Another Friday night

So we come to another Friday night, and another show, and I break from the usual programming to interject with a few thoughts. Tonight is the last show of the US leg of the tour, Madison Square Garden 8. I’m starting to write while Pride is on. As I thought he would, Bono points out Bill Clinton in the crowd, as one of the peacemakers. I was mildly astounded to see the Clintons sitting in the middle of the crowd, in the seats, not in some protected bubble somewhere.

It is amusing as I jump around on Periscope tonight (no Mixlr, all Periscope except for the Meerkat segment), the number of people stepping in and out of each stream. As one stream ends, I jump across to the next, and then watch the counter rise as all those people try and find their next stream. Kind of funny, but also interesting, it ought to be something that Periscope looks at for events like this, some kind of stringing together of streams at one show. I don’t know, maybe.

Speaking of, like I said I’ve been on Periscope all night, an hour and a half of the show, then I switched over to Meerkat for the U2 segment, now back on Periscope. But something I noticed tonight, that I have noticed a few times before, when I get to Meerkat my phone’s temperature climbs rapidly, gets hot enough that I have to juggle it a little, think about putting it down, on a table or something. Then I switch back to Periscope and within a minute it cools back down. The difference, I don’t know. I’m a programmer, but not on iPhones. Whatever technology within the phone they’re trying to use, I’m surprised there is that much of a difference between them.

How about Bono bringing up the Village People on stage? I had seen them earlier on Twitter, and thought they had a shot, and they got up there. The best part of it though was that Bono mentioned the Village People, but didn’t seem to remember that U2 had dressed as them for Discotheque. Well, he might have remembered, but he gave no indication of it. I suppose I might have tried to blot that out of my memory too.

So like I said the last night in the US, for now. They’ve done some different things, Party Girl was one tonight. They’ve done a lot of different things here in New York, and indeed since I saw them in Chicago the show has changed in several ways. It might not seem like it to the casual watcher, because there are many small and significant changes. I’ve asked before, what are they going to do different in Europe? They have a month off, but they’re not going to go think it all up again. They will make changes though. Many US references throughout the show, have to ask which ones they’ll change, which ones Europeans might not get, which ones will they add that we in the US might not get. Can’t wait to find out. And I get to watch it in the afternoon.

And we end the night with The Boss singing Still Haven’t Found and Stand By Me, and then another moment to bring tears to my eyes, ending the tour with the song that, as Bono said, Dennis Sheehan made famous. Great tour. Thank you all.

July Review

I made a list a while back of everything I wanted to review, and somehow I’ve gotten off the numbers on the list. I don’t know if there’s a song that I reviewed but didn’t remove from the to do list, or what. If that’s the case then it’s possible I will review a particular song twice, which I really don’t want to do, because I may end up giving it a 3 one month and a 7 the next. Not likely to be that extreme, but not out of the realms of possibility. I have given a number to every album song (although they sometimes change when I get to them), but not to any of the non-album songs, videos, etc that I have reviewed. For them I come up with a number while I review, based on my feelings as I go through the review. So it’s possible that if I reviewed one of those items twice, I could give two different numbers.

Oh well, we’ll find out as we get further along in the year, won’t we?

It’s hard to believe that a month ago I was in Chicago seeing the shows, as the list below shows. It doesn’t feel like anywhere near that long ago. It might help that I’ve been watching and listening to almost every show on Periscope, Meerkat and Mixlr. There are so many U2 fans out there broadcasting, it’s just fantastic to see. I can’t say that enough.

Watching the show again as I write, I think this is New York 7, the second to last. They announced that they’ll be showing one of the Paris concerts live on HBO in November. I guess I’ll still be watching then, huh?

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

Chicago 4 10

Chicago Thoughts 2

Even Better Than The Real Thing


Desert Of Our Love 6

Beautiful Day 7

Salome 5

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight 9

Achtung Baby 7.4

Unforgettable Fire (song) 7

Friday Night

All Because Of You 5

The Refugee 2

Drowning Man 3

Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark 3

Boomerang I / II 3

A Man And A Woman 5

Get On Your Boots 5

Summer Rain 5

Indian Summer Sky 7

Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 (book) 6

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For 10

Love Comes Tumbling 2

God Part II 5

Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car 3

It Might Get Loud 7

One Step Closer 2

Is That All? 2

Grace 7

Opening Acts

Opening Acts

It’s a little difficult to find the bands that U2 opened for. I have found various lists online, but none of them seem to be complete. There’s no real official list, there’s not really a simple way to find the bands, not without scrolling through show by show. I think the biggest band they opened for was Talking Heads (at least in my eyes, I’m a big Heads fan), most of the rest on the list are names I’ve never heard of.

The more interesting thing is to look at the list of bands that have opened for U2. In theory, at least in the latter days, this should have been a boost to their careers. A band that only opened once, maybe not, but someone who toured with them for more than a few shows ought to see something. Well, I say that, but I must admit of the probably dozen bands I’ve seen open for U2, I’ve never gone on and bought their music or tshirts or anything like that. Some of them I actually spent the time out in the concourse, didn’t really care for, one I remember standing in the back of the GA and thinking they were pretty good, and one I thought was terrible.

Sorting atu2’s list of opening acts by number of shows, I see that in second place is PJ Harvey, who just happens to be the terrible act I mentioned a minute ago. I also read a couple of weeks ago that she is now managed by Paul McGuinness, which might explain why she got the job. BB King is third, I saw him open a couple of times, really enjoyed that, what I remember of it. Of the rest, there are some well-known names, the fun part is looking at the list and checking to see how famous they were at the time. For example REM opened twice for U2, in 1985, which I think is before they got famous. Or Oasis, two shows in 1997, I think they were well-known by then. Even The Ramones, how cool would that have been for Bono?

