Vertigo (DVD)

Each time I watch a U2 concert video I think of it as the definitive version of the tour. Having watched or listened to many of the Innocence + Experience tour shows either online or in person, I question myself as to which show would be the definitive version of any tour. You can mke the argument that there are maybe twenty songs that are in every single show, but what about the rest? There are another couple of dozen songs that were played throughout the tour, how do you decide which of those songs would make the cut on a tour video? I mean, think of People Have The Power, which turned out to be a really good ending to things, but reality is that it was only played three times at the end of a show. Even One was only played half the time.

So when you look at a show like the Vertigo tour, it makes you wonder which version of the tour are you getting? Well, doing a little sleuthing through the U2Gigs.com database, I compared the listing on the Vertigo DVD with the listing of songs played on the tour, and it wasn’t too bad a match. The biggest miss was With Or Without You, played 104 times on tour out of 131 shows, then Still Haven’t Found at 91, Miss Sarajevo at 85 and on down. An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart was on the DVD but only played 16 times, with a number of songs higher than that. In general I think that the DVD did a good job of making it a representative show, and I think that any differences are just random luck. I think that when we get to the Innocence + Experience DVD it will be something similar, a large portion of songs from the regular tour with a few differences (although hopefully not the HBO version).

The video does showcase the Vertigo tour, but I don’t get the feeling of being there like I have on the latest tour. There is definitely an in-the-moment feeling of being at a live show, and it is amazingly well replicated by watching the show on Periscope or Mixlr or wherever. Watching Vertigo though, I had the feeling of it being a bit of an archive, rather than being there or being involved. The latest show has, in Bono’s words, been an attempt at bringing the band closer to the audience, and I think I’ve been a little spoiled by that idea. Looking back on Vertigo, and probably all the other shows I’ve got on DVD, it’s more of being out in the audience somewhere, and not the close seats but up in the crowd. Like I said, the current tour may have spoiled me for all future times, how are they going to top that and how am I going to look back at the old stuff?

But it’s U2 and it’s live, and it’s got that moment when Bono ends up drumming out on the edge of the heart, at the end of Love and Peace/beginning of Sunday. It’s great and it always will be.

My rating for Vertigo Live From Chicago: 10 / 10

Mercy

Mercy came out of the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb sessions, it was apparently leaked during the recording and thus never taken any further. Actually they did play it live a few times during 360, and it ended up on the Wide Awake In Europe release in 2010, but that’s it. Listening to it now it doesn’t feel quite finished, like they got to a certain point on it (pretty far along I think), then it leaked and so they stopped. If I was to put a number of it, I’d say something like 85% finished, with some work to do on the lyrics (I think Bono could work on them forever though, and still not be satisfied), and some to do on the music too.

It is a song of opposites, from the very first line which conjures up the idea of the communion service in the Catholic church, but immediately throws a curve into it by asking about the use of religion. It goes on throughout the song, every line being a two-part opposition to each other, like for example “If you were ice, I’m water,” or “we’re binary code, a one and a zero.” This idea of the dichotomy has come in a number of U2 songs I have covered this year, Bono seems like talking about the thought of being opposites, or opposites attracting. He has referred to it in shows as well, in many of his mentions of Ali he has talked about she and he being not quite opposites, but certainly in him wondering what she would see in him since they are different. It makes me think that all of these songs are talking about the same thing, the conflict between two people that somehow keeps them together more than it pushes them apart.

Musically the song is fast, definitely has the sound from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, reminds me of several songs from that era. Most notably I think the early part of the song sounds like City Of Blinding Lights, but I also get a few echoes later in the song from Always, which was an earlier song for the band, and also Falling At Your Feet in some places. I wonder if they took the music from Always and repurposed it to get to Mercy, then repurposed it again to get to City Of Blinding Lights. Just pure speculation on my part, I have no idea what the history of the song is.

Something else interesting about the song is that there is no bridge, and there is no chorus. Now there are parts where the music changes a little, but it’s not that noticeable, what surprises me each time I listen is that at the end of that change I tend to notice the switch, rather than the switch into it. I don’t recall other U2 songs not having a really different bridge section. And as for the chorus, there are a couple of sections that repeat together later in the song, but again they don’t feel like a chorus, they just feel like the verse being repeated. They have enough similarity to the rest of the song that it’s not chorus-like. I don’t know how else to explain both of these things, there just isn’t the differentiation that we see in most U2 songs.

My rating for Mercy: 4 /10

Are You Gonna Wait Forever?

There are songs and then there are songs, and there are b sides and then there are b sides. Few of the b sides I have reviewed have been good enough to make it to an album, which kind of proves the ability of the band to make good choices about what goes on an album. Whether it is because the album has a particular theme, and the song doesn’t fit, because they already have similar sounding songs on the album, because they have a preference for one or another, or maybe just that they flipped a coin and chose one over another. Whatever the reason, they have done pretty well at deciding the songs on the albums, the songs that become b sides, and the songs that get left off, perhaps to be used in a future project, perhaps to be repurposed and become part of a completely new song, or perhaps to be abandoned and never heard again, at least until they need material for a twentieth anniversary album.

