Instrumentals

I originally had this day marked down for the obvious song, 4th of July, but since it is an instrumental and there is little to say about it, I decided to expand to talk about several of the instrumental songs that the band has done over the years. This is nowhere near a comprehensive list of instrumentals, just thoughts about a few. Most instrumentals are really pretty boring, just random sounds that were recorded during a session that they kind of liked. Most of them could be improved by the addition of lyrics, but not much.

4th of July is on The Unforgettable Fire, works as an interlude of some kind, but not much of one. One of the shortest U2 songs at just 2:14, it happened to be a piece that was just a bit of fooling around in the studio between takes. It kind of shows, there’s really not much to it, it sounds very Eno-like, very Unforgettable Fire, a little dreamy or a little wishy-washy. The album is not improved by it, nor does it detract. Just a nothing piece really.

Things to Make and Do originally came on the back of the A Day Without Me promo single. Not very exciting, kind of standard music for the time. Not sure if it developed any further, it kind of sounds generically like several of their songs from the era. There is a comment from Edge that this song was a way for Bono to catch his breath during the set, which interests me, as in those days most of their music was very fast, while nowadays they include slower songs which I guess give the same purpose. They also include some songs where Adam and Larry get to step off the stage for a few minutes for their own rest (as well as The Wanderer during the current tour, which serves as the intermission).

Speed Of Life was another from that time, in this case it was released on the Boy deluxe edition as an outtake from that era. I think it sounds like an early version of Electric Co. I struggle with this one a little, since it supposedly did have lyrics in a live version (I have not seen it), but not in the only released version. So, were those lyrics for that song, or just something they made up? 

Yoshino Blossom is very nice, gives a calm and relaxed feeling. If you didn’t know where it came from, you would listen to it and immediately pick up that it was from The Unforgettable Fire sessions, and you’d be right. Of all the instrumentals listed here, I think this is my favorite.

Another with some lyrics is Alex Descends Into Hell For A Bottle Of Milk / Korova 1, which was on the back of The Fly. U2 did this for a theatrical version of A Clockwork Orange. I never saw the original movie, and don’t really care about it much. Apparently it was very controversial in it’s time. The music sounds kind of sucky, you can see what they were going for, the whole industrial punk thing, but it does nothing for me. The lyrics are very unnoticeable, sung high by who I don’t know, and in Latin I think.

Near The Island was on the Achtung deluxe edition, it is one of those songs that you feel like something should come out of it, but nothing ever does. I don’t mind that they try a hundred different ideas and come up with one great one. And I don’t mind that they give us a peek into some of the ideas that don’t really come off or mean anything.

And of course there are several instrumentals on the Passengers album, but I think I will save them for the day I review that.

No ratings for these, I guess I would give them a 0 or 1, since I never listen to them.

Even Better Than The Real Thing

Even Better Than The Real Thing has become a regular during the Innocence + Experience tour, I saw it at each of the four shows I attended last week. It’s a really fun song, they play it inside the screen (is there a proper name for that thing yet?), with dots all over their faces which are also shown big. The dots slowly dissolve and show the band members, it looks good (much better than what I describe here).

Even Better Than The Real Thing came off Achtung Baby, but it’s one of those songs, or one of those titles, that I often associate with Pop. I mean, I know it came off Achtung, but the Real Thing always makes me think of Coke, and when I think of that I think of both the consumer addled ideas of Pop, and also the idea of soda-pop. One of those strange associations that comes into my head, I guess.

In terms of ratings I actually have it as a well-rated song, definitely above average, but for Achtung Baby it ends up being much more of an average song in the album, showing how strong the album was. That’s not necessarily a good thing for some of those songs, which may hide their lights under a bushel, but Even Better Than The Real Thing actually got a lot of publicity, and has become a fan favorite, especially since it was released as a single. It disappeared for a while from the live playlist in the 2000s, before returning a little during 360 then coming back regularly on I+E.

I switch back and forth on the point of the song. Obviously Bono’s said before that it’s about the culture of the time, where people aren’t trying to get deep into things but just looking at the surface. The famous quote is something like “sometimes you want to read a magazine, not a novel.” I always have the feeling that Bono has read a bunch of novels, a whole lot more than I have (and I read a lot), because he’s always coming up with weird and wonderful quotes and lines from the most obscure of people, along with the most famous people. Technically Bono reads more literary stuff than I do (my genre is fantasy), which is why his stuff doesn’t always have meaning for me.

Even Better begins with the weird whining of the guitar, but really takes off when the whole band comes in together. Then Bono comes in with lyrics and I have to say that the album version sounds somewhat muted compared to live versions. Not a problem, it sounds like it does and it shows the evolution of the song over the years. There’s a section in the middle, about 2:30, where it’s just Edge and I love that short little part of sound, the guitar raising and lowering as it goes. Then the rest of the band come back and finish the song, and it’s just really good as it rolls to an end. A great song.

My rating for Even Better Than The Real Thing: 7 / 10

Chicago thoughts 2

And now I am home. My week in Chicago is over, I wasn’t able to stay for Chicago 5, but I got to see four Innocence + Experience shows. It was a fantastic experience, and for my son a fantastic innocence. We drove home from the airport tonight, I put Songs of Innocence on and he started singing along. When we got home he turned on his computer to play Minecraft for the first time in a few days, and I passed by a little while later and he was playing Minecraft but had a tab open to play U2 from YouTube. In other words my plan absolutely worked.

Just a few days away and I totally forgot how hot Texas is. We actually went to the park in Chicago for dinner last night, and sat outside while we ate. It was even a little chilly at times, at least according to my wife. But walking through the airport parking lot in Dallas tonight I was already sweating, and even getting inside at home it was hot. Hadn’t really needed air conditioning the last week or so. Heck, the fact that I was able to go outside without gasping for air was amazing. Of course, our tour guide a couple of days ago also said that Chicago gets down to -20 in the winter, and that kind of makes you feel like it may not be the best place to live.

