"I feel like it's always raining in our songs, that bittersweetness. . . . We surrender too easily to the blues. We, if we're not careful, are bleeding all over the world."
Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-722
May 08, 2016
It’s been a fun few days of sleuthing with the U2 online fan community. Some observant U2 fans noticed on Friday that Amazon UK had posted information on Twitter about the upcoming Innocence + Experience Live In Paris DVD that is apparently slated for release on June 10. A few of us here also followed up, and M2 posted the information in our Bits & Bytes section. By Saturday morning, all that information had been taken down on Amazon UK.
I shared this news with my husband, who said, “Clever marketing. U2’s people know there’s a handful of fans out there who would make something like that go viral. Think of all the advertising they just saved!” While I don’t think that’s the case, this is not the first time a U2 release was posted by an online retailer only to be quickly removed. Ticketmaster did something similar with a placeholder prior to the I+E tour tickets going on sale.
I am encouraged that the U2 machine is back up in operational mode. The Irish Times wrote about Adam’s appearance at the American Ireland Fund’s Gala a few days ago: “Mr. Clayton broke away from recording with the band...”
This marks consecutive weeks where a band member has been doing something media-worthy. We’ll see if they’ll pick up another trophy at the upcoming 2016 Billboard Music Awards on May 22. They’re up for Top Duo or Group and Top Touring Artist. I’m sure that’s a sticker the record label would like to apply to the Paris DVD when it’s released in June. We’re seeing ways of re-engagement, so I’m hopeful it won’t be a quiet summer after all.
For the U2 historians out there, The Edge was not the first contemporary musician to perform at the Sistine Chapel. According to The Province, violinist Rosemary Siemens and vocalist Mary Zilba were. They even have an official Vatican scroll to prove it. I don’t recall reading if Edge received a scroll. Sounds like the Vatican might have told a fib to Edge when he was asked to perform as the first contemporary artist.
“You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been. A place that has to be believed to be seen … And I know it aches and your heart it breaks, and you can only take so much. Walk on.”
U2’s music has always been able to speak to adversity, pain, loss and yearning for me. The mark of a true artist is to have a work move you in ways you just can’t explain. “Walk On,” a 16-year-old song, has been transformative. Lyrics haven’t changed, but the message continues to morph with whatever I’m going through. To be fair, just about every U2 song has done that, which is why almost 40 years into the band being together in one form or another we continue to debate the merits of the music.
Over the years, the @U2 readership has been kind and generous in supporting the writing we all do on the site. I’ve been associated with this site longer than “Walk On” has been a part of our lyrical lexicon, and these 17+ years have been some of the most exhilarating I’ve had on this planet. You’ve all been gracious to allow me to write about my life and the interconnectivity U2 has within it.
My last OTR column, written two weeks ago, was probably one of the toughest ones I’ve ever written. To quote from part of it, “this week’s OTR column will be part tribute, part education and all catharsis.” The catharsis was quite personal as I was dealing with the topic of dying on a far different level. In full disclosure, two weeks prior (April 11) I nearly lost my life due to a complication from a recent surgery. There is nothing more startling than to be told by a doctor, “Had you been another 30 minutes, you wouldn’t have made it.” I didn’t even have time to pack a suitcase as the emergency required immediate transport to the hospital. As I was in recovery, with a new perspective, all I could think about were all the things I couldn’t leave behind. I also had “Out Of Control” in mind: “One day I’ll die, the choice will not be mine, will it be too late, you can’t fight fate – I was of the feeling, it was out of control.”
One of the songs I wrote about in my U2.com playlist was “Iris.” I said in the article:
"Mr. Bono loves his mommy and is sad that he misses her?" That's what my 5-year-old daughter said to me when we were talking about the song after it was first released. From that point on I haven't been able to listen to "Iris" without thinking of it from Mrs. Hewson's point of view and how sad I'd be if I left my children behind. That twist encourages me to make the most of my time with my kids, so if something were to happen, they'd have stronger memories of me.
My heart was breaking knowing how close our family was to this scenario, and sometimes having a lot of quiet time in recovery to reflect isn’t a good thing. However, I was filled with such gratitude for being allowed extra time above the daisies. I also took a walk down memory lane. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that just about every memory was linked to U2 in some way: my family, a friend I made through a fan site or listserv, countries I had traveled because of the band, how I converted my church pastor into a U2 fan, all the fun events I had the honor of organizing, authors I had read because they had some connection with the band, etc. I realized just how much of my life has been prioritized around this band of four men, and I must say I’m better for it.
All I wanted to do was get back to “normal,” which sort of happened thanks to Bono. I still had access to email and Facebook while in recovery and noticed The New York Times’ Facebook post with Bono’s op-ed piece about his recent trips to refugee camps. To coincide with his trip to Capitol Hill, he was doing a Q&A through the One Campaign’s Facebook account that day, and questions were solicited online, so I happily submitted one. To my surprise, he began the Q&A with my question. My normal is typically seeking ways to get an answer from Bono about something; it just so happened he gave it to me directly. Usually, I have to search through some print interview, listen to hours of audio interviews or find it through a search engine. The nature of what I do for @U2 typically requires me to be constantly researching. Needless to say, it felt good to get back to something I’d normally do. I appreciated the consideration with my question and am grateful to have been one of the few selected.
What I learned through this experience is to cherish each day as if it’s your last, thank everyone you can for all the ways they’ve impacted you, remind people to donate blood through the Red Cross and to never lose hope. I am a very lucky woman, and through the generosity of so many I am still here to write about these four blokes from Ireland who continue to change the lives of millions around the world with their art. I’m also lucky to have a great team here who graciously put up with me on staff, and a fantastic readership base who are interested to read what I write. Thank you all for your kindness.
As a result of my medical situation, I was forced to give up tickets to a few shows I was slated to go to in Boston. Having found no takers for my tickets for Van Morrison or for Steve Martin & Martin Short, I did something I swore I wouldn’t do: I contacted a ticket broker and sold them. I have been reporting on the ticket resale market for years now, and it pained me to go through this process. We were asked to name our price on the broker’s form, so we put down the face value of the ticket. That’s all we were asking. The broker came back and offered us more than what we asked and wouldn’t accept our offer. I was just as surprised as my husband at this outcome. Come to find out, they do this because brokers expect that you are shopping the tickets around for a competitive price. This practice is one explanation why the national resale broker tickets are so high: They overpay the original ticket holder to begin with and adjust the ticket price accordingly.
And finally … today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. Let’s not forget about the mothers who don’t know where their children are. For the Mothers of the Disappeared, the Saturday Mothers, Mothers of Khavaran, Committee of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants, Tiananmen Mothers in China and all other organizations out there that serve the purpose of finding missing sons and daughters, we continue to sing “el pueblo vencerá.”
Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.
(c) Lawrence/@U2, 2016