Are You Gonna Wait Forever? is the b side from the Vertigo single, and this is one of those songs that falls into the category of really good, perhaps should have made it to the album, but perhaps sounds a little too similar to some of the other songs on the album. It might have been held until later, but it wouldn’t have made it onto No Line On The Horizon, so it was probably a good choice to be a b side.

Musically Are You Gonna Wait Forever? is very good, it reminds me of a few other songs, not the least being Vertigo itself. The start somehow reminds me of Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, although that quickly disappears when the bass kicks in. It is kind of rocky, featuring lots of everything, guitar, drums, bass and all. It feels at times like it should be faster than it is, and really my impression is that when I remember it I do think of it as fast, but then when I play it again it is a little slower. I don’t know why that is, what part of it is causing that feeling.

Lyrics are interesting, I think it is meant to be a love song of some kind, perhaps the kind where the person singing the song has been away for a while, and is returning home with the hope that their love is still waiting for them. The title gives that away, although I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning there (or perhaps not, since it is the better U2 songs where Bono has explored that depth and gotten down to that more interesting meaning than what is on the surface). Just like yesterday with Angels Too Tied To The Ground, Are You Gonna Wait Forever? has the title being sung in an interesting way, again I don’t know why, but it just sounds good as he sings that line (which he does several times).

About the only problem I have with the song is that the title ends in a question mark, so that every time I type Are You Gonna Wait Forever? my writing software tries to capitalize the first word after it, assuming that it is a new sentence, and I have to go back and fix it each time.

My rating for Are You Gonna Wait Forever?: 6 / 10

Native Son

I just reviewed Vertigo a couple of weeks ago, and now I get to talk about the precursor, Native Son. It is difficult to think of what to write about, when I already covered the final version of the song and therefore the music at the very least. There is not much difference between the music in the two, so I guess I could just repeat what I said about Vertigo, but then that wouldn’t be of much use. So I guess I’ll have to find something else to talk about.

In the Vertigo review I said that I felt a little like I had overdosed on the song, hearing it too many times to like it any more. What that means is that by hearing this song, the same song but with different lyrics, should mean that it feels like a breath of fresh air. Well, it does in some ways, but it doesn’t in others. This is another of those cases where the song doesn’t make the cut because it is incomplete. The music may be complete, or close to it, but the lyrics aren’t that good, and it’s clear why they changed the tone of the song and went with the ones they did. I can’t really object too much to the lyrics, they are admittedly half-baked, and if you were eating a half-baked cookie you wouldn’t object that much, because you’d be eating cookie dough.

The music being the same as Vertigo, I’m not going to cover it, with the exception that there is a slight difference at the very start. It sounds a lot like the start to Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, which is odd, since that was a decade before.

The song itself, Native Son, is supposedly about Leonard Peltier, a Native American who has been in prison for many years for killing federal agents. I have to admit that although I have heard the name, I know nothing about the case, whether he is guilty or innocent as some claim. The lyrics do have some feeling now, given all the political rhetoric around guns and police in recent months, they might have given some thought to it, but instead their meaning is lost in time.

Worked my way through the rest of the year today. Up until now I have largely been winging it, randomly picking an item to write about each day, with the exception of days that were set aside for specific items. Today, now that we’re down to about forty days left, I decided that it was time to set them all up. I already had maybe fifteen of those last forty days set, with specific things to write about (including the last ten days of the year, I had those set for quite a while). Today I went through my remaining item list and randomly assigned them to the remaining days, all the way through the end of the year. This helps a lot, and is something I should have done a long time ago, at least for a while ahead of where I was (for example, I could have done a month at a time). Another lesson learned. It helps me set up, knowing when I need to listen to things, watch things, or read things so I can be done with it all.

My rating for Native Son: 2 / 10

Xanax And Wine

I reviewed Fast Cars way back in January, it feels like so long ago and I completely forgot what I wrote then. Going back and reading it again, in preparation for reviewing Xanax and Wine, I see that I already mentioned it in the Fast Cars review. But that’s okay, I wanted to talk a little about Xanax and Wine anyway. I said at the time that I preferred Xanax and Wine to Fast Cars, and that is still true today. 

The thing is, these are essentially the same song, with Xanax and Wine being an earlier version of Fast Cars. So why review them separately (other than the desperate need to add reviews to the list) instead of together. It is mostly because there is just enough of a difference in them that I get a feeling of them being two separate songs. It’s like when you listen to Miracle, on the album Bono sings “we got language so we can communicate” while live he has been singing “we got language so we cannot communicate,” and it gives a whole new feeling to the line. Can’t say that the extra verses give such a reverse distinction, but certainly there is a feeling that is different.

The difference comes in the verses that begin with “Take me, save me from myself” and that line is delivered with a kind of wail, a kind of drifting sound. It is interesting, I really like that bit for some reason. I guess they were trying to keep the song going fast (as in Fast Cars), which is why they cut these bits out. They act as bridges, dropping into a slow little gap in the song, and I think that actually works better than what they ended up releasing.

I gave Fast Cars a two out of ten, and that might be a little low, but then I’m giving Xanax a four so maybe the two was okay. Although since the difference is only a couple of verses, that does seem a little excessive in the difference, so maybe Fast Cars should have been a three instead.

