Bono (right) and Larry Mullen Jr. of U2 perform on stage at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Friday, May 26, 2017.

Bono (right) and Larry Mullen Jr. of U2 perform on stage at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Friday, May 26, 2017.

Jae S. Lee/Staff Photographer

Friday morning, headlines informed early risers of the killing of 23 Coptic Christians by gunmen in Egypt, a boat full of Libyan migrants requiring rescue off the coast of Italy, and of further developments regarding the terror attack in England following an Ariana Grande concert in which 22 people were ruthlessly killed by a suicide bombing.

For those attending the U2 concert on Friday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, signs of our troubled times felt very real. Local police officers were decked out in full body armor, holding rifles; an officer led a sniffing dog around trash cans. Up until Sept. 10, 2001, such precaution at a concert would have been cause for alarm. Friday night, they were comforting, especially since U2's concert at one of the largest sports stadiums might have been one of the biggest concerts in the world that night.

Legendary Irish rock band U2 sought to bring people together while both looking back and beaming ahead. 

In front of a sold-out crowd of an estimated 90,000 people, the mental image of the rifle-wielding police officer from earlier was impossible to ignore as Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton opened the show with "Sunday Bloody Sunday." About the 1972 Bogside Massacre in Northern Ireland in which 28 unarmed civilians were shot by British soldiers during a peaceful protest, the iconic tune begins with lyrics that are as painfully relevant now as they were upon the song's release in 1983.

Over the iconic, militaristic drumbeat, Bono sang "I can't believe the news today, oh, I can't close my eyes and make it go away."

Bono (right) and the Edge of U2 performed what was likely one of the biggest concerts in the world on Friday, May 26, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Bono (right) and the Edge of U2 performed what was likely one of the biggest concerts in the world on Friday, May 26, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Jae S. Lee/Staff Photographer

Indeed, the powerhouse group is touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its landmark The Joshua Tree album, which offers its own share of socio-political imagery. But opening the show with the three-song combo of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "New Year's Day," and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" gave attendees the chance to jubilantly sing along while still being forced to acknowledge all that's going on around us globally.

Music, and a grand stadium rock show, especially, is great for an escape from reality. And this show was certainly no exception, thanks to the band performing The Joshua Tree album from start to finish (following that opening three-song set) from a small, secondary stage near the middle of the stadium floor.

Though some echoes could be heard bouncing around the cavernous mega-stadium, the band was in fine form. Iconic tunes "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" might normally be saved for the encore, but in this celebratory format, they were early highlights. When performing "With or Without You," sweeping aerial images of gorgeous skies and canyons rolled on the gargantuan video screen behind the group that likely measured 60 feet tall and 200 feet wide.

Look at photos from the iconic U2 concert at AT&T Stadium in North Texas:

Bono, who may be known these days as much for his political activism as he is for his music, didn't spend much time talking to the crowd, let alone preaching to it. A vocal opponent of President Donald Trump, a close friend to former president George W. Bush -- with whom he spent some of the day with early on Friday in Crawford, Texas -- and a passionate warrior against the spread of AIDS in Africa, Bono was still a rock band leader first and foremost on Friday night. Letting lyrics he wrote many decades ago carry the load, Bono let the appreciative attendees take in his songs as each individual saw fit. Some fans screamed, some cried and most sang along in a communal way that felt like it could heal, whether or not it actually did.

The searing, dive-bombing guitar licks The Edge delivered in "Bullet the Blue Sky" felt urgent and unsettling while his now-iconic delay sound as heard throughout "In God's Country," among other classics, soared from the gigantic stage with promise.

After The Joshua Tree songs were finished, U2 closed the night by bookending the show with a few songs from its post-Joshua Tree era. "Ultraviolet" from 1991's (also classic) Achtung Baby, featured rolling footage of inspirational women, including former first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, while "One," arguably the greatest unity anthem rock music has seen in the past three decades, was properly majestic and would've served as a fine closing song.

But just as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" had appropriately opened the show in topical fashion, "Beautiful Day," from the 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind, was one of the closers. 

With a carpe diem-style enthusiasm, Bono sang, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away."

With so much pain and ugliness and uncertainty, no one, not even Bono, will argue that a concert can cure all of society's ills. But there will always be great value in the power of people simply coming together and enjoying timeless songs that make us remember, reflect, and, hopefully, rejoice.

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