Great set of shows that I saw, unique items like the first performance of The Crystal Ballroom, second of Lucifer’s Hands, an All I Want Is You, Bad, and on and on. The only one that I really wanted to see that I didn’t was The Troubles. I’m going to be pretty irritated if they play it on Thursday. Rumors race around the internet at the speed of light, and right now they’re saying that Thursday is going to be a special show, because shows that end a location are historically really good. I hope I don’t miss anything, but I’ll be watching what I can online.

I managed to see the show from different angles, from GA to the third deck, from the square to the e stage ends, and really it’s hard to say which is best. I guess I could say that third deck was the worst, but then it was the best at getting the overview of the video screen. It wasn’t GA, which had poor views of the screen but was definitely the best at being in the show. By the square had bad points, but then I also shook Paul McGuinness’ hand from that seat, so it was great. And down by the e stage, that had the closeness for that whole section of the performance. So if I was to make an argument, I guess the argument would be that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, at least for me.

And yeah, I’ve been looking at the New York schedule, trying to figure out a way to convince my wife that we should make a trip up there for something, with the U2 shows being convenient and coincidental.

Chicago 4

I waited a day to have some thoughts on Chicago 4, just so I could get the June review in on the right day. Does a day add any perspective? Not much. I’m still going to say it was a great show, of course.

Chicago 4 opened with Miracle, as every show on the tour has, and followed up with Electric Co. I somehow only realized last night that the second song of the show has been very interchangeable, I have been thinking that it has been flipping back and forth between just Electric Co. and Out Of Control, but I also saw Gloria in that spot during Chicago 3. The rest of the first half of the show has been pretty stable, I think. I saw a map a couple of weeks ago of the show, I don’t know where and I don’t know if it has been updated. But to continue where I was going, I want to say that song two has flipped but the rest of the first half has had that theme, the story the band has been trying to tell about them growing up, and so the songs have stayed the same. It leads to a fairly compelling story.

FYI as we walked around Chicago today, my son alternated singing between the “oh, oh oh oh oh oh” of Miracle and some parts of Song For Someone. He is well trained now, I think. I worked on him with some of the lyrics of each as we walked, he’ll have it down by the next time we see the show (which I guess will be next year, barring some kind of miracle (of Joey Ramone)).

Our seats for Chicago 4 were in the corner, lowest level, by the e stage. I was able to see Deena (of On The Road With U2 fame), I was sat almost directly behind her, although she was in the GA. To be honest I felt the seats I had in Chicago 4 were a little better than GA, because in GA I was crowded out by arms holding up phones all show long. In the seats I was still close but could see everything over all those people. It would have been a lot different in GA if I was against the rail though.

My wife texted my sister-in-law (another big U2 fan) before the show, sent a picture of our view. She replied back that she wanted to FaceTime  with us during the show. I had half promised myself to keep my phone in my pocket this time, but ended up pulling it out and connecting with her, during the part of the set where the band is down on the e stage. And by some miracle we ended up seeing the first ever performance of The Crystal Ballroom, which once again was much better live than the recorded version. Too bad you can’t record FaceTime though. I did record Bono’s entrance, we were on the opposite side from him. Funny moment, when his microphone didn’t work as he started up Miracle, and the crowd sang it anyway.

So sadly tomorrow (Wednesday) we get on a plane and head back to Texas. I won’t see Chicago 5 live, I will hopefully watch as much as I can online, but it’s not nearly the same. If you’re watching the shows online, I can only tell you that seeing it in person is way way better. Video just doesn’t do it justice.

My rating for Chicago 4: 10 / 10

June review

And we hit the halfway point in the year. It’s been an exciting few days here, I’ve seen four U2 shows in the last week, and all of them were fantastic. I’m posting this today, and will post my review of Chicago 4 tomorrow, just so I can keep this in the right month. Needless to say I’m going to rate it highly. Really wish I could stay in town for Chicago 5, but I’m done with the Innocence + Experience tour for this year.

I have had a strong realization these last few weeks, and that is that I am way ahead of schedule on some posts and way behind on others. I’ve mentioned this before, but have done little about it, and now it’s catching up to me. The thing is that too many days so far this year I have taken the easy way out and written a review of a song, rather than a non-song. That means I am running out of songs, and the second half of the year is going to have a much higher ratio of non-songs, as many as a 50-50 split at times. So, keep reading, you might see some things you haven’t heard about before (unless you’re a diehard fan).

As always, if you want to contact me about a particular item, or U2 in general, try the Twitter link below. I don’t enable comments on the site, for the simple reason that blog comments are the bane of the internet. No offense to you, dear reader and U2 fan, but it’s the crap that comes through that causes this. Just the other day I got a notification about a comment on one of my other blogs that I needed to verify. Needless to say it was spam. I do need to say that it has been something like four years since I last posted on that blog. What does that tell you?

Here’s everything I reviewed this month, with the ratings I gave them:

 

Electric Co. 6

Do You Feel Loved 2

New York 4

Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of 7

Get Up Off Your Knees (book) 5

Crumbs From Your Table 4

Raised By Wolves 5

A Day Without Me 4

Cedarwood Road 8

I Will Follow 8

The Hands That Built America 6

Oh Berlin 7

U2: Faraway So Close (book) 4

Connections

Hawkmoon 269 6

Breathe 9

Paul McGuinness

Boy-Girl 3

Rattle And Hum 5.7

Lucifer's Hands 4

The Playboy Mansion 2

Running To Stand Still 8

Achtung Baby: Kindergarten 3

Pre-show Jitters

Chicago 1 10

 

 

Chicago 2 10

Chicago Thoughts

U2 online

Chicago 3 10

Chicago 3

Tonight was very special for me, as I took my son to his first U2 concert. He is ten years old, and his biggest problem was getting his earplugs to fit. He didn’t seem at all nervous before the show (I was, I really wanted him to like it), he seemed to take most of it in stride. He was half falling asleep towards the end though, I don’t know how since it was so loud, but he managed to keep going until the end. Then when we got back to the hotel he had several questions about things that had happened during the show (mostly based around the events of Raised By Wolves), so I am glad he was paying attention and interested enough to remember. Overall it was great for him to be there, and will be again tomorrow night. Tonight we were in the third deck, almost alongside the main stage, so he certainly got a good overview of the show. Tomorrow it will be first level in the seats, in one of the corners by the e stage, so it might be a little more up close and personal.