Who are the others I saw? Damian Marley, that was one that I was out in the concourse for. Didn’t sound very interesting from out there, and I doubt it was much better inside. No Doubt, which I very much enjoyed,i had a friend who was a huge fan of theirs but I didn’t know much about them, but it was a good show. And Muse for 360, they were the guys who played while we stood at the back and enjoyed it. Still didn’t buy their stuff though.

This tour of course they have no opening act, and I think I like that. In general the opening act is there to warm up the crowd, but they usually don’t do that, the crowd is usually just booing or ignoring, waiting for them to get off the stage so U2 can come on. There are of course the small hardcore of fans, you hear tales of people who come to the show, watch the opening act then leave. I think that’s more urban legend though. But yeah, it’s been nice that you don’t have to deal with that, you know U2’s going to be on between 8.10 and 8.30 (and I think they’ve been starting later in recent shows, right?), and you can be ready for it. The music they play over the speakers is good (they have some Talking Heads mixed in), and it’s nice to be preparing for the show, just like the band do.


I told this story before in my review of The Joshua Tree, but I’m going to tell it again. When my wife and I were trying to come up with names for our son, I immediately came up with Joshua as the name. Now, we didn’t know if it was going to be a boy or a girl, but we had the boy name down just like that. She agreed, it really was that easy. I barely had to do the whole Joshua Tree explanation (despite my desperate desire to talk about U2 for hours). But we never fixed on a girl’s name. It was a few months in when we were doing a scan that the doctor said something about “he” and the nurse had to say “shhh, they don’t want to know.” But it was too late, the cat was out of the bag (if you haven’t had kids yet, you’ll learn that parents hang on every single word the doctor says). For the rest of the pregnancy, we kind of drifted in and out on choosing a girl’s name, because we were convinced it was going to be a boy. It would have been really bad if a girl had come out, and the doctor asked us what we were going to name her, and we’d said “uhhhhh.”

So cutting to the point of the story, when we had talked about girl names, I was pretty strongly in favor of Grace, but my wife wasn’t in favor of it much. I remember trying to convince her, and not getting very far. We bandied about a few names, I don’t remember any of them, but I was kind of focused on Grace anyway. Obviously we didn’t need it, but it would have been interesting if it was a girl, and I said “Grace” and my wife said no.

I mean, what’s wrong with it? It’s the name for a girl, and a thought that can change the world. You can’t go past that, can you?

The song is soft, slow, sweet. It seems to meander back and forth. It seems short, but it’s five and a half minutes. It only has three verses, which might be what makes it seem short, but they are long verses. There’s also no real chorus, which is a little different. The song is really odd, because there are times when you feel like it’s starting to be a little anti (covers the shame, removes the stain), but it quickly turns around into the nice version of the word.

By the end it’s really got a good feeling. You’ve stepped up into the Grace that is attracting everyone to her, hearing strings just while she walks. She’s making beauty out of ugly things, growing the pearl from the hurt. This is a fantastic image, in fact the whole song is, that idea of grace as just a person but also the image of hope and feeling and love. It really is a perfect ending to the album.

My rating for Grace: 7 / 10

Is That All?

Is That All? is I think the only U2 song that ends with a question mark, and it leaves me with a problem because any time I type the name my computer tries to auto correct the next sentence to begin with a capital letter, even if it isn’t the start of a new sentence. A minor quibble of course, but one that certainly helps me fill out the word count on this song.

The opening of the song is taken from The Cry, although they don’t have the interesting lyrics, the “Somebody cried, somebody died” part, just the music, which is fine in itself. It leads into the rest of the music for this song, which is a little less interesting compared to the intro. Not that it’s bad, it’s just not that interesting. It’s like most of October, which I am on record as saying is one of the weakest U2 albums. Actually this is one of those songs where you say lowest rated song on the weakest album, this has to end up being near the bottom of any U2 ratings. And you would be right about that.

Way too much “is that all” in the lyrics, extremely repetitive, in terms of percentage of words in the song, mainly because there’s only a couple of lines in the verses and everything else is “is that all,” even though it is a very short song. Actually it’s exactly three minutes on the album, but it really doesn’t sound that long. I guess that’s a good thing.

Mild split between the two verses, angry and happy, but the twist is that the first time he says “I’m not angry with you,” while the second time he says “I’m not happy with you.” I actually expected the second to be “I am happy with you,” but as usual Bono turns things just enough to keep it interesting. Okay, not that interesting.

Odd little whistle at the end too. Presumably meant to be in there, but it sounds more like an outtake than anything else. I’m going to stop short of saying that it gives the suggestion of the song being not quite finished, but then again I’m going to say it, because it does imply it is at least a piece of filler that doesn’t help with anything.

Tonight’s show in New York was fun and interesting. I sadly missed the first half of the show, so I missed Two Hearts Beat As One for the first time in 25 years. But I did hear The Troubles, which was the one song on my wish list that I didn’t get to hear in Chicago. And Mother And Child Reunion, segueing into Streets, which has quickly become one of my favorite bits in the tour. Plus One, that restarted a couple of times because the crowd couldn’t clap along with Larry properly (and the hilarious tweet from atu2 that Boston didn’t screw it up). Sounds like a great night, and sooner or later I will stop kicking myself that I’m not there this week.

My rating for Is That All? 2 / 10

One Step Closer

One Step Closer is towards the end of How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, in the slowing down phase of the album. It starts slow, it is slow, it is a little dull. I always think of it as a wind-up item, not necessarily a toy but something like that, maybe more like the old style of record player that you have wind, and it’s winding down to a finish. You definitely get that feeling as the song finishes, that it just runs out of steam. Both the music and the lyrics seem to just stop at the end.

