Browsing Tag: u2


    My Year of Concerts™: U2

    December 18, 2023

    MyYearOfConcerts has come to an end! And I suppose there’s some poetry in the fact that it ended with the band that was a huge part of my life for 30+ years…the band that gave me a world of friends I cherish to this day…the band that made me a published author…etc.

    I saw U2 on Friday and Saturday down at the Sphere in Vegas.

    I went cold turkey on U2 (and U2 fandom, for that matter) back in 2019. I left fandom entirely and stopped listening to U2 songs — a hard break in the name of taking care of my mental health. I very cautiously started listening to them again about six months ago — my #U2rehab as I’ve called it on Twitter. As recently as 5 days ago, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see them live.

    So, after a 4-year break, to say this weekend was complicated would be an understatement. I could probably write 2,000 words or record a 2-hour podcast episode on the whole experience, and that might not even cover the concerts themselves.

    In lieu of that, the short recap is as follows: The visuals were often stunning and the sound in the Sphere was the best I’ve ever heard. The band brought me to tears a couple times each night, but overall I thought the shows were underwhelming. Aside from looking at a couple setlists, I had avoided all spoilers leading up to this weekend. I had some expectations of what a show built around my favorite album should be like…and it wasn’t like that at all.

    The best part of the weekend was reconnecting with some longtime friends I hadn’t seen in years and making some new friends, too. Quality time with Sherry, Becky, and Dan was very good for my mental health.

    In the end, going to Vegas and seeing these shows was a Good Thing.

    So #MyYearOfConcerts is over, but I already have tickets for five shows in 2024, so…… #MyLifeOfConcerts? 🙂


    What Happened with U2, @U2, and Me

    July 11, 2020

    I was afraid this question was coming.

    “Can you put in words why U2 lost their glow?”

    Jesse Jackson asked me that while we were recording an episode of his Bruce Springsteen podcast, Set Lusting Bruce. Mind you, I’d never met or spoken with Jesse before and we were literally 20-30 minutes into our first conversation. In hindsight, I think it’s good that a stranger asked me. Not sure I would’ve answered so candidly if it was a friend or someone I knew.

    For whatever reason, when he asked, I kinda started processing things in my head as quickly as I could and then decided to just start letting the words come out. In the month or so since we recorded that conversation, I couldn’t even remember what all I said. If you want to listen, the podcast conversation is here and he asks the question at about the 15:50 mark; my reply and the subsequent discussion go on for probably 20 minutes.

    To be clear, why anyone — me, you, our co-workers, rich people, poor people, etc. — stops liking a musical artist really doesn’t matter. Why should anyone give a shit why I stopped liking U2? I don’t know. And if you don’t give a shit about that, you shouldn’t be reading this — feel free to bail right now. Wouldn’t blame you at all. But it’s something U2 fans have asked me on many occasions and their interest sort of fed my interest.

    What happened? It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out since … it happened. I’ve settled on 3 main factors.

    1) I Changed

    This is first here because it’s the most important piece of the puzzle. It’s not what I talked about first when chatting with Jesse, but I should’ve. Later in this essay, I’m gonna say things that might sound like I’m blaming the band, other people, events, etc., for me losing interest in U2, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that I changed dramatically over the past few years.

    The death of my parents (Dad in 2015 and Mom in 2017) impacted me more than I ever expected they would. I was a ship without a rudder. I didn’t know it at the time, but I went into situational depression — it’s when you struggle to adjust to a traumatic event(s) in your life. It generally lasts shorter than clinical depression.

    Adding to that was an extreme form of anxiety I was dealing with on the subject of death. The thought of dying someday was mentally paralyzing me. It began probably 10-15 years ago and was getting worse every year. Around the time all this was going on, there were days when I couldn’t work, couldn’t do anything, and couldn’t think about anything else. I was just stuck inside my head, fearing death.

    In short, my mental health was in bad shape for a period of a couple of years. If you want the longer version of this aspect of the story, see my post Standing in the darkness, laughing with my heel on its throat.

    2) U2 Fan Problems & @U2 Problems

    Starting, running, and being part of @U2 is one of the great joys and accomplishments of my life. But my last few years doing it were pretty miserable, and those were the same years that I was dealing with the personal/mental health issues I mentioned above.

