"This might be one of those U2 records I even like."
-- Bono, on All That You Can't Leave Behind
Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-754
December 25, 2016
U2 offered a Christmas surprise to fans today by announcing Songs Of Experience is definitely being released in 2017, and some “special shows” will commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree. It was awesome seeing Adam decorating the Joshua tree in the studio (loved the shiny star), the level of detail with presents under the tree (a guitar-shaped gift for B, a small box for L and E) along with Christmas crackers and tinsel. There’s already chatter among fans if The Joshua Tree will be performed cover-to-cover like Springsteen did for The River. Billboard's report of a late-spring tour stadium tour in the U.S., followed by stadiums in Europe is matching some of the rumors that have been swirling. That report also suggests U2 may be performing at Bonnaroo. After the band's experience at Glastonbury, it feels like a bit of added pressure to play a festival of that size and nature. I can't wait to see what happens over the next few weeks. (UPDATE: a few hours after the original posting online, Billboard updated its report, removing the Bonnaroo rumor and the stadium tour information.)
Meanwhile, the annual Christmas Eve busking on Grafton Street fundraiser for Simon Community and the Peter McVerry Trust was Bonoless this year. He was a regular participant from 2009-2013. A bicycle mishap kept him from joining the festivities in 2014, but he bounced back in 2015 for three songs. This year’s event appeared to be cut short due to the size of the crowd on Grafton Street. Thanks to all who supplied feeds yesterday.
"Extreme militant Unionists and militant Republicans didn't like the word compromise. Some of these militants broke away and a dissident Republican group known as the Continuity IRA decided to try and destroy the peace process, which was just taking baby steps, by letting off a car bomb in the tiny town centre of Omagh on 15 August 1998. It killed 29 people and injured 220 men, women and children just out doing their Saturday shopping... Maybe because we felt we had a stake in the peace process, I could not comprehend how people could do something like that. The closest I ever came to a crisis of faith happened after that. It was hard to be a believer at that moment. We wrote the song 'Peace On Earth' after that, which is as bitter and as angry a song as U2 have ever written." - Bono, U2 By U2 2006
I’ve been listening to All That You Can’t Leave Behind regularly over the past few weeks in preparation for our next podcast. “Peace On Earth” has been on my heart so much that I have to remind myself it’s a song written about the terror attack in Omagh in 1998. It speaks to the current state of the world more than ever: Berlin, Germany; al-Karak, Jordan; a foiled terrorist plot in Australia, and most heartbreakingly, Aleppo, Syria.
“We hear it every Christmas time, but hope and history won’t rhyme, so what’s it worth…this peace on earth?”
This week, we saw an increase in rhetoric about nuclear weapons from the U.S. President-elect. We are witnessing a challenge to our decades-long understanding of world peace. History has shown that the current rhetoric did not work in the past, and the idea of hope is fleeting among many.
Steve Stockman has linked “Peace On Earth” with the nativity story in a recent blog post. It seems it’s quite the song for the season.
U2 has been quietly working behind the scenes to craft its message of experience in 2016, which we’ll see come to life in the new year. Uncharacteristically, the band wore its heart on its sleeve regarding the incoming leader of the free world. It was a throwback to the ‘80s when a much younger U2 became vocal about Ronald Reagan and the state of the world over three decades ago. Bono did not mince words in September in October regarding “the candidate.” It has placed them in a delicate position because the message tone and nuance the band wants to make in 2017 needs to reflect an ever-changing (and frankly, deteriorating) world view.
It does not surprise me that U2 has gone back to the studio throughout 2016 to continue working on Songs Of Experience. Despite what was said on a recent Chris Evans breakfast show, I wonder if U2 really has "finished" the album? U2 has always tried to have something on every album that speaks to the times we live in right now, and in light of all the political and cultural turmoil the world's seen in the past year, I wonder if the band wants to punch up the anger or rage (or perhaps tone it down) for some of the songs even more? I wouldn't be surprised if they are headed back in to the studio early in 2017 to make a few more tweaks. It would be the normal U2 behavior on finishing an album. Then again, it’s never truly done until it’s available for sale and that’s even questionable because Edge will go back and tinker for future re-releases.
It’s been a very tough 2016 for friends and family of U2: David Bowie, Garvin Evans, Jerry Mele, Jo Cox, Michael Elliott and Leonard Cohen passed away. Bono and Larry lost a legal battle in Brazil. Larry found himself in other legal battles as well around Dublin regarding real estate.
2016 also marked the 40th anniversary of the first meet up in Larry’s kitchen. Many fans celebrated #U240 around the globe. We were proud to offer the celebrations in Cleveland and Dublin and are grateful for the support of those events by all involved. Fans enjoyed the Innocence + Experience: Live From Paris DVD release too.
We also had photo evidence the band did spend some time in recording studios. Individually, the band members kept quite busy. Here are some of the things that kept Edge, Adam, Bono and Larry pre-occupied during 2016 (in no particular order):
In addition, U2 performed for the iHeartRadio Music Festival and at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference. The band’s collaboration with DJ Kygo, “The Best Thing,” made its debut at Kygo’s concert, only to find out he didn’t have permission to perform it. A sneak-peek of a U2 app prototype also circulated.
We’ll see what 2017 brings. Based on U2.com’s membership renewal notification, and the band's Christmas announcement, we're slated to have a few more fan gatherings in larger venues with a much better house band to spend the evening with.
Should U2 tour in 2017, ticket touts are going to have a tougher time in the U.S. with buying concert tickets en masse. President Obama recently signed a bill banning ticket bots, outlawing computer programs to snag large quantities of tickets to events. The “Better Online Ticket Sales Act” (BOTS Act) will hopefully allow the average fan a better opportunity to purchase tickets during the initial sale. Billboard’s Dan Rys reported that Live Nation and StubHub has been investigated in Italy and Britain about this issue as well. Ticketmaster released a statement commending the law: “The passage of the BOTS Act is a critical step in raising awareness about the use of bad bots, but the fight doesn’t end here. We’ve invested millions of dollars over the years to identify and block bots and we’re continuing to build new products to ensure that tickets get into the hands of fans.”
This is the last OTR column for 2016. On behalf of the @U2 staff, we wish you a very healthy, joy-filled and wondrous holiday season. Onward to U2017.
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) @U2/Lawrence, 2016.