Will The Spirit Still Walk Through The Room?
U2 And The Daunting Challenge of The Innocence and Experience Tour
Nashville: JB Brookman
The age of the internet has backed the greatest band on the planet into a corner…
The Beatles, Johnny Cash and the Stones never had to deal with the backlash that a band of U2’s caliber is currently toe to toe in a death-match with. In this day and age, it’s hip to be a hater and the land of Facebook and Twitter is dominated by them. When U2 and Apple put together a brilliant (26 U2 titles shot on to the iTunes top 200 albums chart at once) and fan-friendly marketing strategy to give Innocence and Experience away for free, the naysayers swung with all their might and did so in droves.
The media jumped on the backlash and painted a negative image of an album that had nothing to do with the music. The “5th member of U2” Paul McGuinness left as the band’s manager, leaving them in unchartered territory.
Many feared that this could be the end of U2. Had they become irrelevant? Had Bono’s earnestness and political fighting's for Africa become an image-killer? Had manufactured music, boy bands and sex selling female vocalists completely taken over the landscape in 2015?
The first time this writer saw U2 live (1985 Unforgettable Fire Tour- Sports Arena, Los Angeles), Bono was able to scream out notes in full register and recklessly climb up speaker clusters, wrapped in an Irish flag to confront and demand the attention and respect of fans. Now, it is some 30 years later and the challenges of life have battered Paul Hewson’s 55-year old body. A serious and possibly life-threatening back injury delayed the 360 Tour in 2009 and Bono’s recent New York bicycle accident has left him with permanent arm/hand damage that has even stolen his ability to strum a guitar (Larry Mullen has also dealt with injury in the past and Adam Clayton has dealt with addiction and depression issues).
Needless to say, the next 6 months are the pivot point in the career of U2. They will either fade gently into that goodnight or ascend and re-take their place as the greatest live band in music history. They have always found a way to fight through new ground, in a live show. Rumors of the new tour include a state of the art sound system and a show that takes over the entire span of arena floors. Bono has always said that there is a special time in each U2 show where “the Spirit walks through the room” and a certain magic happens. Can the band tap into that same life force this Summer?
The truth is this… U2 are a scrappy, hard-nosed crew with a monster work ethic. They are at their best, when it’s time to change… time to burn down what they were, reinvent themselves and rise again from the ashes. They battle and innovate and are willing to take risks that other groups have never taken.
Whether it was putting their financial futures in check with the gigantic, groundbreaking Zoo TV and PopMart Tours or tearing down the Joshua Tree and making a new sound with Achtung Baby, this has been true. The Irishmen are the first ones to the scene of the fight and they aint going down until you put them in the dirt.
A month after the Apple roller coaster, Rolling Stone named I & E their Album of the Year and the band has entered the ring for their North American Tour that opened this weekend in Vancouver. As “Volcano” from the latest album says: “The world is spinning fast tonight, You can hurt yourself tryin’ to hold on, To what you used to be. I’m so glad the past is gone” Yes, U2 have a legendary past. But, now is their time to create a new powerful and relevant future.
Rock and Roll Celebrity Concert Photographer Founder/Editor of Nashville Live Magazine and Hollywood Icon Magazine Concerts & More: www.jbbrookmanphoto.com