Running

I took up running a couple of years, mostly for health and fitness. I started with the idea of just running for exercise, but when I talked to a buddy of mine he said it’s better to set a goal, like a 5k, which will make you stick to it more. So I did, I found a local 5k that was a few months away, signed up and began working toward it. On the day I went and ran it, struggled through, but finished and was happy. That led to wanting to do more, and I did, extending over the years to more races and longer distances. Last year I set myself a goal to run 365 miles in the year, which I completed on December 31st. Right now I am running about one race a month, of a variety of distances.

All this to say that this morning I ran a half marathon, my seventh in the last two years. Each has gotten easier and easier, as you would expect, although still not easy, and frankly I am not very fast. My son always tells me to win, and I have to tell him that a win for me is completing the race. I am generally near the bottom of my age group, let alone the entire race, but that’s okay for me, because like I said finishing the race is the goal.

I used to do different things to keep going for the three hours that I take to run a half, but I have never listened to music. I have certain timing tricks, counting my steps until I get to a certain point where I can take a rest walk. I also, depending on where I am in the race, let my mind wander here and there, thinking about anything from work problems to football to U2. And that is where I come to the point I am kind of thinking of tonight. As I ran today, I realized that I don’t listen to music like a lot of people do, I just run and think. But I have the idea that listening to music could be beneficial, it could help to pass the time and could help me with things like pacing. I have my phone which each quarter mile tells me distance and time, so I know how I’m doing on pace. But today while I was running I was asking myself if it would be better to listen to U2, and if so what to listen to.

I don’t want to run to anything too fast, but I don’t want to run to anything too slow either. I just don’t have a concept of what would be useful. As I ran today, and remembering that I am finishing in around three hours (today was 3:10, but my best was 2:50), I was wondering if I should just download a show and put it on my phone. I could get one that ran around that long, or maybe one that ran two and a half hours but fill it in with several other songs to make it three hours. Then, I could use that as a goal setting things, right? Like trying to finish a race before the show finishes, then at that point remove a song from the playlist and try and beat it again. That obviously wouldn’t work forever, because by the end I’d be down to one song and having to run 13.1 miles. But it is at least a concept.

And then bringing it all back full circle, I wonder about Bono’s exercise regimen. We know he rides bicycles. What else does he do? I have read about race car drivers losing several pounds during a race, is it the same for Bono? He is moving constantly, he used to run around the circle on the earlier tour, so just how fit does he have to be?

You Never Forget Your First

They say you never forget your first, but I have to admit that my first U2 show was a long time ago and has become somewhat of a blur. I remember highlights of the week but not much else, so at least some of this is coming from looking at sites like U2gigs.com to remind myself.

I was born and raised in New Zealand, and spent much of my life there, although I am now an American citizen and have been here for nearly twenty years. I was too young (and perhaps not aware enough) to see U2 when they came to New Zealand in 1984, although I saw Dire Straits live in 1985, my first official concert. It wasn’t until U2 returned in 1989, by which time I was a die-hard fan, that I was able to see them live for the first time. I had seen Rattle And Hum many times, so had a good idea what to expect, but it was still overwhelming and wonderful.

My first show was on November 4, 1989, at Lancaster Park in my home town, Christchurch. I had seen many cricket and rugby matches at Lancaster Park, but this was one of the few times I had actually been on the field. Me and 65,000 others according to the internet, and I remember that it was the largest crowd to see a concert in New Zealand at the time. Realize that Christchurch had a population of 300,000 back then, and that should tell you the level of interest.

Among the things I remember was that they faced the stage towards the main stand, and immediately there was a big bounce back of sound when they began playing, the sound echoing off the stand and back to the field. It wasn’t something that bothered me for long, or perhaps at all. I was fairly close to the stage, perhaps ten rows back in the GA crowd, and sort of aligned between Edge and Bono. I remember Streets opening the show, and being so overwhelmed and happy to be seeing it live. The other thing I remember was them pulling a guy out of the crowd and having him play guitar, he played Desire according to the internet. I remember wishing it was me, although I had no experience with the guitar back then (and little now).

So they had planned a three show tour of New Zealand, and I had planned to travel with them. They ended up adding a second show in Auckland when the first sold out. I took the train to the North Island, my first trip away from home by myself, and went to the Wellington show and then on to Auckland for the two shows. In Wellington I was much closer, I was about three people from the stage, right in front of Adam. I remember that part clearly, perhaps the best time of my life at that point.

