Category: U2 (Page 2 of 8)

So—how did I do with the U2 setlist?

Earlier in the week, I posted my setlist prediction for U2’s performance at Dreamforce. As with any opinion piece, I had some mail about “how so wrong” I was and how some of my choices were “beyond long shots.”

I’m pleased to report, that although I wasn’t completely right, I was mostly right. See above for the side-by-side comparison of what I thought they would play and what they actually played, in the order they played them.

The set was also shorter than I had projected (by three songs), but that’s okay. Their performance blew me away and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. Especially their epic Trump rant and “40” at the end.

Simply brilliant.

Dreaming About Dreamforce

The Edge on the Vertigo Tour, Madison Square Garden, October 7, 2005.

Heading down the coast later this week for the Concert for Kids charity U2 gig that’s part of the Dreamforce conference, I’m already conjuring up thoughts of the rush I’ll get as my heroes take the stage. I haven’t seen them perform live since my birthday trip to Dublin last November, so I couldn’t be more ready for that rush.

For those who aren’t as passionate (or downright nutty) as us, part of what we “superfans” do is debate the setlist. Before (sometimes during) and after shows, we like to predict, celebrate (or mourn) and de-brief about which songs were played. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what they’d play leading up to this event until I saw today that they’re resurrecting their stadium stage from the Vertigo tour for the show. And because I’m someone who believes inanimate objects hold energy, and I also believe that Bono will feel like “time traveling” a bit, my opinion on what they will likely play has shifted.

Before I go any further, I should disclaim: I honestly have no tips or inside information on this setlist, so if I turn out to be wildly accurate, just chalk it up to my years of following them on the road and a healthy dose of God-given intuition. If I turn out to be completely wrong, well, that’s fine too.

I should also say that this is in no way, shape or form my “dream setlist.” If I had any say in the matter, a lot of the greatest hits would fall by the wayside to be replaced by sentimental favorites, or they’d just play their War album start to finish.

This list isn’t what I think they even should do, it’s what I think they will do.

  1. Vertigo — The stage is literally set for them to bust this out, and I’m 100% sure they will. Why do I think they’ll open with it? Bono can count the crowd in with some Spanish. It’s hard not to jump up and down when they start playing it. Most of the audience will know it even if they’re not U2 fans (especially if their memories go back as far as 2004 when it was featured in an iPod commercial). Side note: he hasn’t sang “twinkle” since then. It’s “sparkle” now. Just an FYI.
  2. Elevation — While the crowd is amped, they’ll want to keep them that way, and this song is another one that’s so familiar (if only because it’s often played at sporting events), it will do the trick.
  3. Beautiful Day — Obligatory. They’re in California. It most likely will be a beautiful day. And everyone knows the words.
  4. Even Better Than The Real Thing — Taking the average age of the crowd into consideration, something from Achtung Baby should come out by now, and I’m bargaining it’s the least exciting (but arguably most recognizable) one.
  5. Stuck in a Moment (You Can’t Get Out Of )— Five songs in, they’ll slow it down and for some reason, I think they’ll do it with this. Can’t explain it; just feeling it. Maybe even a “California” snippet at the end. This choice isn’t logical, by the way. Just a gut feeling.
  6. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For — A crowd pleaser for sure, this one would fit nicely after that ^ one.
  7. The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) — They opened their shows with this on the most recent tour, and it’s the song they played the day they (gasp) gifted us their free album during the Apple event two years ago. Dreamforce is a tech crowd, and even if the audience members aren’t die-hard U2 fans, they’ll probably have heard this at least once before. I don’t think they can not play something from the current album, and this is the most logical choice.
  8. I Will Follow — Bono will give some speech about how The Ramones inspired them, blah, blah and break into their most recognizable early hit.
  9. Desire — The band caused quite a stir last week with their Donald Trump take on this song at the iHeartRadio Music Festival. A month out from the election? They’ll do it again, I hope.
  10. Bullet the Blue Sky — They’ll follow with this to add an exclamation point to that ^. Outside, it’s America.
  11. The Fly — With graphics that speak to the election (hopefully). How great would it be to see the phrases from this hateful Donald Trump word cloud make an appearance in the classic Fly sequence? So great.
  12. Sunday Bloody Sunday — While they’re pissed, this is a natural path to take, turning from America’s injustices to Ireland’s.
  13. Every Breaking Wave — Another radio-friendly song from the current album to calm things down (This is when douchey jerks in the audience will refill their beers. Sorry, it’s just true).
  14. One — Bono will need a break by this point and he can make the crowd sing this one. Don’t act like you don’t know it.
  15. Mysterious Ways — They’ll wake everyone back up with this dance-y pleasure, which I (for the record) never get tired of hearing/seeing.
  16. New Year’s Day — This is a bit of a wild card, but it could work.
  17. Where the Streets Have No Name — They have to.