Looking forward to Belfast tomorrow, I will be trying to listen to it on Mixlr, most likely. It is going to be a very emotional show no matter what. I managed to see part of the HBO show from Paris today, it has been pirated or snuck out onto YouTube (it could be gone by now, I haven’t checked this evening). It had some issues, there were a few glitches (could have been my phone connection), but it was good. I was surprised to see some of the changes, for example the start of Miracle with the lights on, I don’t think I’ve noticed that before. Every other show I’ve seen they were out except for on Bono, and then the band kicking in. But here the rest of them were just standing on the stage, twiddling their thumbs while they waited for their cues. Has this been happening a while? Like I said, I don’t know, I’ve only been listening to Mixlr lately, not seeing any videos for a while.

My rating for Xanax and Wine: 4 / 10

Vertigo

Unos, dos, tres, catorce! Yes, one, two, three, fourteen, everyone knows Bono’s Gaelic math isn’t that great. There are so many descriptions of why they counted like that, and yet none of them are reasonably likely other than the possibility that Bono just made an error. My other favorite was the idea that How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was U2’s fourteenth album, and they were giving it a shoutout at the start of the album. Baloney, of course, because it was the eleventh, and even if you count Under A Blood Red Sky and the Passengers album you’re still short by one. There isn’t another one out there that you could count, at least not reasonably.

I think I love everything about this song, from the first drumsticks tapping in the song to the last moments of both drum and guitar. It has great music throughout, the lyrics are short and punchy sentences, the whole thing works really well. There are so many interesting lines in the song, if I were to list the ones that were triggered for me I could just about list the entire song, there’s a lot of words that make me think of it. My favorite line, which I think may be a lot of people’s favorite, is “girl with crimson nails has Jesus round her neck,” that line is very poetic but also very descriptive. I can just imagine that girl in my mind’s eye, just from this one line.

The guitar is especially good for me, I’ve never played the song, but I really feel like I could without too much effort. There’s significant parts where Edge is just playing a scratchy bit back and forth, which should be fairly easy, right, then it steps up to the interesting parts and there’s a lot of ringing back and forth, then it explodes into the chorus. It all sounds really good, and relatively simple, I should be able to play each of the parts separately, then mix them altogether and be playing the song. I think that would work, I’d be playing it in no time. It’s not like I haven’t tried that with a bunch of other songs and not gotten very far with them. But this one, yeah.

Actually I do have a slight problem with Vertigo, and it’s that I do feel like I have heard the song a little too much. There is the feeling of a little bit of an overdose with it, or maybe like when you eat just a bit too much sugar, or a bit too much ice-cream, and you feel like you’re a little bit bloated on it. So you want to go eat something savory to try and balance out the sweetness. I’m not sure what that savory song is that balances out Vertigo, but I’ll find it someday.

Missed the entire show today, was in meetings then busy doing other things for the whole afternoon. One of the few shows that I haven’t followed anything of it, I hope nothing exciting happened. I’m sure I would have seen something on Twitter if it had, right? Back into anticipation mode though, for the show from Paris on HBO on Saturday night. I’ve seen so much of it, but it’s going to be great seeing it on a bigger screen than my laptop or phone.

My rating for Vertigo: 8 / 10

Miracle Drug

If you like Miracle Drug, stop reading now. You’re not going to be happy about what I write. No, seriously, turn away, come back tomorrow for something much more interesting (I hope).

Miracle Drug is near the very bottom of any list of U2 songs I make. I have so many things wrong with the song that I don’t know where to start. It simply fails on too many levels to be a good song, from sound to lyrics. There is a slight bonus in the premise of the song, but it’s a little hokey even for Bono, and I’m afraid it doesn’t add much knowing about it. When they released Miracle Drug on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb it was an immediate dud for me, and it had been quite a while since I had disliked a song as much as I dislike this one.

Okay, so the music isn’t that bad. It’s slow, and doesn’t really pick up throughout, but it’s also not a great Edge song. There aren’t any tricks to it, anything especially interesting. There’s what sounds like some strings in the background, adding a slight layer, but well, not enough. I’m trying to figure out what the main instrument being played in the slow parts is, it sounds like a guitar but it also sounds like a piano. Is it just some effects on something, or can I just not recognize what it is? Okay, so that is some slight interest.

Now I think about it, there’s quite a bit of drums in this song, but they’re surprisingly quiet, they’re mostly drowned out by other stuff, and even when things get happening the cymbals crashing are drowned out by the guitar. And thinking further, there is a stunning lack of bass in the song. Maybe that’s the problem with it. I mean, I guess it’s there, it just doesn’t show up anywhere throughout the song. Like everything else, overshadowed by the guitar parts.

Alright, let’s get to the elephant in the room, the thing I hate most about this song, the lyrics. Bono has said it’s about a kid who was a paraplegic, but a miracle drug enabled him to communicate, and showed he had many ideas inside the body that couldn’t do anything. A lovely story, you might say, and somewhat reflected in the song, but still it’s not enough to make a song about. Why? Because the parts of the song that are talking about this person (mostly the first couple of verses, plus bits here and there elsewhere in the song) are rather stiff, rather wordy, not necessarily the kind of thing that Bono usually writes, where there is plenty of ambiguity in things. That’s where he usually succeeds, painting images rather than describing scenes.