It was a great week. It was a week I think back on often, wishing I could go back in time and experience it again. I haven’t even gone out to see if there are any bootlegs of the shows, I probably should do that. The biggest regret is probably that being so far away from anywhere else in the world, I couldn’t easily go see them anywhere else. I had dreams of going to see them in Australia in 1993, but I couldn’t afford it. Perhaps if I had grown up in the US and had a week like that, I might have ended up spending my life following them everywhere I could.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

I have never been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve never even been to Cleveland. I hear it’s nice there by the lake. I don’t know - and I can’t be bothered looking up - why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. There’s a reason I’m sure, and it’s probably money, because it usually is. The funny thing about the Hall of Fame is that I don’t know most of the people in it. Now, I’m a huge baseball fan, and I know a lot of baseball history, and so if you talk about the Baseball Hall of Fame I can almost certainly tell you a lot about them. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I don’t know much about music history. So when I look through the list of people there, I’ve hardly heard of most of them. I mean seriously, there are bands in there that I know nothing about. Not only that, there are bands that I’ve heard of that never thought were anywhere near Hall of Fame worthy. You just seem to need to stick around for a while, I guess.

So U2 were inducted in 2005, their first time of eligibility (it had to be 25 years after their first release, which was in 1980). They were introduced at their induction by Bruce Springsteen, and it’s interesting to go back and look at what he said. He talks a lot about the band, and it’s clear that they are close, Bruce and U2. Since then of course they have performed together with him filling in for Bono, but interesting that they knew each other way back when. He mentions seeing them perform in London in the early 80s, before they were someone, and seeing their potential. I guess I never knew that.

The other thing he mentions, which is somewhat embarrassing to me, is the idea of them being a team, a group that leaves no man behind. The quote he has is “the other guy is more important than you think he is,” and that’s what gets to me, because I have a couple of times talked about Larry and Adam as somehow being lesser members of the band. I don’t know that I actually believe that, but it’s certainly a commonly held impression of the band.

And to their own speeches, Bono talks about how the music business has changed, and that the world is now looking for instant success. If you’re an up and coming band, if you don’t hit quickly then you’re out. Of course, that’s similar to so many different industries now. Then he tells the story of Adam standing in front of him, ready to take a bullet for him. I always love that story. Edge says the standard induction speech, Larry makes it short and sweet, as you would expect. And Adam starts off funny, does the nice speech, and ends funny (remembering the band members’ names). All in all, fairly what you’d expect the band to say.

So they belong in the Hall of Fame, obviously. Inner circle, you’d probably say.

Negativland

Negativland is one of those episodes in U2’s history where nobody comes out looking very good. The band Negativland look a bit like thieves, U2 look like jerks, and Island Records look like bullies. As is often the case in these situations though, everything is fluid, not all is as it seems, and the impressions given could interchange between any of the groups depending on your perspective.

Short summary: in 1991 Negativland (a largely unknown group then and now) released a song with “U2” on the cover in giant letters, and their own name in tiny letters. The song was a parody of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Island Records sued them, saying it was a trademark violation. After a legal battle Negativland withdrew the song, although it has appeared in a number of places since then, and they have made several other items related to the song and legal events. If you want more detail, google it.

Negativland had an interesting idea and ran with it. I tend to agree with them that parody should be fine, in fact protected, but it is possible to take it too far (how much is parody and how much is original work?). But where I think they stepped over the line is in their cover, splashing U2 in big letters on it. They put a tiny U2 spy plane on there, presumably to try and say “hey, we were talking about the plane,” but that tells me that they were deliberately using the band name and just pretending. I actually think they’d have a better case without it, believe it or not. But clearly they were trying to use the U2 band name. If they had a different title and cover I’d be fine with what they did.

Island Records look bad because they jump in with lawyers, as a big label trying to bully the small guys. I do appreciate many of the small people in music, and usually like them much better than the big labels. I have issues with Paul McGuinness and his comments at times about people taking money from the labels. I think the world would be a better place without big labels (these days they add little or nothing) and certainly without lawyers (at least, without them running the show). But they do have to protect their clients, and in this case they had a point for at least some of it. If they’d attacked the music more than the cover I’d have issues, but that wasn’t so much of the case.

And U2 the band end up looking like jerks because it was their label jumping in. There were stories about how Edge got trapped on an interview show (a story in itself, I really dislike people trying to trick or trap others like that), and he sort of apologized for the actions of the label, saying that the band didn’t necessarily agree with it. I think the band themselves don’t generally have a problem with people sampling their music - they do it to others, others have done it to them.

All in all, a fairly distasteful episode in the band’s history. I write about it because it seems to come up every now and then as a slam against the band, but if you look into it enough, then like I said no-one comes out looking too good.

Trees

I wanted to write something about U2 and trees, it has been on my list for a while, but when I sat down to do it today I realized that there isn’t as much there as I thought. To be fair, I haven’t gone through all the lyrics looking for every reference, so I’m sure there are places where they’ve talked about trees but I have missed or forgotten it. If so, send me a tweet (see link at bottom of the page).

