Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Defending the Music XX: How Long to Sing Their Song..?

I've been putting this off.

I was waiting for something specific to happen. Something relating to the band I'm dealing with in this post, but then the night it was supposed to happen (night before last) it was totally upstaged by something relating to the artist I've been saving for last! So I figure that it's shit or get off the pot time for both artists...

First up - U2.

Yeah, they are almost too easy a choice. But I do get to genuinely make the claim that I was a fan before they became huge.

I recall sitting on my friend Scott's bed when he snuck into his sister's room to borrow a record (you know records - those big black CDs with two sides) and put it on the stereo... the first U2 song I ever heard was Sunday Bloody Sunday. That strident riff permanently seared upon my ears.
I remained aware of U2 over the next year or two, even though I didn't really emotionally tie myself to them until the night of my senior prom.
I was a big fan of The Cult. Electric was released the same week as The Joshua Tree. I bought them both. For the next two weeks I listened to Electric non-stop and never cracked the U2 album. I don't recall what it was that finally inspired me to listen to it, but that evening as I was getting ready I pulled out the cassette and put it my bedroom deck. Before Bono's vocals on Where the Streets Have No Name cut in, I had sunk into my bed, rapt. I quit getting ready and simply listened to the entire first side. It was a life changing moment. As I drove out of the driveway (late) to pick up Shannon, my girlfriend, With or Without You came on the radio. It played again that night at the dance. There's no doubt that a moment in time can profoundly tie the music you hear to it and make it special, and perhaps that happened that night to some degree, but that first listen was so profound - the rest was just gravy. To this day, The Joshua Tree is my number one desert island disc. It is music as vast as the space between here and their Dublin home.

Six months later I was at BC Place with 50000 other true believers watching the best concert I have ever seen. The less than three days before had been the Enniskillen Bombing. If you've seen Rattle and Hum, the footage of Sunday Bloody Sunday was filmed the night of the bombing. They were still four extremely angry Irishmen the night I saw them. I'm betting that at that point in their career they had played few concerts that were more intense. It was awe inspiring.

Now, over twenty years later, they have managed to remain relevant. Not to say that they haven't had worrisome low-points (Pop, I'm looking at you.) but even those have grown on me, and they also allowed the band to rise again.

Never satisfied to rest upon their laurels they've constantly tweaked and updated their sound and techniques, and as amazing as anything else they are still the same four guys that started the band together in 1976. Their ability to put new songs into heavy rotation after being indoctrinated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (something a band isn't even eligible for until they've been recording for twenty five years) makes the claims of a certain other self-proclaimed "Greatest Band on Earth" laughable. Here is their R&RHoF induction - it's wicked, and The Boss does a better job of canonizing them than I can. Trying, would just be embarrasing, I'll let him do my work for me: Part 1, Part 2, Bono's Acceptance, Adam's Acceptance, Vertigo & Larry's Acceptance, Edge's Acceptance & Still Haven't Found....

Indeed, with the way music has fractured (not a bad thing), U2 may well be the last band to ever unequivocably be the best. No doubt they always will be my best.

They are so huge, that there is a separate line item in the Irish revenue service's budget just for taxes collected from U2.

I could go on ad nauseum itemizing their achievements, but this is not intended to be a history. Leave that to Behind the Music, so let's skip to the recent past and glance a little ways back and project a bit forward.

A month or so ago I saw their new concert movie - U23D. It was amazing. This was the material 3D was made for. Sonically it is spectacular. These guys still put on an amazing concert. Additionally, the director of the film knew enough to put hte 3D camera in places where we'd get to see things which we normally don't. Seeing the crowd amorphously jump up and down in time ot the music from just about their heads was very cool in 3D - which really played up the speed of sound, as the crowd didn't actually jump as one, but in visible ripples towards the back of the stadium. But the most amazing technical sight was a lens flare in 3D. We do not naturally see lens flare with the naked eye, so we don't typically get to experience it with our binocular vision. All we ever see is the flattened version on a normal movie screen... but not this time. 3D lens flare is one of the first sights in the film. It's mind blowing. And it sets the stage for what follows.

U23D should do for Love and Peace or Else, what Live Aid did for Bad - make the song a career-classic.

A new album is on the way. It's been a while since they've fallen flat on their faces, so I'm prepared for that. But I have little doubt that like Pop and Rattle and (Ho) Hum before it, even if it is a disappointment, there will be diamonds in the ashes, even if it takes some digging to find them

It's been nearly 21 years since I first started considering the message, and I keep finding new depths to it. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For is a manifesto to celebrate. U2, despite their outrageous success, continue to appreciate the journey and may they never content themselves with a destination. I aim to live my life the same way.

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