U2 used to take risks with opening acts — but not on this tour


U2’s upcoming stadium tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree” will stop in Houston (May 24) and Dallas (May 26), but not Austin — though it remains to be seen if the Austin City Limits Music Festival might end up in the mix.

Wednesday’s announcement that the iconic Irish group will headline the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee in June suggests that ACL Fest might be a possibility. And beyond the fest grounds in Zilker Park, there’s always a possibility that U2 might tape an episode of the “Austin City Limits” television show.

It’s no surprise that the band is doing stadiums on this tour, but their choices of opening acts have raised some eyebrows on social media, even among longtime fans of the band. The Lumineers open the two Texas concerts and eight more; other U.S. dates feature Mumford & Sons and OneRepublic. (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, featuring the former co-leader of Oasis, will open the European shows.)

There was a time when U2 took more risks with its support acts. Though they’ve played it similarly safe on some previous occasions, bringing along the likes of No Doubt, Smash Mouth and Third Eye Blind, their touring history also includes some inspired choices: PJ Harvey, the Pixies, the Waterboys, B.B. King.

But whatever one thinks about the anthemic Americana of Mumford and the Lumineers or the emotional pop of OneRepublic — all of which clearly are big draws — these aren’t bands renowned for sociopolitical statements. In the era of Brexit and Trump, why didn’t U2, a band largely founded upon speaking out and taking stands, respond by sharing their massive stage with fellow activists?

They’ve done it before. Among those who have opened for U2 in the past are the politically charged rap group Public Enemy, relentlessly outspoken rockers Rage Against the Machine and the socially conscious outfit Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Why, then, didn’t they bring along an artist such as hip-hop superstar Kendrick Lamar, who lit the music world afire with the deeply affecting commentary on his 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly”? Or perhaps the blazing Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers, whose latest album, “American Band,” continued a long tradition of tying together the personal and the political.

Perhaps Neil Young would be too predictable or not as appealing to younger audiences, but it’s easy to imagine him delivering a message that could resonate in this moment. An even better choice would be English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, whose three decades of folk-rock-punk bona fides are exceeded only by his eloquence in speaking to audiences about important global issues.

The point being that this wasn’t the time for U2 to play it safe. “I can’t believe the news today/I can’t close my eyes and make it go away,” Bono sang out loudly and unforgettably as the band began its early-’80s rise into the pop stratosphere. So why, of all occasions, would they choose middle-of-the-road opening acts at a time when the world finds itself in such a dramatic state of sociopolitical upheaval?



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Music

Fox offers Bill O’Reilly big contract after $32 million settlement, Gretchen Carlson reacts
Fox offers Bill O’Reilly big contract after $32 million settlement, Gretchen Carlson reacts

Fox News offered Bill O’Reilly a $25 million contract even though O’Reilly had agreed to settle a sexual harassment claim for $32 million, according to The New York Times. The Times reported that O’Reilly settled out of court with former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl just months before he was dismissed from the network. O&rsquo...
Mariah Carey’s ex-fiance James Packer calls relationship a ‘mistake’
Mariah Carey’s ex-fiance James Packer calls relationship a ‘mistake’

A year after calling off their engagement, James Packer is talking about his breakup with Mariah Carey for the first time. “I was at a low point in my personal life,” Packer said about his time with Carey. “She was kind, exciting and fun. Mariah is a woman of substance. But, it was a mistake for her and a mistake for me...
This week’s music picks: ACL Hall of Fame, Reverend Horton Heat, more
This week’s music picks: ACL Hall of Fame, Reverend Horton Heat, more

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDMU2KhSBXo&w=492&h=307] Tuesday: Reverend Horton Heat at Continental Club. SoCo’s historic Continental is an anchor for a lot of roots-based musical styles, including on-the-fringes varietals such as psychobilly. Dallas band Reverend Horton Heat has been...
Jim Carrey accuses dead ex-girlfriend of elaborate extortion scheme 
Jim Carrey accuses dead ex-girlfriend of elaborate extortion scheme 

As the wrongful death lawsuit against him plows forward at full steam, Jim Carrey is claiming his late ex-girlfriend, Cathriona White, contracted the STDs that made her suicidal before meeting him, not after as her family alleges. White’s mother and estranged husband contend that White started experiencing suicidal thoughts after the...
Now Martha Stewart hangs with Snoop Dogg and makes weed jokes
Now Martha Stewart hangs with Snoop Dogg and makes weed jokes

Here are some of the things Martha Stewart has done on her new show with Snoop Dogg: She has worn a blinged-out cheese grater on a chain around her neck. She has drunk out of what can only be described as a pimp cup. She has taste-tested a stoner recipe for a pizza omelet. She has name-dropped Escoffier. She has not flinched when Rick Ross said to...
More Stories