The obvious one when you’re talking about U2 and trees is The Joshua Tree. A very famous tree, could it be just about the most famous tree in the world? Certainly in some quarters (i.e. this one) it is. They picked it somewhat randomly, I seem to recall that Anton Corbijn was interested in the area for photographic purposes, then when they were there he found that tree and photographed the band in front of it and the rest is history. There have been various reports over the years about the tree, that it was sick or dying, but apparently someone either damaged or destroyed it recently. This sickens me, that a person would take the time out of their life to go destroy something like that, to destroy anything that another person has worked on or made famous through their endeavors. It’s like vandalism, where you’re just destroying for the sake of destroying, probably because you have no talent of your own and hate others who have it. Frustrating.

The second tree I thought of was the tree on One Tree Hill. This is another tree damaged by people, in this case attacked and eventually cut down because the attack had caused it to die. I can tell you a lot about the Maori in New Zealand, the native people who had their land stolen and have slowly worked to try and get justice. Much of what they claim is entirely reasonable, some is unreasonable, some is outlandish. But when a protestor destroys something like this because of political belief, I am very conflicted. In some ways it is a symbol of their repression, but in other ways it isn’t. And when you do something like this, when a band like U2 has sung a song about it, you’re inviting criticism from a lot more than locals. Anyway, great song, too bad the tree doesn’t exist any more.

There are Shadows And Tall Trees. A song that I recently reviewed, and thought it was kind of a cypher, not exposing itself very well to me. The title lyric sticks in my head, which I suspect is a good thing, but not much else. It does make me think of sitting in a forest, in a glade under a canopy of trees, enjoying the shadows and the quiet. I have done that a lot in my life, but not so much recently. Need to go do that again sometime.

And I’ll finish with Cedarwood Road. Of course Bono then talked about the cherry blossom trees and the blossoms falling from them, so I guess I’m a little confused about that. And nothing on Cedars of Lebanon, the two songs are barely linked by the cedars in them.

U2 and magazines

They say you can’t read a book by its cover, but let’s face it, you don’t even look at a book without seeing the cover. When I am browsing through the book store, unless I’m looking for a specific book or at everything in a specific section, I’m looking for covers to attract my attention. Mostly the picture on the cover, occasionally words if they are distinctive, or stand out in some other way.

When I’m looking at magazines I’m doing the same thing, an attractive image or words. When I get into the music section of magazines at the book store, I’m looking for photos of U2 on the cover or the word U2 on the cover. Fortunately U2 is a fairly distinctive word to see, and I may be trained to look for it by now too. Generally U2 will be written in a larger font than other band names, because it is short and because they are the biggest band in the world, and cover designers are smart enough to know that they attract fans.

On the other hand, just because a magazine has U2 on the cover doesn’t mean I will buy it. Often the designers will put U2 on the cover to attract me, but then the article on U2 is a page long and doesn’t have anything new in it. In that case I’ll skip the magazine, and I have to admit that’s the large majority of them. By now I know most stuff that is in a magazine, it is rare for them to be able to tell me anything new any more. It has to be an in-depth item on the band, several pages long, to get me to buy it these days.

All this is to say that I have a fairly modest collection of U2 magazines, I would be surprised if I had a couple of dozen in total. I probably have more books on the band that I have magazines. However, if I google U2 magazine covers, there are a few sites which show tens or hundreds of covers with the band on them (not just the words, but photos). There are many that I haven’t seen, because they are foreign covers which never made it to the US (although a surprising number of foreign magazines do come here). But then there are many that I have, and I am more surprised that I have seen so many of them (although in some cases I suspect I’m conflating, because many of them have used the same photo, or a photo from the same photo session, so they look similar enough).

In my small collection, some stand out as interesting, but you’ve seen them all. But my pride and joy among all the covers I have is the very famous 1987 Time magazine, the Rock’s Hottest Ticket cover. My wife bought me two copies of it on eBay many years ago for a present. The intent was that I would read one of them, and tear off the cover and frame the other. I am sorry to admit that I still have them sitting in a box, waiting for the day that it gets framed (to be fair, I have a lot of things that I am waiting to do, not just this). Maybe I can set it as a goal to get it framed by the end of the year, and share a photo of it.

Yes, late again today. There aren't enough hours in a day any more.

Dublin

My knowledge of Dublin is fairly sketchy. I have the map from the North Side Story book, but it even says that you mustn’t use it as an actual map, that it is not to scale and diagrammatic only. I have looked at Dublin on Google maps for a couple of things, obviously U2 related. If I were to sit down and draw a map of Dublin from memory it would be extremely basic, probably wrong in many places. If you are a Dubliner reading right now you probably want to stop reading, or maybe take the rest of this as a comedy piece.