Encore

18. Pride (In the Name of Love) — They can’t put it off too much longer; the show is almost over.
19. Walk On — A little hope for the ride home.
20. With or Without You — Easy choice. Good choice. Good night.

WILLIAM BLAKE AND THE INSPIRATION BEHIND U2’S SONGS OF INNOCENCE

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

The year was 1788. Artist William Blake was still grieving the loss of his beloved brother Robert, who had passed away several months prior. He was searching for an inventive way to share his personal poetry that was less laborious than the method he employed for his day job as an engraver for various London publishers.

One night, his late brother visited him in a dream, offering precise instructions on how to create a new way of presenting the work via copperplate. The coloring of the pages was to be done by hand and no two copies of the work in progress were to be identical. Even the order in which the poems were presented was supposed to alternate.

Blake followed this ghostly guidance to the letter and published 19 poems the following year, which made up the Songs of Innocence collection. Five years later, he added 26 more and called that group Songs of Experience. Presenting them together as a pair, they became: Songs of Innocence and Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.

The works were reissued by Blake several times throughout his career; the timeless essence of the subject matter never expiring.

So, what does that have to do with U2?

In obvious terms, the band took the name for their current (and presumably next) album from these poetry books. In a broad sense, the themes Blake explores in his texts (childhood innocence, social injustice, poverty, conflicting aspects of religion) are identical to those of U2.

Bono is quoted as saying the Songs Of Innocence album is all about “first journeys” and “falling in love.” We can only assume that the second volume will reflect an older perspective.

The fact that Blake released these works of art in a new and inventive way for his time is also a parallel, as (love it or hate it) U2 released their album via iTunes in a way no other band had ever before.

The Presence of Nature

An undeniable infusion of nature is repeated throughout William Blake’s collection. Whether he’s “weeping in the evening dew” or has “smil’d among the winters snow,” he’s embracing the natural world. In The School Boy, the young narrator finds joy in his earthly surroundings:

I love to rise in a summer morn
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the sky-lark sings with me.
O! What sweet company.

Similarly, U2 lyrics on Songs Of Innocence are rich with landscapes and environmental descriptions. When Bono sings about U2’s first visit to the Golden State in “California (There Is No End To Love),” he can’t help but remember the color of the sky:

California, blood orange sunset
Brings you to your knees
I’ve seen for myself
There’s no end to grief

Nature is also used to describe a memorable childhood place. In Blake’s The Ecchoing Green, it’s a location where kids played in their youth:

The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around
To the bells’ cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the ecchoing green.

For Bono, the beauty found in his best friend’s yard brings comfort to “Cedarwood Road:”

And that cherry blossom tree
Was a gateway to the sun
And friendship, once it’s won
It’s won, it’s one

There are countless other references to nature in both works that mention the ocean, the sky, stars and seasons. A relatable and universal way for each artist to convey a mood — even if over 200 years apart in delivery.

Religious Overtones

Though neither Blake’s poems nor U2’s album could be considered strictly religious, they’re both laced with references to Christianity. God and the church are both celebrated and condemned in each collection.

In Blake’s poem The Divine Image, he urges non-judgment and shows that God is compassionate:

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew;
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

In “Lucifer’s Hands,” U2’s singer delights in God “saving” him through music:

The spirit’s moving through a seaside town
I’m born again to the latest sound
New wave airwaves swirling around my heart

You no longer got a hold on me
I’m out of Lucifer’s hands

Alternately, Blake takes God to task for the suffering of the poor in Holy Thursday:

Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reducd to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

And in U2’s “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight,” shades of priestly abuse are evident:

Hope is where the door is
When the church is where the war is
Where no one can feel no one else’s pain

You’re gonna sleep like a baby tonight
In your dreams everything is alright

In Blake’s time, he was considered radical for his vocal opposition to the Church of England. While Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam are probably known more for their political voice, all but Adam have previously identified as religious, so it’s a slight about-face to see them so blatantly criticize the church.

The Poetry of the Innocence + Experience Tour

Conceptually, the tour aligns quite well with William Blake’s books. U2 begin each show with “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” which details their collective loss of musical innocence seeing Joey Ramone live for the first time as teens. They typically follow that tune with songs from their earliest albums (except “Vertigo”) before going into “Iris,” which is about Bono’s mother. William Blake’s poem The Chimney Sweeper is about a child who lost his mother when he was young.

