Another Time, Another Place

My buddy’s daughter commented on the fact that TJT doesn’t sound like an eighties album. I found this strange because it is firmly rooted in that decade for me. I replied saying that it was because she was young (mid-twenties). But she said no, there were a lot of albums that had the eighties sound and TJT didn’t have it. Evidently that sound has been very popular with Millenials, but what do I know? I’m about as Millenial as a VCR (what?).

However, her comment did get me thinking about what the band was trying to do at the time. I’ve been rereading old Rolling Stone magazines and there is an interview with Bono where he grouses about eighties music—rock stars in particular. He saw the coolness by fellow musicians as a kind of detachment and something he and his band mates loathed. For all the criticism they received, detachment was not one of them. Their earnestness and seriousness was what drove much of their music. And it was what connected them with their fans. These guys believed in things very strongly and weren’t afraid to let the world know.

Bono also complained about the commercialism of music.  He felt that there are record companies “who treat music like a tin of beans—a product to be sold.” It could be said that this was ironic coming from the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the world at the time. But what I think he as getting at was that U2 endeavored mightily against the notion of being mediocre, though commercially prosperous. They were not content with treading over familiar ground—even though it was lucrative and praiseworthy—simply because it successful.

In the interview, there is a sense that the band’s superstardom is not necessarily something to reject but to understand that with that position comes a responsibility to the music and the fans. And this is where I think they took the road not taken.

I can’t think of another band from that time that sang more about social and political issues than them (although I did not understand much if it). Songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday and Pride (In the Name of Love) had gravitas. The Police had gravitas, but I always felt they were more literary than political. Sting was political. But it was the subject matter of U2’s songs combined with their music that made them so different.

In the DVD Classic Albums – The Joshua Tree, Edge recalls that they felt very disconnected with what was going on in music at the time, even their music videos were “so different, like they were from some other place”. And though I relate all those songs with the eighties, it is because I listened to them so much during that time. But to someone like my buddy’s daughter, she doesn’t get that eighties-feel like she does from Def Leppard, INXS or Bon Jovi.

No blind alleys for Streets

I remember the first time I saw the Where The Streets Have No Name music video on television. The band set up on the rooftop of a liquor store in downtown Los Angeles and played to a captivated and growing crowd. The part that really struck me was there was a moment when the crowd was still respectful and stayed on the sidewalk while the police tried to keep order. And then—all of a sudden—they run into the street seemingly oblivious to the traffic. I thought how cool would it have been to be there. And in my new-to-rock naiveté, I realized this band was going to be huge. Even watching the video now, there is this sense that this very event was marking a significant change in the growth of the band. They were going to be megastars from that moment on.

After all of the hype surrounding the new album and immense anticipation, the band launched the release with the force of a supernova. Streets raced up charts all around the planet. For a moment, everyone was playing U2 on the radio. They were, as the April 27th issue of Time Magazine stated on the cover, “Rock’s Hottest Ticket”.

Into the arms of America

What nearly all of us can agree on is the sound. The moment I hear the beginning of Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With Or Without You, I know what it is. These songs are recognizable for their towering vocals and soaring guitars. They are the gold standard for bringing-the-house-down noise that only the best bands can produce.

When I first listened to the album what knocked me off my feet was the open, ambient nature of the songs. There was something sweeping and spacious about them. I visualized the band playing atop a barren mesa beneath a domed night sky. But there was also this strangeness that was a part of every song. It was a little hard to express other than the album felt otherworldly and unlike the times.

If that is what my buddy’s daughter meant, I agree. I have so many memories from that time it is hard to separate the album from the decade. I needed to step out of my own experience to see her point.

1987 was such a momentous time for the band. The culmination of their efforts was put to test to the country that held their fascination. It was a big album by a big band on a very big stage. And we here in the United States ate it up.

It was the album of the eighties that didn’t sound like it came from there.

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Technology and U2 tours

I had a thought recently: has technology made going to a show better? My initial answer would be yes. From our ability to buy tickets to recording a live performance, everything has been improved upon with the advent of technology. So, that must be a yes, right?

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My own history has shown that the answer is not that simple. No one can deny how much easier it is today to learn about an upcoming tour, a new album or directly connect with band member. It’s absolutely great.