So my map of Dublin would begin with a line through the middle, crossing from left to right. This is the River Liffey, which I am not about to try and drink dry. I think it goes across the city and ends in the east at the Irish Sea. North of the Liffey I don’t know much, I know there’s a giant statue of a needle or something just to the north, I don’t remember what it is but it’s really shiny and looks weird in Google street view. Way to the north is where the band grew up, I know Cedarwood Road is up there somewhere, and I guess the rest of the band came from around there, although I don’t know where without looking it up. Malahide is I think just to the north of Cedarwood Road, right?

We go from north to south of the river, I believe the jail where they filmed the Celebration video is just on the south side, but way out on the west side of the city. Kilmanhaim Jail, or something like that. Back into the center of the city on the south side is the college, the bars where they began playing, the place where Windmill Lane was, all those early places that often get a mention. Somewhere in there, and it may be just on the north bank of the river, is the Clarence Hotel, the hotel that the band owns.

I bring all this up just to mention something I have in my house, one of my U2 souvenirs. This is not so much a souvenir though, more of an art piece. A guy I work with, who knows how big a U2 fan I am, travelled to Dublin a couple of years ago for work. Being a bit of a photographer in his spare time, he took his camera out and about in Dublin, and ended up at Windmill Lane. There he took a number of photos of the U2 graffiti wall, and when he got back home had some of them printed and framed, signed them and gave them to me as a gift. This was an amazing thing for him to do, I very much appreciate it. I appreciated it even more earlier this year when a developer tore down the studio, meaning it is something I will never see in my lifetime. My friend was disappointed though, but happy that he had gotten to see it before it was gone.

So, that’s my tour of Dublin for you. Did I get it right? Yes, one day I will go there, and I will take the U2 tour (I bet there are many, I will take them all). Then I’ll come back and write it all again, and maybe get some of it right.

September review

And another month goes by, where is the year disappearing to? Today is my son’s birthday, turning eleven. In the last year he’s seen two U2 shows live, several others online, and I’ve managed to hook him into a bunch of U2 music. In fact tonight as he was laying in bed going to sleep I heard him singing Miracle.

We’ve seen a few shows in Europe now, and I must say I am mildly disappointed. I really expected there to be more differentiation between the US shows and the European shows. There have been a few differences, but I wished for more. I don’t know what I expected to change. They have been doing a few things about politics in Europe vs the US, the talk about refugees has been interesting and well-received. And changes to songs. Honestly I wish that each show was more different than the previous ones. There’s the theme through the first half of the show, but the second half could be much more variable. I know they’ve said they don’t want to disappoint people by having different shows, but really, how disappointing could it be? If you’re the kind of fan who would be disappointed, you’d be at every show or watching them online. And yes, I know I said I was disappointed earlier, but not by the content of the shows themselves.

I’ve been mentioning this all year long, but I am really starting to get backed into a corner on these reviews. Running out of songs to write about, because I took the easy route and wrote about a song too often earlier in the year. I really ought to concentrate and get a group of reviews about non-songs done, just so I can balance it out a little. As it is I am well below half of the reviews left being songs, so I’m going to have to work on it one way or another. Just look at this month, ten out of 29 are non-songs, should have been 15 or more.

Don't forget, if you want to talk to me, see the little blue bird down below to contact me on Twitter.

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

Miss Sarajevo 8

Mofo 1

Can’t Help Falling In Love 4

Another Time, Another Place, Live At The Marquee 10

She’s A Mystery To Me (no rating)

Pop 4.6

Shadows And Tall Trees 4

Big Girls Are Best 6

Red Hill Mining Town 8

Happiness Is A Warm Gun 1

Please 8

Always 3

Where The Streets Have 2 Names (book) 3

Rise Up 5

Original Soundtracks I

Introductions

Zoo Station 6

Heaven And Hell 3

Gone 4

Awards 

Fortunate Son 3

Electrical Storm 7

U2 Show (book) 9

Van Diemen’s Land 6

Anniversaries 

Dancing Barefoot 4

All That You Can’t Leave Behind 6.3

Dirty Day 6

U2 in cartoons

U2 in cartoons

So in the last week or so there’s been this mildly weird craze where people are turning themselves into Peanuts cartoons. Someone did U2, and I have to admit that when I saw it I thought it looked terrible, that none of them really looked much of anything like themselves. There was another one produced a couple of days later, and it looked a bit better, but still not that much like the band. I guess I’m a little picky when it comes to people I know being turned into cartoons. It all reminds me of the times when U2 have been cartoonized on tv. The two that spring immediately to mind are South Park and the Simpsons, not sure if there are others.

