U2 in images then and now: The Joshua Tree, Croke Park, 1987 and 2017

I photographed the band the first time around. It’s great to be back

U2 perform The Joshua Tree at Croke Park, Dublin, the first time around, in 1987. Photograph: Eric Luke

U2 perform The Joshua Tree at Croke Park, Dublin, the first time around, in 1987. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

It’s not often you get to photograph a band twice, in the same venue, playing the same album, 30 years apart. So as U2 returned to Croke Park with the Joshua Tree tour yesterday I couldn’t resist.

In 1987 I travelled to the Dublin stadium lightly. Two cameras, two lenses and a pocket full of 35mm black-and-white film. Manual-focus lenses and manual-exposure cameras. No motor drives. No internet.

The object of the exercise: to photograph the band on stage. A relatively plain background on a bare stage.

U2 perform The Joshua Tree at Croke Park, Dublin, the first time around, in 1987. Photograph: Eric Luke
U2 perform The Joshua Tree at Croke Park, Dublin, the first time around, in 1987. Photograph: Eric Luke
U2 perform The Joshua Tree at Croke Park, Dublin, the first time around, in 1987. Photograph: Eric Luke
Scorching performance: throwing basins of water over fans to keep them cool when U2 performed The Joshua Tree at Croke Park, Dublin, the first time around, in 1987. Photograph: Eric Luke
Scorching performance: throwing basins of water over fans to keep them cool when U2 performed The Joshua Tree at Croke Park, Dublin, the first time around, in 1987. Photograph: Eric Luke

How different it is three decades later. These days a photographer arrives laden with camera bodies, a selection of lenses, cables, chargers, a laptop and more.

Now, with an enormous stage and high-tech screens that have become as much parts of the show as the band, it can be a struggle to capture the scale of the event in still images. A far cry from that evening in 1987 when security chucked basins of water over the crowd to help keep the fans cool.

But what a joy to be here again, to rekindle that moment and attempt to capture it for the next 30 years.

U2 back on stage at Croke Park in 2017, 30 years after they first performed The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium. Photograph: Eric Luke
U2 back on stage at Croke Park in 2017, 30 years after they first performed The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium. Photograph: Eric Luke
U2 back on stage at Croke Park in 2017, 30 years after they first performed The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium. Photograph: Eric Luke
U2 back on stage at Croke Park in 2017, 30 years after they first performed The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium. Photograph: Eric Luke
U2 back on stage at Croke Park in 2017, 30 years after they first performed The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium. Photograph: Eric Luke

This time around we’re much farther from the stage – there’s no longer a place in the pit for photographers – so long lenses are required. The music is as good as ever, if not more polished, like the show and performance.

U2 at Croke Park: Eric Luke has photographed the band play The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium both times around, in 1987 and 2017. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The band haven’t aged much in the three decades, but this photographer has. Must be the rock’n’roll lifestyle.

U2 at Croke Park: Eric Luke has photographed the band play The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium both times around, in 1987 and 2017. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
U2 at Croke Park: Eric Luke has photographed the band play The Joshua Tree at the Dublin stadium both times around, in 1987 and 2017. Photograph: Cyril Byrne