Gavin, Bono, Shane McGowan
We’re still recuperating from our whirlwind trip to New York City, where we attended the “Gavin Friday and Friends” concert at Carnegie Hall. By ‘we’ this time I don’t mean the editors of U2log.com, though some of them – past and present – were among us. By ‘we’ I mean the International Brigade, a group of friends who met online, through their love of music and Gavin Friday in particular. Some of us are into U2. Some of us aren’t. Since the late 80’s we have seen Gavin play live on many occasions, in various cities, on different continents. We all have to travel to see him play, because he doesn’t come around that often. When we heard of this event there was no question about it – we were there.
As sure as we were, many others were confused as what exactly the night was about. A charity gig? A tribute? An Aids benefit? A Hal Willner extravaganza? U2 were going to perform. Or not… the band was billed as separate members. The Virgin Prunes would reform. Or not. They said they never would. Who the hell are Flo and Eddie? Some U2 fans seemed unfamiliar with widely acclaimed artists like Rufus Wainwright, his sister Martha and Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, while others rolled eyes at the mention of Scarlett Johansson, Courtney Love and, well, U2.
For us die hard Friday-fans this concert was always about Gavin’s 50th birthday and those in the know gleefully looked forward to see an audience subjected to an evening of songs from his repertoire and influences. (“I hope U2 play their new single”, one fan wrote on a message board. Eh, no. “Is this a family show?” another asked. Not likely.) We were also very keen to find out how the other artists would interpret the songs that mean so much to us.
Continue reading the review
U2log.com reviews U2’s 360 Tour Opening Nights in Barcelona.
It is rather tricky to assess a tour, especially a U2 tour, based on two shows alone – a fortiori, the two shows that launched a world tour such as the 360°. In this case, the job seemed all the more perilous to me, since I had lukewarm feelings about the Vertigo Tour in 2005. Compared with the previous U2 tours, the outdoor leg had left me frustrated in terms of overall concept, stage design and lack of communication between the band and its audience. It is a completely different story, though, that began at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, on June 30th and July 1st.
As soon as you get into the stadium, the hugeness of the stage takes your breath away – a stage that is halfway between unidentified flying object and a futuristic sci-fi spaceship. As a result, Camp Nou, the biggest stadium in Europe, ends up looking like a humble, modest-sized host. The pitch looks strangely shrunk, allowing every member of the audience to feel close to the stage. To succeed in expressing a feeling of intimacy mixed with outrageousness: that was the announced – and achieved – tour de force. The eagerness of the passionate Spanish and international audience, contributed to the greatness of both nights. Right from the start at 9pm, the whole venue was on fire and the Mexican wave went round the stadium numerous times, the audience loudly showing their support for the band.
As soon as the band gets on stage, the tone is set for the night. It is Bono on one of his great days, fevered and kicking, the one who is able to fire up crowds with one single gesture. The four members of the band look close-knit again, and do their best to fill the huge stage that they stride all along the shows. They seem happy and proud to be on stage, on this stage, and they keep on smiling, laughing, and winking at the audience. A few little technical problems or skipped lyrics remind us that they are not blasé or polished robots, but simply artists under pressure despite their thirty-year long live experience. The satellite link with the International Space Station on the first night definitely settles the exceptional nature of this tour configuration.
As for set-lists, U2 seems to have picked up a three-part outline. The central part shifts both nights, leaving space for numerous surprises, such as Electrical Storm, Angel of Harlem, Desire, and Party Girl. The 360° Tour is marked by songs from The Unforgettable Fire album, which is consistent with the omnipresence of Brian Eno’s sounds on the album No Line On the Horizon.
The big risk-taking of these nights lies in the exciting remixed version of I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t go Crazy Tonight, which instantly turns the gig into a huge techno party. The band seems to define itself now as part of the 00’s, as they highlight numerous titles of their latest “trilogy”: No Line On The Horizon of course, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The explosive response of the audience to City of Blinding Lights and Vertigo, shows that the Vertigo Tour is still deeply anchored in the spirits, and that U2 is now carried by a huge number of fans who joined in five years ago.