And then we get to the heart of the matter. Some of the lines in this song are awful. “Of science and the human heart there is no limit.” “I’ve had enough of romantic love, I’d give it up for a miracle drug.” “In science and in medicine, I was a stranger you took me in.” One of these lines in a song would be bad, but to get them all is horrible writing. Sorry, Bono, I hate to say this, but it’s true. These are some of the worst lines you’ve ever written, so descriptive, so prosaic, so hard to read and hard to hear. I cringe at each and every one of them. Like I said above, stick to those fantastic lines where you’re giving us an idea or an image to think about, rather than something so descriptive like this. Awful.

My rating for Miracle Drug: 1 / 10

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

If I drew a curve of the songs I’ve rated, it would be a pretty good bell curve, as I had intended from the start. It would tend to bulge a little to the left due to all the non-album songs, which usually rate less well than album songs, but you would still see that shape with a hump in the middle and tails out to each side. It is somewhat similar with albums, most of them tend to land in the middle and a few out to the extremes. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is one that falls right around the middle of the hump, just a little above average, but the interesting thing is that it is a very divided album, with some great songs and some terrible songs. In fact if you divide the album into two halves, the first half would rate very highly, and the second half quite poorly. I don’t know if there is another U2 album that splits so much as Atomic Bomb.

Not a perfect split of course, there is a dud in the first half and a great song in the second half, but overall it’s true. The first half of the album has Vertigo, Love And Peace and City Of Blinding Lights, all fantastic songs which I gave 8s to in my ratings, as I did with Original Of The Species in the other half of the album. But Miracle Drug is the second song on the album, and I suspect I would have it in my bottom ten all-time of U2 songs, I dislike it that much. If Original and Miracle Drug switched places they would fit much better into my theme for the album.

Atomic Bomb (the name supposedly came from a nickname Bono gave his dad, Atomic Bob) was a twist from All That You Can’t Leave Behind. That album had been a much calmer, more introspective and melodious album. Atomic Bomb took off with Vertigo, much faster, darker and deeper than before, and continued through the first half of the album in that fashion. Actually now I think about it, the rockier songs on the album are the ones I like the best, while the slower ones not so much. Interesting. Also interesting that the ones that have stood the test of time - i.e. the ones that are being played today on tour - are those same faster songs.

I can’t say much about the album that I haven’t already said in reviews of the songs on it. At the time it felt like a shift in the band’s music, not a seismic shift like Achtung Baby, but certainly a shift from ATYCLB, which had been a shift from Pop. So maybe it felt like a searching, rather than a shift, looking for something new that was out there. But the following album, No Line, was a definite musical shift back toward what ATYCLB had been. That tends now to make How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb stand out a little in the timeline, rather than being part of a continuous flow, more like a blip that quickly came and went, shone like stars for a little while before the blinding lights went away.

I like Atomic Bomb, but the problem is what I said earlier, I like some of it and dislike others. I suspect this album is the one where I skip songs more than most if not all others. Not because I don’t like those songs, some of them are good by themselves, but rather that when I get into it I want to hear those really good songs together, and ignore the rest. I should probably make a playlist from the album, rearrange the order to satisfy what I think it should be.

My rating for How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb: 5.6 / 10

Vertigo tour

I saw the Vertigo tour live twice, both times in Texas. These were the days when I’d see the Texas shows and nothing else through a lack of money and time. Now I have time and money, which is why I was able to see them four times in Chicago this year (and hopefully more next year). I dream of following them around the world someday, although that would mean more time and money that I have.

From the opening of City Of Blinding Lights, one of my favorite songs off How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, we were in for a treat. Bono showing up at the edge of the circle as the music took off. Then into Vertigo, and there was definitely a sense of things happening everywhere. It wasn’t the sensory overload of Zoo TV, but there was a feeling that if you were looking in one direction you’d probably be missing something in the other direction.

I do remember thinking at some point that they had begun turning into a greatest hits band, and not liking the feeling. Sure, there are certain standards the band must play every night, although to be fair that list can probably be counted on one hand. Streets and Sunday for sure. Probably With Or Without You and One. The thing I like about the Innocence + Experience tour is how it really is about the new album, and bringing back old songs related to the theme of the new. That’s the big difference, that you’re hearing those songs they may not have played in 20 years or more, or at least that haven’t been regular parts of the set in so long. They’re not being the juke box, playing that top 20 and the crowd being happy. No, they’re playing the random stuff, the bits and pieces, and the crowd is ecstatic. And that’s a difference to Vertigo, which like I said definitely appeared to be a greatest hits show, nothing much new, nothing that wasn’t in that top ten. Much better these days.

Love And Peace Or Else is one of those songs that are good, but so much better live. The way they played that on this tour was great, with Bono and Larry out at the end, singing together, then it ending with Larry leaving, and Bono drumming out the finish. I remember my wife loving that part, with Bono drumming. Then it segued into Sunday Bloody Sunday, and it did it so well, it was fantastic. Not necessarily going to say it was the best ever Sunday, but certainly the best Love and Peace (although not too much competition there). And of course by then Bono had donned the Coexist headband, one of those things I also loved.

