"I want U2 to be a band that takes risks. I hate this idea of U2 as a nice safe band. . . . The rock rebel thing is very phony."
Column: off the record..., vol. 12-524
July 23, 2012
I am a huge music fan, not just of U2, but pretty much any genre. I will approach most things with an open mind and some pop tunes really stick with me. I took the opportunity to see Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D at the movie theater on opening night. Ever since seeing U23D I have been looking for another music performance film in 3D that I had an interest in seeing. I decided to head out for this one on a weekend when I had little else to do.
I really enjoyed the movie. Here is a pop star who has struggled to get a contract and an album out. She writes her own songs, and spent years trying to break into the business. What I was most impressed with is how she treats her fans. She routinely meets fans before concerts, and during the show will often bring the outlandish dressers, and those that look like they are having excessive fun, up on stage to dance. One thing the film showed was how much she appeared to care about her fans, even struggling through a difficult emotional time to get out and greet her fans.
It made me wonder about U2 and how much of the fan "activity" actually reaches them. Do they notice when fans dress up in a U2 costume for a show? Do they see the synchronized dancing and miming of lyrics during shows? Do they realize that the colored balloons everywhere are a pre-arranged fan action? I think they do. And they have certainly shown a willingness to connect with the audience in a similar manner to Katy Perry. I have seen fans get up on stage and perform with the band. I have seen Bono welcome an entire amateur band on stage to play the opening of "Out Of Control." During the U2 360 tour volunteers at the show actually became part of the show nightly as they took to the stage during "Walk On."
The Katy Perry movie certainly reminded me how special it was to be a fan of any band or artist. I walked out after the movie with a feeling of just how lucky I have been to experience some incredible moments at U2 concerts.
Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D also reminded me of U2 in another way. Her song "California Gurls" is in the movie, and I can't help but think back to my trip to see U2 in Athens every time I hear that song. It was September 2010 and her song was being played everywhere. The song was playing in the airport in Toronto as I met the friends I was traveling with. It played on the long cab ride in from the airport in Athens. I can remember walking through one of the touristy areas near the Acropolis in the heat, and hearing the song and my friend Karen and I starting to sing.
It's funny that a "U2 trip" was hijacked by a Katy Perry song. You really couldn't escape it. And it's nice to have other music that reminds me of some great times. Another song that stood out was Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," which played in the cab on our way to Camp Nou that first night of the tour way back in Barcelona. The songs between the opening act and U2 that play over the PA system have also worked their way into my life. They all bring back fond memories.
Athens was a special show for me because I finally got to hear "Return Of The Sting Ray Guitar" in concert. The song was the instrumental bit that was opening shows on the 2010 leg of the tour. Bono would prance around, give some attitude and do some howling throughout the song as the show started. I really fell for the song. And maybe it's no surprise, as it appears to be an outtake from one of my favorite albums, The Unforgettable Fire.
Wait!? What did he say?!
It's true. I was going through a box of old U2 stuff, and came across my photos and notes from my visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2003. At the time, the top three floors of the museum were being used for a U2 exhibit. I got caught up looking at a notebook belonging to Brian Eno, kept during the production of The Unforgettable Fire. It was open to a list of songs and the progress of the recording process. I wrote many of the unreleased song titles down.
And when I looked at that list the first thing that jumped out at me? "Return To The Sting Ray Guitar." Searching for further information I came across a list of "unreleased" U2 songs from across the ages, here in our own atu2 forum. Not sure why I didn't make the connection before that "Return Of The Sting Ray Guitar" was an older song. I had forgotten that title along the way. The timing would make sense, as in 2009 The Edge was reviewing old recordings for The Unforgettable Fire anniversary set. I suppose he found the old gem and decided to dust it off, and throw it in the tour.
And for those who like stats, if you consider the track an outtake from The Unforgettable Fire era, they have played five songs from that time -- "Bad," "MLK," "Pride" and "The Unforgettable Fire" -- on the most recent tour. Who would have thought that this most recent tour would have so much coverage of The Unforgettable Fire era of their career?
We may hear a lot about Spider-Man when it comes to U2 because of the musical. But there was a time our band was working with another superhero. Most will remember "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" and the amazing animated video from 1995's Batman Forever film. But do you remember that The Edge also did the theme for the animated series The Batman?
(c) @U2/Sams, 2012.