In the end, the overall impression left by these shows is paradoxically (even) more visual than musical. The beautifully-enlightened Claw offers two hours of a dazzling and surreal fireworks show, partly in the manner of the artwork of Gaudi, who inspired its design.
These shows also highlight something new: one of U2’s features is to invent and design tour concepts in perfect harmony with the albums that inspires them. And yet, the link between the 360° Tour and the album No Line On The Horizon is far from obvious at first sight – apart from the tour being a support for the new titles. There is even a striking gap between the extreme sobriety of the album artwork, the relative classicism of the songs and the gigantic visual explosion that is displayed during the shows. For the first time in the history of U2, the tour was not named after one of the album’s titles or lyrics. It seems that two projects have been created in parallel, without real crossroads – but the result works surprisingly well.
Bring on Milan, Paris and the rest of the world tour!
If you’ve wondered which NLOTH tracks appeal to which types of U2 fan, check out this chart, derived from last.fm, a music service that tracks the music you play and creates your own music profile, recommending songs from other listeners with similar tastes.
For the Top 50 Fans of each NLOTH track, this chart lists their aggregated top 11 U2 tracks.
Because the data is limited to the top 50 fans, there’s quite a bit of distortion, and last.fm likely skews to younger fans. But who would have thought that The Ground Beneath Her Feet would feature?
The review’s not online yet, but the March 5 issue of music magazine Rolling Stone awards U2’s New Line on the Horizon no less that five stars. The cover of the issue says “U2’s Five Star Masterpiece”.
“No Line on the Horizon is closer to the transitional risks — the Irish-gothic spell of 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, the techno-rock jet lag of 1993’s Zooropa — but with a consistent persuasion in the guitar hooks, rhythms and vocal lines.”
NLOTH has also managed to win back the heart of Irish journalist John Waters (Author of ‘U2 – Race of Angels’), prone to contemplating the band within its Irish context. In the Irish Times he writes — while Ireland suffers its worst recession since the 70’s — “If, as we have previously noted, music is prophetic as to the drift of wider reality, then this album may be the most hopeful thing you will hear all year.” You can read the rest of John Waters’ thoughtful piece on IrishTimes.com.
There was something familiar about the sleeve of U2’s new album (Not a picture of any sea or ocean, but actually Lake Constance (Bodensee) as seen from Uttwil, in Switzerland, taken in 1993.) A few Google searches later, I realised that the photographer, Hiroshi Sugimoto, also took a photo of Tadao Ando’s Church of Light:
And here’s a picture of Bono and Tadao Ando together when the architect came to visit Dublin.
So there you have it. A fun little insight into how U2’s choice for their new sleeve may have come about.
Alan Cross, the host of the radio edition of ExploreMusic, has heard U2’s new song ‘Get On Your Boots’, expected to be the band’s first single off their upcoming album ‘No Line on the Horizon’. He describes the song and his 20+ years experience with the rituals and security surrounding a new U2 release. He writes:
“There are some new sounds that could only come from an Eno/Lanois production, which left me with a feeling similar to what I experienced when I heard “The Fly” for the first time. This is NOT a back-to-basics guitar/bass/drums track like “Vertigo” or even “Beautiful Day.” There’s some definite sonic evolution going on here. “
The Guardian have asked a panel of artists and writers to describe the concerts that changed their lives. Bono picks a gig by The Clash, at Trinity College in Dublin, 1977:
Can’t remember the set list, can’t remember much about the music, to be honest. I just know that everything changed that night, and I’m sure it was not just for me.
It wasn’t so much a musical event. It was more like the Red Army had arrived, on a cold October night, to force feed a new cultural revolution, punk rock. Marching boots and the smell of sulphur.
As I sat in the box room and stared out the window the next day, it was very clear. The world is more malleable than you think; reality is what you can get away with.
What is your greatest gig ever?