About twenty minutes before the show began, I took a photo of the arena and posted it to Twitter. I checked a few minutes later and it had been retweeted a few times. That kind of inspired me a little, and I took a photo during the first song (Miracle, which has dramatically grown on me during the tour) and posted it, then posted again for the second song, Gloria, and all of a sudden I was taking a bunch of photos and posting one for each song, and getting a lot of retweets and favorites. Thanks to everyone who did that, you were all inspirational to me. It makes me realize that I should do that more myself, I often just look at the pics, but a favorite is kind of a thanks to the person who did it.

So yeah, that was an amazing show. I’ve had two shows down below (GA then first level), this was my first up in the air, and it really was a different perspective. In GA you get very little of the video board, it’s difficult to look up so much. In the first level it was a bit of an angle, but I was also close to the stage. That wide angle I got tonight was in some ways a completely different show. There was more watching the video, but also the wideness of the stage from the side kept things interesting.

Now to show notes: As I said, they played Gloria tonight, for the first time in ten years and the first time I saw it live since the Lovetown tour. Then Lucifer’s Hands, which I rated below average a week ago but may end up becoming another of those songs that grow on me once I’ve heard it live a few times. And All I Want Is You, one of my absolute favorites, a song for my wife and me, and yes, I checked and that was the first time we have seen it live together (and yes we held hands and kissed during it). All in all, a great show.

My rating for Chicago 3: 10 / 10

U2 online

I’m sitting in a hotel room on a Saturday night, trying to think of what to write about. Normally I randomly choose a song or item from a list, but tonight I scanned through the list and didn’t feel like doing that. It seems like that would be a little odd, given that this week is all about U2 in Chicago (technically, I’ve only been spending my nights with U2 this week, I’ve been spending my days at the SABR convention because I’m also a baseball nerd). But I already wrote about the first two shows, I wrote an extra post about those shows, and I’m waiting until tomorrow night to write about Chicago 3 (duh, because it doesn’t happen until tomorrow night). So I’m trying to think of something to write about that’s U2 and maybe Chicago but not quite.

So I have a topic, and it is U2 and the internet. I’m going to tell you a few of my favorite places and things that are on the internet and related to the band.

The obvious site is U2.com, where I spend surprisingly little time. I have to be honest, for a band site it has very little news about the band. I mean, it has the big things that are happening, like a new show, and it has all the history and videos and music and so on, but if I want up to the minute news about the band, I’m not going there. Usually I’m going to @U2 (atu2.com), and I just noticed that @U2 is right above U2.com in my bookmarks. @U2 has that up to date info, much better and more recent stories about band members, and that’s why if there’s some breaking news about the band, that’s where I go first.

The second site have been regularly visiting is U2wanderer.org, which has a wealth of info about U2 releases. I mostly use this for the discography, to check dates or places or specifics about a release, like how many different versions there were. And the final regular site I have been using for the blog and tour is U2gigs.com, which tells me all about how many times each song has been played, and details about various shows. Both of these sites have been really helpful on confirming facts I have been writing, or to check out something that I wasn’t sure about.

Shows are a little different, there are several ways to follow the band live at a show. The clear and most obvious one is Twitter, where there is a whole crowd talking about the shows, including at least a few of the above. Twitter gives me some immediacy to the shows, both following them online (a few folks like @U2 post setlists as they happen, which is great). It also points the way to other places to check, like when the tour began and I immediately downloaded both Periscope and Meerkat to my phone, and began watching pretty much anyone who would put up video. I was able to watch significant chunks of shows that way, and that gave me good prep for the shows I have seen.

The other interesting thing is that I found myself on Wednesday and Thursday night reading Twitter, to see what was going on at the shows. This, while I was at the shows! I had about an hour in GA before the show began on Wednesday, and I spent a lot of it on Twitter just looking at other people’s photos of the arena (not even trying to find myself in the crowd), just like I had during previous shows. Then I even posted a few times during the show (and texted pictures of the band to my wife). Essentially breaking my own rules about not using my phone during a show (look back a couple of days for that discussion). On the other hand, my post about high-fiving Paul McGuinness on Thursday during the last song (One) got me 35 favorites so far, a personal best. Thank you all.

Now I know there are a lot more U2 sites out there than just these few. These are the ones I use most often. If you have a site you think I should check out, hit me up on Twitter (link at bottom of the page).

On to tomorrow, where I take my son to his first U2 show

Chicago thoughts

And now some thoughts on the first two shows, go back the last two days to see each show individually (including my awesome high five with Paul McGuinness).

One of the things I had some worried about was credit card entry. Not because of anything specific, just random chatter on the internet telling you all the things that could go wrong. My mild worry was that I had gotten an updated card between buying tickets and the show, but I really expected that not to be a problem, as presumably they’d be working on the number not the date. But credit card entry was smooth, the guy in front of me was handing his card to the person saying “this is the card I used to pay” several times, she just took it and scanned it and was done. For some reason he was freaking a little, don’t know why, maybe it was a borrowed card or something. Mine scanned in a couple of seconds. Easy, was very happy with the process. If it works as a way to reduce scalping then good.

I was surprised at the lack of crowd, almost right up until showtime there was nobody in the expensive seats, but I remember noticing partway in during the first show that the seats were full. Not sure how that happened. In the second show I didn’t really notice, but then I didn’t get there until about 15 minutes before showtime (that was me outside scarfing down a cheeseburger, since I hadn’t eaten all day).

When I was in the GA I definitely thought that Bono was favoring the North side (the side I was on, fortunately). The others a bit too, but especially Bono. Even when down on the e stage, he looked like he was pointing toward our side and singing towards us much more. I can’t say I noticed that in the second show either, although I was alongside the stage and to be honest I wished the guys had come up to the sides and back more. I think Bono was only up there three times in total, and it was probably a similar count for the others. This is kind of a case where the middle needs to suck it up, they get the band most of the show, but the ends need to see a little more love.

