The Salvo band – yes. The big screen cinematography was superb. I believe it was shot by the same fella that shot the original photographs for The Joshua Tree album back in the day. I loved the footage of that woman slowly painting the USA flag on the outer wall of that crumbling adobe hut. Thanks very much for your kind words.

  17. Still affected by that U2 show of a fortnight ago.
    Still aware of a yearning from them (from me?) for something bigger.

    In this state, yesterday I was happy to find a moment equivalent to that which grabbed me posted on the www.
    It was recorded on the weekend in Singapore.
    I dropped it at the end of the post (above).
    Go well.

  18. Helen Rumbacic says

    Just found this article and it brought back wonderful memories of seeing this awesome band not only in Melbourne but Auckland, Sydney and Perth. I was lucky to go to Los Angeles in 2017 to see them thinking the tour would never come to Australia. The Joshua Tree album being my favourite and Streets my all time favourite song. When it was announced that JT19 was happening I was determined to see them as many times as I could. Six times in all. Streets had me sobbing in Perth realising that it would be the last time witnessing it on the tour. The speech from the B stage to main stage. The Edge’s guitar. Goosebumps to tears. My 26 year old daughter was with me at this one (girl’s trip to Perth) and put her arms around me. She knew what it meant. Amazing how music can do that to you. I met some amazing people seeing U2 in 2019 from all over the world. Friends for life and hopefully will see them again at another tour in the future. Thank you for your article.

  19. E.regnans says

    Hi Helen.
    Thanks for your message.
    Quite something to think back, sluice through all of that water gone under the bridge since late 2019.
    Imagine tens of thousands of us jostling, sharing air-borne particles with abandon.
    Bigger than us. Thanks again.

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