So the whole thing about the Vertigo tour is that it was a point in time for the band, it was what they were doing back then but it isn’t necessarily what they are doing now. It’s almost like it was the last of the greatest hits tours - 360 was in some ways, but despite all the hype there was more there than you think - and perhaps a bit of a new dawning for the band. The comments like the one Adam gave, saying that they’re okay playing for their fans now, rather than trying to get new fans, that gives me a lot of hope. If they produce more I+E stuff, versus Vertigo stuff, I will be very happy with the future of U2.

My rating for Vertigo tour: 10 / 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

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

All Because Of You

Some songs grab you, some don’t. Some end up being kind of average, kind of meh, neither being too good to listen to repeatedly, or too bad to skip. That’s what All Because Of You ends up being, not so good that I want to seek it out to play, but not bad enough that I skip over it all the time. If my theory that the rating number I give is really the number of times out of ten that I listen to a song when it comes on, rather than skipping it, that’s probably about right, but that might also be because I don’t have it in a regular playlist. That means that the few times it does come up, I listen to it about half the time. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the song, is it?

All Because Of You is pretty explicitly about religion, or maybe it isn’t. Well, I am sure it’s about religion, but then again given the writer we’re talking about, he could have thought it was about anything else. Or anyone else, the You being a person rather than God. But no, I do think it’s God, and I think he is giving thanks to God for everything that has come to him. Of course he thanks the fans for the same thing, so maybe the song is about us.

Now there are many parts of the song that don’t seem to be about God. Like the first couple of verses, where Bono says things like “Everything was ugly but your beautiful face” and “I saw you in the curve of the moon,” which kind of don’t sound religious at all. If you think of it much more as poetic or lyrical, then it might make a little more sense. The “beautiful face” rather than being a specific face of God, or image of God, could be more about the ideas of religion. The curve of the moon, yeah, you got me on that one.

The song does bring out one of my favorite lines of all time though: “I like the sound of my own voice, I didn’t give anyone else a choice,” which is just a funny line, very self-deprecating, and it’s one of those lines that pops into my head on a regular basis, triggered by a lot of things really, most notably that fact that if anyone says the word “voice” I think of the line. So it does come up pretty often.

I listened to Boston 2 tonight, it was very mixed up compared to the usual shows, but that was a good thing. And I did tweet during the show, that the version of Bad tonight was one of the best ever. Bad is one of my very favorite songs (oops, spoiler alert), and I enjoy hearing it in different ways. Tonight Bono threw in a couple of snippets, and it really made it kind of magical. Great song. Great show.

My rating for All Because Of You: 5 / 10

Crumbs From Your Table

Crumbs From Your Table has a very specific message, it has some nice and enjoyable music, but it is lost in a few places by the lyrics.

It is a fun and easy song musically, it’s a little light, plenty of guitar and drums but the bass disappears in the background, which is kind of why it is light, I guess. A relatively simple song musically, I have never tried to play it on my guitar but it sounds like something I could play, because it is slow enough to follow and simple enough that my fingers won’t tie themselves in knots trying to hit the right places on the strings.

The lyrics are where I get stuck on this song, because their message is either really in your face, or really broad, depending on how you look at it. From the title, waiting on the crumbs from your table, doesn’t suggest the idea of an entire country, simply because he uses the idea of a table, which people don’t think of as being something big. What he means is the aid that countries like the United States provide, that they’re only giving crumbs out and there are desperate people hoping even for that. The song is a little too repetitive for my liking as well, the chorus being repeated a little too much compared to the rest of the song. The other on the nose moment is the line “where you live should not decide, whether you live or whether you die,” which a lot of people don’t think of, they assume that they are naturally successful in life compared to most of the world, when reality is that they are born into a situation they are comfortable with. I have had too many conversations with people where they think they built everything themselves. Heck, Obama had a line during the last election, “you didn’t build that,” which was so twisted out of its meaning by the opposition, they were simply blind to the idea.

I have no problem with the band’s politics, or at least with Bono’s politics, since it often seems as if the rest of them are being dragged along with his causes (Larry especially feels this, I think, or I surmise from his few words and actions). Not that they don’t believe in them, they just sometimes seem to be hanging around waiting for him to be done with the cause, with the talking about the cause, so they can get on with the music. I will admit that I have been known to feel the same, that he attempts to preach a little much at times. It is somewhat ironic that I think this, because by and large I am right behind him when it comes to the political views he espouses.

The overarching feeling from this song is a rebuke of the western powers, perhaps most specifically the United States, in helping others. Bono has said several times that he thinks the US should do more for poor people around the world, and most especially in Africa, because we can afford it and they need it. He is right, of course. There have been so many stories that people in the US think that we spend 25% of our budget on foreign aid, when we should be helping ourselves first. Reality is that it is less than 1%, but people don’t want to hear that, they want to hear that we are magnanimous but those foreigners are ungrateful. Shameful, really.

