Willie Williams told Rolling Stone's Andy Greene The Joshua Tree Tour 2017's purpose is not to re-create the Joshua Tree tour: "I think we have a great strategy, a really solid way of doing it without it being a classic-album nostalgia show," he said. Williams said the tour idea was brought up during September 2016 rehearsals for U2's performances at the iHeartRadio Music Festival and Salesforce's Dreamforce conference. Initially, just one show was planned in the U.S. and one in Europe, but the idea expanded into a full tour.
Williams described the challenges of a stadium production, and how to follow U2's last stadium tour, U2 360, calling The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 his "get out of jail free card" as there's no way to top U2 360. After being indoors for the Innocence + Experience tour, Williams said he's looking forward to the next few months. He said, "I'm really enjoying being in stadiums again. Simplicity is probably the wrong word because it's still a big production, but I think there will be a cleanness about it that will be refreshing after the last one. What's funny is Innocence + Experience looked like a simple gesture, but it was one of the most complicated shows that U2 has ever done. This will be simpler, larger gestures and letting music fill the stadium."
When asked about stage aesthetics, Williams was coy with Greene, until Greene pointed out the stage footprint was on Ticketmaster. Williams confirmed there will be a shadow of The Joshua Tree on the stadium pitch, but the rest of the staging is still being worked out. Williams also wouldn't share if "Where The Streets Have No Name" will be the show's opener. "All will be revealed on opening night," he said.
Williams did offer some thoughts about the continuation of the Innocence + Experience tour. "They certainly haven't been people to look back, but with Songs Of Innocence having been so much about the genesis of the band and that time and place ... it's so apropos to look at that period of the band, the Joshua Tree [era] and to follow that with Songs Of Experience and what we will do with it when we come back. It feels like a very natural progression."