Bono was clearly sick in both shows, in the first there was a point where he had to bend over and cough after singing a line, then repeat that line when he was okay. I did feel like he was talking the show a little more than singing it. When he came over and took a drink after the first song in the second show, I thought uh-oh, he’s not going to make it, but he did. Although singing One at the end, he did not sing it at all, the crowd sang the whole song (he prompted a little), so I wonder if he was out of gas at that point. It was weird, it felt like we were at a rock and roll show singing karaoke. But enjoyable. Hope a couple of days off helps him get better.

Overall the shows were good, about what I expected them to be having seen so many clips and Periscopes from earlier in the tour. That’s actually high praise, because having seen them online my expectations were really high. What’s going to be fun is the next show, two nights from now, because I’m taking my son to his first U2 concert and he has almost no idea what to expect.

Chicago 2

Okay, let me get this out of the way: yes, I high-fived Paul McGuinness on his way out of the arena tonight. I just wrote a post a week ago that mildly criticized him (on his birthday no less), and tonight he becomes the closest I’ve been to an actual member of U2 (not counting standing in a crowd). So, yay me, right?

So I get into the arena and down to my seat, and discover that I am exactly parallel to the back of the main stage, on the south side (Edge’s side). There are three rows of seats in front of me, all empty because they wouldn’t have been able to see on the stage, then my row. I would estimate that when I stood up the back edge of the stage was probably around belly height to me. Not bad, although there was some equipment in the way a little too. I was also next to one of the entrances into the arena, one of the ones at each corner.

I sat next to a couple who also happened to be from Texas, and we had a nice conversation before the show. I kept looking back down the tunnel, and down the tunnel on the far side too, trying to figure out which side 3/4 of the band would be coming from (I knew Bono would come out the far end). Turns out they came out the opposite side to me, which is very disappointing, but it also turns out that my side was the celebrity entrance. A few minutes after sitting down, George Lucas came through with someone, I said “George” to him but he didn’t pay any attention to me (was hoping to get a Sheldon moment in there). A few other people came by now and then, and I kept looking back to see who was coming. A group that looked like a band, a couple of people I semi-recognized (I know it wasn’t Jon Bon Jovi, but who’s a singer that looks somewhat like him?). There was a dude who looked like a rapper, not sure which one.

So the show went on, and I was mildly disappointed because frankly the angle wasn’t great for the band. The three of them came over to my side a few times during the show (not enough I don’t think). I enjoyed the angle to the band less than yesterday, when I was in GA, but I enjoyed the angle to the screen much better, I was able to see it and see what was going on much better.

They played both Out Of Control and Bad, two of my favorite songs. Really happy about that. They also played the (mildly) sucky version of Sunday, it’s just a little slow-paced for my liking.

At some point, I have no idea which song it was, but Bono came over to our side, in the corner, and his spotlight shining on him also happened to shine on the security guard who had been standing at the celebrity entrance all night. She did not look around at him at all, even though he was right above her. I went down at the end and asked her about it, and she laughed and said that she’d lose her job if she turned around, although she was tempted to look up instead, she could have seen him that way. But she was happy because she knew he was there and she was in the spotlight with him. I don’t think I would have resisted that temptation, which explains why I’m not a security guard at a U2 show.

And so to the end of the show, I am watching Streets, and somehow realize that several people were just coming in beside me, and realized that Paul McGuinness was one of them (the rest were female, no idea who they were, band wives? His wife might have been one of them, there was an older lady there (sorry, lady)). I watched them out of the corner of my eye, they went over to the edge of the GA crowd. Anyway, Streets ended and One started, and Bono dedicated One to Paul, and then the crowd mostly sang One, which was great. But Paul and the ladies left before the end of One, which surprised me that it was dedicated to him and he left in the middle. But as they came down the celebrity exit, I put my arm down to high five and yelled “Paul,” and he looked up and raised his hand and grasped my hand, in a sort of handshake. Then he went on out. And I stood up and watched the end of the show, thinking that wow, that moment might just have made it the best show of my life. Hard to top that, right?

Two down, two to go. Third deck on Sunday, I doubt I’ll meet anyone famous up there.

My rating for Chicago 2: 10 / 10

Chicago 1

The thing about making plans is that they can go awry. In my case, in my post yesterday I said I was just going to enjoy the show, and not take pictures or Periscope it or anything like that. Well, I didn’t Periscope, but literally as Bono climbed up to the stage I had my phone out and was taking photos, and ended up taking 190 photos during the show. Best laid plans and all that.

Today was my GA day, I’ve done GA at U2 shows before but this one was different. First of all there was a limited amount of GA available, they have balanced it very well to get good numbers without crushing people in. Second, we were split into two sides of the stage (North Side rules!), and even though I didn’t get to the show until 7pm, I was in a really good spot. I was along the center rail, just about where it turns into the e stage, and about five people back from the rail. I got to see most everything, everyone was up and down the stages so we saw them all (if I had a criticism it would be for Adam, I’d tell him to get all the way down to the e stage more). My biggest problem with the show was the number of people using their phones (myself included), it was at times difficult to see the main stage through the forest of arms holding up cameras. And then of course the standing for hours, but that’s to be expected. And I didn’t have a great view of the video board either, I could see it fairly well but I had to stretch my neck up to see it. My neck is sore right now because of it.

The show itself was really good, pretty much what I expected from all the videos I’ve seen of it. Even better live of course. A guy about five people to my right caught the first book that Bono threw, although I didn’t see what it was. And all the paper falling from the ceiling was landing closer to the main stage, so I didn’t get any of that. Oh well.

They mostly played what I wanted to hear, at least for one night. They can fill in the rest over the next four nights, songs like Out Of Control, Bad, and The Troubles are high on my list of want to hears.

I heard that Bono was sick before the show, and he clearly struggled at times. I saw him wipe his face and take a drink several times on the e stage. There were a couple of points in the show where he missed parts, or had to sing them again, because of his voice. There were a couple of places where he was encouraging the crowd to sing, and I thought it was because he wanted to not have to sing it himself, to rest his voice for a second.

