U2 and the Rules of Rock

28 May

Last night, we saw U2 in concert. They are not our favorite group, but some friends had extra tickets that they wanted to sell. We took them because U2 is a legendary band that people should see if given the chance and because we thought it would be a good show. In fact, it was a good show. However, it could have been a great show.

We got to our seats and saw a big wall.

I immediately thought they were trying to copy Pink Floyd, and, as the concert progressed, it was apparent that this was their version of The Wall.

Songs took the crowd through Bono’s youth with odes to his mother and to his childhood neighborhood. Then, the story took a turn as a comic book version of U2 was formed and flew too close to the sun before being brought back down to earth. Finally, the concert turned to the current state of politics and how America is a nation that can still be a shining beacon for the world.

Through all of that, there were great visual effects and moments of acting from Bono. At one point, he went from being a demon to talking to someone at home while cleaning up in a mirror.

All of that was fine. U2 is successful enough to indulge themselves in a little Rock Opera, and they have money enough to put together a visual spectacle. They were also low-key in their political statements for a band that has always been known for its politics.

However, through all of that there was one vital missing ingredient.

U2 did not play many of their hit songs. There was new stuff. There were deep cuts. There were homages to other artists. There were only a few songs that the casual U2 listener would recognize.

Throughout the day, I have been thinking about this and have come up with some ideas about what long-established bands should do during a concert. I call these ideas The Rules of Rock. Of course, they could also be called The Rules of Country. The Rules of Pop or The Rules of Any Genre of Music.

  1. If you have a song that reached Number 1 on the charts, then you should play it in concert. This would include “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” They did not play either of these songs, and I believe they are the only two singles to reach Number 1 on the US charts.
  2. If you have a song to which everyone in the building knows the words, then you should play it in concert. This does not have to be a Number 1 song. It could be something that was popular and people remember. “Where the Streets Have No Name” fits this category, but they did not play it.
  3. If you have a song that was the first semi-hit that put you on the map, then you should play it in concert. For a lot of people, “New Year’s Day” was the first sound they heard from U2, and it made them want to hear more. They did not play this, but it would have been a good idea.

I am sure that a ton of people left the concert happy with what they heard. Many people around us were singing along to songs that I have never heard. They cheered at some early U2 music that true fans of the band have probably grown to love. Certainly, those in the audience who Bono called out from the stage had a good time. Oprah Winfrey, Al Gore, former Republican Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, Ashley Judd, T-Bone Burnett, Ava DuVerney, Dierks Bentley. The list goes on and on.

As for us, we are not super fans or personal friends. We are people who wanted to hear the hits, and we did not hear enough of them.

7 Responses to “U2 and the Rules of Rock”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong May 28, 2018 at 02:23 #

    I’m really surprisingly ignorant of most bands that came after the early 70s. I know their names, but I don’t know their music. Part of it was being overseas for almost all of the 1980s … the rest was just being too busy with other things, music not being foremost. I try to engage with stuff about music, but find that I’m lost. Too bad. I’m sure I missed a lot.

    • Rick May 28, 2018 at 03:56 #

      70s music is better than 80s music, so I don’t think you missed much.

  2. Robert P Bryan May 28, 2018 at 02:45 #

    I agree. Bands should play the songs that got them where they are, no matter how sick of them they may be. The fans expect it and the bands owe it to the fans. If it weren’t for those hits, they would still be playing at Tootsies, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

    • Rick May 28, 2018 at 03:58 #

      When I saw Elton John, he called it the jukebox. He played some new songs but knew that people came to hear the songs of their youth.

  3. John S June 9, 2018 at 23:19 #

    Last year they did the nostalgia trip, including playing the whole of the Joshua Tree. I guess they are now plugging the last couple of albums, which aren’t that great. I agree with you though – bands who have been around for a long time should recognise that their fans do want to hear their old favourites.

    • Rick June 10, 2018 at 00:34 #

      They played the Bonnaroo festival near here and did the Joshua Tree. However, that is a festival that we may be too old for.

      • John S June 10, 2018 at 21:57 #

        You are never too old!

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