I remember watching the South Park episode when it came out, and laughing and cringing at the same time. As a guy, I’m a big fan of toilet humor, and generally enjoyed South Park, in fact I liked it much longer than I probably should have. I must admit that I haven’t watched it the last couple of years, in fact I’m not even sure when or if it is still on. I guess I finally moved on from it. The episode itself was amusing, plenty of poop jokes, essentially the point of the story is to say that Bono is a giant piece of poo. Now, I’ve talked about him before, and noted that there are times when even I, a huge fan, find him pretty grating. I’m in fact kind of surprised that there hasn’t been much mention of him at the UN this past weekend (although there was a lot of other stuff going on). But as a general rule I am mildly amused and mildly insulted when people take shots at Bono, especially when they do it in an uneducated way (like anyone making fun of his glasses without knowing about his medical condition). So although I can enjoy the South Park episode, it’s not something I seek out to watch too often any more.

The South Park had no involvement by the band, but the Simpsons did. I had to check it out on Wikipedia to discover that U2 had asked to be on the show, versus most celebrities who get asked. Not sure why they did, except to be turned into cartoons on the show. So it was all run around the Pop tour, so we see Bono wearing the ridiculous fake muscle chest shirt, and shots of the Pop stage, while the band is playing Pride. Then Homer sneaks in, as the somewhat racist man delivering potatoes to the band, and Paul McGuinness lets him in. Of course, Homer takes over, so Bono starts speechifying, which causes Larry and Edge to leave to go to the pub, and in perhaps the best moment of the show, they decide to go without Adam and he calls them wankers. Later they sing while in the pub, and then Adam shows his latest addition to the spoon collection - the ninth spoon he has. That’s really funny, it surprises me that Adam is so prominent and that they parody themselves so well.

Generally enjoyable when you see them crossing over into other things, as long as they’re not being number twos.

Anniversaries

September 25, 1976, a day that will live in infamy. For it was on that day that Larry Mullen Jr had a group of people over to his kitchen, and they played a few songs together for the first time. Some of them didn’t come back, some of them stayed for almost forty years (and counting). I wonder if Bono will mention the anniversary in the Berlin 2 show tonight?

So famously Larry put a note on the message board at the school they were attending, and several people showed up. In It Might Get Loud Edge took us back to the school, wandered through late at night, and showed us the actual board where the note was posted. I was surprised, I thought there should be some kind of commemorative stuff, maybe a spotlight on it, a neon sign saying U2 was here, or something like that. But no, it was just a regular board on a wall in a school, nothing exciting other than the fact that it spawned the biggest band in the world.

Can you imagine a band forming in your kitchen? I can’t, but then my son is only ten, so who knows what might appear in my future. I don’t think I’m going to count on him forming a band and becoming rich and famous though. Although if he does, I think I can get him 500 bucks, seems the least I can do given how much I’ve given to U2. I mean, I spent more than that on just show tickets this year alone, let alone flights and hotels. Let alone all the years worth of tickets and albums and books and shirts and so on. But it’s all been worth it, hasn’t it?

What do you think it’s like for the band, looking back on that day and remembering it? Now, I’m willing to bet that each of them have different memories of the day, and the guys who showed up but never joined the band have different memories too. That’s just the way that memory works, it’s why witnesses tell different stories about events, it’s why Brian Williams conflated stuff he did into a different story, and it’s why the band would all have a different way of seeing things that happened in Larry’s kitchen. You make yourself the hero of every story, although of course Larry tells you that he was the hero for about ten minutes before Bono took over. Which reminds me, I need to get a Larry Mullen Band shirt sometime.

I’ve mentioned this before but I don’t know if it’s possible for this type of story to happen today. Oh, a group could meet and form a band in the same way, but every one of them would have their iPhones out recording, and we’d know exactly what had happened. There’d be no backstory, no mystery, it would all be well documented. You would know everything about them, including what snacks they had while they were playing whatever songs they played. No need for any kind of websites listing their performances, they’d all be on the internet for all time. You could go back and relive any of it. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Might be bad for a lot of bands, and good for a few. Probably wouldn’t make any difference if they were as good as U2 though.

Awards

The Emmys are today apparently, and I couldn’t care less, because I don’t really believe in awards. Or at least certain awards, like the Emmys. You see, the Emmys are an award for a person in a role on tv, and they are generally deified for that role. I remember having a debate with someone many years ago about a tv show, with their argument being that the person who was the star was a natural for the role and they couldn’t imagine anyone better. My argument was that anyone could have gotten the role, and but for a good audition they might be saying the exact same thing about a different actor.