The song has a myriad of possibilities, none of which are satisfying. The title comes from Noel Gallagher, who supposedly told Bono that Bono’s father was one step closer to knowing if there’s a god, as he was dying. If you read it this way, and it’s easy to do, there’s a whole lot in there about Bono’s father, and the feelings Bono was having around that time.

I can’t say the song inspires me, or depresses me, or does anything that it may be expected to do. It’s just one of those songs that I listen to on occasion, wonder what’s going on in it, and then pass on by to the next thing. This review is possibly the most I’ve thought about it in years, if not ever.

I suppose you could say it’s about being lost in the world, I might have some feelings about that. Not necessarily steps closer to death, or to God, but certainly steps in the direction that I should be going in (whatever that might be). Each verse could be considered that way, that you’re far from where you’re supposed to be, but on the other hand, it might just be around the corner or across the river. Almost like you might just take the right turn and be at your destination. The image of the future getting away, watching the tail lights glowing, that brings in mind a group of episodes from The Walking Dead, following a car in the dark and only seeing the tail lights (if you’ve seen the show you know what I’m talking about, if not, well, it’s the feeling of that something getting away and you may or may not be able to find it).

The one line I do like in the song is “can you hear the drummer slowing,” which of course is the song winding down, but it also brings in the image of the heartbeat slowing, life coming to an end. I like it though, because it brings to mind Larry and the many ways he is used to evoke a heartbeat, both in the current tour and over the years. It is an interesting idea to think of a heartbeat being so many beats before life does run out. Not a happy idea, but interesting.

Didn’t see any of the show tonight, but I did see that Lady Gaga was on the stage with the band. I have to admit, I don’t like them bringing up celebrities, first Jimmy Fallon now Lady Gaga. There’s a big difference between a person being pulled out of the crowd, that spontaneity, and the rehearsed setup of the celebrity. I hope this is just a New York thing, that there’s so many more famous people in the crowd, rather than a thing that they’re going to keep doing throughout the tour.

My rating for One Step Closer: 2 / 10

It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud is a 2009 documentary about three guitar players, Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge. If you’re reading this you’ve probably seen it, if not, well, although it’s a really interesting show for guitar players, it doesn’t have too much specifically U2 content to keep the interest. Now, I say that but there are a couple of photos that I hadn’t seen before, and there are a number of clips of early U2 (but you can see them on YouTube), but actually now that I think about it there are several interesting parts featuring Edge by himself. So it might be worthwhile for the U2 fan. It was for me, but I’m also a guitar fan.

Interesting that the movie starts with Jack White building a guitar out of a bunch of scrap, and later they talk about Edge and his brother Dick building their first guitar. Is that one of those rites of passage that you have to go through to become a successful guitarist? Shouldn’t think so, since they didn’t mention Jimmy Page doing it.

There was some interesting detail about Edge and the way he works. I’ve noted before that he seems to have a different guitar for every song, and that is somewhat backed up by shows like this (and any other article where they take a look at Edge’s setup), where they had Dallas saying that he has 23 effects settings for 23 songs. That’s a reason that I can’t perform like Edge can, because I have a single delay pedal and not all the others (yes, that really is the reason why I can’t play as well as Edge, it’s all about the equipment, right?).

Showing Edge working on a song in the studio brings an interesting point to his methods, namely that he is hearing something in his head and working the guitars and effects until he gets to the sound he wants. Also interesting when he played the start to Elevation and it sounds good, and then he turns off the effects and he’s playing just a ding, ding, ding and the effects are doing all the work. I have felt this regularly with my own experiments with delay, and with various tutorials I’ve watched online, kind of knowing that’s the way it sounds, but I still get the feeling of trying to play more notes than I should be.

On the other hand, Jack White made a comment in there that was kind of a diss of Edge, something about stripping back the sound to the basics and not trying to use all the same tech that Edge uses.

So for the U2 fan, the various video of Edge around Dublin was interesting. Was that his own kitchen? Seems weird, looked like a regular old kitchen full of the usual junk that anyone would have. You’d expect him to have a fancy house with a rockstar kitchen. And his car looked like a piece of junk, I noticed the check engine light was on (Big Bang Theory fans will laugh here). Then to the school, Mount Temple where they all met, where they played early gigs, and the infamous noticeboard. Good stuff.

There was an interesting piece for Jimmy Page, going back to one of Led Zeppelin’s early recording sessions, and noting that they had set the drums up in the hall and got a good sound, and then other bands had started copying that. I mention it because as you know U2 did the same thing on Boy, but it was because the drums were too loud, or they didn’t have enough room, and they moved Larry out into the reception area of the studio and got a great sound. Then other bands would come in and try to reproduce the great drum sound and be confused why they couldn’t. So, is there a conflation of stories there? Does Jimmy think U2 copied Led Zep?

Interesting part as well was about New York, Edge went there as a teen and thought it looked and sounded just like the movies. I went there for the first time just a few years ago, and I can tell you I had the exact same feeling. He continued on to the story of finding his Gibson Explorer in the music store there, and the best quote of the movie was that 20 minutes in that music store defined the sound of the band forever.

The final quote I’ll mention, this is a paraphrase actually, where Edge said that when he’s recording by himself that sometimes it doesn’t work. He said you get nothing and you come out feeling like you know nothing and you can’t play guitar. I have a message for you on that one Edge: I get that feeling all the time, and I can’t play. At least you get to come back tomorrow and have the possibility of coming up with something great.

My rating for It Might Get Loud: 7 / 10

Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car

Another one of those songs where you want to repeat the entire title to get the word count up. Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car is one of the odder songs on Zooropa, one of the odder albums. That kind of makes it one of the oddest songs that U2 have done, and I don’t think you’ll get much argument about that from anyone.