    Confession: I did an awful job of running the site the last 5-6 years I was running things. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 dozen people working on the site, depending on various comings and goings. As leader, I failed to take the necessary steps to keep the team active, moving ahead toward common goals, and working together in harmony.

    We had people on staff who weren’t contributing. And that made the ones who were contributing angry and frustrated. We tried to implement minimum contribution levels, but I didn’t have the will to follow through on making those stick.

    Cliques had formed over the years and there was a lot of snark and sniping towards one another. We tried to bring on new staffers a couple times, but they usually only lasted a couple months with us because the environment wasn’t welcoming to newcomers. Not everyone on the team was involved in this, but as I learned in the month or so after I told them I was leaving — when they suddenly had to figure out who would be in charge — it was a lot more prevalent than I knew. We were much more divided than I thought, and that’s a failure on my part as leader.

    In fact, I wasn’t leading. I had buried myself in the massive redesign project that ran for ~2 years. I was letting the group run itself, and that’s usually a recipe for problems. I’d hear complaints every now and then about someone’s behavior, but I usually brushed those aside either because it was about someone I personally liked or it was something I just didn’t want to deal with.

    All of that’s on me. I accept responsibility for it. And it all contributed to the bigger picture — what was supposed to be a fun and joyful distraction had become something I dreaded. Like so many other things going on around me, it had become mentally and emotionally draining.

    We did have some enjoyable conversations and discussions as a team, but even those often turned negative, at least for me. During the Joshua Tree Tour in 2017, when I talked about not liking how heavy the show was on politics, some on the staff started mansplaining and womansplaining to me about how U2’s always been political. They questioned my U2 fandom for having an opinion like that. (I have a half-finished draft of a blog post here on my personal site offering proof that U2 shows were never as political as they were on that tour and the one that followed; maybe I’ll finish it someday and publish.)

    And topping all of the struggles I was having with being part of @U2 was that, in 2018 when I told the group that I was having some personal struggles, that I wasn’t myself, and that I had found a new favorite band, a frequent response that I heard was along the lines of, “It’s a phase. You’ll get over it.” (Not from everyone, mind you — there was some genuine support and care, and that meant a lot to me.) But I’m not gonna lie: It hurt to see some friends react that way when I was acting differently and said I wasn’t in a good place. Especially since these were friends who often championed mental health issues on Facebook and Twitter.

    Making matters worse was what was going on in U2 fandom itself.

    Fan forums and Facebook groups were filled with fans hating on one another over politics, over U2 stuff, over anything and everything. I had to turn off my own account in the @U2 Forum because moderating it — hell, just reading it — had become unbearable.

    Fan site relations became a train wreck. To be fair, we had good relations with a couple other sites, but as social media grew over the past 10 years or so, the sense of cooperation that used to exist between all fan sites got replaced by a sense of competition. Frankly, I think with a couple other sites, it seemed like the relationships we had got much worse after half the band showed up at @U2’s 20th anniversary party. We’d get angry emails and social media messages on a pretty regular basis that I felt were completely unwarranted. I heard what other fan sites were saying about @U2 to the band’s associates. I thought it was all childish, like we were back in 5th grade.

    We’d also get angry messages from @U2 readers who would demand that we cover the band differently. Half of them were pissed at us for being too mean to U2/Live Nation (about the constant ticket/fan club problems, or the constant touring of North America and Europe and ignoring the rest of the world) and the other half were pissed at us for being too nice. I always tried to be nice and respectful when readers would email with complaints like that, but it got to the point where I snarkily started offering them refunds if they didn’t like the work we’d been doing for 20 years for free.

    There’s always been a sense of entitlement among some hard-core U2 fans, and it really seemed to get worse in the past 5-10 years. It extended to getting concert tickets, forming GA lines, getting on stage with the band, and lots of other aspects of being a fan. The hard-core, uber U2 fan community wasn’t something I wanted to be part of anymore.

    And remember, while all this was going on, I was struggling with the death of my parents and other mental health issues. I remember often wanting to tell other fans to get over themselves, count their blessings, remember that life is short, and be grateful that U2 was still an active band. In fact, I tried to say some of that in my farewell message on @U2.