Next in the show, U2 explore Bono’s childhood and life in general as a young man in 1970s Ireland. Blake’s Songs Of Innocence shows children both “lost” and “found” as they navigate childhood among life’s joys and challenges in 1700s London.

As the show progresses, the band members grow metaphorically older, referencing events that happened as they aged. Following intermission, they launch into the “experience” portion of the concert, with songs that reflect their later years as men who have fallen in love, raised families, found fame, suffered loss. Though the setlist changes from night to night, they clearly move to the “other side of the barricade” in this second half of the show.

Even the way the songs are presented — heavy on the visuals, with books and pages falling from the stage and sky, respectively, each night — mimics the spirit of Blake’s ancient copperplates; conveying images in a way that had never before been seen. No other lead singers have leapt into a cage mid-show that displayed their childhood street as they sang along to the description of it. Nor have concertgoers clamored to collect ripped pages of books they were (most likely) forced to read in young adulthood, searching for the symbolism as they Google paragraphs of old text on their smartphones.

Only Part of the Story

Though I’m guessing the inspiration didn’t go much deeper than the general concept of Blake’s poems for U2, the similarities in theme are evident. Plus, the band’s history with this collection of poems goes all the way back to the late ’80s, when they recorded the song “Beautiful Ghost/Introduction to Songs of Experience,” taking the lyrics directly from Blake’s Introduction to Songs of Experience. Perhaps they were intentionally prophetic, giving us a taste of things to come. The fun in searching for clues to the method of U2’s madness stems from the theoretical puzzle pieces the band so generously doses out. However, because the album Songs Of Experience has not yet been completed, it’s hard to draw a comprehensive comparison between the works.

Of course, if U2 really wanted to pay homage to the legendary poet (and please the marketing department at their record label), they could pull a different kind of stunt when the next album is released. Instead of issuing vinyls and CDs with a fixed playlist, they could mix up the tracks and offer several different versions with the songs in no particular order, just like Blake issued his copperplate pages.

This would not only put a smile on the faces of William Blake fans everywhere and potentially sell more albums (since completist fans would want at least a few variations in sequence), but it would also force them to make songs so brilliant and versatile that they’d shine regardless of the order in which they were played.

Not that they wouldn’t shine anyway.

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2015.

Please note: the spellings and punctuation used in referencing William Blake’s poetry is authentic to the way he wrote the works in the 1700s.

U2 Lists: Top 10 U2 Songs of Comfort in Times of Grief

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

Having recently experienced a sudden death in the family, I became overwhelmed with emotions that I didn’t even know I had. I’ve described it as a profound sadness coupled with pain that hurt deep in my chest. In an instant, things that would normally take precedence in my everyday life became insignificant; colors that brightened my world went dull.

Within hours of the loss, I was bombarded with calls, flowers and social media messages. I had to turn my phone to vibrate because the sound of the texts constantly going off made me crazy. Later the buzzing made me nuts as well, so I buried the phone under pillows for several hours. Though everyone sending those messages had only the best of intentions, what I needed more than anything was peace and quiet.

As the days dragged on, I lost track of space and time. I thought weekends were weekdays and nighttime was morning. The thick fog of Oregon matched the haze of my brain, which was out of focus and fuzzy with despair. When I was ready to accept what had happened, and felt obligated to respond to those who had checked in, I began scrolling all of the beautiful messages that had been left for me on Facebook, and reading the kind texts and emails that were sent. Perhaps predictably, some of the ones that brought me the most comfort were those that somehow referenced U2.

I smiled one of my first genuine smiles following the passing when I opened a card from my friend and she’d tucked in a drawing her 5-year-old daughter completed of the band. Tears came to my eyes when another friend simply wrote “Kite” in the comments field of my announcement of the loss. Several folks also sent lyrics in lieu of messages, and I loved that.

Of course, that prompted me to make a playlist for the drive back to Seattle. A reflective list consisting only of U2’s music. Weeks later, I’m still listening to it, still drawing comfort from the mix. If you find yourself in a time of grief, I invite you to do the same. In case you need help with the list, here are my Top 10:

10. MLK
This song is so hymn-like that it always has a calming effect on me. After friends and family convinced me it was okay to “return” to my life, I began to seek out the dark safety of movie theaters. I wanted to see stories and characters that matched my sadness, perhaps to encourage my body to release the pain. One of the first films I saw was the brilliant Selma, about the legendary civil rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This simple lullaby in his honor is as relevant today as it was when the band wrote it, if not more so. It helped me, and also reminded me of the personal tragedies suffered by those close to public figures.

