Danahey on the Loose, watching Bono and the rest of U2 with my dear friend Oprah
Memorial Day weekend, I was in Nashville and went to see U2 with a friend who is a big fan of the band and who has moved to that town.
She even has a t-shirt that says, “I want to run” on one side, and “I want to hide” on the other. It confuses people who aren’t true fans – much like the “Stop Staring At My Kielbasa” shirt that I wore to the Nashville U2 gig may have done to concertgoers there.
Actually, one woman and her pals shook my hand and said mine was the best t-shirt she saw all night. Take that, Bono. And I think bass player Adam Clayton saw me at one point and was chuckling. So there.
I know it’s a cliche at this point to bash him, but Bono really is the hardest thing for me to take about U2. When I was young and had hair, I liked U2 music a lot and the band’s story of rising from Dublin and them being inspired by the punk and new wave scene and winding up becoming the preeminent arena rock stars of their era.
I started to lose interest when I saw the band in Rosemont a long time ago, and Bono seemed frustrated that the way-mostly-white audience didn’t know the words to Chicago native Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.” Go figure.
Things only got worse over the decades with Bono on his endless crusades to save the world and the band’s music frequently becoming more full of itself. That’s to say, for every “It’s Beautiful Day,” there was a “Yahweh.” Yeah, a song called “Yahweh,” for God’s sake. And the fast numbers sounded like INXS.
Anway, the current tour is in support of the band’s latest release, “Songs of Experience,” a companion piece to “Songs of Innocence,” and just typing that makes me cringe and wish Frank McCourt was still alive to teach Bono about how to write better Irish autobiographical material. Plus, Frank McCourt never had one of his novels auto-downloaded to your iPhone, if you wanted it or not! And he was funnier.
That isn’t to say that the band put on a bad show.
They realize that in these ADHD days, where life isn’t worth living unless it’s posted on social media, you have to have spectacle. Plus, if you’re ego is as big as Bono’s is reported to be, you want people to go Facebook Live with your act.
The band came out on a catwalk/cage set up in the middle of the Bridgestone Arena, and for the first number you couldn’t see them. I thought, great. People spent all that money to watch a big metal box chatter for two hours.
What set my cynicism meter off was that U2 has an app which you could use to “enhance” the stage’s visuals. The nice couple sitting next to me from South Carolina said all the app seemed to do was drain their phones’ batteries.
Either way, the issue for me was what to watch. The band spread out across the expanse of the arena for a good part of the show, and had video projections on their catwalk. Sometimes part of the band was on a small stage at one end of the catwalk, with the other guys on the main stage – maybe so they’d all have a chance not to be by Bono.
At one point I thought they were simulating playing in a tank in Seaworld. At another I thought Bono was ascending into heaven. He did tread carefully, having fallen from the contraption during a performance in Chicago.
Other illustrations had Bono walking through a cartoon version of the Dublin neighborhood where he grew up, or the band as comic book novel versions of themselves or Bono as his alter ego, Macphisto.
That’s where the little guy goes demon, spouts Svengoolie makeup, cracks wise and implicitly lets us all know that he knows he irritates people in his special Irish way.
Hey. He wasn’t as scary as the dude who dressed as Bono and was milling about the lobby before the show. Why would you do that? Does your mom really let you out of the basement dressed like that?
That’s not to say there weren’t some moving moments in the show – or heavy-handed ones, often at the same time.
A stripped-down version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” reminded of Ireland’s not-too-distant troubles, and one of the graphics reminded of the May 17, 1974 car bombing deaths of in Dublin and Monaghan that have gone unsolved.
The deep cut “Staring at the Sun” was accompanied by video of the white supremacist monsters with their tiki torches who descended on Charlottesville last summer, then segued into the Martin Luther King tribute, “In the Name of Love.”
Apparently in one number, the band played a snippet of “Sex on Fire,” a song by Nashville band Kings of Leon that very well might be about an STD. I would have preferred “Ring of Fire,” that being Johnny Cash, Nashville and a way better song.
They did drop strips of paper from the ceiling at one point, and at first I thought it might have been left over confetti from the Nashville Predators not making the Stanley Cup finals. (By the way, Predators is the worst team name in any sport. Ever.) Alas, it had some sort of typing on it – though I told the woman next to me, it may have just been not-so-eco-friendly way to get the band’s phone numbers to cute fans.
Anyway, it was all well and good until the end of the evening. Bono told everybody about how a good part of his crew lives in the Nashville area. Okay. Nice to acknowledge that.
But then he felt compelled to let everyone in the very polite, middle-aged audience, that there were celebrities in their midst. Ashley Judd. Bill Frist. T-Bone Burnett. Al Gore. Oprah Winfrey.
I saw a photo the next day. Gore was there with the saner Quaid brother, Dennis. And Al was wearing a sport coat! To a rock concert!
I didn’t see any of the stars and pols myself, but Bono did tell us he could feel Oprah’s energy in the room. I looked under my chair and encouraged others to do the same, in case Oprah had gifts for us all.
Either way, ugh. Not Uggs. Ugh.
But hey, at least Bono thanked the audience for all the money the band has made that they can live the life they have, dodging taxes while sincerely telling us to give to causes. Or words to that effect.
Still, it was nice that on the way out, you could turn your souvenir U2 soda cup back in, with a $2 rebate given if you did. I wonder it they extended the offer to the cleaning crew?