Happy U2 Day! Hope you all had as much fun celebrating this band today as I did! If you follow me on social media you may have seen a number of posts of videos and pictures that illustrate some of the many reasons I love U2. Here they are again, with more and with commentary 😀 :
One. Let’s start with the music.
If there was nothing else about this band to love but the music, it would still be enough… I looooove U2’s music. All of it. Every album, every song. It gives me chills, it makes me laugh, cry, dance, sing, bounce, love, rejoice, mourn.. All the feels. And with 40 years worth of a catalog, and 30 years since I first became a fan, their music truly is the soundtrack to my life.
Happiness is those long opening notes of Streets and the crazy build up of music that follows. Just check out the crowd’s reaction in this video taken during the Croke Park show in Dublin this past July (published on YouTube by Alan R)… Chills, I tell you!
Two. The passion.
It’s not just the notes, the melodies, the lyrics; it’s the passion with which U2 delivers their music. Each member gives that passion and it just reaches to the bones, the heart, the soul.
You know I’m gonna put Bad here… I’ve talked about this song before. I hate choosing my favorite U2 song because there are just sooo many, but if I am forced to choose, it is Bad, tied with Tomorrow. The passion in Bono’s voice in this song is just heartbreaking, goosebumps on top of goosebumps. The guitar, the drums, the bass – it’s all passion. This song live is perfection in music and emotion. The addition of Ruby Tuesday in the version for Rattle and Hum… just damn…. holy damn!
But I also have to put Sunday Bloody Sunday from R&H in this passion category as well. This version took place soon after the bombing in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland on Sunday, November 8, 1987. The performance of this song and Bono’s speech in the middle is just about as raw and impassioned as one can get. It is truly moving. These songs, right here, are why I love U2…. No one reaches this level of passion in music, lyrics and performance more than this band.
Three: Rock Gods with a Conscience.
Sunday Bloody Sunday is also a fine example of another reason for my deep devotion to U2, their social conscience. “How long must we sing this song?” Just yesterday, and for so many days, the news is talking about the escalation between North Korea and the USA with their displays of military power. Are we heading to nuclear war, WW3? Is this another Cuban Missile Crisis??? How frickin long do we have to sing this song!? “War – what is it good for. Absolutely nothing!!!”
While I love some pure pop fun and happy go lucky songs and I adore sappy romantic love songs, songs that touch on social issues such as human rights, peace, making the world a better place, just rock my world. They speak to my own desire to be the change I wish to see.
U2 is infamous for being a band with a conscience and some people think they have too much of a conscience, are too serious, etc. But I love them all the more for these songs and the voice they give these issues through their music. Songs like One, MLK, Peace On Earth, Please, Mothers of the Disappeared, Running to Stand Still, and this one:
Four: Be the Change.
U2 don’t just sing about changing the world, they do it. This is a band of action. They donate more money to more causes than anyone but them and their accountants know about but they also follow through with doing. As mentioned in this post, they have formed numerous charities/NGOs etc to help make the world a better place.
Even more than that, they show up. They speak out. They understand the importance of involving and talking with all sides of the issue. You cannot leave a stakeholder out of the solution if you want it to succeed. And they use that knowledge, their intelligence and their voice to give a voice.
After all, we get to carry each other…
Five: Sense of Humor.
Yes they have this serious side with all the political work and save the world stuff… But these boys are also hilarious. Like freaking side-splitting funnn-knee! They have a self-depreciating thing, they get up to some crazy antics, and then there’s the Achtung Baby and Pop era of taking the rock star lifestyle to the nth degree- I mean what other band has the gall to not only put a 40 foot motorized lemon mirrorball on their stage, but also use it to enter said stage… Or a mic that doubles as a swing set, oh, and why stop there – make it and the jacket shoot beams of light:
And they dress like this:
and act like that:
They seriously crack me up.
I mean, look… how adorkable is this:
U2 are a kissy, huggy bunch of guys and I adore them for it. It truly warms my heart to see how much they love each other.
I assume that part of the comfort in showing their love for each other comes from having been friends and band mates forever. They’ve lived together in houses, hotel rooms and tour buses; shared the same experiences, the U2 crazy journey. I assume you just have to get close and personal when you are that close and personal…
Which bring me to the next reason…
It has been said so many times by so many U2 fans already that one radio station in Edmonton listed U2 fans as being amongst the most obnoxious, in part for this reason, but I’m going to say it again: NO other band has lasted this long with the exact same line up, with no break ups/reunions… these boys are loyal to each other.
These boys have seriously been together forever… The infamous meeting in Larry’s kitchen was 41 years ago today (hence this day for the annual U2 Day), when they were still in school. They have been best men at each others’ weddings, pall bearers at family funerals, they have been roommates and neighbours and even vacation together… These boys are loyal to each other.
They are family. Bono has said that being in U2 is like being in the priesthood (or mafia?), the only way out is in a coffin (I told you they were funny!).
That loyalty is a part of the U2 ethos, it surrounds them in so many ways: Bono started dating Ali, his wife of 35 years, in the same week that the band started (as he says, it was a good week for him…). The band are still best friends with their school chums Guggi and Gavin Friday. Willie Williams, their show designer, started with them in 1982; Joe O’Herlihy, their Audio Director, since 1978; all of their techs and so many more people in the U2 family have been with the band since the early days. These boys are loyal to their people and have some thing that makes people ooze loyalty back.
That loyalty infiltrates us fans as well, U2 are loyal to us and we are definitely loyal to them. Maybe thats what makes us so annoying to others, we bleed U2. Once you’re in the super fandom, there’s no way out, not even in a coffin, because we’ll take the music and memorabilia with us to the grave, lol!