Weird noise at the start, weird trumpets, weird drums. Then it goes a little crazy. If you can call it guitar, or just squawking, I don’t know. It settles down a little when Bono starts signing, although you notice the sound is still floating in and out, along with more weird background noises. It stays kind of mild (for this song) for a while, jumps back into a bunch of drums (or whatever Larry is hitting at that point, might be trashcans). Stays mostly like that all the way to the end, and you’re mostly trying to just get the song over with, although I do like the way he sings the days of the week, oddly enough. It just sounds good, doesn’t really mean anything.

The lyrics are interesting and odd, I’ve seen references specifically to heroin addiction, but Edge has also said just addiction to anything. Can see it a little, not that I would know anything about heroin addiction. In that case the daddy is the dealer, bringing the girl the drugs she needs. That theory does explain him giving her the flaming car, which doesn’t make much sense in any other way. However, I always think of the song as a girl being protected by daddy, as in whatever she does she’s going to have someone there to back her up. Like in the title, if she crashes the car he’ll take care of it. That theory reminds me of Common People by Pulp, which essentially has that specific theme, of a girl slumming it but always knowing she can go back home if she gets in real trouble.

The other argument you might make for the song, and I’m not sure that this is a reasonable argument, is the idea of overarching government. This would be the idea of the nanny state, taking care of everything for you so you don’t need to work or do anything. In that way daddy ends up being a little sinister, and I’m surprised there’s no Republicans who have used this in their campaigning against big government.

Probably the signature version is the Zoo TV Live From Sydney DVD, it’s certainly the one I think of any time I think of this song. I also think of this song when I am reminded of MacPhisto, the two of them go together well on that DVD. The song carries on with Bono getting in his costume, then coming out and singing. Then the song ends and he gives the immortal line “look what you’ve done to me, you’ve made me very famous and I thank you.” I regularly have that line pop in my head, it has so many triggers for me.

My rating for Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car: 3 / 10

God Part II

God Part II is a song that I don’t often listen to, but do often think of. It’s one of those songs with a lot of lines that end up being triggered by a comment here or there. Then I think of the line in the song that was triggered, and end up thinking or humming much of the song to myself.

The original “God” was by John Lennon, after he broke up from the Beatles. I can’t pretend to know the song well, listening to it today, I may have heard it for the first time. I can’t say it’s very good, at least from my own perspective, it has a lot of repetition (the don’t believe part repeats much more than it does in the U2 version). Obviously others like it, and obviously Bono was inspired by it enough to write the U2 version.

God Part II is heavily based on the bass, and it plays really well. I think this is the second time I’ve said this in recent days, but this song is one of the best bass songs U2 have released. The opening is all bass, and it works really well. It stays like that throughout the song, holding it all together in many ways. I think that’s essentially what people think of the rhythm section, that it holds a song together, while the guitar and vocals make it fly up and away.

Okay, let’s take a listen:

He kicks off the song with the interesting line, “the truth is not the same without the lies he made up,” something that delves deep into religion and religious thought. The old saying about God needing the Devil to make himself relevant. Not quite sure I have that right there, but it’s something like that.

“Don’t believe in riches but you should see where I live” reminds me of the current tour, talking to young himself, one hundred, two hundred, three hundred times more than you need.

“Don’t believe them when they tell me there ain’t no cure” is another he’s taken to heart, and again reflections on the tour, Bono talking about RED and AIDS and trying to cure the disease.

“The rich stay healthy, the sick stay poor” is probably the line I think of the most, I’m often quoting this in a range of discussions about healthcare and wealth. I try not to get in those discussions, they end up with fights, but I work in a very conservative company with very conservative employees. I sometimes suspect if they knew my political affiliations they’d burn me at the stake.

“You glorify the past when the future dries up.” Oops. Don’t remember seeing anyone pointing this song out, that would be a great sign to hold up by the e stage, right? I’m guessing I wouldn’t be pulled up on the stage to play the song with them after that.

Kind of funny listening to this now, pulling in these lines from 27 (!) years ago and reflecting on them in the light of today’s tour. Very appropriate still.

My rating for God Part II: 5 / 10

Love Comes Tumbling

Love Comes Tumbling is one of the best rhythm section songs the band has ever recorded, great bass and drums working together. It is one of those songs that you could listen to just for that, and in fact I usually do just leave it running when I want to hear the bass and drums. The problem is that there are times when I don’t want to hear them, by themselves, which is what the rest of the song feels like. The lead guitar is present, just not exceptional or particularly interesting, and there’s little or nothing to the lyrics, which seem to be done with a couple of minutes left in the song. I wonder if this was just music that they put together, then tried to put lyrics over it and didn’t get very far.

Love Comes Tumbling was a b side on The Unforgettable Fire single, then again right after that on Wide Awake In America, ostensibly a live mini EP, but in reality only two of the four songs on it were live. Not sure why they made it, really. Promo thing, I guess. But either way, Love Comes Tumbling got relegated to a b side on both, and that’s about where it deserves to be. There’s a bunch of b sides that I have thought were good enough to get onto their related albums, but this is not one of them. It belongs on the b side at best. The more I write about it the more I realize that I really don’t want to be writing about it, just as I don’t want to be listening to it that much.

There is an alternate lyrics version out there, but although I’ve read the lyrics and can imagine what they sound like, I’ve never heard it. I wonder how it would sound if the two sets of lyrics were combined on one song, might make it a little more interesting. The song is confused, unfocused, various words in that sort of vein. Maybe I just don’t understand what it’s about, which is entirely possible. “All roads lead to where you are” is kind of the theme, could be the title of the song based on my son’s theory that they name each song after the phrase they use the most (which is true, in a very general sort of way, but it was amusing that he said it when he did, because seconds later The Wanderer began and destroyed his theory). The other parts of the song, the verses in this case, they don’t make much sense. I’m going to file this one under poetic license, and not worry about it any more.

