Saturday, October 3, 2009

U2 Live from Outer Space

I’m going to see U2 tonight. For a band that’s not actually my favorite, I’ve seen U2 more times in concert (3—and soon 4) than I’ve seen any other band. I tried to like them back in the 1980s, but only managed to find them interesting. I warmed up to them when they “sold out” to pop music—circa Zooropa and Pop—but overall my problem with them has been what draws a lot of fans to them—their Christ-tinged sanctimony.

Of their songs, my favorites are ones that had some airplay but are not the quintessential U2 that most fans adore. I love “Mysterious Ways,” especially after the Zooropa tour in 1992 when a belly dancer materialized in the midst of the audience, fairly far from the main stage—that moment was magic. And if I’m not mistaken, it was during that song that I found out, via the show’s continuously streaming Zoo Vision that one of my favorite artists/writers/persons David Wojnarowicz had died.

That’s perhaps their biggest hit I dearly love. “With or Without You” is a fantastic song, but Bono usually spoils its plaintive loveliness with his closing wail, meant, no doubt, to portray the spiritual agony of love, but, for me (perhaps alone in all the world) it craps on the rest of the song. I also love “The Fly,” “Numb” (OK I used to have a thing for The Edge), “Miss Sarajevo,” “Staring at the Sun,” and “Discotheque,” pretty much the numbers that true fans tend to snub.

The first time I saw U2 live on stage was in 1986 in Atlanta, in a festival-style concert celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Amnesty International—an organization I was working with then (mainly by acting in the US premiere of Harold Pinter’s short anti-torture play One for the Road, to benefit AI). The Police, the Neville Brothers, Peter Gabriel, and Joan Baez were also in the lineup. I remember Bono blindfolding himself and climbing atop some tall stacked speakers, meant to portray his blind faith in divine providence, I suspect, and pretty much concluded, then and there, that the guy’s an asshole.

Then the second time was the Zooropa tour in 1992, which I caught also in Atlanta with Vince, my boyfriend at the time and a big U2 fan (an Irish thing, perhaps). The spectacle was amazing, but Vince was a little bitch that night because I hadn’t got particularly good seats for us, and the tension between us (he refused to sit with me) pretty much spoiled the mood for me, if not for him—with the notable exception of the “Mysterious Ways” number.

Then in 2005 my friend Barbara had bought two tickets for a concert (again in Atlanta), in hopes of finding an amour to go with her—but in the end she had to settle for me. That was the year of going to fantastic concerts with Barbara—Sigur Rós here in Durham and Antony and the Johnsons (with CocoRosie) in Milwaukee, among which, U2 fell somewhere at number 3—despite ungodly expensive tickets that I think Barbara bought from a scalper.

So tonight will be the first time I see U2 outside of Atlanta. Tim bought the tickets for him and Dave, but Dave is not a fan of rock or modern pop, a strictly classical and jazz standards fan is he, so Tim invited me along, as somebody who at least has some appreciation for the group and rock'n'roll.

And I’m really looking forward to it. The group is receiving rave reviews as being on top of their game, and Rolling Stone calls the show “the Biggest Rock Show Ever.” Seventy thousand fans are expected to converge on Raleigh for tonight’s show, so Tim and I plan on getting on the road early—leaving us plenty of time to twiddle our thumbs at Carter Finley Stadium.

If I’m blown away tonight, I’ll eat my lukewarm words above.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit I really enjoyed the show. The best U2 concert yet. For the spectacle, if nothing else. Of course, I preferred U2 in disco mode than in inspirational mode. Muse, the opening act, was fantastic. A real find--and I almost would have preferred that U2 open for two solid hours of Muse, rather than vice versa. U2 did not open any new territory, but, then, they didn't need to. The light and video show was outstanding, and if the 360-degree presentation did not entirely create, as Bono announced, "intimacy on a grand scale," it did much to create Vegas in miniature. "Intimacy" is hardly the word for this show, in which all stops were pulled--Bono pulled a little boy out of the audience to sing to, a disco ball exploded with light, reverent homage was paid to Aung San Suu Kyi, Bono sang "Amazing Grace," Bono plied the crowd with gratuitous references to "Raleigh" and "North Carolina," even managing to weave the names into a few of his songs, Bono wore a suit lined with red lasers, the giant disembodied head of Desmond Tutu admonished the audience to support U2's charitable organization ONE, and Bono announced that the families of both John Edwards and Jesse Helms were in the audience, cooing, with detectable smarminess, "Only in America." Everything but the kitchen sink. Of course, if you pitch this much shit, some of it's gonna stick. For my money, though, Muse provided the only art of the evening. But U2 cannot be faulted for tons of splash and dazzle, which were riveting.



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