My rating for Crumbs From Your Table: 4 / 10

City Of Blinding Lights

If you haven’t seen all the videos that @U2 has been putting on YouTube for the Innocence + Experience tour, go look at them now. They have had some great coverage of the entire show, it’s not quite like being there but it is near to it. Take a look at the video for City Of Blinding Lights, they have transformed it once again, this time with a Stephen Hawking intro and all the video you see on the screen. It’s amazing. And they used it as the regular opening song for the Vertigo tour, with the light curtains coming down, when Bono would appear out on the edge of the heart, another great scene to see. Seems like the song brings out the inspiration for showmanship in the band.

City Of Blinding Lights is one of the few songs I have loved since first hearing it. From the moment it starts with the high pitched guitar and piano, with their twinkling together point by point, until it accelerates into the rest of the song as the drums and bass join in, it grabs me and doesn’t let go. Those moments where Edge is playing into the long whine of the guitar just sound great. I love the “Oh. You. Look. So. Beautiful. Tonight.” sound of the words, the cadence Bono sings them at, it is a huge raising of the spirits. 

So the point of the song appears to be about the big city, but it’s also about growing up. The city lit by fireflies, it could be the city that Zooropa was based on, it could be the stepping out into the world from wherever you come from. It actually fits nicely into the Innocence part of the current tour, because much of it is about the early days, about the band heading to the bright lights of the big city, “getting ready to leave the ground.” They’ve been using it on the tour as the opener for the encore, when really it could be the end of part one, or the beginning of part two of the show. Not that I should be telling U2 how to create their set of course (although I will, sometime later in the year).

“Blessings not just for the ones who kneel, luckily” is what Bono sings at the end, and this is his hint toward religion and the idea of God. See, there are people who say that if you’re not a true believer in their religion, if you don’t pray all the time, if you’re not “saved,” and most importantly if you don’t give them money on a regular basis, then you’re not going to heaven. But what Bono says here is far more religious than any of those people, his thought being that even if you don’t pray to him, God will forgive you and let you into heaven, because it is your actions and thoughts that make the decision, not that you were born in the right place or chose the right church to pray in.

My rating for City Of Blinding Lights: 8 / 10

Yahweh

Yahweh. I guess you can tell by the title that I’m going to have to say something about religion. Ironically, there is little to nothing in the song that actually refers to religion, despite the title, which is another word for God in Hebrew. I suppose you could say that the line “I’m waiting for the dawn” could be a religious reference, but that might be a stretch. Then there’s the city shining on the hill, which usually means Jerusalem but I read somewhere that it also refers to America these days, based on a Reagan speech.

But that’s just me. I mean, I tend to look at lyrics very superficially for the most part, looking at the words and seeing what they say. There are often times when I have entirely missed the meaning of something, because I’m reading the words and not the intent. As an example, I googled this song to see what others have said about it, and found several places where the writer went deep into the song, picking apart every line and pointing out the religious significance of it. I can tell you that I am no religious scholar, I cannot quote chapter and verse from the bible (I can do a pretty good job with Psalm 40 though), so many of those references do go over my head. I tend to enjoy a song for what it is, although there are times when I have gone deep into a song and found my interpretation to be exactly what Bono was thinking about. And vice versa, that my thoughts were wildly off from what he was writing.

The song is quite repetitive, but in this case it’s the good kind of repetitive. It’s not just repeating a verse, or a chorus, but in this case it’s repeating a theme. Every pair of lines beginning with “Take this” or “Take these” establishes that theme, but then it breaks into a different outcome every time. It does this in a very clever way, in what I guess you would call ABAC rhyming, although it’s not the rhyme I’m talking about but the whole line. Meaning the first line is repeated as the third line, and the second and fourth are different results of what should be done with the first line. If you’ve heard the song, you know what I mean, although if you haven’t you have no clue what I’m talking about, and my description probably makes little sense too.

The music for the song is fairly generic though. The bass is relatively quiet, it does give a background but doesn’t really drive the song. The drums are similar, they pop up here and there and you think the song is going to take off, but it doesn’t. The rest of it is just music, playing along quietly, almost hymnal you could say, until the actual Yahweh sections, when it does pump up a bit, but then drifts back down again. They do go into a change though (“waiting for the dawn”), and as is often the case it’s my favorite part of the song. In fact the second change part (“Take this city”) is just about as good. I like those lyrics the best, the take the city section.

My rating for Yahweh: 4 / 10

Original Of The Species

Back to back highly rated songs. When How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb came out, I immediately latched onto Original Of The Species, I think I played it more than the rest of the album combined. Maybe if you exclude City Of Blinding Lights, anyway, which I probably played half as much as Original, or twice as much as anything else.

I don’t know why I fell in love with Original Of The Species. The music is soft and slow, but sounds really good. The lyrics work well too. Even the video is good. It’s just a whole package, like yesterday’s Peace On Earth each part seems to be working together to make something more than the whole. Umm, something like that, right? “You are the first one of your kind” is a great line, as is “You steal right under my door.”

Original Of The Species starts with some keyboards, slow and simple, kicks it up a notch, then another. There are a couple of places where there’s this really cool twang of the guitar, barely noticeable behind everything else, but if you listen around 2:00 to 2:10 for example (and a few other places), concentrate on Edge and you’ll hear it. I love that part. This feels like one of those songs I should be able to play myself, although I haven’t even gone looking for a guitar tab for it. Maybe I should try.