    3) U2 Problems

    With all that going on, I really wanted to turn to U2 and let the music right all the wrongs and lift me up when I was down. But I couldn’t do that.

    Their last album, Songs Of Experience, just didn’t click for me. There were a few songs I liked in the early days/weeks/months — part of the rush and excitement of finally getting new music from your favorite band. But none of it had any sticking power. If I had to rank all their albums today, it’d be at the bottom of my list.

    Worse, the live shows weren’t clicking for me, either. As I mentioned above, it was way too over-the-top political. And I don’t mean that in an I-disagree-with-what-they’re-saying way — I didn’t vote for our current president and think he’s an awful president (and worse human being). I mean it in the sense of … I was getting barraged 24/7 by politics, to the point where I had to rethink my entire approach to social media a couple years ago. I needed something else from U2 — an escape, something to take me away from all the B.S. going on in the real world. Instead, they hit me over the head with it for 3 hours during every show I saw on both the Joshua Tree 2017 tour and the Songs of Experience tour in 2018.

    On top of all that was the non-music side of things. U2’s fan club has been awful for years and every time there’s a ticket pre-sale, it’s an absolute shitshow. The Joshua Tree 2017 tour pre-sale was so bad that fan sites around the world came together to call for changes in an open letter to the band and management. Guy Oseary, the band’s manager, replied with some less-than-pleasing explanations. But worse than all that, he promised to keep an “open line of communication” with fans to make sure things went better next time there was a pre-sale. We never heard from him again. (At least not before I left @U2 in June 2019.)

    Between all that, plus the music and tours not clicking for me, it was hard to keep being a U2 fan.

    Don’t get me wrong, though. In my decades of U2 fandom, I always said that the band should follow its own muse, and it’s our job as fans to either follow along or not. We don’t get to tell them what to do … and that’s not what I’m suggesting here. I’ve always said U2 should do what it wants. That’s what they did. And I chose to not go along with them anymore.

    Final Thoughts

    Last summer, about a week before I left @U2, I was hanging out with some of my “U2 friends” and it was kinda difficult when they were having these deep convos about the band. It was the kind of stuff I’d have loved to talk about in the past, but I did everything I could to ignore them and focus on something else. I had stopped listening to U2 about a week earlier — May 23, 2019, was the last time I intentionally heard a U2 song.

    It’s been more than a year and I’m still trying to avoid U2. I don’t know when that’s going to change. I’ve come to realize that it’s a mental health thing. All of the stuff I’ve described above happened together over the course of a few years and was a key driver in a lot of sadness and depression. As I told Jesse on his Springsteen podcast, my fear is that listening to U2 again will re-open that door and bring back a lot of those feelings that I’ve managed to put behind me. I don’t want any of that in front of me again.

    While all of that was going on, I discovered Gang of Youths. I wasn’t really looking for a new band, but they had songs that filled my needs the way U2 used to. They pretty quickly became my favorite band, and still are.

    As I said on Twitter several months ago, being a Gang of Youths fan is better for my mental health than being a U2 fan was. And that’s really the best explanation for the “what happened with you and U2” question.

    So to all who’ve asked, I hope that makes sense. I’m grateful for your questions; it’s helped me to sort things out and make sense of something I didn’t fully understand as it was happening.

    Thank you.


    12 Things I Think About U2’s Experience + Innocence Tour Opener in Tulsa

    May 4, 2018

    About ten minutes before the show began Wednesday night in Tulsa, Willie Williams came walking toward me and a few of the @U2 crew on the way up to his perch in “mission control” above the lower level of BOK Center. He kindly stopped for a brief chat, said he and his team were ready and everything was now in the band’s hands. He left us with a somewhat ominous preview of what was to come: “It’s a weird show!”

    In the time since — 2.5 hours of watching the show itself and now a couple days of talking about it with fellow staffers and U2 fans — I’ve come to agree with him. It is kinda weird — but mostly in good ways.

    Opening night was only one concert, and the show itself will surely evolve as the tour continues, but here are my random observations about what I saw, heard and felt on opening night. As always, these are one person’s opinions and your mileage may vary.