But that’s tv, where someone picks an actor based on nebulous feelings about them, not on any particular set of criteria. Same with movies, casting is essentially the same, although you do have to have people vote with their feet (or movie dollars) for particular actors. If they come to like someone they will go see them regardless of how good they are in a movie (what was that Affleck movie, Gigli?).

The best criteria for me is where you are judged exactly on what you do. Being that this is a U2 blog I obviously mean that awards where you are rated based on your results is better for me. If you produce something good and people vote for it, by either buying it or being an awards voter, then that seems a little more worthwhile to me. Maybe it’s an attempt at a justification, simply because I want to talk about U2 and awards.

 

If you look at the list of awards won by U2 on Wikipedia, you’re going to see a whole lot of junk. People’s Choice, which really is just a popularity contest. A bunch of things I’ve never even heard of. The only ones I’d consider worthwhile would be the Grammys, which are a music industry award and not subject to a popularity contest (although I guess you have to be popular with those voters, right?).

So they’ve won more Grammys than any other rock band (I guess that’s to distinguish individuals? I don’t know). What surprises me is how many nominations they had compared to wins, and some of the gaps. Like Achtung Baby never won anything, how is that possible? Or that Pop was nominated? Or that Window In The Skies won (like the song, not sure it’s Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals)? Or that Crazy won?

One issue I have with the Grammys, like many of the other award shows, is the problem of category inflation. By that I mean the attempt to do a bunch of different awards, even though they’re pretty much the same thing over and over. I mean, what the heck is the difference between song of the year and record of the year? Don’t know, but there have been years where the same song has been nominated for both, and there are years where they got one or the other nomination. Makes no sense to me. Better yet, the one I just listed above, Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals. Just try and unwrap that one. Let alone that it says Pop.

And of course there’s Golden Globes, which is about movies, and U2 have won a couple of times, for Hands That Built America and Ordinary Love. Not coincidentally U2 have never won an Oscar for their music, despite their songs being nominated a few times. Ordinary Love is the song Bono was calling the second place song at the Oscars earlier in the tour.

Introductions

U2 play a lot of music before their shows, I’m guessing there’s an hour’s worth in there each night, if not more. I seem to remember walking into Chicago 1 and hearing the music playing for quite a while. They play more of it this tour though, because there’s no band on before them to warm up the crowd. I know some of the songs they’ve been playing, don’t know others. But they have traditionally had the walk-on song (not the Walk On song, but the song they walk on stage to) each tour, and it differs each time. I saw a picture of a setlist earlier this tour which showed specific timing for when each band member had to move to get to the stage at the right moment, wish I knew where that pic was, probably saw it on Twitter somewhere.

But the point of this piece is that introductory song, the walk up music, the one that kind of gets associated with the tour, certainly with the entrance of the band and the building of excitement. Each song that I am listing below has specific memories for me, like I said that growing excitement and anticipation. So just a little look back at some of the songs I remember, and yes I had to google to get a list, but once I had it I was walking down memory lane.

Way back in Zoo TV they opened with Television (Drug of the Nation), which I definitely think of the whole sequence flashing through my mind, flashing through the screens, where the TVs are all playing different things, there’s the boom-de-boom of the German drummers. It’s an amazing sequence, indescribable in many ways. You’ve seen me talk about it before, the whole which way do I look thing, it really is great, possible the best opening ever. I don’t know if it will ever be topped.

Then the Pop tour started with Pop Muzik. Due to geographical challenges I never saw a show during Pop, I was on one side of the world when it was on the other, and by the time I got to their side of the world they’d gone to mine. So my memory of it is just from the video, with the band walking through the crowd and Bono wearing a hoodie like a boxer getting into the ring.

By Vertigo they were opening with Wake Up from Arcade Fire, and I have to admit a bias here because I have fallen in love with Arcade Fire recently. In the last couple of months I have bought all their albums and I listen to them at work almost every day. It is almost perfect music for listening to in the background, because it is enough to hear it and get the theme going, or to drop into and listen somewhat deeply at those moments when work gets dull. I tend to listen and sing along with U2, but I don’t have to do that with Arcade Fire. That may seem like a slam, but it’s really not. I love this music, it might not be as good as U2 but nothing is.

On 360 they played Bowie and Space Oddity, which was another great intro given their idea of the stage being a rocket ship. Not only a fun song that everyone knows, that gets a beat going, but lifts up the fans and the band.

And then of course there’s People Have The Power, which I never heard before the Innocence and Experience tour, but now I’ll never think of anything else but standing and anticipating Bono coming up.

