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Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-744

@U2, October 09, 2016
By: Sherry Lawrence


off the record, from @U2

“She’s the promise in the year of election” couldn’t be a more fitting lyric in “Desire,” making it an even more inspired choice for U2 to open its Las Vegas iHeartRadio Music Festival set. U2 fans were curious to see if “Desire” would make the cut for Thursday’s event broadcast on the CW network. I was happy to see that it was featured, but surprised that the only other song to make the final edit was “Vertigo.” That’s broadcast TV for you!

Thank you to all who followed along on Twitter with our live coverage of U2’s Dreamfest concert at the “Cloud Palace” in San Francisco. Because the name of the venue was changed specifically for the Salesforce annual Dreamforce conference, we have entered it into the U2 Tours database as the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, since that’s the actual name of the venue.

As reported last year, U2’s relationship with Salesforce is a personal one with regard to the philanthropy of both entities. It should be noted the initial plan reported in April 2015 was to launch a fan engagement app; it did not pan out. U2 committed to headline the 2016 Dreamfest event in July, and we all had anticipated there would be new material and a major announcement to coincide with it. As we know, that also did not pan out.

This 90-minute Dreamfest benefit performance could be classified as a greatest-hits set; however the power and punch in the delivery of the 15 songs did not make it feel like it was a collection of old songs. There was a small percentage of die-hard U2 fans in attendance, but the majority of the people there were the demographic the band would like to gain as more than a casual listener of their music. Many in the audience are influencers in the corporate sector who may have the ability to progress the causes U2 hold dear. While some might argue it was nothing more than a corporate gig, I would have to disagree. This was an opportunity for U2 to convert many to their brand of social justice causes. (RED) had a presence at the Dreamforce conference, and was featured during U2’s set. The event raised over $10 million for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals as well.

U2 used this as an opportunity to make their most definitive political statement yet in regard to the Republican nominee for president, doing so during “Bullet The Blue Sky.” This song was an obvious choice to unleash the message U2 wanted to make, with Bono’s rant highlighting that the Candidate goes against liberty and justice, and an isolationist stance goes against what America stands for. If the rant seems a little longer, the version U2 posted on social media was edited.

Noticeably, Bono does not empower the Candidate by naming him. Tim Neufeld picked up on this and spoke about it in the post-concert Crystal Ballroom broadcast on Periscope. (It starts around the 15-minute mark). Tim also wrote a detailed blog post with five things to consider about U2’s reaction to the Candidate. I have to agree with Tim’s theory that the use of Candidate was intentional and specific. The juxtaposition of “Bullet The Blue Sky” and “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” couldn’t be more of a stark philosophical contrast.

For those who feel U2 should stay out of politics and just stick to music, feeling that Bono’s “propaganda” is too much – this is precisely what U2 has been doing for 40 years. The message is not one filled with calls for violence or hate; the message is to educate the masses on the philosophical differences. U2 is not instructing people to do anything other than think. That is the role of any artist – to look at culture and empower people to think differently about something. I believe the difference in 2016 is U2’s one of the only bands out there with the cojones at the moment making political statements on a grand scale. Unlike in decades past, protest music is not in the mainstream, and I wish there were more bands doing so.

And finally … here is a version of “Desire” done in the style of “We Will Rock You.”

Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.

©@U2/Lawrence, 2016 


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