Only irritant was after the show, when I came out to large crowds at the bus stops, and on the streets (that did have names), and not a cab in sight. I ended up walking back to my hotel, not quite three miles I think. I was walking with a lot of other people, who slowly peeled away into the night. I was probably two miles into the trek when I saw the first available cab, and by then my pride (in the name of love) made me walk the rest of the way.

Show 2 tomorrow, I’m going to be in a seat with a decent view, so it should be good.

The rating below reflects the fact that it is impossible for a U2 show to be anything but perfect. Yeah, that’s just the way I roll. I have to say that Zoo TV remains my favorite show, I think. Innocence + Experience looks like it’s going to be a pretty strong contender for second place though.

Sometime soon I will cull through the photos and post the best. There should be at least one of each band member that isn’t terrible, right?

My rating for Chicago 1: 10 / 10

Pre-show jitters

The week that I have been waiting for begins today. After months (years?) of anticipation, planning, dreaming and hoping, mere hours after this blog post goes live, I will get on a plane and head to Chicago. And less than 24 hours after the post goes live I will be at Chicago 1, the first Innocence + Experience concert I will have attended live. I say live because I have watched many (most) of the shows online in various forms (Periscope, Meerkat, Twitter and YouTube), so I have a great deal of knowledge of what is coming.

I am going to attend shows 1 and 2 by myself, once in GA and once in the seats, and then shows 3 and 4 in the seats with my wife and son (ten years old, and will be seeing his first U2 show live). My plan is to write after each show, so come back tomorrow and you’ll see my review of the first Chicago show (spoiler: it’s going to get a 10 / 10, as every live U2 concert automatically does. That’s just the way it works). And through the rest of the week I’ll be doing reviews of each show along with some thoughts on the whole experience in between.

So what about the title? Pre-show jitters, how can I have those? I’ll admit to a mild nervousness before every show that I attend, even knowing that it’s going to be good, but I just have worry that something might happen. It might be something with the band (like falling off the stage), it might be something with the flights or the tickets or whatever. Just that something will go wrong and I won’t see the show, or won’t enjoy it for some reason. This has never happened, it’s just my own worry. I can’t explain it really. And add to that my son’s first show, I have to hope that he loves it, I think I will be nervous that he won’t like it, or won’t be happy being there.

So literally as I write, this time tomorrow I will be at the show. An hour in, so we’ll be approaching the intermission. For a while, watching the early shows on Periscope, I had the idea that I would return the favor and Periscope the show back out to the world. But then, as I thought about it, I kind of decided not to (sorry). A couple of things made me lean that way, first, when Bono had all those folks up on the stage last week, and told them to put down their phones and enjoy the moment. That’s what I want to do. And second, I saw a photo from last week, taken by someone in the GA, and there were half a dozen people between them and the stage, all holding up phones and taking pictures and video. I realized that I do want to enjoy the moment, and I don’t want to be staring through a screen when Bono reaches down toward me (as if!). I can find photos much better than what I can take, so why do it? It would be my photo, sure, but I’m not sure that matters so much. I know I’m being hypocritical by saying all that, when I watch Periscopes myself. Maybe it’ll be different when I’m in the seats versus in the GA.

Achtung Baby: Kindergarten

It’s interesting listening to the Achtung Baby: Kindergarten album. If you don’t know, this is an album that came out on the deluxe Achtung Baby, and it contains early versions of the songs on the real album. The interesting part is comparing the songs to what was actually released on the final version of the album, to see the chops and changes that the band made. I don’t know at what point each song was taken, whether they were the first recording or the hundredth, halfway through the process or almost at the end. But it is still interesting, hearing a part in one of these songs in one place, knowing it moved somewhere else completely by the end. Or hearing the music change, bits added or removed here and there.

Not going to go through each song individually, because if you’re really interested you can listen to it yourself. But there are a few things I want to say about some of the songs. For example Baby Zoo Station, starting off the album, sounding exactly like the final version for the first 30 seconds or so, then it starts to go off track, as you notice the guitar is clipping a little compared to what you’re used to hearing. Then there’s Baby One, which goes off track right from the start, with this weird high guitar sound that is so off the charts different to the final. Or Baby Until The End Of The World, which although it has different sounds in it, you can really hear the final song pushing through.

Baby Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses sounds quite fun with the guitar the way it is, and then you get the lyrics, which are wildly different. It’s hard to tell on some of them, because they’re so familiar, but I was amazed to hear the opening line be “Your innocence, and experience,” a theme that has come back around again today. Baby Trying To Throw Your Arms has just the oddest sound to open the song, there’s a jangly guitar in there that seems so familiar but so different. Baby Ultraviolet, one of my favorites, but the “Sometimes I feel like I don’t know” that starts the full song is pushed all the way to the end. An interesting lesson in not only changing the lyrics (there’s a lot of lines in there that are changed a little, some a lot, some thrown away), but also moving the lyrics around, like this verse working better in a different place.

One of the most interesting things to me, something that stood out in almost every song: the bass in these songs is much stronger than it ends up being in the end. Somehow they decide to reduce Adam’s part in the songs, most every time. Weird, right? And then there’s also a thought that some of Edge’s stuff got toned down a little too. Like they start way outside on both ends, and end up pulling back towards the middle.

I have to rate this pretty low, for the simple reason that it is relatively gimmicky. It’s something that I won’t listen to very often, because if I want to hear the songs I’m going to listen to the full album. Historical interest really, kind of like reading through an author's first draft. Actually what I would say is that this is something that should be listened to by a lot of young bands, and comparing it to the full album, just as an idea of how songs should develop and change, and a little insight into the amount of change and work that the best band in the world does to put their stuff out. In other words, don’t record your first take and release that, it can always use work.

My rating for Achtung Baby: Kindergarten: 3 / 10

Running To Stand Still

By now you know the story of Running To Stand Still, drugs, the seven towers of Ballymun, blah blah blah. It’s all very interesting in its own way, but ultimately what’s more interesting is the song itself. Running To Stand Still is great in every aspect, the song, the theme, the music, the lyrics, this really is one of the best U2 songs. It is great on The Joshua Tree, and yet as always it is even better live, in whichever live version you are listening to.