August review

August has been an interesting month. Swamped at work, been doing 12 hour days at times. Fortunately I can bring my laptop home to work, but unfortunately that means there have been too many days when I’ve been working until midnight. That also means there have been days when I’ve pulled my personal laptop out at midnight to write this blog, grabbed a song, written it up then gone to sleep. Which means there have been too many times when I’ve just grabbed a song at random, without remembering enough about having to do non-songs more. I’m already at that point where I have more non-songs than songs to do for the rest of the year, and I’m starting to feel the squeeze. Oh well, it’s all U2, right?

Getting ready for the European leg of the tour to start. Saturday I’m going to be at the beach, really hoping that I’ll be able to get a signal so I can watch the first show that afternoon. I’ve said before, I’m looking forward to see what changes they’re going to make for Europe.

This has been an interesting month for reviews, I’ve gone from the best to the worst this month. Some of them make it a little difficult to write about, there are a few songs where sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say about it. Those are the ones you can probably tell, when I start to blather a little about random stuff instead of talking about the song. All to get that magical 500 words. I don’t know why I chose that number, it just seemed like a good number to go with. I’m going to end up with enough by the end of the year that I could have written a novel or two. Hopefully I can keep up the habit next year, and go on to other writing projects.

As always, if you want to talk about one of my reviews, contact me on Twitter. There should be a little bird at the bottom of the page, just click on that and you can see my Twitter feed.

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

Another Friday night

Elevation 6

Out Of Control 9

The Ballad Of Ronnie Drew 6

From The Sky Down 8

The Ground Beneath Her Feet 2

Iris (Hold Me Close) 8

The Edge

Love Rescue Me 6

Kite 7

Zooropa 5.3

Luminous Times (Hold On To Love) 5

Your Blue Room 3

Pop Muzik 1

Endless Deep 1

Saturday Night 4

U2 At The End of The World 8

Another Day 2

Acrobat 9

The Saints Are Coming 7

Wild Honey 5

The First Time 5

Vertigo tour 10

Cedars Of Lebanon 3

The Troubles 7

U2 and Apple

A Sort Of Homecoming 8

One Step Closer (book) 2

Rattle And Hum (movie) 10

Wave Of Sorrow 2

U2 and Apple

I’m a big Apple fan, I’m sitting here writing this on a Macbook Air, I have my iPhone next to me and an iMac on the table across the room. I am very happy with my Apple products. I am a programmer in my day job, working on Windows, and I have to say that I have been far happier with Mac OS than I ever have been with Windows. As a user it is much more stable, as a programmer it is much simpler, more robust, and you don’t feel like you’re fighting the system to get things done. Oh, and as I write this, an Apple Music commercial comes on tv. So yes, you could call me an Apple fan. But I don’t have any kind of watch (not yet).

So why am I talking about this? You can probably guess. U2 and Apple have had a long and winding career together, U2 using Apple to promote their music, and Apple using U2 to promote their products. Last year’s event with Songs Of Innocence was just the latest, and I bet there’s going to be more. In fact there were a few occasions during the tour that Bono name checked Apple for supporting RED, so maybe that’s the latest.

Both U2 and Apple got a lot of flak for the launch of Songs Of Innocence the way they did, but I’m very much in the opposite camp here. With all the rumors around the event, I was at work and listening to it online. I would have listened anyway - fanboy, right? - but that was an added incentive. And sure enough they came on and played, introduced the new song, and did a terrible sketch with Tim Cook. But it ended in a great way, with them surprising everyone by releasing the album, and for free. Unlike all those other people who had the album pushed to them, I was immediately trying to get it, refreshing and refreshing to pull the album down. Grabbed, listened, liked at first and loved later. Then I was a little surprised at the kerfuffle over the release. Yeah, people being mad at U2 sending them a free album. No, I get it a little, they probably should have done it a little differently. Maybe make it available, not force you to get it.

Back in the day U2 and Apple teamed up on the iPod, releasing a U2 version. I never got it, although I did mildly lust after it for a while. It was kind of outside my price range at the time. The part that was interesting was the Complete U2 box set on iTunes, which contained everything they’d ever done at the time. I really wished I had it back then, although since then I’ve gotten pretty much everything that was on it. There was quite a bit of promotion around that, that was fun seeing them jumping around on screen in an Apple ad.

So I think that U2 and Apple have worked well together over the years, although obviously others haven’t thought that. That’s okay, if we all liked the same things it’d be a boring world.

The Edge

Happy Birthday to The Edge, turning 54 today.

If Adam and Larry are the rhythm section holding the songs together, and Bono is the front man trying to go in every direction, then Edge is the basis of the sound of the band. It is more true of Edge than of any of the others to say that if he wasn’t there, then the band would not exist as it does. Now, you could say that about each of them, that the band would be different if any of them were missing, but I think Edge is probably first among equals. He is the source of the band’s sound, the alchemist that makes things go as Bono says, and I think that if the music were different then the band wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is.

