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"When people are screaming in some stadium or arena, they're not screaming at you, they're screaming at themselves and the moment that song represents." — Bono

Column: off the record…, vol. 12-506


off the record, from @U2

St. Patrick's Day has come and gone for another year. I don't do much to celebrate. My days of drinking green beer at the Tantramarsh Pub are behind me. But with all things Irish on the mind, I wanted to write something about U2 and Ireland. I went back and reviewed my travel notes from my trips to see U2 in Dublin in 2005 and 2009, and one story really stood out for me, unfortunately not the most pleasant.

While we were queuing outside Croke Park for the first show in 2005, the residents staged a protest using their children. The kids, ranging from about 4 to 12, were sent to parade up and down the GA line holding signs: "Stop urinating in our streets"; "We Hate the GAA (the organization who runs Croke Park)"; and "Our Children have no tickets!" Adults would later get these children to start chanting "We hate Bono" as they walked up and down the GA line. The crowd gathered to see U2 would loudly counter those shouts with their own. I was shocked to realize just how much anger there was toward U2. It really bothered me to see parents pushing their children to protest like this. I do understand the inconvenience of having a sports facility in your neighborhood, but there are other ways to show that displeasure. And after the show it was very interesting to see many of the same faces selling chocolate bars and water at inflated prices.

I've made three trips to Ireland, twice to see U2, and once for work. I've driven the west coast. I've visited Belfast. I've spent a couple of weeks in Dublin. I love Ireland and I love the people there. It is one of my favorite places to visit. Some of my favorite memories have come out of Dublin: late at night, eating takeaway food and watching a seal swim by on the Liffey; singing Bryan Adams songs at top volume in a pub; having photos taken with complete strangers on the Ha'penny Bridge; walking the docks on a dreary foggy day with good friends. But there have also been reminders along the way that not everyone in Ireland is a U2 fan, and it is sometimes good to remember not everyone is happy to have them around.

I expect many people were drawn to The Edge's MTV documentary The Break for the music. The Break was an MTV special that follows three young people who are currently without a home. The Edge himself contributed only two songs to the documentary, including "No Home Like Place," which was used to open and close the documentary. The other song by The Edge was "The Break Theme," which was used partway through the documentary between scenes of Rob and Anna traveling to South Carolina, and the scene where Rob reunites with his family for the first time.

The other songs used in the special were all contributed by other artists. "Come To Life" and "Hope" are by National Skyline, an alternative rock band based in Illinois. "Mountains" and "Cities" are by All The Day Holiday, an act based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The tracks were featured on their 2009 album, The Things We've Grown To Love. "The Sun Shines At Night" was contributed by The Submarines, an indie pop group from California. The track can be found on their 2011 album Love Notes / Letter Bombs. "Spirit And Skin" is by The New Frontiers, an act from Dallas, Texas, that broke up in 2009. "Love You All" was taken from the 2008 album Feel Good Ghosts by the Minneapolis-based Cloud Cult. "Stones" was by the Florida-based band Plain Jane Automobile. The other track used in the soundtrack was "Leave My Body," the closing track on the album Ceremonials by Florence + The Machine.

Some of these acts have really caught the attention of my ears. Thank you, Edge, for some new musical finds.

In recent months, the artist by the name of K'naan has popped up in several U2 news pieces. He joined U2 in Minneapolis on the 360 tour to sing "Stand By Me." During K'naan's performance at the "Decade of Difference Concert," Bono joined K'naan on stage for the new song "Bulletproof Pride." K'naan has also recorded a cover of "Stuck In A Moment." And Bono and K'naan have spoken at several functions on the famine facing Somalia. Bono has also been announced as a special guest on K'naan's upcoming album Country, God Or The Girl.

So who is this guy? K'naan was born in Somalia and spent his childhood there. When he was 13 his family moved to North America, staying briefly in New York City before moving to Canada. A spoken-word piece presented before the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees brought K'naan to the attention of Youssou N'Dour, and led to his earliest recorded work. K'naan released his first solo album in 2005.

K'naan first came to my attention through the compilation album Peace Songs, a 2003 project put together to aid War Child. On that album Jarvis Church, lead singer of The Philosopher Kings, recorded a cover of U2's "One." At the end of that recording K'naan does a rap over the final moments of the song. It is one of my preferred covers of the song.

By the summer of 2008 there was no escaping K'naan on Canadian radio, as his song "Wavin' Flag" dominated radio play on most stations. The song was even re-recorded in a Band Aid-style Canadian superstar recording with proceeds going to Haiti. That same summer I had the opportunity to see K'naan live, and he's an incredibly engaging performer on stage. I would look forward to hearing the album he has coming this summer even if Bono hadn't been listed as a special guest.

How well do you know your album covers? How well do you know your Lego? How about if the two were combined?

Warning: Does feature some "toy nudity."

(c) @U2/Sams, 2012