Suggested listening – U2 on YouTube
In a Little While – One of my favourite cuts. This usually blows my mind live. Johnny Ramone breathed new life into the band when they discovered this was the last song he listened to. But Bono’s playing with me, with us. This is a song of heartbreak; of miscarriages, fading love, waking up late and guilty. But Bono emphasizes space and rocket ships. Says space travel turns him on. Frank Dewin on the Int. Space Station recites the last verse about man taking “a rocket ship into the sky”. Looking down on us from the future, from so far away, all he can do is mumble the reprise.
Unknown Caller – This is an Eno and Lanois track. U2 just plays it. It’s a mixtape of answering machine messages. Optimism, secrets, friends’ inside jokes and broken lovers’ blues. It’s not an arena chant-along, but a bedroom anthem. The Hammond organ swells, the parade melody screams, and the Edge cuts through on the Les Paul. The only part I believe is the solo. It says more than the crowd reading the lyrics off the big screens.
At the End of the World – “Judas!” Bono calls out. His face is on the big screens. This song used to connect me to God. In headphones, the music transcended religion, inseminating in me at least a speck of belief, a capability to know there must be something outside me. Now, the record companies ask for bailouts from the last man who gave (gives?) America and the world hope. “Waves of regret, waves of joy, I reached out to the one I sought to destroy.” I sigh. The Edge launches into a raw but familiar guitar solo. Bono lurches and his voice cracks with practiced spontaneity. They reach out, at least.
A Sort of Homecoming – It’s so strange. This song just captivates me. The Edge plays probably the oldest guitar in his collection, a 50s Telecaster. Bono actually believes the story he tells. The keyboard sounds old and beautiful. I really like this performance.
City of Blinding Lights – Easily my favourite U2 song. The Edge’s slide sounds so lonely, so overwhelmed and fragile when played live. Bono does his ‘Streets’ jog around the catwalk. I give the video full-screen attention. Then I come back. The lights are there; the crowd is there. On the ‘Vertigo Chicago’ DVD, I could watch this song a thousand times, over and over. Now, I can’t. Bono takes off his sunglasses to the “look ugly in a photograph” line as he stares into the camera. But, unlike when I listen to the song alone, I know, as he looks into my eyes, that he’s not actually talking to me. “What time is it in the world?” he asks. Now I know this song’s not about us. It’s not about discovery, the city, seeing the world through new eyes. It’s about cell phones instead of lighters. It’s about suing downloaders, and seizing cameras at the door. It’s about business interests. “Grace abounds,” he says. I don’t know where.
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