ISSUE DATE: April 27, 1987
The Joshua Tree is not, it would seem at first, a record for these times. Bono and the rest of the Irish band called U2 seem to be citizens of some alternative time frame spliced from the idealism of the ’60s and the musical free-for-all of the late ’70s. Their songs have the phantom soul of the Band, the Celtic wonderment of their compatriot Van Morrison and some of the assertiveness of punk, refined into lyrical morality plays.
Their concerts are as revivifying as anything in rock, with a strong undertow of something not often found this side of Bruce Springsteen: moral passion. U2’s songs speak equally to the Selma of two decades ago and the Nicaragua of tomorrow. They are about spiritual search, and conscience and commitment, and it follows that some of the band’s most memorable performances — and, not incidentally, the ones that have helped U2 break through to an even wider audience — have been in the service of a good cause, at Live Aid or during last summer’s tour for Amnesty International. This is not, then, just a band for partying down. “Partying is a disguise, isn’t it?” Bono asks, and does not wait for an answer. This is a band that believes rock music has moral imperatives and social responsibilities. There is no one better than U2 at bringing “over there” back “over here,” and setting it down right by the front door, where no one can miss it.
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