9. Iris
Bono speaks of how he filled the absence of his mother with music, and what better way to pay tribute to her life than with this beautiful tune. The heavenly intro reminds me of the presence of angels and the lyrics speak to the truth in our longevity. I believe that sharing the physical world is only the beginning of our souls’ journey, and the light of love shines on.

8. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
Losing a loved one is always hard; losing a loved one with whom you had a difficult relationship can be harder. Bono seemed to discover the essence of his father toward the end of his life, and following his passing. The result was this raw meditation on all of the things they both got right and wrong along the way. An honest, gorgeous tribute to remind us all to do the best we can for as long as we have together.

7. Heartland
Though this song is about a place rather than a person, I found it incredibly cathartic on my drive back home from bereavement leave. Each day I wake, I’m a little further from the shock, a little more distant from the grief. Dawn does, indeed, change everything.

6. If God Will Send His Angels
In times of such deep despair it can certainly seem like a higher power is taking a vacation (if your beliefs include a higher power, of course). Like we’re all out on our own islands, making our way without any guidance or relief. It can be therapeutic to get mad, and this criticism of God’s silence, masked under a quiet cloak of melody, sure helped my anger seem justified when I needed it most.

5. One
In the aftermath of my loss, I immediately started putting thoughts down on paper. As I began to trace my experience, I realized that nearly everyone is flying blind in the wake of sudden grief. So, I wrote what I was feeling at each step of the way, and decided to publish it in hopes that people who will eventually endure the same thing will be more prepared than I was for the pain. I also wanted to stress that no one should apologize for the myriad of emotions they will confront that are completely out of their control. The response was overwhelming and one dear friend wrote me a note in appreciation of the piece, mentioning how we really do “carry each other” in times of need. We most certainly do, which is why this song remains in heavy rotation. The words are so simple, so pure, so true.

4. Kite
None of us know “where the wind will blow” and all we can do in the meantime is give this life of ours our best. Like the one-word title left for me by a friend, the simple poetry of this song soothes me. Just like watching the beautiful colors of a kite fly by — even if it’s “blowing out of control on a breeze,” the universe has still given it a purpose, profound in its own journey.

3. In a Little While
This is my go-to song for recovering from just about anything. I detailed why in an essay I wrote back in 2008, so I won’t go into it here, but I’m pleased to say it possesses the same healing powers it had when I first needed it over a decade ago. It holds up.

2. One Tree Hill
One of the most common lines that friends sent to me after the unthinkable happened, was the glorious, “I’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky” from this tragically beautiful song. What could I say? I was a sobbing mess every time I saw or heard it, but I loved getting it. It’s so touching, so sweet and says so much by saying so little. One of the greatest gifts U2 has ever given us, made personal by those I love.

1. Window in the Skies
This song may be an afterthought for many fans; casual listeners may not even realize that it’s U2, but I found it a great help the farther I got from my grief. “Oh can’t you see what love has done?” I most certainly can.

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2015

Column: Off the Record …, Vol. 14-636

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

Wow. What a week, right?

For those off the grid since Tuesday, let me catch you up …

If you live in one of the 119 countries that has iTunes available, and you possess an account, congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a new, free U2 album. It’s called Songs Of Innocence and it’s waiting there for you in your purchased items list. No, really, it’s there. Honestly, the only way Apple could’ve made the delivery any more magical is if they’d programmed Bono’s voice to say, “Am I buggin’ you? I don’t mean to bug ya,” upon log in.

Some of us would have laughed, but I get why many did not when they received the album. Though I was elated to watch our favorite frontman on stage at the iPhone 6 launch perform a little “E.T.” move and suddenly see all of the songs appear on my phone, I do understand the frustration of those folks who aren’t fans and didn’t ask for new music. I wouldn’t like it if an album by a band I disliked showed up without my prompting.

What I don’t understand are the scores of account owners who don’t know the band. Aside from various infants and toddlers, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t know who Bono is, and in my brain, if you know who Bono is, you know of the band U2 — even if you’re not a fan.


As if the whining anti-U2 chorus wasn’t loud enough, the band’s stunt with Apple also sparked a backlash of criticism from members of their own fan base, claiming the launch was too big and corporate. That it’s no longer about the music if big business plays a part.

Friends, I beg to differ.