Our man Down Under reports:
“The line up process was well organised with a first in best dressed policy (no fan club priority) . I got there just before midday and secured a position right on the railings of the stage (Adam’s side) The show seemed pretty much the same as what had been done previously but with a few changes here and there. ‘Walk On’ was performed as a full band again, and it showed that it had been a while. It seemed to take a the first verse or so for the band to get it right.
The main noticable difference was the final encore. ‘The Saints are coming’ sounded a little rough but nonetheless a great addition to the set. The show closed with ‘Kite’, which again seemed to take a little bit for the band to get into. The intro went on for a while whilst Bono had a chat to Adam. Then it took off. There was a guy playing a didgeridoo throughout and the ending of the song was quiet magical with Bono flying a kite on the b-stage, then releasing into the air. The Edge’s solo’s were longer and the end was extended.”
It’s been a very long time since there was an update in the Transit section. I suppose it could be blamed on the gig overdose we had after the full U2 tour, or the lack of funds as a result. But none of this is true. It’s not that we haven’t been out much, we just haven’t written about it.
Yesterday, however, we were lucky enough to be at Rock Werchter. The lineup of the festival is pretty impressive with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Depeche Mode, Muse, Live, Scissor Sisters, The Who, Placebo, Franz Ferdinand, the Arctic Monkeys, the Kaiser Chiefs and another favourite of ours, Sigur Rós.
We kicked it off with a little Editors and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! (go buy their album, it rocks!) and gradually drifted towards Muse and The Who. Mindblowing, a bouncing audience, swinging guitars, arms and microphones. Strictly no crowd surfing at Rock Werchter, yeah, right.
The Who? Aren’t they, like, old? Greying geezers talking about My Generation? Damn right. And these icons of rock are the ones toting cutting edge technology which is worth a mention. Mouthwatering to us techno geeks.
Insert a mobile home studio, a satelite uplink and a website which offers streaming video technology at the little cost of $.99 to charity per session. Throw in an aging rock star, say, Pete Townshend and his girlfriend Rachel Fuller. Then add some very diverse guests, randomly picked up from around festival sites. The result is a webcast that borders on reality tv, talk show and just plain old entertainment with a spontaneity that you just seldom see on television anymore.
Last night saw a band called The Kooks in their studio, which set off some jamming between them and Pete Townsehend and eventually resulted in Rachel Fuller and co presenter Mikey Cuthbert breaking out in Bowie’s Kooks. And maybe then that’s the best way to sum it up. A couple of kooks, enjoying themselves, on the road, from the road with a flurry of guests that make these webcasts well worth the $.99 you have to pay for them.
Performing in the Netherlands for the first time since 1996, Maria McKee seemed surprised so many had come out to see her.
But the Paradiso staff had made their main room more intimate, putting tables and large plants down on the floor and moving the soundstage up a good way towards the stage. It was nowhere near sold out.
She played all my favourites, even the oldies: Breathe, Dixie Storms, Shelter, Wheels… fabulous to hear them all again, as well as tracks off her new album ‘Peddlin’ Dreams’. Unpredictable and still slightly mad, she moves between folk rock chick, Carnivàle extra and Piaf-like little diva — talking to the audience about her husband Jim (on bass), listening to their comments (‘Who was singing along? I heard you! It was good.’), but never really making eye-contact. Eyes either closed or spread wide open, she lives the world she creates within herself. She even jokes about being a bit of a spacer.
I’ve never heard her play the same song the same way twice and it seemed she was adlibbing to Wheels, lyrically as well as musically. Passionate and moody, she complained about the heat and muttered ‘and now I have to sing that song as well’ under her breath before delivering a moving ‘Worry Birds’.
Ten years on (‘That like… a whole decade,’ she commented) Maria McKee is still absolutely barking stars.
Setlist: You Are The Light, I Can’t Make It Alone, Am I The Only One, Peddlin’ Dreams, High Dive, Wheels, The Horse Life, Shelter, Turn Away, Sullen Soul, Worry Birds, If Love Is A Red Dress, Dixie Storms, Barstool Blues, People in the Way, In Your Constellation, Everyone’s Got A Story, Breathe, Life Is Sweet.