Eight: Relationship with the Fans.
In fact, the relationship between U2 and fans is quite remarkable. I’m sure I read somewhere that way back in the day the band would crash at the homes of fans after gigs? (Can anyone back this up for me?) They still go out of their way to come greet fans and sign things. Bono has a history of taking incredible risks to break the barrier between fans and band on stage.
When they have the time, they even have lengthy conversations with fans, asking for our thoughts on the music, the tours, etc. (Check out this story of the lucky fan that met Bono in a restaurant after the tour openner in Vancouver.)
They find ways to connect with us, to let us know they care. For instance, U2 fans have been slapping Pink Adam stickers (a portrait of a young Adam in pink) around the world for a while now. The commissions from the stickers go to several “Downtown Los Angeles Skid Row non profit organizations that provide a path out of homelessness as well as community art resources for Los Angeles skid row youth.” There is a twitter account and everything to follow all the slaps.
Somehow, Adam found out and played a little game with the fans: at a gig during this Joshua Tree Tour, fans close to the stage and those watching on Periscope kept seeing little flickers of pink on the back of Adam’s bass… What?! Could it be?! Wait, is that #PinkAdam on his bass!? Why, yes, yes, it is!
Its this behaviour, these little communications that help endear them to us. They love us, they pay attention to what we do, and they reach out in mysterious ways to show us.
And fans reciprocate when they can with things like this (published on YouTube by Cym Live):
And then there was the time The Edge and Adam crashed an @U2 Fan party (uploaded by @u2.com)…
Nine: The U2 Tribe.
Speaking of the fans, the U2 Tribe is another reason I love this band so deeply – I’ve written briefly about this community of fans before, about there even being a language and culture, and how social media have connected us in ways like never before. But what truly makes this tribe a tribe are the people themselves.
We are a diverse bunch from all over the world, with many religions, beliefs and political viewpoints and we are, in many ways, like our band – charitable, generous of heart, kind, caring, passionate, creative, and loving music.
There are many examples along the lines of Pink Adam, fans who have set about changing the world because they were inspired by U2. There’s the #strongerthanfear Campaign; the African Well Fund/Build a Well for Bono’s Birthday. And the recent and ongoing crazy adventures of Joshua the Bear, who, with the help of several U2 fans who pass him on to the next fan going to the next show, has been to every single show on the Joshua Tree Tour.
Through his travels with his chaperones, Joshua has met several of the techs and tour peeps, hundreds of U2 fans, and all of U2 except Larry, all for the sake of the family of a U2 fan who passed away before this tour. This bear has become more than just a symbol of the love and values the U2 community share, he is a bonafide member of this tribe.
Ten: Innovative Live Shows.
So, another reason why U2 fans are on that radio station’s list of most obnoxious fans is because apparently we talk a lot about how “they are industry leaders when it comes to live shows”… But we can’t help it! They ARE! I mean Zoo TV changed concerts forever.
U2 and their tour people are not content with just being sure to use the latest and greatest technology – they work to advance it. The sound system for the Innocence and Experience Tour was groundbreaking – rather than the typical system used, they hung everything from the roof… or something… Here’s the technical article about it.
Amongst other things, each tour finds new innovations for their screens, both in design and quality. The Joshua Tree Tour is no different in that advancement, this screen is 200ft wide and 45ft high and “is the largest, unobscured, most high resolution LED video screen (nearly 8k) ever used in a touring show.”
Eleven: Experimental with Sound.
Like their live shows, U2 are super innovative in their music. While they definitely have some identifying sounds, there has been so much variety in their music. They are ever evolving and constantly quest for (and achieve) relevancy.
As I’ve said before, this is a band that could easily rest on their laurels – they have a 40 year, 15 album (13 studio plus 2 live, and an EP) career to date, they could just keep sticking with the U2 sound, but they don’t.
They experiment. And we get things like the classic U2 of Streets, Bad, and Sunday Bloody Sunday seen above. And then we get things like Crazy (also seen above). And this:
and don’t forget the Passengers – a U2 and Brian Eno album with such atmospheric numbers as this (with The Edge singing):
They take risks in their music and as such, I for one am never bored, always on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen in their music next (seriously, can SOE get here already!? I can’t take the waiting anymore! EEEEEE!).
Twelve: “Joyful Defiance” and the healing power of music.
U2 were the first major act to play in Sarajevo after the war (20 years ago, Sept 23). They played New York shortly after 9/11. They were in Paris during the attacks on November 13, 2015, having shows scheduled for the 14th and 15th. Those shows were cancelled by the city/country, but the band rescheduled for as soon as possible.
This band understand the importance of not letting terror end the joyful things in life. They understand the healing power of music. Something Bono calls “joyful defiance.” In response to the Paris attacks and the band’s decision to return as soon as possible, Bono said: “ISIS and these kinds of extremists are a death cult. We’re a life cult. Rock ’n’ roll is a life force, and it’s joy as an act of defiance.”
Equally important is the band’s stance that we not “become a monster in order to defeat a monster” and to consider the families of the terrorists as well, who also suffer from these acts. It takes so much truth to power to say such things and to follow through. I can’t not be devoted to them for life for leading by example.
So, basically, the reason I love this band soooo very much is love. It’s all about love. Love the music, love in the music, love between the band, love between the band and fans, love in the message they send and all the work they do. And love in how they respond to the terrors in the world. And Joy. Replace the ‘love’ in each of those thoughts with ‘joy.’
That’s this band.