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Review: U2's sold-out Auckland concert a glittering mix of music and cinema

U2 treated a sold-out Auckland audience to a spectacular display at Mt Smart Stadium last night - in what was a glittering mix of music and cinema.

The first of two Auckland shows on the Joshua Tree tour was a stark reminder of how the world’s biggest band gets business done.

For those all about the music, the quartet pumped out their iconic 1987 album brilliantly.

But as an event, a stunning cinematic display made it a feast for the eyes as well.

A colossal, 60m-wide screen - the biggest high-resolution screen ever used in a touring show - was something to behold. Sequences of slick graphics were cut with live coverage and pre-recorded vignettes. At times, it's so mesmerising it almost distracts you from the band.

Performing an entire album live is rare treatment for a single record. But even 32 years later, the songs stand up stoutly, reinforcing why The Joshua Tree sits comfortably among rock's all-time greats - up there with the likes of Exile on Main Street and Blood on The Tracks.

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Founding member The Edge spoke to Breakfast ahead of their Friday concert in Auckland. Source: Breakfast

It's also an album well-known for a deep affinity with New Zealand.

One Tree Hill, a reference to the Auckland landmark and a tribute to close Kiwi friend of the band Greg Carroll, who was killed in a Dublin motorbike accident the year before the album's release, shimmered on a balmy Auckland evening - while the screen beamed out a photograph of their old friend in the closing notes to heartfelt applause from the crowd.

Songs like Where the Streets Have No Name and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For are a treat to take in during a particularly memorable first half of the show.

As well as performing the full album in sequence, the band do also throw in some of their other biggest hits, including a brilliant drum-charged opener in Sunday Bloody Sunday before Pride, New Year's Day and Angel of Harlem.

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John, a fan from a young age, tells the guitarist that he idolised him as a youth. Source: Breakfast

Fans of the band's more recent, and less subtle, singles were sent home happy in an encore which reeled off Elevation, Vertigo and Beautiful Day.

It was the start of a final, Asia-Pacific leg of a world tour so big it started two years ago.

Numbers from the tour have been colossal - playing to almost 3 million fans across 66 shows.

It's also allegedly raked in over $470 million, with some critics pointing to it being a money-spinner. Countering that, though, is the huge expense which must go into the logistics and production alone, not to mention the band's passion for their work.

The show was personified by The Edge's ultra-fastidious approach to live performance - his rig consists of almost 50 guitars in an effort to dial in sound exactly - and Bono's ringmaster-like leading of choreographed movements around the huge main stage, and down into the crowd on a satellite stage.

With support from a name as big as Noel Gallagher, it felt more of a mini festival than a single gig.

Last night, his band, The High Flying Birds, picked Auckland for a new, electric performance of Don't Look Back in Anger. Previously, they've only been playing an acoustic version of the Oasis classic. And in trademark wit, Gallagher dedicated the song to the All Blacks.

Tickets are still available for tonight's second show at Mt Smart Stadium.

U2 performing One with the names of the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack in the background. Source: Supplied / Dara Munnis