The Rant prepares to attend the kick-off for U2’s latest world tour. We have seen U2 on many occasions. Once in Vegas, we watched the opening act Damian Marley employ a dude that did nothing but wave an enormous Jamaican flag during the entire set. Good work if you can get it. Bono implied during his shout out to Damian that even the Irish must bow to Jamaicans when it comes to keeping the party going. During another Vegas show, we watched Fergie and will.i.am sneak a cigarette backstage before The Black Eyed Peas got it started in there.
As an experiment, The Rant tried to compose Pitchfork’s review of U2’s latest, Songs of Experience, in our heads before we actually read it. We got entire paragraphs spot on. Trying too hard. Seeking relevance. Striving to capture a moment they don’t understand. As an aside, The Rant wonders why writing a predictable review of an album is any less a failure than making a predictable album.
The Rant often asks friends what they get from Springsteen; they ask us what we get from U2. What we realize is something far beyond music that touches on identity and meaning and hope and transcendence. Both artists create the intensity of their fan bases from live performance and songs that speak to a longing to be understood. Don’t ask us to believe in your religion, and we won’t ask you to believe in the power of 20,000 singing “One” with Bono. Anything you value is trite corniness if you haven’t been converted.
If you are chasing the latest sound and waiting to pounce on a band once they falter, music means something entirely different to you than it does to us. The Rant realized long ago that American pop culture will forgive excess and mediocrity but never an earnest desire to be more than a chord or a chorus because falling short reads as sentimentality and pretension, the unforgivable pop sin.
We have listened to Wilco’s Being There for weeks at a time to keep our moorings in difficult times. Seeing them live is enjoyable, simply a pleasant evening out. Spoon brings us endless joy when they play at the Cain’s, but none of their albums deliver solace when we need it most.
We will never forget sitting on the tiny balcony of our college apartment, next to the woman we had just engaged, listening to The Joshua Tree. Suddenly our narrow, fundamentalist upbringing seemed to open out into the entire world; suddenly our spiritual craving had a voice that commanded attention and made our dreams seem possible. We will never forget Bono swinging from his suspended mike out over the crowd and summoning a community to consider a life bigger than pettiness and spite. We will never forget, and we certainly have no intention of apologizing. Achtung baby.