Sunday, October 26, 2008

Experience U2

U2 (Lead singer Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.), four friends from Dublin, Ireland, began their musical career in 1976. Since forming three decades ago, the quartet have written and recorded numerous critically acclaimed songs, while also dominating the popular music charts and the concert scene. Thirty years on, U2 is still going strong. Perhaps this is no clearer than on stage. U2 live is an experience that is difficult to describe. I was fortunate enough to see them on October 19, 2001 in Baltimore, just a month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The band was already using a template that would be made famous during their Superbowl halftime show several months later: a screen behind them that listed the names of the victims killed in those attacks. See video examples below:

If one was to buy only three of their albums, they should be: 1983's War (with the seminal political protest anthem "Sunday Bloody Sunday," about "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland), 1987's The Joshua Tree (their pathbreaking masterpiece that also includes many of their biggest chart hits), and 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind (the band's return to form after the eccentric Pop album).

Bono has made a name for himself as a human rights and Africa debt relief advocate, and he is heavily involved in promoting social causes in the U.S., Europe, and around the world. He reportedly made the late Republican Senator Jesse Helms weep by describing the AIDS crisis in Africa.

For those who have not (yet) been able to experience U2 live, here are some video clips below. Even in video, the power of their live performance is still clear. These clips come from their two concert DVDs, one recorded at Slane Castle in Ireland and the other in Boston during their Elevation Tour (the tour that I saw them on). Enjoy.

"Kite," a song from All That You Can't Leave Behind. It was never a single, but it is one of my top 3 favorite U2 songs. Bono's father had died a month before the Baltimore show, and at that show, he remarked that the song is really from a father to their children. Initially, he said, he wrote it for his children, but following the death of his father, he said that, in a way, he saw it as a song that could also be seen as one from his father to him.

"With or Without You," from The Joshua Tree. Bono, the consummate showman, makes one fan's year.

"Sunday Bloody Sunday," U2's famous political protest song about "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland between Protestants, backed by the occupying British military and police, and Irish Roman Catholics. From their 1983 album War, the song was released at the height of violence between Protestant and Catholic groups, such as the Irish Republican Army and its various offshoots, and the British occupation forces, who often ignored human rights. This performance is at Slane Castle, Ireland.

"Where the Streets Have No Name," from The Joshua Tree. Perhaps U2's most recognizable (musically speaking) song, and one of their most powerful songs when performed live. Observe here.

"All I Want is You," a subtle but beautiful love song.

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