The music of Running To Stand Still grabs you first, beginning with a high whiny guitar, then stepping into a relatively high piano, along with a soft drumming accompaniment. Coming out of Bullet The Blue Sky, which the song often if not always does, not only on the album but also when played live. This pairing, the sharp screech of Bullet, the anger and the intensity, pushes into the deep and quiet Running, but in some ways doesn’t lose any of that intensity, just projects it in a different direction and for a different reason. I’m not going to pretend to know anything about the drugs side of things that the song is about, or the feeling of hopelessness and abandonment you get from the song. I guess it might just engender a feeling of empathy though.

Running To Stand Still is one of those songs that bring me into a contemplative mood, by raising and lowering the tempo and the sound as it goes. The line that gets to me every time, probably the most famous line from the song, is “Cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice,” the dichotomy throughout is really interesting. In some ways it is saying to repress yourself, to hold those emotions in, not let your feelings go. In other ways it is saying what I said just before, the idea of the hopelessness of a situation that you can say anything but not be heard, and turn to drugs to try and feel any kind of emotion, real or not.

“Under black belly of cloud in the rain,” that’s the other line I love, and I think I love it from the Rattle And Hum version of the song, Bono just seems to be pouring out the emotion at that point in the song, showing his depth of feeling in the song. It really is one of the more powerful moments in the song, and one of the more powerful songs in the movie.

Then it finishes with the harmonica, and in many of the live versions it ends with the hallelujahs repeated, something for the crowd to get into.  I have sometimes thought that those would be a good way to end a show, the crowd walking out singing hallelujah over and over, although in other ways it is a bit of a downer for people to be thinking about, so maybe not such a good idea. Of course 40 isn’t such a boost at the end either, and it would be a similar sound to end with.

My rating for Running To Stand Still: 8 / 10

The Playboy Mansion

Poor topic, poor music, poor lyrics. The trifecta of poor. Just a dull dull song that I haven’t listened to in a long time, and won’t listen to again for a long time if I have the choice. It came off Pop, one of the lowest rated albums, and was one of the worst songs on the album, so it’s another that would have a serious shot at being worst U2 song ever. I don’t think it is, but it would certainly be in a bottom ten somewhere.

The topic of the song is difficult to discern, it does seem to be all over the place a bit. The initial sections of the song make me think of religion, make me think that he’s talking about whether he has been good enough to get into the mansion of heaven. That image is of course burst, and burst badly, at the end, when he flips it around to talk about the Playboy Mansion instead. It is an interesting image though, to take what is essentially the two opposites, heaven and Playboy, and invert the song that way.

The music is kind of funky, it starts out sounding like it might be a little bit interesting. You hear some fairly regular drums and bass, but there’s a waah-waah coming from the lead guitar, and that seems like it might make a song. But then Bono starts singing, and those ten or fifteen seconds or so of interesting stuff suddenly dips down and becomes very bland, hanging around in the background, just making much of nothing really. The music just doesn’t grab me at all after that.

Despite the words messing up the music, the lyrics in general struggle, but there are occasional bursts of interest in them. There’s a quote from Bono talking about how mentioning Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson tends to date the song, and he’s right about that. I am one of those people that dislike movies that have very topical references, that kind of movie tends to age badly, and tends to suck for many other reasons too. Mostly that if you’re the kind of movie trying to put those references in, it’s because you don’t have much of a story in the first place. The same applies to the song, there is not much there and he is trying to put them in to fill it out.

So despite all that, I have to find something good about the song, right? Well there is one part that I like, somewhere in the middle. And it’s not so much the music, or the lyrics themselves, but it’s more just the feeling at that point in the song. It’s the verse that begins with “I never bought a lotto ticket,” and also the verse that starts with “Chance is a kind of religion.” Ignore the words, listen to the tempo, and it is really quite interesting. It speeds up just a little compared to the rest of the song, again not the music, but the speed of the words that Bono is singing. It speaks to how the song could end up being better, with different and more interesting lyrics, but also a slightly faster tempo. Again, the possibility of something decent coming out if they worked on it more.

My rating for The Playboy Mansion: 2 / 10

Lucifer's Hands

By coincidence this song comes out of the hat just a few days after making it’s live debut on the Innocence + Experience tour. Gives it a slightly different aspect, I have to say, since I am well on the record as being a big fan of live U2 more than recorded U2, at least in most cases.

So I’m not that enamored with Lucifer’s Hands, haven’t been since I first heard it when I got the extended version of Songs Of Innocence. Listened to it and Crystal Ballroom, and neither of them stuck with me, as is fairly standard for me. But I did try it on and off, and lately a little more on than off, and I would say it has grown on me somewhat. Not enough to make me think it should have been on the album, it’s not that good, but it’s certainly a decent b side, or additional songs, or whatever you call it these days.

It is I think taken from Return of the Stingray Guitar, which is something the band played live on a number of occasions as a warmup, or an instrumental, just a piece of music that never developed very far. It was always interesting that they played it the way they did. But clearly they took that instrumental and messed around with it and did develop it into something, and added lyrics, and turned it into Lucifer’s Hands. Yet another example of U2 evolution at work. This time all above board, not quite that they were creating in public but certainly showing a few steps along the way. Stingray must have been interesting enough to them that they kept playing it, and kicking off shows with it, and then going on and doing this from it. I must say I always thought of Stingray as an Edge song, he seemed to have a lot of fun playing it, and the fact that Bono wasn’t really involved was odd. How is it possible for Bono to stay quiet long enough for the rest of them to complete a song without him? Obviously he couldn’t, so he added lyrics to get himself involved.

And what’s it actually about? I think this is another one of those innocence versions of songs, where Bono’s singing about the early days of the band, living in Dublin. He’s looking back at them as young guys: “Everybody’s famous here but nobody’s known.” Or “Prayers of fire on a raindog night,” that’s a strong allusion to Red Rocks, right? I think mostly it’s saying that they escaped the devil by taking control of their own lives. The devil being anything you want to choose, drugs, suburbia, terror, you name it, whatever they needed to get away from. The song also splits a reference to Rejoice, by singing “I can change the world,” then later “But I can’t change the world in me,” which is the opposite theme of the line in Rejoice.

