So a couple of posts ago, I proposed that September 25 be the International Day of U2 – a day for fans to do something in appreciation of this band we love so much. And those plans are moving forward (yay!), but holy crap it seems like this September is actually International MONTH of U2!
Or at least it is starting out that way with two new U2 songs, radio and tv interviews supporting the release, the return of the Joshua Tree Tour, and, for us Edmonton-based fans, a little film called Rattle and Hum.
Maybe it’s actually U2 Appreciates Their Fans month…
First came The Blackout, a rockin song, teased by mysterious letters sent out to U2.com subscribers that live in the path of totality of the Aug 21, 2017 solar eclipse and aired live on Facebook on August 30 (close enough to count as U2 September!).
This song. Ah, this song. A gift to fans, not an official single release. A thank you, in the biggest way (well – other than the gifting of a whole album for free, straight to all the iTunes accounts in the world – except mine, which is rather ironic as an Uber fan… I apparently had all the right settings on to prevent such things from happening and spent many minutes, which felt like hours, in tears trying to get that darned album on my phone, while so many other people in the world were bitching about this wonderful free gift of music! Anyways, I digress…).
The Blackout. This song. A gift to fans right from the start. On July 28, 2017, U2 performed this song for a very small group of U2 fans who responded to an earlier call-out on U2.com to be in the video: ‘Hey fans, come be amongst the first to hear our new stuff, let us perform in a small intimate gathering for you and immortalize these experience in a video, because we love you and appreciate you.’
Then the eclipse letters. Then emails to the fans that attended the video shoot. And then on August 30, they give us all the Facebook Live presentation of that video – “Just for you,” their Facebook page says…
These boys. Ah, these boys! Their actions like this frequently remind me of Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech – “You like me. You really like me!” U2 love us, they really love us…
But this song. The first thing you hear is the Edge’s distorted guitar. Rocking. Dirty. Hard. Then Bono. Silky. Smooth vocals. So silky. Chills down my spine.
But that bass. Hot damn, that bass, Adam! This song is all about the bass. Grooving. Groovy. Sexy bass. My lord!
And, you know, the lyrics aren’t so bad either, typical awesome U2 lyrics. Brilliant, with so many layers of meaning – the more obvious political side of things with a message of hope that we know and love this band for:
Democracy’s flat on its back, Jack
We had it all
And what we had is not coming back, Zach
A big mouth says the people
They don’t wanna be free for free
Is this an extinction event we see
When the lights go out
Don’t you ever doubt
The light that we can really be
A statement for sure about this Brexit and Trump era we find ourselves in and the Blackout – the extinction of democracy as we know it? the world as we know it? But out of this darkness, we will find out just how awesome we are, how bright the world can be.
Yet, the song has other layers. As some clever fans remarked on Facebook, this song could be about the band and fans as well. The song begins with this: “A dinosaur wonders why it still walks the earth…” Could the dinosaur be the band themselves, wondering why/how they are still around 40 years later? The Blackout, heaven forbid, the extinction of the band? But then towards the end of the song – “So glad that we are all still here.” The band, as musicians, the band as friends, and us fans, still around, together. They love us. They really really love us….
You’re The Best Thing About Me
Next, today, was the release of the official first single “You’re the Best Thing About Me.” Where The Blackout is all about the bass, this song is all about those ‘drooms’ (it’s a U2 thing… yes I mean drums…) Holy mofo, Larry, those drums! Slammin, jammin, that beat! Those cymbals at that moment when all you want are cymbals, but you don’t know it til you hear it and then go well crap – that was perfect! Just put your headphones on and go for a walk with this song, you’ll know what I mean.
Bono spoke about the album and this song today on a Dutch radio station. He relayed the stories of Eamon Murphy telling Bono that Ali (Bono’s wife of 35 years) is the best thing about Bono, and a dream he had where he had destroyed his relationship with Ali. He was devastated by the dream (she apparently joked about it). So while there are lovely moments, sweet, cheeky Bono moments (“I’m the kind of trouble you enjoy,” “Shooting off my mouth, that’s another great thing about me”), there is also a current of that devastation throughout the song:
When you look so good
The pain in your face doesn’t show…
You’re the best thing about me
The best things are easy to destroy…
I got everything
But I feel like nothing at all
There’s no risky thing
For a man who’s determined to fall
Why am I walking away?
And the Edge’s part, the best friend observing from the outside:
I can see it all so clearly.