Listened to some of New York 3 tonight. Was really irritated, connections were terrible so I had to jump back and forth between Periscope and Mixlr and Meerkat. You’d think a big arena in the biggest city in the world would do better than that. Come on Madison Square Garden.

My rating for Love Comes Tumbling: 2 / 10

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is simply put one of the greatest U2 songs ever. It is widely beloved by fans, it has shown up in all kinds of versions and variations, and is a song that everyone knows. Lately it has been getting some press, because Bono has been asked why the band keeps going, and he responds with the title of the song. The band has also been singing it during the Innocence + Experience tour, often at the end of the show, which I actually disagree with, I don’t think it’s a song to end a show on. I think 40 is a great song to end a show with, although a little tired these days from so much use, and I think that One should be the ending song. But that’s just me.

I have talked about a few of the other highly rated songs this year, how I can sing them note for note, with the music running through my head note for note as well. I can’t do that on Still Haven’t Found. Why? Because of the song variations. I can do the lyrics just fine, it’s the music that gets me, because I’ll start with the album version and within a verse or two I’ve switched to the one from Rattle & Hum, or one of the numerous live versions there are. One of my favorites is the live version from U22, with Hugh Masekela playing trumpet (confession: I never knew his name until now, I could never figure out what Bono was saying, I had it as View Master Kayla).

There is nothing I can tell you about Still Haven’t Found that you don’t already know. It features a lot of repetition of the title, but somehow it doesn’t detract from the song as repetition so often does. Instead in this case it enhances it, it punches up the theme. The words are fantastic, spelling out a lifetime of things that the singer has done, from the high to the low, from speaking to angels to holding hands with the devil, and so on. But all of it comes back to the idea that no matter how much he’s done, he’s still searching. It’s the idea of religion, of God, of trying to find that goal, something that we all have the feeling for. The old saying “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up” that we all repeat, even when we’re old, that’s what this song speaks to. We’re all searching, even if we don’t know what for.

Great song in all it’s variations, I don’t think there’s a version I don’t like, even if I do feel a little saturated. One of just a handful of songs to receive a perfect score from me this year.

If you didn’t notice (and you probably didn’t), today was a monumental screwup. It took me until the 203rd day of the year to forget to write something. Not to forget to plan or anything, earlier in the evening I had picked a topic and was going to work on it, then got distracted and did something else, and never went back to it. So instead I have do dash something out this morning, and fortunately this song was next on the list and easy to write quickly.

My rating for I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For: 10 / 10

Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2

This is a review of the book Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2, by Steve Stockman.

There have been a number of books written about U2 and religion, I have reviewed a few of them here. It is difficult to separate them, as most use similar methods and come up with similar results. They use the title of a U2 song as the title of the book, or as chapter titles. They often have a little blurb about band history, for the people reading the book who don’t know the band (and really, how many of those people are there?). They treat each song as though it is a bible verse, quoting Bono like they would quote scripture (which in some ways Bono would really enjoy, and some ways he would hate). And usually they conclude that for a rock and roll band these guys are really kind of religious, so they can’t be all bad.

Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 follows many of these tropes, and ends up with many of the same conclusions. But it feels different to the others in one important respect, which is the focus of the book. In most of these kinds of books, religion is to the forefront and the author is trying to prove their biblical knowledge by mixing in some street cred with U2. Those books often feel like you could substitute U2 for any other band that has religious overtones, or just as easily remove the musical link completely and just talk about religion. This book feels much more like it is about U2, with religion being added on, or perhaps just lightly brushing up against the religious aspects without trying to shove it down your throat on every page.

The author is a minister, and he appears to be experienced enough to introduce religion in a subtle way, telling you quite long and interesting stories about the band (surprisingly enough, there were a number that I had not heard before, or had forgotten long ago), and then bringing in the religious aspect in a way that makes you go “oh yeah, that’s absolutely right.” He’ll tell a band story for two or three pages, or more, then bring in a reference to religion that seems perfectly apt. An example is the Everything You Know Is Wrong chapter, twelve pages long and pretty much only covers religion in reference to The Screwtape Letters. I say that slightly with tongue in cheek, because much of the chapter is about religion, but the first time I read it I actually went back through and had to read it again to understand how he brought the religion in.

So, is that sneaky or underhanded? No, of course not. The author gets his intent across in a most interesting way. Just as Jesus would do allegories about people, to get them to try and think about things, so does Mr. Stockman. I’m not very religious, but I found myself inspired several times throughout the book based on the tales and the way he wrote them. Very effective in a show, don’t tell kind of way.

For the reasons above, I think this is one of the better books I’ve read this year on U2, and the rating reflects that. Not the best book overall, but certainly the best one about U2 and religion.

My rating for Walk On: The Spiritual Journey Of U2 (book): 6 / 10

Indian Summer Sky

Another summer theme, just because I feel like it, having spent all day playing and swimming with friends. A perfect complement to the songs next to it on The Unforgettable Fire, Indian Summer Sky is fast but loud, has good beat and music, interesting lyrics, and just works well overall. It follows Bad and leads into Elvis Presley and America, which give interest at the end of the album. It’s kind of like the ending to The Joshua Tree, where the last few songs are a little deep and introspective sounding, a little mystical, and really take your attention when you’re starting to think the album is tailing away. In this case I almost think that these three songs are the best songs on the album, with at least one exception (Pride).