The band itself has been on the leading edge of it for decades. From its use of multimedia during the ZOO TV Tour (’92-’93) to its relationship with Apple, they embraced it instead on shunning it. So where’s the problem?

With the emergence of social media it now has become important for us to record so much of our lives and to receive approval (in the form of likes, comments and/or emojis) for it. And, when did that happen? When did it become so important to let others know what we are doing at any given moment? Sure, a U2 show is a special occasion so it would justify documenting that moment of our lives. But, that is not what happens. We tend to document both the momentous and prosaic in equal measure. Obviously, technology has much to do with that. If it were harder to do, we would most likely do less.

The sad part is that I spent so much time recording the moment, that I missed a substantial part of it. That didn’t used to happen. I can remember the tours of Joshua Tree, Zoo TV, PopMart and Elevation with great detail, all because I didn’t have a camera (no camera phones existed during these tours as well) and I simply watched the show. Beginning with Vertigo and through i+e, camera phones continued to improve and my focus shifted to capturing the event. I’m glad that I did, but it is a little different now and I can’t say it is all for the better.

Bono & Edge City

U2’s shows are fantastic now. They have harmonized skill, practical knowledge, technology and artistry to create a truly enriching spectacle. The thing is, it is so good I can’t just sit back and observe; I have to record. The very thing that makes it worth watching makes me want to do something else in addition to that.

The worst part of that is that my friends are also doing the same thing. At any given moment they’re trying to get that great shot, record a particular song or post something in real-time that it has become a less shared experience than in the past even though we’re standing right next to each other.  I can remember in older tours feeling so connected to my friends and the band at the same time when my favorite songs were being performed. There was this whole cool dynamic of completely being in the moment, surrounded by friends and fans and totally immersed in the music that it almost felt like floating.

This is not to say that I don’t feel that anymore; I do. And I don’t want it sound like I’m lamenting for days before social media and mobile phones. I’m just saying that it was a little simpler back then. I did less. As a result, I experienced more.

I remember seeing a clip on YouTube from a recent show (I can’t remember which) where Bono invited a bunch of people on stage, as he has done so many times. But during this time, many of them were concentrating on taking selfies that it seemed like they had forgotten they were on stage with one of the biggest bands on the planet. Bono did what he could to bring them back, saying, “Live in the moment. Be in the moment.” However, it was strange that he had to say that. It was strange that he had to compete for their attention. And it is even stranger that this will likely be the new normal.

I tell myself that if I were ever lucky enough to be pulled on stage, I definitely would not be taking selfies. I don’t really fault the people that do. But, I just don’t want my memory of that unique point in my life being of me trying to frame the shot with me in the foreground and the band and audience in the background, while Bono waited.

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So, does that mean will I leave my smartphone and camera at home when the next tour comes to town? No. I will be bringing them with me. My hope is that I can find the balance of capturing key points of the show and simply enjoying the rest. I want to be more present for their future shows, not less.

In a way, I just want to be the guy who went to the show and marveled at what the band had in store.

U2 i+e Live in Paris coming to Blu-Ray & DVD

U2 Paris.i+e

As if you didn’t know already. U2’s latest concert in Paris will arrive on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 10th, so mark your calendar. Or, you can just pre-order it.

U2 i+e

If you missed this concert that aired on HBO last December, you now have the opportunity to own it. This was a fantastic show that must be seen. Our lads from Dublin put on something a little extra for this event given the ordeal Parisians experienced. These versions will also contain behind-the-scenes extras that were not shown on television.

U2 i+e Super Deluxe

For the hardcore fans, there is a super-deluxe version includes the Blu-Ray and DVD, plus a trove of memorabilia (postcards, book, buttons, even a USB light bulb like the one suspended above the stage). It isn’t cheap at $119.88 on Amazon. It might mean saving up, but it looks to be well worth it.

U2 Live from Paris premieres Monday (12-7)

U2 Live in Paris 2015

Just a quick reminder that this Monday, December 7th will be returning to Paris to perform their last two shows from Innocence + Experience Tour 2015.

The concerts will be held at Accorhotels Arena in Bercy.  Their final show will be airing live on HBO, so set your DVRs.  Even if you’re watching it live, you will want to see it again and again.  I sure will.

There is no doubt that the band has something special planned for these night.  Their shows are already spectacular.  And in light of recent events, I’m sure they will use the time to bring everyone at the arena, and the rest of us watching at home, just a little bit closer.