U2 have always aimed to reach the masses. Bono’s repeated claims of wanting the title of “Best Band in the World” have never really slowed, nor does the band seem to create music that begs to be heard in a coffeehouse. Your goals for them (if you want them to keep it small) aren’t their goals.

There is no crime in smart marketing. U2 didn’t get to where they are today by hiding behind their fame; they’ve capitalized on it, as is their right to do. In fact, if they weren’t good at promoting themselves, none of us would even be having this conversation. Why punish them for a partnership that makes perfect sense? Since Tuesday, their back catalog has reappeared on the iTunes charts, securing some of the top spots. As late as Friday night, The Joshua Tree was at No. 7, cuddled right between the Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack and Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour. Not bad for a collection of songs that debuted in 1987.

They learned their lesson. No Line On The Horizon didn’t do as well as previous albums not because the music was bad, but because they marketed primarily to us: their tried-and-true fans who always wait for the Dave Fanning interview and the chat with Jo Whiley. We don’t expect to see them much on social media, but we buy their music anyway. With this new approach, they’re getting in front of millions who may never before have heard them (hard as that is to believe).

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Remember: Apple bought this album for our catalogs. We didn’t. Sure, we’ll have the option to get more songs if we buy a physical copy or order them digitally a la carte, but right now, the only paycheck they’ve received for Songs Of Innocence came from the tech giant. And like Bono said in his letter to us, it hurts smaller bands when anyone gives away music for free, so it was good that someone paid for it.

Our modern society needs corporations. In a perfect world we’d all buy bread from the baker down the street and get our shoes from the cobbler on the corner, but that’s not reality. I go to farmer’s markets and buy gifts on Etsy, but I also drink a lot of Coca-Cola and enjoy my DirecTV immensely. To put things in perspective: I’m sure that Larry’s first drum set was made by a corporation, as was the notepad Bono scribbled his lyrics upon in the ‘80s. Every vinyl album you ever bought was pressed in a factory of some sort; each cassette spooled in a manner of mass production. See where I’m going with this? The truth is, if you’re reading this right now, on a computer or a mobile device, via the Internet, you’re supporting big business. Make peace with it.

The artistic integrity of the music is in no way compromised by the way it’s distributed. It seems kind of silly to me that there are fans who think the Apple partnership in some way diminishes the creativity of the finished product. I don’t think this could be further from the truth, since we may have in fact got a better album from our band because the demanding launch deadline didn’t allow them to second-guess themselves and Phil Spector-ize their own masterpiece.


So, let’s talk about that masterpiece.

As I was listening to the new album, I couldn’t help but remember my first @U2 writing assignment 10 years ago. Only a contributor back then, I pitched an article to Matt about the similarities between my two favorite bands: U2 and The Beatles. He graciously accepted it and I happily scripted it. I feel like now I should update it.

If The Joshua Tree was U2’s Revolver and Achtung Baby was Sgt. Pepper, this is undoubtedly their first installment of The White Album. Hell, the album cover is even white, and I doubt that’s an accident.

I realize that the title Songs Of Innocence is a nod to British poet William Blake, but there are far more recognizable Beatles parallels for me.

“Iris” is like Lennon’s “Julia” both paying tribute to their mothers; “Cedarwood Lane” is akin to “Glass Onion” in that it reflects upon their personal childhood places. The backing vocals on The Beatles’ “Back In The U.S.S.R.” were intentionally sung like The Beach Boys; U2 pays tribute to that band in “California”.

Who knows what will match on Songs Of Experience?

I’m enjoying learning and feeling the tracks on ‘part 1’ in the meantime. I’ve been listening to all the songs in order, just like we used to in the old days, so they become a collective memory. And let me tell you, this is a raw, stunning album. There are no tortoises or cockatoos killing the buzz here.

I’m going on record saying this is the best thing they’ve done since Achtung Baby. There, I said it.

Here’s my list, ranked weakest to strongest, in my humble opinion:

11. California (There Is No End To Love) Though the nod to The Beach Boys is sweet, and I like California-the-state as much as the next girl, the song doesn’t put me there the way that “New York” catapults me to summer in the Big Apple or “Miss Sarajevo” throws me into a Bosnian war zone. It’s okay, is all.

10. Every Breaking Wave It’s not the song’s fault that I’d already heard it, but I just can’t muster genuine excitement for a track that I discovered on the last tour and thought, “Well, that’s nice.” It is nice, but it’s the most “recent U2” sounding song of the bunch, and I’m into the classics.