The video is fun, a lot of CG which looks both interesting and creepy at the same time. I think those are Adam and Larry wireframe heads floating around here and there, although they seem to morph back and forth making it confusing. Splashes of the Mysterious Ways dancer, or at least a similar idea for it. And Bono is back into the bad lip-syncing mode that he was in many of the early U2 videos. I actually spent a little time digging around trying to find those wireframe models somewhere online, I figured they would be easily available, but no. 3D CG modeling is one of my hobbies, I’d love to get models of the guys and mess around with them a little, animate them on a stage somewhere.

I think the song is about a child, literally the child of one of the band. Don’t remember which, but I’m thinking about Edge’s daughter maybe? He had one that was very ill, and maybe the song was written around that time. It’s kind of saying that you’re unique no matter what, that you’re different to anyone else. It is nicely coincidental that I’m writing this song and about this right now, because I’m thinking of some stuff that went on for someone today, and trying to send that thought to them. Note to everyone reading this, remember Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t be a dick.”

I cannot get away from this review without mentioning Bono and his self-references. “Some things you shouldn’t get too good at, like smiling, crying and celebrity, Some people got way too much confidence, baby.” Love those lines, they always make me laugh.

My rating for Original Of The Species: 8 / 10

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own

So we reach the one hundredth day of the year and still going strong. I don’t think I need any help with this, although Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own. Okay, sorry, just a small joke there.

I do like this song, it is at times slow and soft, and at times a little quicker. It is very lyrical, very poetic you might say, and you might also say that it’s because of the subject matter (Bono’s father), and that Bono is a much better writer when he is writing about something very personal. He certainly struck a chord with this song.

Curiously enough, I was thinking earlier today about Bono, and wondering how much different his life might have been if his mother hadn’t died when she did, when he was a teenager. Would he have gone on to be a huge star? Part of me thinks he would, that his outsize personality would have pushed him in that direction no matter what, but part of me thinks that things could have been much different. It’s the idea of a butterfly flapping its wings, just the slightest change might turn things out very differently. I sometimes think that about a ballgame, that if one person in the crowd had turned one way instead of the other, what ripples would that cause and could it change the outcome?

But I bring all that up because I am thinking of this song. Like I said, it is about Bono and his father and their relationship. My father died when I was very young, so I did not have that relationship, which attracts me both to the story of Bono’s mother and to this song. I sometimes wonder what differences would be in my life. I can almost guarantee that I would not be where I am today without that event in my life, and I think of both the good and bad sides of things. I’m pretty sure I would never have gone on to be a rockstar though.

The song is as I said poetic. There is a strong feeling of melancholy rolling through it, but on the other hand I get this feeling of being uplifted by it as well. It has a way of being both at the same time, which is just weird. I think this is possibly the clearest song he’s ever sung, I get every single word from it without any problems, which doesn’t always happen. Maybe because the lyrics are what make the song, and the music in the background really is just that, an accompaniment to the words. And the bridge in it is great, I especially like the line “Can you hear me when I sing,” which more properly should be written “Can. You. Hear. Me. When. I. Siiiiing,” it sounds just like that, stopping after every word, before going into the long sing, followed by the opera part. Really fun to listen to.

I do sometimes conflate this song with Stuck In A Moment, not for any reason other than a general sentiment. Stuck was dedicated to Michael Hutchence, and there are times when I think “oh, the Hutchence song, Sometimes You Can’t Make It,” then I have to pause and think “no, not that one, Stuck In A Moment.” Maybe because they both have long titles. More likely because they’re both dealing with the issue that you need friends to get you through sometimes.

My rating for Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own: 7 / 10

Love And Peace Or Else

Have you ever noticed that the Or Else is always left off this song? Even I just call it Love And Peace, mainly because the Or Else is never sung during the song. So why is it on there? Love And Peace is repeated half a dozen times, but the Or Else, nowhere.

This is a great song. The music is good, the lyrics are good, the pace of the song works well, there is little to not like about it. I have enjoyed Love And Peace ever since it was released. They have these fun little pauses throughout the song before launching into the next part, like the moment just before “Lay down your treasure” near the start, where everything just seems to stop for a second, then kicks off again.

I’m thinking that Love And Peace is possibly the drummiest song in U2 history. It’s so drummy that during the Vertigo tour they would have Larry come out to the edge of the circle with Bono, and do the drumming out there. He would stand there drumming for a bit, looking kind of embarrassed to be out front, sing “release, release” with Bono, then head back to his regular drums before the end. And Bono, in a part I always loved, would then pick up the sticks and finish up the drumming, and then drum into the start of Sunday Bloody Sunday. Like I said, I loved that part of the concert. Bono would also put on the Coexist headband during the song, which I think was the first time he displayed that. I always liked that too, one of those messages that you wish a whole lot of people would see and heed.

I’m not sure that I have a good explanation for the lines “As you enter this life, I pray you depart, with a wrinkled face, and a brand new heart.” You might say it’s obvious, that I hope you live a long life. But what about the brand new heart? I once thought it meant that you should have had a heart transplant, but that’s just crazy, right? So I guess it means you should stay young at heart? Or live a life of renewal, where your heart keeps being renewed? I don’t know.