When I talked about Elvis Presley and America I was somewhat amazed that the lyrics were very lyrical and poetic, even though they were essentially a stream of consciousness from Bono as the song was being played. Nothing done to clean them up, just laid down as they were sung the first time. For Indian Summer Sky, it gives off much of the same feeling, but with the exception that it feels like the song was actually cleaned up, proper lyrics completed, basically a few steps further than Elvis was taken when it was done. This is a good thing, because these lyrics really sound complete, like Bono was trying to say something, although I’m not sure what.

It starts with him saying that whether he’s in the ocean, a forest or in a hole in the ground, he wants to head up and look at the sky. Then he talks about sparks of flame, light striking the trees, wind blowing through his heart. I’m not sure what he’s trying to get at here, what the meaning might be. If anything, reading into it a little shallowly, it seems to be a celebration of nature, of light, the sky and sunlight and the earth. Is it just a hippy song, getting back to nature? It’s possible, although as always Bono has multiple layers within a song. But I do think this is at least the general feeling of the song, trying to get out of somewhere and into pure nature. Something I love to do myself, too.

“Hup hup hup hup” is sung in the background, not sure who that might be. Eno? Lanois? I don’t even know who was working on the album at the time, and I am not going to go look at liner notes to figure out who they credit with it.

Going back to the rest of the music, this is again a song where the band is working so well together. As time has gone on, listening to the different songs on the albums, you see a clear progression from the rough and tumble early stuff, working forward with each album becoming better and better musically. They have learned their instruments (or at least are many steps further along the path of learning) and now they are working together, timing things correctly, each part coming in to make a much superior whole. It’s really an amazing thing to listen to the band progress this way.

My rating for Indian Summer Sky: 7 / 10

Summer Rain

I was listening to the show tonight, New York 1, and during Streets Bono sang “I want to take shelter, from the summer rain,” and it made me think of this song, so instead of picking at random I picked Summer Rain. One of the b sides from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and it should be reviewed in the summer, although this is Texas so there’s no chance of any rain for the next couple of months.

Just like yesterday it’s a fun song, a little Pop-like, a Pop-Tart if you will, there for entertainment but not much else. They’ve never played it live, which suggests that it was a bit of a throwaway, although I don’t have any kind of stats on how many b sides have actually been played live. There are obviously many of them though, so maybe Summer Rain should feel a little left out. It would be a little bit of an oddity to play it though, but then again they played October tonight for the first time in 25 years, and not only that but it’s July, so in theory anything could happen live, right? Not going to hold my breath though.

The songs starts with just guitar strumming, then Bono comes in with the first verse, and it sounds peppy and bouncy (boy do I feel like I’m rewriting yesterday’s review). It goes that way for a bit, through the first chorus and into the second verse, and at that point the rhythm section come in, and it sounds pretty good at that point. There is another U2 song that goes like this, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is. I really think it’s this song, but the bass and drums sound much stronger in the version I’m thinking of (and I’m sure I don’t have another version, I have the one on the 1990-2000 cd and the one on the 7 cd, which I think are identical versions). Whatever it is I’m thinking of, it’s a case where the bass is bone-shakingly good, feeling it deep down. Maybe I’ve just played the song really loud in the past, with the bass turned up high?

“When you stop taking chances you’ll stay where you sit, you won’t live any longer, but it’ll feel like it,” this is the takeaway line for me. I so often feel like life is drifting by, I’m not getting anywhere with it. Something like going to Chicago to see U2 four times, that feels like a magical adventure, but one that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. I’ve been sitting here the last few days staring at calendars, at Ticketmaster, trying to figure out how I can get to New York and see a few more shows in the next week. It’s really not possible, and I’m afraid I may be stopping taking those chances. Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like?

Crazy things happening on the tour. Can’t wait for every night. Online, not in person.

My rating for Summer Rain: 5 / 10

Get On Your Boots

Get On Your Boots, or Get Your Boots On as my wife and son like to call it, is one of those fun, bouncy, peppy kinds of songs that seem to show up at least once on every album. A couple of recent examples would be songs like Elevation or Fast Cars, songs that are usually singable, fairly fast, fairly fun, and moderately forgettable for the most part. Now, I give Elevation as an example, and that breaks the rule of forgettable, because everyone knows it and even now it is being sung on the current tour. Perhaps I would have done better just to stick with the album that Get On Your Boots came from, and add in I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight and Stand Up Comedy instead. Note that those three songs went together on the album, one after the other in the middle, and kind of lead to a weird center of the album, quite out of focus with the rest of it. But that’s a story for another day.

Fast drums, fast guitar to begin with, then Bono bounces in and we get just percussion. Guitar pops back and then everything kicks off. You’re jumping up and down listening to the song, I guess I’d call it party rock or something like that. The music seems to flip back and forth between those two extremes, very quiet (with a little bounce) while Bono is singing the verses, then taking off again when they go into the chorus. Not bad, like I said fun, but very much the feeling of filler while it is on. This would have been a good song to be on Pop, it would have fit in very well there.

And the lyrics? I get the feeling in Get On Your Boots that the lyrics are disjointed, not necessarily telling a story, or if they are, it’s one of those kinds of stories that flash in and out of focus, jumping here and there. Some of the lines seem to be in there much more for the rhyme than for the meaning. It’s because when you do try and put them together, even within a particular verse, there’s not much matching up happening. However, having said all that, there is actually a way to get them to come together, and that’s to know that Bono has said the song is set at a fair in France. Once you know that - and there’s no reason the casual listener should - you can start to see patterns within the song, whole sections that make some sense. But my point is more that most U2 songs don’t need that very specific visual idea to get the point of the song. Most of them are literate enough that you can get a meaning by yourself. In this case I think they somewhat fail at it.

