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Review: U2’s ‘Joshua Tree’ tour is timely 30 years later

From left, Adam Clayton, Bono, Larry Mullen Jr. and The Edge of U2 perform on Sunday, May 21, 2017 in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — U2 still has as much to say about America as when they made “The Joshua Tree” 30 years ago.

On “The Joshua Tree” tour, they’re delivering the message sonically and visually, backed by a stadium-wide high-resolution video screen.

Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. wrapped the first week of their North American and European tour Sunday with a two-hour show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. They played their Grammy-winning album in its entirety in front of a packed house that included Maria Shriver, Josh Brolin and Quincy Jones.

Bono sang a few bars from the “La La Land” song “City of Stars,” gave a shout-out to his wife and daughters, and dedicated a song to the late Chris Cornell.

U2 knows how to put on an arena spectacular, and “The Joshua Tree” delivers — with a heavy dose of politics. “The Joshua Tree” was already political, inspired by the band’s fascination with American ideals and ironies. At Sunday’s show, they bookended the album with socially conscious songs such as “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” ”Pride (In the Name of Love)” and 2012’s “Miss Syria (Sarajevo),” during which images of war-raved Syria filled the massive screen.

An animated, anti-Donald Trump video also played.

The massive screen also made “Where the Streets Have No Name” look like a trip through Death Valley. Multicolored Joshua trees lit up during “In God’s Country.” A Salvation Army brass band appeared to play along with “Running to Stand Still.” Bono wielded a spotlight during “Bullet the Blue Sky,” just like he did in the song’s original video, and they dedicated “One Tree Hill” to Cornell.

“These songs mean so much to us, and they mean so much to you,” Bono said of the 30-year-old tracks. “In fact, they’re more your songs than ours now.”

The U2 frontman and philanthropist talked about AIDS (“the American people have that disease on the run, unless this president screws it up”) and discussed his One organization’s “Poverty is Sexist” campaign. He dedicated the song “Elevation” to “the women who’ve stood up or sat down for their rights.”

“You light our way,” he said.

He also asked the audience to “awaken the America of compassion and community, of justice and joy.”

U2 is unveiling their new song “The Little Things That Give You Away” on the road. “The Joshua Tree” tour continues through Aug. 1.

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Online: http://www.u2.com/index/home

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Follow Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

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