The other oddity about this song is the theme. Obviously it’s talking about trying to stop war, especially given the times when it was released and the US was rushing into a foolish war that would cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars. But then there’s the little twist that Bono gives the song by also turning it into a love song, talking about a couple having a fight and trying to make peace between themselves. Or else the end of the relationship. And the background is the tv with the real war starting, and that sounds really like a movie of some kind, doesn’t it? The idea being that a couple in the front is having their battle and the war is on in the back. You could go several places with that. Goes back to my previous ideas for putting songs together into a movie.

My rating for Love And Peace Or Else: 8 / 10

U2 3D (movie)

I am on record many times in saying that U2 live is way better than any U2 record. Even Rattle And Hum, which is a live album and live movie, has moments of non-live performances, which drop it down a little. That’s not to say everything live is better than everything recorded, but I can’t think of anything that isn’t. There are probably some live songs where I don’t listen to the song, and skip to the next, I guess some of the top recorded stuff would beat that. To emphasize this point, I can tell you that I have two playlists on my phone, one is called U2 and the other is called U2 Live. Right now the U2 playlist has 162 songs on it, and U2 Live has 40 songs. I actually have many more than that, I just chop and change on a regular basis. So yes, I love listening to U2 live.

U2 3D is a U2 concert movie, in 3D obviously, and is as close as you can get to being at a U2 concert without actually being there. Better than any of the DVDs for their various tours, better than Rattle And Hum, it is simply a live show for $10 at the theater instead of $100 at a concert. The part where the camera is flying over the stage from back to front, above Larry then across and above Bono, is just fantastic. That is my singular memory from the movie.

A great set, although at fourteen songs it is way too short. I prefer my concerts to be twenty-five or more, and sometime later this year in one of these reviews, I’ll create my perfect setlist (it might be a couple hundred songs long). But it is a good look at the Vertigo tour, even though looking at the setlist I can immediately pop a few obvious songs into it. No Still Haven’t Found? No Walk On? Well, they have said they don’t want to be a greatest hits band.

And yet I confess I only saw it once. I wasted too much time before seeing it, saw it one time and then it closed. It is not available to purchase, I don’t know of anywhere that it shows in theaters nowadays, and reportedly they have no plans to release it. I don’t understand that. Sure, the technology is advanced, but there are now people with 3D TVs, why not make it available for them? I’d almost be convinced to buy a 3D TV just to be able to watch this movie (hint to 3D companies, you could sell more TVs if you got the band to release the movie…).

I would normally give something like this very close to a ten. If you consider that any live show would be a ten, then this is the next best thing to being there, and even better than that, because you get views that no-one in an audience could ever get. It’s very close to that, though now that I rethink my earlier comments, I actually think I would hesitate to say it is the best U2 concert video. Mostly because it does lose something for the short set.

So how do we get them to play it again (and again)?

My rating for U2 3D: 9 / 10

Smile

I don’t know how to talk about Smile. I quite honestly don’t know what the song is about, and I’m not sure if anyone else does either. It came out of the Atomic Bomb sessions. Never a B side, it was released in the Complete U2 digital set and then in Medium, Rare & Remastered. There is almost nothing official about it. Was it just a leftover that didn’t make the album cut? Personally I rate it higher than several of the songs that made the album, but that doesn’t mean others do.

So what’s it actually about? The lyrics are not necessarily helpful. You kind of assume, based on the airiness of the words and the tune, that it’s kind of a love song. But then you stop yourself, because the repeated line through the song is “I don’t want to see you smile,” and that’s the opposite of a love song. So not about relationships, at least not good ones. Could it be talking about the end of a relationship, and you don’t want to see the other person being happy? In that case I would think of it as from the perspective of the person who’s been dumped, and they’re mad about it. Obvious line to get that idea from is “love is in this soul of mine, it’s not in your eyes”, but there’s also “the smoke machine is yours not mine”. It’s definitely possible to think about it that way, but I can’t say I’m one hundred percent in love with that idea.

So it is about religion? References to God, praying, “the ground to kneel upon”, “I will live again”. All these flat-out tell us religion, but then how to interpret them in that way? Is it about death? As I read the first verse, I’m thinking of someone that has died (“gravity not pulling me”, “picture with no sound”, “decaying”). Second verse is leaving their earthly body (“I’m breaking it”). Third has the obvious (“I’m leaving on the day of the dead”, and “I will live again, you will live again”). So I could interpret it that way, but that still leaves us with the smile line. “I don’t want to see you smile”. Is he saying he doesn’t want to go to heaven and see God, who will smile when he gets there? I don’t see it as wanting to go to hell, but rather as not being ready to go to heaven.

Well that was very interpretive of me, wasn’t it? Does it make sense, any of it? Maybe this is one of those moments when you realize that a song can have multiple interpretations depending on how you look at it, and what you’re feeling when you hear it. And then you get a definitive answer from the person who wrote it, and it turns out to mean something else.

But I’ll tell you one thing I do know: this is a really nice song. I like the music a lot, soft, slow, a little dreamy. The lyrics, if you don’t try and interpret them too deeply, are very singable. I’m always happy when I hear this song come on.

My rating for Smile: 6 / 10