9. Song For Someone The guitar intro to this one is so quietly beautiful, and Bono’s voice so clear with Edge’s melodies to complement. The longing in the chorus I can feel in my bones, and I so appreciate that.

8. Iris (Hold Me Close) Bono’s gorgeous tribute to his late mother has all the hallmarks of classic U2, right from the first riff of Edge’s guitar to the honest emotion in Bono’s voice as he describes how the “ache in his heart” where she used to be has shaped him. Heartbreaking and satisfying.

7. This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now The soldier imagery combined with Larry’s old-school military drumming in this one is sublime. They threw a little Rockwell over the top and made it a late ‘70s dance track. A song that could be backed by a marching band or played at a disco. Such geniuses.

6. Cedarwood Road Ladies and gentlemen, The Edge is officially on fire. With lyrics like, “That cherry blossom tree was a gateway to the sun/And friendship, once it’s won, it’s won” over the top of that insane rock ’n’ roll guitar riff, we can see their childhood spring to life in full bloom.

5. The Troubles The haunting sound of Lykke Li’s voice layered over Bono’s, along with the strings, makes this one stand out like none of the others on the album. If this came on the radio, most people wouldn’t immediately recognize it as a U2 song because it’s such a departure for them. It’s fresh, oddly submissive and powerful.

4. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) I feel about them the way they feel about The Ramones. They awaken a very deep part of my soul, and that awakening has guided me for years. The African-inspired howls coupled with the beats throughout give the tune a tribal sensation that perfectly communicates the energy I feel when I’m amongst you fellow fans at one of their shows. We become part of the same vibration both physically and spiritually. And that will feel all the more amazing during this song with the Edge refrain radiating beneath us as the ground shakes.

3. Raised By Wolves This one could have been an extra track on Boy, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s angry and passionate and stripped-back and basic and visceral. I’d like more of these types of songs, please.

2. Sleep Like a Baby Tonight Bono channels John Lennon’s painful “Cold Turkey” voice for this menacing lullaby and hits falsettos we haven’t heard since Macphisto took the stage. The dreadful subject matter here likely allows those high-pitched demons to rise and that makes it all the more devastating. It’s the darkest track on the album, but also one of the most flawless.

1. Volcano This song allows Adam to shine with blinding brightness. When I listened to this for the first time, I could have sworn the bass rhythms traveled through my headphones, down my throat and into my chest, making my heart burst in time with every note. It was as if the music was buried in my cells, awaiting the cue from U2 to ignite. Each section of the song brings a different dimension to an already interesting arrangement. It’s complex in that you never know where it’s about to go, but each destination is better than the last. An absolute triumph.


Speaking of how “Volcano” felt like it was already inside me the first time I listened reminds me of a documentary I saw a few weeks back, for which I am now obsessed. It’s called Alive Inside and tells the story of a man who began bringing music to patients in nursing homes to restore memory and awaken a part of them that has been dormant for years.

I was so fascinated and moved by the film, I donated one of my old iPods to the organization and made my own if-I’m-ever-in-a-coma or when-I’m-too-old-to-remember-you list of songs for my friends and family to be aware of in case I ever need them.

Of course, U2 made the cut.

(c) @U2, 2014.

Who is U2?

Who are U2?

Let me clear that up.

Here’s a screenshot from the iTunes USA homepage.

Dearest iTunes Account Holders,

It has come to my attention that you (perhaps members of the Millennial generation) were baffled by the gift bestowed upon you on Tuesday. That when you saw a free full-length album magically appear in your purchased items list, you stared at it long and hard, but the name “U2" didn’t ring a bell.

This troubles me, kids. More than you know.

So I’m here to catch you up. To fill your brain with knowledge that should have arrived alongside you the day you were born. To broaden your horizons and (pun intended) rock your world.

Listen up.

It all started in the 1970s in a beautiful city called Dublin, Ireland. There were four boys who lived on the north side of town named Paul, David, Adam and Larry. They all went to a high school called Mt. Temple, where they had a bulletin board for the students to post notes to one another. One day, Larry decided he wanted to start a band, so he posted a note on said bulletin board and a bunch of neighborhood kids showed up at his house for an audition/rehearsal.

Paul, who went by “Bono”, David, who went by “The Edge” and Adam all made the cut in addition to a few other kids at first. They went by the name “Feedback,” and then “The Hype,” but by the time they arrived on the name that stuck, “U2,” those three boys, and Larry, were the only members left.

They practiced really hard and played a lot of gigs, and two years later, they won a talent show in Limerick. That victory resulted in a demo session, which eventually led to a record deal.