It’s gonna be awesome.

U2 announce dates for Paris shows

U2 I+E 2015

The band announced the dates for their final Paris shows.  Originally scheduled for November 14th and 15th, the band was forced to cancel their shows due to the terror attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13th.  Many venues were also cancelled as the officials took all necessary security measures to keep the public safe.  Even though they pledged to return, they could not provide a date due to the fact much of the situation was out of their control.

Bono expressed his dismay and anger on the radio saying it was the first direct hit on music that we’ve had on this so-called was on terror.

With the circumstances changing daily, it was nearly impossible for them to know when they could return.  However, they are back and ready to rock.

This is very welcome news as the band has proven again their commitment to its fans, Paris and music itself that they stand with all of us who truly believe that love is stronger than hate.  As fans, I know we can all agree that they have always put the emphasis on the music and us.

U2, Live Nations and HBO all deserve hearty congratulations for rescheduling such a large event so quickly, in what I am sure must be a very complicated and very difficult situation.  So set you DVRs for December 6th and 7th because our favorite lads from Ireland are going to elevate the City of Light.  These shows will takes on special meaning, as they will prove that nothing creates solidarity like music.

Hats off to Paris as well.  I hope these are two more giant steps towards normalcy.

#strongerthanfear

U2 pays its respect to terror victims

U2 in Paris 2015

U2 laid flowers and a memorial for the slain victims of Friday’s terror attacks.  They looked somber as the gazed at the collection of flowers, candles and signs set out near the site of tragic events.

There is still no word on when the tour will resume or when the Paris shows will be rescheduled.  A state of emergency has been declared by President Francois Hollande and many events in around Paris have been cancelled.

The band has promised that they will return but did not offer a time due to the ongoing situation.  Bono expressed their determination to return for their music fans during a radio interview with Dave Fanning of RTE 2fm.  However, their return was not up to him or the band but with French officials.

I am hoping to provide more developments as they occur.

Paris shows cancelled (11-14 & 11-15)

Pray for Paris

The band announced that their shows in Paris tonight and tomorrow night are cancelled due to the terror attacks yesterday.  There is no word yet if the shows will be postponed or cancelled altogether.  In addition, due to the heightened security status around Europe, there is a possibility that this may affect other venues around the region.

Here on this side of the Atlantic we are no strangers to these types of events.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this very difficult time.

Hopefully, in the coming days there will be more information from the band.  Obviously there are greater concerns right now and I will try to keep up with the latest announcements.

U2 on HBO (Saturday, 11-14-15)

U2 i+e on HBO

Hey folks,

Just a friendly reminder (as if you don’t already know) that our U2 will be performing live from Paris for their Innocence + Experience Tour 2015.  For those who have not seen it, this will be a night of great television.  Understandably, tickets for their shows were out of reach for many as their shows sold out so quickly.

This will be your chance to see a show in its entirety and will be airing this Saturday on HBO.  I for one will be both watching and recording the show because I plan on watching it many times.  I just wish I had a bigger television (40″ seemed so back in ’09).  Hopefully, Santa will be good to this little U2 fan and give him the gift the keeps on giving– a 55″ television.  Anything bigger might not fit in my place.

 

Best songs of i+e?

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Now that fans in the U.S. and Canada have seen the show, it’s a good time to ask about what are the best songs from their new album? With every tour, the band plays all of their new songs and sometimes it takes a little while to figure out which ones can compete for the title. In my humble opinion the best songs usually stand the test of time—the songs they perform at every tour.

A cursory review of their set lists shows that there are a several songs that they perform at nearly every event.

The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)

Cedarwood Road

Iris (Hold Me Close)

Song For Someone

Raised by Wolves

Every Breaking Wave

When I first entered the SAP Center, I noticed the enormous video screen and immediately knew that they were going to do something special with it. Obviously, they would have images displayed throughout the show, but I also sensed they were going to do something else. It did have more than one purpose; it was also an elevated stage.

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After a few songs Bono walks towards a ladder below the screen and says, “Come with me. Come with me to Cedarwood Road. A street I was supposed to grow up on.” As Bono ascends a ladder into it, images began to slide across the screen of a stylized block in Dublin. He is actually in the screen simulating walking down the block. Then Edge smashes into the song with his guitar and the street suddenly becomes more threatening as a violent wind and rain begins to blow (I recorded the whole song with my iPhone 5S and filed it in the Media section).

