Monday, February 13, 2006

Opining

I'll make this as quick as I can. For their longetivity and continuity of putting out quality music from the early 80s until now, two and a half decades worth of sheer musical genius, I believe U2 has every right to call themselves the best band in the world. I will. When most known acts put out a CD it's a local event. For some bigger groups, it's a big event. For U2, when they put out a CD, it's a WORLD event. Everyone cares. Everyone wants to hear what they have to say. Some people hate them, and still want to know how they did this time. Because with the fickle nature of the music industry, and the constantly changing new "big thing," to do what U2 has done -- staying relevant, staying meaningful, and staying musically superb -- for as long as they have (especially now when every kid in the world it seems wants to have a rock band and be famous), how can that be deemed as anything other than extraordinary. Sure the Stones, Aerosmith, a member or two of the Beatles, Dylan, and maybe one or two other bands have kept making music over a long period of time, but NONE OF THEM make music that the world cares about on a large scale. U2 does it with every CD they put out. Their music still sounds as passionate now as it did when they were raw, just directed in other ways. U2 is great. Any superlative I could think of for their body of work wouldn't do it justice. People can argue all they want about who the greatest rock band ever is. I wasn't alive when the Beatles first hit and the British Invasion began. No one has been more influential than the Beatles, but for my money, no one's been as uniformly great as U2 over rock's short history.

Bono. I've gone back and forth on Bono, because sometimes he'll just do or say things I simply don't get. But I've arrived. I think he's awesome. Is he bold, brash, cocky, full of ego? As a front man for U2 and even as a rock spokesman, he's all those things. He's been impetuous, vulgar/profane, and selfish at times. You know what, so have I. So has everybody reading this, most likely. How about on the other end? If we were in Bono's position, would we be stalking world leaders, diplomats, presidents, stars, the world's rich and famous to help the world's smallest, most insignificant, and voiceless? Would we brave conservative/liberal talk show hosts, the President of the United States of America, our position as a rock star with the peer pressure that comes with it, our family and friends, and call every one of them out, to do what we thought was right with AIDS in Africa, the famine-stricken in Africa and around the world, the destitute in Ireland, his homeland? Would we be venturing to Africa and hugging the AIDS victims? Showing Christ to a world that has blinders on? If you can say yes to that, you're a better man than I am. Bono is a better man than I am. In fact, to compare is ludicrous. And lately, he's been beating his head against the wall talking about Christ to a world that hardly fathoms what the word means -- the world of celebrity. Yeah, he still says things I don't get and that are questionable, but I think his heart's in the right place. We could all take a lesson.

5 comments:

Brett said...

Way to come out swinging, Rich.

U2 is the most important and influential band since punk/postpunk/new wave. They've been great for a very long time. They can stake their claim to greatest ever.

Bono is an unbelievable showman. He's a larger than life figure. He was probably a bit of a weird dude growing up. Think about it.

But that's neither here nor there. I've seen some great rock shows in my life by some great bands. But U2 (and Bono in particular) gave me the single most unforgettable moment from any concert I've seen - one of the single most unforgettable moments of my life, and on The Unforgettable Fire tour, coincidentally. Those familiar with early U2 are familiar with the song "The Electric Co." Well, there is break in the live version during which the band would interject a piece or two from other songs. On a particular night in Tampa, FL, when I was fourth row, stage right, Edge led into the break with a line from West Side Story ("La la la la la America..."). Meanwhile, Bono climbed up onto a huge Marshall stack, right in front of me - maybe 20 or 30 feet away. (Bono liked to climb things back in the early days; remember the incident at the '83 US Festival?) Fans were throwing stuff down at him - hats, t-shirts, etc. He leans down and gently lays his mic on the amp on which he's standing, then stands up and reaches out to a nearby railing to pull a homemade banner off. He drapes himself in the banner, catches a bandana that someone has thrown toward him, s-l-o-w-l-y pulls it over his head and down around his neck, and then slowly leans back down to pick up his mic again. The crowd is transfixed and hushed. He brings the mic to his lips and starts to sing. He doesn't sing "Send in the Clowns." Or "Hey Jude." Or "Street Fighting Man." Or "Blowing in the Wind." Or "Danny Boy." He sings "Amazing Grace." And it's stunning. Just a transcendent moment in an unexpected time and place. The emotional impact of the moment is hard to explain. I felt for a few seconds, for reasons I still can't fathom, like I wanted to burst into tears. When the moment was over, I looked around at the guys I was there with - guys a couple of years older than me, really Rich's friends - and their expressions matched what I imagined mine to be. "Can you believe what we just saw?" I'll never forget that. Never.

Rich said...

Awesome story, Brett.

codepoke said...

I could barely pick Bono out of a lineup, but that is one cool story, Brett.

DugALug said...

Wow Rich,

I am sorry to disapoint you with my derogatory posts. I had no idea you liked U2 so much.

I can't say that I agree with you about powerful albums. Their last few have been a little disapointing to me. I am sure part of this is because of my expecations, but I cannot say that there content was good enough musically or lyrically to muster the accolades that they were getting.

Brett, I wish I could have been there with you dude. It sounded like quite a performance.

-Doug

Rich said...

Doug,

You haven't disappointed me in the least with any of your comments. Having differences of opinions around here is a great thing. Sometimes, changing someone's opinion is a great thing. Sometimes, not. Over the years, you've changed some of my more erroneous opinions enough that I know the value of others having different convictions than me.

Whether one enjoys U2's music or not is a totally subjective matter. I think I mentioned that U2 wasn't my favorite band (although they're up there for me), but that doesn't mean I can't see over the tall trees of my favorite bands to see the worldwide forest of interest U2 draws. That's indisputable. No other band draws that type of intrigue over each CD they produce. No one's close.

With Bono, I mentioned that I went back and forth on him for a long time, so I don't know why I wouldn't offer that same leeway to others at the very least. I just finally arrived at the conclusion that I see Christ in so many of his actions, despite his own rhetoric of what a lousy example of a Christian he is. Are his politics my politics? Not even close. But there's Someone a lot more important than my politics, and He is asking for a drink of water and a hug. Bono gives Him that.

And then, he's the greatest of the rock front men to put a cherry on top. If he's not for you, that's fine. He is for me.

As long as I'm mentioning Bono showing Christ, I may as well mention that I see Christ in you, too, Doug. I've seen Him many times and in many ways. And it's awesome to me.

Now, saying that, I wish I would have been with Brett (and most of my friends) at that concert, too. But if I'm not mistaken, that was the concert I had to miss because our track mile relay team was running for State that evening. I ran my fastest quarter ever that night, and of course we lost. I should have skipped out on my team and headed to see U2. Then, at least, I would have been a winner. (See how I learn nothing after all these years? Wisdom hits me in the head and bounces off.)