Making a bunch of powerful music in the 1980s, the band became known for their passionate anthems like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride: In the Name of Love”.

They knew they really hit the big time in 1987 when Time Magazine put them on the cover. Their #1 hit, “With or Without You” would become a staple in pop culture for decades to come, appearing on Friends, etc.

In the 1990s, they revolutionized the concert landscape with their ground-breaking ZooTV tour.

After September 11th, they performed at the Super Bowl and remembered the victims of the tragedy with a moving tribute, displaying a scroll of their names. They also continued their Elevation tour in the wake of the attacks despite much uncertainty over the safety of crowds (many other acts canceled).

But they’re good guys, so that’s not surprising.

How good, you may ask?

Well, over the years, they’ve helped Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Chernobyl Children’s Project, Stand Up to Cancer, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation, Mencap, just to name a few. Plus, Bono started the ONE Campaign and The Edge co-founded Music Rising.

In fact, Bono’s humanitarian work landed him another Time Magazine cover in 2002. He was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And he was Knighted in 2007.

But back to the music — the band has scored some impressive awards in their time. They’ve won more Grammys than any other rock band (22, and counting); they’ve earned 15 Meteor Ireland Awards; won two Golden Globes and been nominated for two Oscars. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, too.

Anyway, when they’re not making music or saving the world or winning awards, they’re spending time with their families. They’re all Dads. And The Edge is even a Grandfather.

They’re good men, with good intentions and a passion for their collective day job.

So: The next time you see U2's music pop up, instead of giving it a puzzled look or Tweeting nonsense about spam, give it a listen.

It just may change your life.

Sincerely,

Your Generation X Guardian Angel

The Final Night of the U2 Conference

Cleveland, Ohio, April 27, 2013

The last day of a conference is always hard—the people you’re getting used to seeing at meals, in the elevators, at the sessions are about to go away, just as you are, and reality is about to return.

The final presentation at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum was that of Steve Averill, graphic designer for the band, and the man who named them U2.

I saw him before back in 2003, and it was cool to see the updates (since U2 have released two albums since then) as well as hear the classic stories behind the covers once more.

After that, I attempted to nap, but kept getting texts and calls, so I finally gave up.

I was exhausted and starving by the time Matt, Michelle and I walked over to the Hard Rock Café.

The line was long (our event was ticket-only so they were in the process of forcing others to leave before we could come in) and we had to wait a while before entry. I got carded on the way in, so that made me smile.

Mary was sweet enough to reserve us a table, so we had a great view of the stage as The Unforgettable Fire tribute band began to play.

I tried to eat a salad and some bread to perk up, but the food came in stages and it wasn’t tasting right.

To solve that problem, I began to drink heavily. Bahama Mamas all around!

Soon Marylinn joined me and we stood on the benches of the table for the duration of the show, dancing and laughing and being silly as we typically are when we’re together. In fact, somewhere there’s probably a running tally of how many pictures we photobombed. 🙂

It was great fun, and the band was full of energy and signature U2 moves.

A nice way to wrap up a phenomenal weekend for the tribe.

@U2 Staff (and Friends) Dinner

Cleveland, Ohio, April 26, 2013

Following a showing of U23D at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Matt hosted an @U2 staff dinner at The Corner Alley.

It was the perfect place to unwind—a bowling alley burger joint, brimming with monster-sized onion rings and beers on tap.

I loved the opportunity to catch up with Gary and Angela, both of whom I hadn’t seen in years, and to get to know some of our newer staff.

Following the meal, a few of us landed back at the hotel bar for a late-night drink and were joined by special guest Bill Carter. We told stories until we were all too wiped out to go on.

A pretty wonderful evening.

Bill Carter at the U2 Conference

Cleveland, Ohio, April 26, 2013

After a wonderful morning, I was even more energized for what was coming next.

I changed into my lavender dress to match our keynote speaker, Bill Carter, and headed out with him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

We were greeted warmly by their superb staff and taken to the Green Room where there were refreshments and comfortable chairs waiting for us.

After safely stashing our belongings, we explored the inside of the theater where he’d deliver his keynote lecture and took time to tour the exhibits.

Every time I see Bill, it’s usually for just a few minutes—a quick catch-up, a hug, and then he’s gone. But this time, I actually had him all to myself for over an hour, which was an incredible gift. He has a habit of hopping around the planet to do amazing things, and in no way, shape or form do I expect or want him to slow down. But damn, it was fun to talk with him.