I can see what you can’t see.
I can see you loving her loudly,
when she needs you quietly.
This song. Beautiful. Uplifting in tempo and title, but there is a hidden sadness in here, much like that opening line: “When you look so good, the pain in your face doesn’t show…”
Ah, these boys. All the feels. And I was wondering, should I be worried that the three new songs we’ve heard from these boys all talk about the end of something – the extinction event in The Blackout, and walking away in The Best Thing, and then there’s The Little Things That Give You Away that U2 have been singing live during the Joshua Tree Tour, with these lyrics:
So far away from believing
That any song will reappear
The end is not coming
It’s not coming
The end is here.
But Bono explains in this interview above that he has had to face his mortality a bit over the past few years (including the terrible bike accident) and so he approached this album as a chance to say everything he needs to say to his loved ones: Ali, his kids, the band, us fans, etc. as though this were U2’s last album (and the look on the DJ’s face when Bono said this – panic-stricken – what!? the last album!? – he (the DJ) ended the interview saying just to be clear, this is NOT the last album, that there shall be more… (To which Bono, just said Thank you – he did NOT say, “yes, yes of course there will be more”…. ahhhhhh!))
There better be more… this band have spoiled us now – instead of the usual 5ish years of waiting between albums/concerts, we have been gifted with Songs of Innocence in 2014, its Innocence and Experience Tour in 2015, The Joshua Tree Tour this year, and now Songs of Experience on December 1 and its tour, I assume next year…. There just better be more… or the withdrawals are going to be harsh! The devastating emotional meltdowns, intense! I’m just saying…
Anyways, the month of U2-ness continues with an appearance on Jimmy Fallon tomorrow (September 7) and a number of other radio appearances by the band that I have yet to watch on Facebook (Social Media has seriously changed fandom… It is the ultimate connector and enabler :D).
Rattle and Hum
And then last night, while thousands of fans were watching U2 live in Buffalo on the Joshua Tree Tour, a few of us in Edmonton, Canada gathered to watch Rattle and Hum on the big screen at one of our local art theatres.
While I’ve seen R&H countless times, enough to recite most of the lines, I have never seen it on the big screen… Just wow. This documentary. This band. I really don’t get the apparent negative backlash they got when it was originally released. This movie is fabulous.
The passion of this band is in every song. This version of Bad – my gawd. I cried. This version of I Still Haven’t Found, with the Harlem Gospel Choir – my GAWD! I still get chills, this many years later and number of times hearing this song, this version. Chills! This version of With or Without You… I cried some more. Sunday, freakin Bloody Sunday… is there any other performance in the world with this level of passion, emotion, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, WTF world, cry for better, ever, in the history of song??
Most of the live performance songs in R&H are the same songs being played on this current tour: the Joshua Tree songs, Bad, Pride. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Watching these songs on that big screen, probably exactly as U2 were on stage in Buffalo singing them 30 years later, I was struck by the passage of time, their relevance today, their power, their freshness. And their staying power – the passion of the audience for these songs is at the same level then as it is today. Also, I don’t know how to describe this – the growth of the songs maybe? – seeing Exit on R&H, I can see the birth of the Shadowman of today’s performance of the song. The opening bars of Streets with the Red Screen and black silhouettes…
This is the joy of loving a band with this long a history. The evolution is incredible, in the purest sense of that word, to behold…
Seriously, this film. This music.
And then the band. The interview moments. Larry doing the hand gestures of Adam. “It’s a musical journey… It’s about music, at least that’s what you TOLD us it was going to be about…” Larry in Sun Studios, with his itchy feet and snarky come back – “If I had a head like yours, I’d bury it.” We laughed so much. Still. After so many times seeing it, after hearing these bits to the point of reciting them, this band is funny.
And on the big screen and with fellow devotees… the guy behind us was singing every song, so were we… What a great night!
I’m loving U2 September! Maybe we SHOULD just have the whole International MONTH of U2… One day is not enough to appreciate these guys… I’m kidding! I’m not kidding… I’m kidding. Besides, really, every day is U2 Day! But still join me on the official day – it’ll be so fun!
So what do you guys think? loving the new stuff? I’m intrigued by the two different sounds of these songs – Best Thing is definitely more pop; The Blackout, rock. Do you have a preference of the two? What about Little Things?
Any plans for International Day of U2? How will you celebrate? (Whatever you do, don’t forget to hashtag it on social media! #U2Day17 #InternationalDayofU2)