Here’s a little oddity to end with: while checking the lyrics on U2.com, I happened to scroll down to the Performed At section. There’s June 13, in Montreal, the first time they played it on the tour. But they also list it on October 10 in Barcelona. Yeah, four months from now. Have they already written the playlists for the next four months? Are they somehow coming from the future? Or just a mistake? I know which one I’d choose.

My rating for Lucifer’s Hands: 4 / 10

Rattle And Hum

Rattle And Hum, what can I say? One of the seminal moments of my life. This is supposed to be a review of the album, not the movie, but they are clearly so intertwined that I find it hard to separate them. If I write here about the album but say things about the movie, please forgive me, and vice versa when I get to a post about the movie.

The album is a mix of live songs and new recordings, and because of that it tends to feel a little disjointed. We’re not listening to something purely live, a concert album, and we’re not listening to some fresh new music. Not only that but the mix is throughout the album, it’s not like they did a side one that is live and a side two that is recorded. The running order is similar to but not the same as the movie, there are three songs (Hawkmoon, Love Rescue Me and God Part II) that appear on the album but not the movie. On the other hand, there aren’t any new songs that are on the movie but not the album, although some of the versions are different.

So what’s the deal with that? Why produce both? I don’t know, and I don’t know why it is so mixed up. It’s not like they’re simulating a show mixed with new music that they hadn’t played live at the time. The running order for the album is disjointed, and not just the live/recorded mix, but there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason for the order. There is a little bit of songs going together, the segment from Love Rescue Me to God Part II works pretty well, but in general it feels like I’m pinging back and forth like a pinball.

The album had a interesting mix of people on it, perhaps more guests than on any other U2 album. BB King was the highlight of course, along with Bob Dylan hiding in the back a little, but also various backing musicians like the gospel choir on Still Haven’t Found, the guys who sang Freedom For My People, and the horns and trumpets on Angel Of Harlem. The band was doing their tour of the US, looking at various historic musicians and in some ways trying to emulate them. I think they succeeded, certainly from my point of view, in exposing some of those singers to the U2 audience, but I can see how there was a backlash against them for it. At the time they were not in that level of superstardom that people thought, and by taking the approach they did, they took away from themselves a little. But now, knowing how huge the band has become since, I think you could say that what they did worked for them, and for the musical history they were looking at. It all works out in the end.

I have Rattle And Hum rated a little above average, and that also puts it a little above average in terms of U2 albums. Remember I rate fairly harshly though, so I’ll reiterate that an average U2 album is, for me, the equivalent of the best albums for anyone else.

My rating for Rattle And Hum: 5.7 / 10

Boy-Girl

Boy-Girl was first released on a mini-disc called Three, along with Stories For Boys and Out Of Control. It was the band’s first release, so you could say it was the start of big things. Looking back now though, of the three songs on the EP, Boy-Girl was definitely the least of them, being played the fewest times live over the years and the only one to not make it onto Boy.

I have to admit that this is not a song I like that much (although you can tell that by the rating). I have whined about some of the early stuff that U2 have done, and also been pleased with some of it. They definitely were in that early stage where some of what you do is terrible and some of it is a hidden gem. This one falls into the former category more than the latter. It is very unpolished, very generic, it’s not even something that you would hold up right now on the Innocence + Experience tour as being that Innocence part. There just isn’t that much there to like about it, and I will excuse that all day because they were just teenagers when they wrote and recorded, and barely starting on the path. Like I said, their first release. On the other hand, that same release included Out Of Control, which was way ahead of its time and is still great today.

So what is the song about? You would assume that given the title it is one of those mid-teen angst kind of songs, and it does give you some feeling of that at times. A little about exploration between a boy and a girl, I guess, although definitely not explicit in any way. But then you get to a line like “You and I we live on the big ship,” and I’m like, what the heck does that even mean? There’s no context around it, it just pops up and I’m thinking “what big ship is he talking about?” And going back to the music itself, very generic, as it was in those days lots of guitar, lots of everything in fact, the standard “we are learning to play and we’re going to play the crap out of these instruments we have.”

Odd thing on the live version of the song (off the Boy Deluxe album) is the sounds that Bono is making in some places. It really sounds like either he is drunk and slurring the lyrics, or he isn’t quite sure of the lyrics and is just making sounds that sound similar to the words, so he is remembering the basic tone of the song and pushing out something to make it sound like he is singing. Now, I think it is possibly more likely that he is drunk (I think I may have read that somewhere he was drunk during this show), but the second option is still there, and in fact both are possible as well.

My rating for Boy-Girl: 3 / 10

Paul McGuinness

Happy Birthday to Paul McGuinness who turns 64 today.

We were at the Dallas show during the 360 tour, we were in the GA section, and while I was up as close to the stage as I could get, my wife hung back towards the edge of the GA, as she is wont to do (she said she doesn’t like standing that long, which is why I have seats for the two shows I’m taking her to in Chicago, and GA for one of the two I’m going to without her). But it was actually in the pre-show stuff, we were hanging back a little and watching a lot of the goings-on. I had moved up just a little to see something, I think, and when I returned back to her she asked me if I knew who “Paul” was. After a little discussion, and adding a bunch of context, it turned out that Paul McGuinness had walked right by her, and had been greeted by several folks on his walk. And I had missed him by that much.

I am somewhat ambivalent about Paul McGuinness. There are stories of him being called the fifth member of U2, which is absurd, because anyone in the world knows there’s only four people in U2 (heck, a lot of people think there’s only two). Yeah, he was pretty important to the growth of the band, although I also tend to think that the band would have been successful no matter what. The path less traveled and all that. I think I said something similar when I talked about Bono, that he would have been famous whether he was in U2 or somewhere else, that’s just his personality. But I honestly don’t know what things a particular manager does that make their band successful, so I can’t tell you how much of an impact he really had on the band. I guess I would say big, since the band credits him for much of their success.

