Recently I was with a friend and he put on his Blu-Ray (what else would he have?) copy of the U2 360° tour disc. It was a fun chance to relive a bit of the concert, as we had the good fortune to see it when it came to FedEx Field. (Sidetrack: how sad that since the Washington Redskins changed to FedEx, there’s only one football memory I have that equals the concert memories.)
So I started thinking about what I think about U2. They’re sort of the quiet favorites as I’ve never gone as nuts for them as I’ve gone for other bands (The Doors), but they’ve managed to sneak past others (Van Halen) on the list of bands I hold closest to my heart.
So why is that? Simple answer is that it’s never gotten stale. They’ve never hung it up for 10 years and come back for a ‘reunion tour’. They seem legitimately to be friends with each other, even though they obviously lead individual lives. Maybe that’s the difference; they have lives outside the music.
The other three band members don’t appear to resent or vie with Bono for attention – he’s the front man, he’ll say what he says and they don’t try to outshine him in the advocacy game. The advocacy has a universal appeal – they haven’t done anything (unlike Springsteen, for instance) to alienate half of their fan base in a desperate attempt to stay relevant; the causes they support are things that anyone would support. The only safer path is to be like The Rolling Stones and just not give a s*** about anything other than being a band — which also I respect. But basically, the band’s collective mouth doesn’t run faster than its metaphorical brain.
Which is surprising because, as I observed to a friend the other day, they regularly play to crowds of nearly 100,000 people, all of them shouting praise of them and listening to their every word/note. How is it that they have avoided the trap other bands with success is have fallen into? When you think of how long that list is, I guess it makes sense that they would resonate with someone like me, for whom authenticity resonates most strongly.
This is not to say that Bono doesn’t occasionally say a stupid thing. It’s to say that he keeps it generic enough that it’s not going to sour anyone’s perception of the band or the music.
They’re not afraid to talk about God. As someone of a deep and tested faith, who wrestled with it his whole life and wrestles with it still, the fact that there’s a rock band that makes music about that very thing – as opposed to fleeting ideas of lust and success – and does it well…well, that’s just one more argument to love them.
Now, I’m sure that there are some who would not consider me a “deep” fan. I know nothing about their personal lives outside of the generics that the average person knows; but I do know that there are no salacious rumors or splashy divorces. No Brazilian love nests and no discoveries of giant drug networks. And I don’t get the sense that there ever will be; at least I sure hope not. If I were to find out a member of U2 was into something ridiculously insane, I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t rock me to the very roots of faith in people.
All that and the lyrics are still good. The music is still fresh. It took some time for me to warm to it, but even their latest album, No Line on the Horizon, has given me more than a few that are in heavy playlist rotation. “Moment of Surrender” speaks to something deep within and “Magnificent” is one of those ones I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain, like “City of Blinding Lights” or “Yahweh”.
So yeah, I’ve gone there. Seems silly to write about a band when I’m 35 and shouldn’t care so much about music. But in this case I can’t help but heap praise on a band that not only has outlived and outlasted so many others…but deserved it.