And I don’t like the “let me in the sound” and “meet me in the sound” sections, they are very repetitive and if you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time you’ll have seen how repetitive I am at disliking repetitive lyrics. They just sound like they’re filling in time because the writer has nothing else to say. And we know how much Bono has to say, so that can’t be it.

My rating for Get On Your Boots: 5 / 10

A Man And A Woman

There are songs which just grab you and don’t let go, and then there are songs which are just kind of meh. A Man And A Woman is one of the latter, there isn’t too much to like and there isn’t too much to dislike. That’s why it gets an average rating, although it’s not one of those songs that I seek out to listen to much.

I do like the music on it, probably the most redeeming feature of the song. Nice beat in the background from Larry, good yet quiet bass sitting back there from Adam, and the lead guitar is kind of bouncy and poppy, not too fast, not too slow, a little light entertainment. They released an acoustic version on the b side of All Because Of You, but I’m not so sure that I can hear a difference in the sound. Okay, I kid a little there, but it is not much that different, almost seems like they just removed the bass and drums and played the rest. Have I mentioned how I’m not a big fan of acoustic versions of songs? One exception would be them doing Every Breaking Wave during Innocence + Experience, which does work well. But usually I prefer the full band to be there.

Not sure who this song is addressed to. It’s presumably a song about a man and a woman, as in a couple, a pair of lovers, but then Bono addresses it throughout the song to “little sister,” and I’m not sure if that’s meant to be metaphorical, some kind of slang, or what. Is he talking about the relationship with the person he’s with, or is he talking to someone (his sister) about his relationship with someone else? But certain lines mix that idea up, there’s the “you were already mine,” means he’s talking to that person. I am so confused about this. I’m going to say that the little sister part is slang, and he’s talking to the person he’s dating, or rather isn’t dating any more (“you’re gone and so is God”). Which makes it a kind of sad song I suppose.

Are there any really standout lines in this song? I don’t think so, when I think of the song I really do think of the “little sister” line, and the warble of “the mysterious distance between a man and a woman” is the other one. Not much else. Well, maybe the final line, “how can I hurt when I’m holding you,” that’s kind of good. That actually may be the best line on the whole song. Although thinking about that, if my idea of the best line on the song is one that I just called kind of good, maybe that’s why it’s not such a great song, it’s just a kind of nothing that goes in one ear and out the other. The best kinds of songs are those that have a line, or lines, that grab you and don’t let go. The catchphrase if you will, the ear bug. Don’t hear one on this.

My rating for A Man And A Woman: 5 / 10

Boomerang I / II

There are two versions of Boomerang, obviously called I and II. They were released as b sides to Pride, variously on different editions and sometimes on the same one. Boomerang I was an instrumental, although I didn’t mention it a couple of weeks ago when I covered instrumentals, because I was saving it for this review, just because it went with version II. Boomerang II had lyrics, which make it better than I, but not better enough to make it worth much.

My untrained ear can’t tell much about version I. I hear a loop of about four seconds, maybe even not that long, repeated over and over. Slowly during the song other little bits are added here and there, a wah-wah-wah comes in and out, and a high pitched jingle-jingle joins and sticks around. So overall it’s basically additive, each bit that gets added in staying for most if not all of the rest of the song. Doesn’t make for particularly compelling music, in fact I guess you could tune in for the last four seconds of the song and you would have heard all of it, right? Well, maybe a little more than that, because the end kind of dies away. But you could listen to the time from thirty seconds left to twenty seconds left and you’d have it all. I also keep imagining I’m about to hear Bono pop in and start wailing at any time, which suggests I’ve listened to version II too much.

Version II adds a couple of minutes, which may tell you all you need to know about Bono. Oh, I kid, you know I do. Singing pops up around 30 seconds in. The lyrics follow throughout, but really kind of indistinct. I have to go read the lyrics to be able to follow them completely. And they turn out to be fairly disappointing, the repetitive “soul wind blow” isn’t very exciting. The most exciting part is the “in the drift” section, repeated a couple of times, which actually brings up a little bit of excitement. Not much though, and like the rest of the song just not enough to be of long lasting interest. There are obvious reasons why this is a b side. And there are also obvious reasons why it is a b side on The Unforgettable Fire, this is a song that was tailor made for Brian Eno, or perhaps by Brian Eno. It’s one of those that are the soundtrack of his life.

I can’t really hear the music in the second version well enough to tell if it does the same stuff as the first. It does build the same, at least in the early stages, but I can’t tell if it just continues with the same from that two minute mark to the end. There are a couple of spots where it changes slightly, but not that much.

Great show tonight, the last one in Boston. Really wish I was heading to New York.

My rating for Boomerang I / II: 3 / 10

Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark

I am not much of a superhero fan, as I mentioned way back when I did the Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me review. I am also not much of a musicals fan, I find it frankly ridiculous that there are a bunch of people walking around doing stuff and then they suddenly burst into song. I don’t mind regular theater, it’s the singing part that annoys me. So the whole idea of the Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark show was pretty much the antithesis of anything I would be interested in. I never saw the show, don’t know much about it, but I did buy the album just to be able to write this review. Not sure it was worth the money, although there are some mildly hidden gems in it.

There are a few songs in the album that are marginally worth listening to, but most of them not. Like I said, I don’t like musicals, so the ones that specifically sound like show tunes automatically make me switch off. Of the others, I can’t say how much of the music was written by Bono and Edge, the Wikipedia page lists other people as doing orchestration and stuff, I guess Bono and Edge gave the lead guidance for it. They do describe it a little weirdly, as being rock, or opera, or circus, or theater. I think that might have been half of the problem for the show, it had no real standing point that they could put it on, it was a mishmash of things.