When it was time to send him to the stage, I quickly learned how to use his iPhone as a cash register (I’d be selling DVDs for him after the lecture) and joined my friends in the front to hear him present.

Of course, knowing him since 2006, and being a die-hard U2 fan, I thought that I’d heard everything he was about to say.

Boy, was I wrong.

He told the story of how he came to be friends with U2, and how the famous Sarajevo satellite link-ups happened, and he did so in such a way that those of us who were in the audience felt as if we were re-living every moment right along with him.

He gave anecdotal details about his conversations with the band that I don’t recall seeing anywhere else, and then he took questions from the crowd.

I became so enveloped in his responses that I nearly missed my cue to get up and leave a few minutes early to set up his book signing table out in the hallway.

As I was arranging his Miss Sarajevo DVDs and chatting with the Rock Hall staff about how captivating he was, I heard the crowd roar and began to see fans pour out of the auditorium.

And none of them left.

They all darted right over to our table and began buying books and DVDs for him to sign.

When Bill emerged and took his seat, I tried to focus on selling his DVDs (that was my job, after all), but I did catch glimpses of fans with tears in their eyes, jubilant smiles and kind comments as they approached him. It warmed my heart.

I’m so glad he was able to make it to our conference and touch so many people.

Interview with Jim Henke

Cleveland, Ohio, April 26, 2013

When you wake up happy, the sound of the alarm doesn’t hurt so bad.

I always love interview days—it’s one thing in life I’ve always felt I do well, so my nerves are typically those of anticipation; not dread. As I was getting dressed in my red-and-black suit (U2 colors, of course) for my Friday Funday, I couldn’t help but reflect on how damn lucky I am to have opportunities like this. I don’t ever want anyone to think I take a moment of it for granted, because I don’t, and sometimes I almost have to pinch myself to believe it’s actually happening.

Anyway, in my fuzzy, happy mood I went down for a quick bite with Sherry and then straight to sound check. Somehow, in the midst of it all, I unfortunately forgot my glasses. After a few jokes from Matt about guests being asked to write their audience questions out on a stone tablet for me to read them, Marylinn graciously offered to run to my hotel room and retrieve my glasses. She saved the day (as usual) and had them up to the stage by the time Matt was introducing me.

Former Rolling Stone Editor/Writer Jim Henke opened the session with a presentation about the U2 exhibit he brought to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2003 when he was curator. He had wonderful photos of sacred artifacts, such as the first U2 T-shirt (which Larry screen-printed in high school art class); numerous tour outfits and the trophy the band had won in the famous St. Patrick’s Day competition.

With that as a foundation, I began the interview, first discussing the current state of music journalism and the impact of social media. The band not being active on the most popular platforms seems to be a hot topic amongst fans, so the audience responded well to the dialog. I also touched on Jim’s association with the band, and he shared his role in Bono’s writing of “Pride (In The Name Of Love).”

What I gleamed most from his responses was the fact that after all these years in the industry, he’s still a fan of the band—both as musicians making quality albums and men who make the world a better place. In fact, that was a common thread amongst all of the conference guests who are associates of U2; they all say the same thing: They’re great guys.

The audience asked some wonderful questions, I exhausted mine and before we knew it the time was up.

Following the presentation, I was approached by a woman I had the pleasure of attending the Slane castle concert with back in 2001. We hadn’t seen each other since then, so it was wonderful to have her in attendance and see that she’s still as passionate of a fan as she ever was.

Next up was Matt’s interview with former U2 publicist Brian O’Neal, who told wonderful stories of the band in their prime. The way he lit up during the conversation made the audience (myself included) hang on his every word. If only his session had been longer!

Following that presentation, the girls and I decided we needed some fuel, so we asked the front desk for a restaurant recommendation and got a wonderful one.

We landed at the Blue Point Grille, where we enjoyed (amazingly priced) lavish lunches in a bright, classy dining room with phenomenal service.

It’s times like those, when it’s just a small group of us, where we have the ‘real’ conversations that separate friends from acquaintances.

Part of the joy of attending events like the conference are seeing new faces and learning about other fans, but what many people don’t realize is that some of us have been friends for over a decade and we seldom get to see each other outside these settings. We know about each others’ families and careers, and it’s nice to have a few moments where we’re not discussing our dream setlists or what Bono might be wearing on the upcoming tour. U2 brought us together, sure, but they’re not necessarily what keeps us close.

When we returned to the hotel, Marylinn had work to do, Michelle wanted to head to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame early to see the exhibits, and I needed to pretty up for my next round of duties…

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