But like the rest of them Paul has provided me some embarrassment. Doing the right thing by his band, he moved their corporate office to the Netherlands so that they could avoid Irish taxes. Now don’t get me started on that kind of move. There are many companies in the US who have done the same thing, moved their HQ to some tax haven to save themselves money, while a) screwing the rest of us who have to pay more taxes, and b) just changing an address on a form, not actually going to those countries in any way except financially. Personally I’d change the law so that the company would be taxed based on where the CEO and the board actually live. Since they all still live in the US, tax the company as Americans. If they don’t want that, they can move to some island somewhere. Oh, sorry, rant over, the point being that McGuinness did that and got a lot of heat from people but saved the band money.

And that’s not the least of it, he also rails against piracy now and then, being a tool of corporate music, and not understanding how the world has moved on. He is like the old rich guys who made their money one way, not knowing that way is no longer possible, like selling buggy whips after the car is invented. I’m guessing that there will never be a band like U2 again, one that dominates the world, because the world is fracturing into smaller and smaller pieces. By that I mean it is a lot easier for a bunch of small bands to become medium bands and make a decent living, than it is for one giant band to dominate. And I think that’s a good thing. If you’re a band, spread the word, get your music out to people, because it’s only by being heard that you’ll get anywhere. As they say, give away the music and sell the t-shirts and tickets.

Anyway, if he’s the fifth member of U2 then he’s definitely my least favorite. But still, he has the history, and I can give him all the credit in the world for that.

Breathe

16th of June, 9.05, doorbell rings, man at the door says if I want to stay alive a bit longer…

I have a system for liking U2 songs. It goes like this: listen to the song/album the first time, and dislike it (mostly because I don’t know the songs yet). Listen to it again and again, and slowly things will start hitting me and the songs will grow on me. Sooner or later they will have become second nature and I will like them. What I have found is that it can sometimes take me a long time to know and like a song, and sometimes it takes a long time and I still don’t like it that much. But there are certain songs that I like the first or second time I listen to them, and those songs tend to become the ones that are the biggest hits and amongst my favorites. It doesn’t mean I can’t love a song if I don’t like it straight away, just that if I do it’s going to be with me forever. Breathe hits that category, a song that I loved the moment I heard it and a song that I rate really highly today.

I haven’t read any James Joyce, let alone Ulysses, the book that the song seems to be based on. I read the Wikipedia page once, that’s a good way to look smart without having to read all that junk, but then I’ve forgotten most of it anyway so more fool me. But basically the story is a day in the life of some dude, and it happens to be the 16th of June and that happens to be the day I’m posting this. There’s a show tonight in Montreal, I wonder if they’ll play Breathe (I don’t think they’ve played it yet on the Innocence + Experience tour), but maybe they’ll think of the day and do it. And then hopefully they’ll remember it next week when I’m seeing them in Chicago (although there seem to be a lot of songs I want to have in Chicago, not sure if they’ll have room for them all).

The song is a great lead song, it led off almost every show on the 360 tour, and I actually debate myself over whether I would prefer Breathe or Streets as the opening song to my ideal U2 show. Both of them start somewhat slow, building up until the point they take off. Both sound really good in doing so.

I’m not going to go through the whole song, there are so many parts that I could pick apart and point out how good they are. I’ll just pick on one line though, “The roar that lies on the other side of silence, the forest fire that is fear so deny it,” these are absolutely fabulous lines. Extremely poetic. The song almost seems to take a pause to highlight these lines, definitely a centerpiece. The first part is from George Eliot, yet another piece of literature I haven’t read (haven’t even done the Wikipedia page), the second I think is a Bono original, and somehow fits together really well with the first. This is what I talk about when I talk about the depth of the band and their music. Wonderful.

My rating for Breathe: 9 /10

Hawkmoon 269

Have you heard the theories on the title for Hawkmoon 269? Why the number is 269, and not something else, and why indeed a number at all? Among the theories I’ve heard are that it was the 269th cut of the song, which even for perfectionists like U2 I don’t believe. I’ve heard that they were driving through the middle of nowhere, USA (usually somewhere in the Dakotas or Wyoming), and passed a sign which said Hawkmoon 269, as in the town of Hawkmoon is 269 miles from this spot. I don’t believe that one, because if you’re listing a distance on a sign, it would have to be a pretty big town to be listed at that distance (let alone that there isn’t a town called Hawkmoon as far as Google Maps knows). And the most likely one I’ve heard is that Bono was in room 269 in whatever hotel he was in when writing the song. That’s about as random as it gets, so about as reasonable as anything else.

Starts with carousel music, I don’t know why. Then in kicks the drums, guitar laid over top, then lyrics, and finally the bass and at that point they’re all rolling together, and it really sounds good. The whole song has that feel, the feeling of anticipation, of things building up to a head, of rolling thunder, although I’m not sure it ever hits the payoff on it. It reminds me of Exit, of Heartland, of the ongoing theme I have of writing a movie based solely on U2 songs. In that idea this song will fit in very well with these others songs.

“Like a “ is the theme for this song. Seems like almost every line begins with “Like a “ something, and the implication is that this is how much he needs your love, as in this thing really needs this other thing, like I need your love. It is a little hokey, and I have complained many times about a lot of music being really repetitive, but in this case it does work okay. I mean, you’re not repeating the same lines over and over, or the same verses, but switching it up every time. I’ve also said before about how I like that Bono will take a particular chorus and sing it three times in a song, but twist each time so they’re a little different. In this case he’s using the same theme, but twisting it every single time, and that keeps the interest and removes the idea of the lack of diversity in the lines.

Interesting to me that the song has only been played live nine times, seven of those in Australia. Lucky them. I guess they were trying out the song, trying to get it to work live, and somehow they couldn’t get it right. And then they gave up on it, and stopped playing it live. That’s a little disappointing, because it does seem like a song that would work really well live. The whole tone of it, the ongoing sound seems like something that a crowd would really like. Maybe it was just too long (at 6:22 there are few album songs that are longer). Or maybe it was just so complicated that it was hard for Bono to remember the words.

My rating for Hawkmoon 269: 6 / 10