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I imagine that when they originally conceived the stage design, a performance like Cedarwood Road was what they had in mind.

The very first song that hit me from the new album was Song For Someone. There was something so melancholic about it but yet it was also very hopeful. I just love the way that Bono belts out the chorus like he’s yearning for something that he might never get, but he still has hope. I knew this song would sound great live and in the rare instance where my music instincts were right, it was amazing. It’s a very beautiful piece and I could tell that Bono loved singing it. It’s my favorite song on the album.

Technically, Invisible is not from their new album but it is the first time they’ve taken it on the road. There times when video enhancement can take a performance to a new level. This was one of those times. With the entire video screen emitting yellow with jagged black lines simulating and oscilloscope, the band launched into the song into the song.

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During the chorus the black lines with thicken to expose each band member alternately facing a side of the arena. As the song progressed the holes would close and then open again at the chorus to reveal that each had pivoted around to face the opposite side. Absolutely brilliant.

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It’s so amazing how they can continue to set the bar on a rock show. It can’t just be a band on stage anymore. There has to be spectacle. It has to be an attack on the senses. If they do their job, you leave the arena with ears ringing, energy spent and both intoxicated and restless.

That’s a U2 show.

Suffering from Boston envy

Boston after dark

The band has just wrapped up a four-show stop in Boston and I am feeling a little envy. As a San Franciscan born and raised, I am proud of my city and never felt envious of any other. There are great towns all across this country and the city by the bay is definitely one of them.

But, when it comes to the band, I always felt that they had something special with Boston. When I think of Boston, the first thing that comes to mind is Irish.   Yes, it truly is a multi-cultural city, but there’s no other city in America that I identify more with the Irish than Titletown. I have a few Irish friends from there who are now living in San Francisco that tell me that I have no idea how true that is.

Elevation 2001- Boston

It always seems like the band gives a little something extra when they play there. They do call it their second home and that is no small regard. I’ve watched my Elevation 2001 – Live From Boston DVD many times and that was a great show. The band was at peak performance by the time they hit The Garden and were in rare form that night.

So, I am green with envy when I say, the band knocked it out of the park for every one of its four shows. Bono even called it a hometown show. They showed plenty of class and heart by recognizing the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and displaying BostonStrong on the massive video screen above the stage. And when Bono sang, “Sing for the lives lost in this city, on April 13, 2013. Sing this for the survivors, so strong, so strong, that no hatred can their Pride in the name of Love. Boston so strong.” we all feel like Bostonians, even for just a moment. We are all One.

#BostonStrong

On the second night Bono says, “Last night we had a great time, but it turns out it was just a warm-up for tonight….’cuz we’re in Boston, more Irish than any city in Ireland.” He brought a kid up on stage that was wearing a t-shirt that read I Play Guitar to play Angel of Harlem. After the song, he helped the kid take the guitar off saying, “I might have to take that back young man…on second thought…it’s for you.” Wow. That’s a memory that’s going to last a lifetime.

( Boston, MA,07/10/15)        U2 plays the Garden.       Friday,  July  10, 2015.  (photo by Stuart Cahill)

( Boston, MA,07/10/15) U2 plays the Garden. Friday, July 10, 2015. (photo by Stuart Cahill)

How many times has Bono & company done that? I don’t know. But I do know it’s too many to count. U2 shows are memorable moments for all of us and with that wonderful act of kindness and generosity; they just multiplied it by a thousand.

By the end of the fourth show, Bono says, “Thanks for the loan of your city for the last ten days. I guess we have to hand it back to you at some point. I kind of feels like our city, too. I hope we didn’t make too much of a mess.”

( Boston, MA,07/10/15)      Bono sings  as U2 plays the Garden.       Friday,  July  10, 2015.  (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

( Boston, MA,07/10/15) Bono sings as U2 plays the Garden. Friday, July 10, 2015. (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

They paid tribute to a city that has experienced triumphs and tragedies. They showed the city that they too, understood. As expected, the city welcomed its adopted sons with open hearts. It is amazing to think that this band from Ireland can feel so American at times.

The band has played there twenty-five times and if time and health permits, they’ll play twenty-five more.

The B-man bathed in green