I like Boy Falls From The Sky, both the lyrics and the music, and Rise Above 1, which has the line “there’s no them, only us,” that of course comes back around a few years later in Invisible. There’s also a Rise Above 2, and the start of that song is possibly the most U2 sounding lyrics, with lines like “When the ones who damn the innocent, well they own the nightly news, and front page.” 

Picture This actually has Bono and Edge playing and singing, that is it isn’t taken from the show. Can’t say it’s a great song, I think of the Beatles when I hear it, not sure why. The other song directly from Bono and Edge, meaning not sung by a cast member, Sinistereo has an interesting name, and is supposedly sung by The Edge, but it’s hard to tell and I’m not a fan.

Bouncing Off The Walls reminds me a lot of Blow Your House Down, a b side from Achtung Baby. So I like it somewhat.

Pull The Trigger is the epitome of show tunes, for me, just by the sound, by the way it’s sung. It sounds so over the top, which is what you have to do when you’re on stage, but it’s another of those non-reflections of real life that I dislike. Same goes with A Freak Like Me Needs Company, also sung by the same guy, so maybe it’s just him. Having said that, one of the other songs that I find myself liking a little is very similar, and that is If The World Should End. Although I think I really only like the title line in the song, just the way it is sung.

My rating for Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark: 3 / 10

Drowning Man

Randomness puts us into Drowning Man, a day after The Refugee, the song that follows it on the album. And I don’t want to recycle the review, but I could essentially say the same things as yesterday, with the slight caveat that Drowning Man gets an extra point compared to The Refugee. Doesn’t make it that much better, obviously.

The music is a little odd, there is a clear strumming chord that Edge is playing over and over, his stuff is usually not that distinct, that separated, it usually flows together much more. The bass line is very generic, it pretty much sounds like the same few strings played over and over. The drums are quite distinct too, very high, very snare I think is the right word, they kind of sound not a lot like any other U2 songs that I can think of right now.

Lyrically the song isn’t that much either. Back to my old bugaboo, the repetition of lyrics, and we see that a lot here even if they are separated into different verses. The “take my hand” part repeats about five or six times, with associated lines, as does the “hold on tightly.” The rest of it has different bits attached, but none of them really grab you, it’s just a whole bunch of saccharine sounding words stuck together. I guess the theme is love, but once again we’re not quite sure whether that love is about a person or about God, or maybe both. I listened to a podcast about U2 in the last couple of days, and the person on there repeated the ongoing theme I have, which I think most people have, that every U2 song is about love, about God, and about an underlying message. I get the first two here, not sure about the third message though, unless the message is “man, this is kind of boring.”

That podcast by the way is Inquisitive by Myke Hurley, the episode was number 46, featuring John Siracusa (nerd hero), and talking about Achtung Baby. Well worth a listen, wish I’d heard it before doing my own review of Achtung Baby less than a week ago.

I also have to say that Drowning Man stands out a little from the rest of the album. War is kind of a harsh album, note the title, and for the most part is fairly martial music, sort of in your face both musically and lyrically. I think that Drowning Man stands out because the music is much softer than the rest of the album (despite - or perhaps in accordance with - what I said above about the guitar and drums). The lyrics also are much less harsh, very lovey dovey if you will, while the rest of the album talks about, well, War. This one is talking about love and wings and tides and holding on tightly. Quite different to the rest, it might fit a little better on October, or perhaps even The Unforgettable Fire.

My rating for Drowning Man: 3 / 10

The Refugee

I have the ratings for all the U2 songs in a single file, which I refer to each day when I randomly choose which song to review. Pick the song, go to the file and look up the song to determine what I rated it. There are a few songs that I know are at the top, there are a few songs that I have a basic idea of where they are, and a few that I have to hunt for. The Refugee is not one of those. For The Refugee I went to the bottom of the list and started scanning up looking for the name, and didn’t have to go very far.

The Refugee came off the War album, fairly reasonably given the title, and I suppose you could say that it fit on that album pretty well. Except there are times when I think it doesn’t. The album does feature a lot of what I’d call martial music, somewhat strident, definitely showing up the drums more than the other albums. Larry came out of a marching band, and for War he uses those skills a lot. It makes for some good sound, like with Sunday Bloody Sunday (and currently on the tour he features heavily in that, especially when Sunday ends and we get toward the start of Raised By Wolves), but it also does give a little bit of overkill, which I think The Refugee is one of the specific examples of that. Along with the rest of the music, and the lyrics, this song just doesn’t appeal to me.

Strident is the word I used earlier, and I’ll repeat it again here. The song seems clipped, driven by short beats in both the drums and the lyrics. There aren’t long winding lyrics in this, they’re mostly a few words said (and I mean said, not sung, although maybe I should say shouted) quickly, trying to keep the tempo running. Again, not necessarily a good thing. Staccato, that’s the word I was trying to come up with to describe it. May make an interesting theme, since the word gets used for gunfire as well, continuing the album theme, but it doesn’t make for good music.

As for the point of the song, it is kind of saying that there’s a girl waiting to become a refugee, to be taken away to America to live in peace. I’m not so sure about that, it’s a fairly simplistic notion of being a refugee. I have been paying a little more attention to refugees lately, as Neil Gaiman has been turning his spotlight on them a little. It is one of those tragic situations, where people are being driven from their homes for reasons that they usually don’t care about. I can’t imagine being in that situation. It tends to lead back to thoughts about the powerful using the rest of us as pawns in their games. They stay in power, or switch power with someone else, and the regular people, the little people, die or get thrown out of their land.

The other thing that irks me about the song is the start, where every time I hear it all I think is “more cowbell.”

My rating for The Refugee: 2 / 10