I had never seen U2 and decided to check them out when they came to Boston back in July of this year. While I am not a huge fan, I do like them a lot and enjoy a fair amount of their music. They have always seemed to me to be a band that was initially popular with college kids back in the early ’80’s, thus a somewhat younger generation than mine. And while I’ve always liked them, I’ve always been more of an outsider to them and their music. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to see them!
I do admire the fact that after some thirty-odd years it is the same four guys and they don’t hate each other, don’t appear to have drug problems, aren’t slagging each other in the rock press, don’t trash hotel rooms and don’t appear to be loaded down with all that rock star excess. It would be easy to say perhaps that it is because (I believe) three out of four of them are avowed Christians. Perhaps that gives them a moral compass, perhaps they’re just good guys.
Regardless, they are a terrific band and have some terrific songs. “Sunday Bloody Sunday?” On my top ten list of all time songs. A tremendously powerful song. I figured it would be the encore. But instead they did it maybe midway through the show. It was good but not as heartstopping as I wanted it to be. This clip is from them playing it at the Glastonbury festival in England from a few years ago.
One thing that was really cool about the show is that the band had designed a sort of runway that went out over the crowd. And they could walk up into it and play inside of it. It was a nice dramatic effect, especially when Bono did “Cedarwood Road,” a tribute to the street he grew up on in Dublin. This tune comes from their “Songs of Innocence” album which they gave out for free on iTunes and for which they got a lot of heat. I’m personally glad they gave it away. It’s a very good album. Here’s “Cedarwood” from Berlin:
One of the things I’ve always liked about U2 is that despite their immense stardom they’ve never lost their sense of community. At the Boston show, they brought a kid up stage to strum guitar on one of their songs then gave him the guitar! I imagine it’s in some sort of shrine in the kid’s house. He even made the local news. (And you can find the clip on YouTube). Apparently they did this in other cities as well.
I managed to find a clip of the band playing the song “One” from Boston. Boston was one of the first towns U2 broke in so many years ago (plus as Bono said, it’s Irish). In the beginning of the clip he’s talking about the Marathon bombing as only he can. As happens pretty much everywhere they play it, Bono let the house sing the song. A truly powerful moment.
So a really good show and despite not knowing some of their tunes – Johnny Cash sang a tune with them? – I had a great time. The whole band sounded fantastic and Bono’s voice was pure and clear. No Auto-tune for him, no tricks for these guys, no array of dancers. Just music, pure and simple.
BTW, cable channel HBO, is going to broadcast the band live from Paris on Nov. 14. And it turns out a vote was held to send one of the people who were called on stage to join them in the City of Lights. Nice.