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

Want to catch up on Marvel films before ‘Avengers: Infinity War’? It'll take more than 38 hours
Want to catch up on Marvel films before ‘Avengers: Infinity War’? It'll take more than 38 hours

Marvel’s highly-anticipated “Avengers: Infinity War” film officially hits theaters Thursday night. Are you prepared? >> Read more trending news  The Marvel Studios film blazoned with superheroes, villains and warriors follows 10 years of such blockbusters. It’s the 19th movie and third “Avengers” film...
Sorry, Jmblya fans: Cardi B apparently is off the May 5 festival lineup
Sorry, Jmblya fans: Cardi B apparently is off the May 5 festival lineup

Rapper Cardi B (L) and Offset attend the 2018 Maxim Party co-sponsored by blu February 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for blu) Hip-hop fest Jmblya still has headliners J Cole, Migos and a lot more at Circuit of the Americas on May 5, but it appears Cardi B is off the bill on account...
Uncle Billy’s is now a ‘brewstillery’ with the launch of new vodka and whiskey
Uncle Billy’s is now a ‘brewstillery’ with the launch of new vodka and whiskey

To cap off a year of big changes and a week of 12th anniversary festivities, Uncle Billy’s Brewery & Smokehouse now offers two spirits — vodka and bourbon — available exclusively at the Barton Springs Road restaurant, along with its beer. Uncle Billy’s is launching a menu of 10 on-tap cocktails made with the vodka and bouron...
New restaurants: 15 of the most notable openings of 2018
New restaurants: 15 of the most notable openings of 2018

The Brewer’s Table in East Austin opened April 19. (Contributed by Robert J. Lerma)[/caption] Better Half. 406 Walsh St. 512-645-0786,  betterhalfbar.com. The owners of the Brew & Brew have created an all-day restaurant that pays homage to some of their American favorites like the ham biscuit, hush puppies...
Planning, artistic vision guide Filigree Theatre through first season
Planning, artistic vision guide Filigree Theatre through first season

It’s difficult to succeed as a new theater company in Austin. With performance and rehearsal space at a premium, funding often nonexistent and a panoply of long-established companies claiming much of the limelight, it can be a major challenge to get a company off the ground. Many an Austin theater group has had a first production; far fewer have...
More Stories