"It's the most un-rock 'n' roll thing you could do, so I never ever talked about it, but that was actually my obsession before rock-and-roll."
-- Bono, on playing chess
Column: off the record..., vol. 14-622
June 08, 2014
Exciting news coming out of Dublin: U2’s gear has left HQ for London, then it’ll be off to France for the summer. While it’s been fun keeping up with their social life in Los Cabos, Malibu and Los Angeles on Twitter, I wish the band would just address the fans through their own social media outlets (let alone their own fan club) with any updates about anything. The rumor mill is going into high gear with information circulating about the possibility of a two-year world tour beginning in late fall. Based on past tour experience, I’m seeing the puzzle pieces falling into place that would concur with tour preparations. Through past interviews, it would appear that the band’s time in Eze isn’t all holiday this year. If I were a betting gal, I’d say we may be in for a very exciting fall season. I sure do hope that the rumors are true.
I had a rare deep discussion with another die-hard fan earlier this week about what is currently inspiring the band. I am of the mindset that pretty much there are two areas of inspiration: The band members are still artists who have a muse that lives within them, and they have contractual commitments that must be fulfilled. As the past reminds us, U2 came out of the punk era and the reality that there wasn’t much opportunity for advancement if you were a young lad in the '70s. As we all know, U2 became synonymous with the cultural protest movements. In the '80s we had Band Aid, Self Aid, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Artists United Against Apartheid, where band members gave so much of themselves to the causes personally. Remember when Edge traveled to Moscow with Greenpeace?
We saw a shift in the '90s, when instead of lecturing from the stage, politicians were brought there either by phone during ZooTV or in person with the Good Friday agreement. With the exception of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, large-scale music concerts to draw attention to unjust causes became passé. (Remember Net Aid?) A more personal approach was needed to see change happen, and thus began the millennium with Jubilee 2000, DATA and ONE. The G8 concerts served as a milepost to show how far we’ve come from Live Aid. U2 continued to use their concert stage to rally fans to free political prisoners, ask governments to forgive the debt of developing nations and become more educated about world issues.
In the middle of the current decade, we’ve seen another shift. I’m not sure if it’s fatigue or more of a “been there, done that” attitude, but U2 lending themselves to protest-related causes is not happening. The band has steered clear of the cultural protest movement that Roger Waters and others are behind in trying to convince musicians to not play Israel, claiming the apartheid there against Palestinians is no different from the apartheid found in South Africa generations ago. When Amnesty International organized the “Bringing Human Rights Home” concert earlier this year, I was surprised not to see some U2 representation.
In all fairness, music is not what most are using to raise social injustice awareness – it’s social media. Hashtags have replaced calling an 800 number or writing a letter. #BringBackOurGirls, #YesAllWomen and #NotOneMore are the latest examples of millions joining the conversation. While Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg) hopes to organize concerts to campaign against gun violence, concert stages are not the pulpits they once were.
As fans continue to debate U2’s relevancy, I see this aspect of U2’s career as an interesting area to explore. While Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry are each personally supporting various causes publicly and privately, they have been a bit more selective in offering the U2 brand. U2’s core audience was born out of these concert protest experiences in the mid-'80s. They may no longer feel compelled to raise awareness of global issues because new media are doing that, nor can they ignite youth into action as they once could because of the generational gap. That ship has sailed. What was once a lifeblood flowing through U2 and its connection to the audience is certainly fading. The pulling back of this aspect of U2’s career leads me to think that it’s another way the band is stepping away.
In case you missed it:
The Irish Independent reports that the site of U2’s studios at Windmill Lane has been sold.
Bono will be joining Apple’s Jony Ive in a panel discussion on (RED)’s impact at the Cannes Lion Festival on June 21.
Director Mark Romenek has shared on Vimeo a 30-second clip from the “Invisible” video shoot where Bono shows off his opera skills.
And finally … where the streets really have no names.
Have a great week!