When you listen to the early stuff, the Innocence part of the band’s history, you hear Edge standing out more than anything else. It is mostly basic stuff in the early days, clear and simple things, but then you stop and listen and realize that it’s not as simple as it sounds, but rather than there are layers of music even then. And if you listen to the band going forward, you hear those layers growing, such that nowadays you can listen to the song ten times and hear ten different things in it. It really is that complex. I have tried playing some of the songs on my guitar, and each time I end up being amazed that he is able to make the sound he does. Now, I’m nowhere near as talented as Edge - his little finger has more guitar talent than me (seriously) - so that might not come as a surprise to you. But even just trying to get a slightly similar sound is difficult. Take I Will Follow, an early song so relatively simple, but even the basic eight note sound of the song has a different little twist each time it goes through.

There are people who say Edge isn’t a great guitarist, that it’s all tricks and mirrors, that he wouldn’t be who he is without a bunch of pedals. That last part is actually true, Edge’s sound comes out of the pedals that he uses, but he uses them very effectively to make the sound unique. Saying it’s not a great way of doing it is crazy, that’s like saying someone isn’t a great writer because they use a computer rather than pen and paper.

The amazing part is how much he does and how little he does. Take Elevation, which I mentioned from It Might Get Loud the other day. He plays a few notes, and his effects turn it into this amazing sound. I just don’t know how he manages to come up with that, a whole lot of work playing with different sounds and different effects pedals to get the outcome he wants. Patience, one of those things I don’t have near enough of to be able to come up with something like that, let alone to be able to play it.

Of course he does have duds now and then, the most spectacular being Numb, which let’s face it sounds terrible (although appropriate for the time it was made), and the video for the song which is amusing in a cringeworthy kind of way.

His singing is much more important than it seems at times. I sometimes hear him singing something and realize that I didn’t know he sang that part, and I’m pretty sure there are many chunks of songs that my wife doesn’t realize he sings. That’s a great talent, to be able to fill in those parts in a good way, but without people skipping a beat to think about him doing it. Just an extra bonus he brings to the band.

Overall I love Edge, I would probably say he’s my favorite member of the band (although tomorrow I might say something different).

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

Instrumentals

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.

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

Friday Night

No, not a U2 song. Just tonight. Sitting here listening to Mixlr, listening to Boston 1, and having an amazing time doing so. Just making me think back a little, realize how lucky I am to have seen the tour four times, how much I want to see some more of it, either this year or as many times as possible next year (in an arena, not a stadium, please). 

Right at the end now, they just finished Streets, and now the start of One. “You can sing this” Bono just said, and the crowd obliges. We did that in Chicago, but I thought that was just because he had bronchitis and his voice was giving out at the end. But now he’s turned it into a crowd chant, doesn’t yet have the feeling that 40 does, but I bet if they keep this up it will. It’s such a great song, I’ve debated whether it’s the right song to end on, but I now think it is.

And another tribute to Dennis Sheehan, make me want to cry again. And they finish on 40 ,so I’m wrong that One will end it. This is live blogging folks, or at least writing live while it happens.

Two shows in a row with Shine Like Stars, I have to admit that both times (Toronto 2 and Boston 1) I have felt like crying listening to it, even though I’m a thousand miles away. It just feels like the Holy Grail for U2 fans now, something that’s only been sung half a dozen times since the Joshua Tree era. I’m so jealous that we didn’t get it in Chicago, but so happy to hear it at all.

This blog, that I’ve been writing every day for a little over six months, has now and then felt a bit like work, and there have been occasions when I’ve half thought that I should quit. Basically a couple of weeks into January I thought that, but pushed through, and then again a couple of months in, round about the beginning of March. I stuck with it though, and slowly found myself looking forward to it each day, trying to decide what to write that day. When the tour began, I was energized, watching large chunks of the shows on various apps, and following a whole bunch of people and hashtags on Twitter. That pushed me forward in the writing again, and that has carried through to today. For the last few weeks, basically since Denver I think, I have watched or listening to most shows, with the exception of Chicago which I attended in person of course. It’s really been a boost, and even though I’m watching the same thing over and over, each night feels fresh, feels like there’s something different going to happen, and it has, like Shine Like Stars. It’s great.

In summary, if you haven’t seen the show live yet, you really should watch it online. Unless you can get to a show, or you’re avoiding spoilers (I don’t know how that’s possible these days, you’d have to shut yourself off social media for a couple of months). And much as I wish I could be in Boston, or New York next week, I know that work won’t let me get away (and I’ve been daydreaming a way to quit my job and follow the band). But I’m also looking forward to when they’re in Europe, and I can watch the shows while I’m at work. It’s going to be great.