    1) This is not a show/tour for casual fans. Six out of U2’s 10 most-played live songs (and 12 of the top 20) weren’t played on opening night. I have a lot of friends that I’d call casual U2 fans. They might go to one show per tour, but usually only if the band comes to their hometown. And when they see U2, they want to hear “Streets,” “Bad,” “With Or Without You” and “Mysterious Ways.” They wouldn’t really know many of the songs from the last two albums, and they’d certainly not be excited to hear the first live performance of “Acrobat.” (They’d also have no idea who MacPhisto is.) This tour isn’t for them. There are still some so-called “war horse” songs in the set, and maybe those aren’t the ones you would’ve chosen to hear if U2 was a jukebox, but let’s give credit where it’s due: This is probably the most die-hard fan-friendly set list we’re going to get at this point in U2’s career.

    2) It was weird to not hear “Streets.” You probably know that I’m in the “‘Streets’ is indispensable” wing of U2 fandom. I learned on our last podcast that it hadn’t been rehearsed by that point, and started wondering what a U2 show would be like without it. Well, it was weird. I certainly missed the song. I really missed not turning around to see the fans up in the last row of the furthest-back section going absolutely ape-s**t as if they were the only fans in the building. I missed “God walking through the room,” as the band has described what happens when they play “Streets” — and I’m not sure He ever did walk through the arena in Tulsa. There was no single moment that replaced the “Streets” moment. But I think I’m kinda glad they’re doing this. After 40 years together, they shouldn’t feel obligated to play anything. I don’t want to hear a we have to play this version of “Streets.” So I hope they don’t cave in and add it as a regular part of the show later in the tour. Stick to your guns, U2. Make us wait to hear it until the next tour and we’ll appreciate it even more than we already do.

    3) The augmented reality stuff was kinda cool, but not something I need to experience again and again. From my perch on the GA floor on Edge’s side, it seemed like about a third to a half of the audience knew something was going on that required their phones. It was unique and I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning in the screen beginning as an iceberg (or block of ice) and eventually becoming a waterfall that eventually covers the floor … but it was lost on me in the moment. I’ll probably look at it again briefly the upcoming one/two shows I’m seeing this tour, but I’d be fine if they decide to drop it altogether.

    4) The new songs sounded better than I expected. I’m not a huge Songs Of Experience fan, and a couple of the songs I really like on the album didn’t get played. But the eight songs they did play generally sounded better than I expected. “The Blackout” is a strong opener. “American Soul” isn’t an album fave for me, but it rocked on opening night (and might be a better fit earlier in the show). “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” might be my least favorite song on the album, but it came across pretty well live. It sounded like they’re still working out some of the new songs — “Lights Of Home” sounded a bit lethargic compared to the recorded version, but I’m sure that’ll get fixed with more performances. And I think they should stick with the electric version of “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” which I think is really underrated.

    5) It was weird to hear and see a good portion of the I+E tour get repeated. This is a point of contention with some fans, much like the call backs on Songs Of Experience. I get how, if you weren’t expecting it, hearing and seeing so many songs played exactly as they were three years ago would be strange. But I think it makes sense when you put it in the context of this tour being the second half of the story of the band’s career — especially when the first half of the story was only performed in 10 North American cities. You may be plenty familiar with the arc of the show that begins with “Iris” and runs to the intermission. You may have seen the I+E tour several times in 2015. You may have seen the HBO special from Paris and own the DVD and watch them regularly. You may check all the set lists online after each show and follow the live tweeting as often as you can, and so on and so on. But the vast majority of people seeing these shows haven’t/don’t. As weird as it was to hear all those songs again, it would be even weirder to have U2 try to tell its story of innocence and experience while ignoring the innocence part.

    6) I was wrong about “Acrobat.” If you’re a loyal listener of @U2’s podcast, you’ve probably heard me say several times that I didn’t think “Acrobat” would ever work live. I’ve compared it to “Electrical Storm,” another much-desired song that fans wanted the band to play, but got dropped after a handful of attempts on the 360 tour because it just didn’t sound good. I was wrong. “Acrobat” sounded much better than I thought it would, and after they get it nailed down in the coming shows, I think it’ll be a really great live song.

    7) MacPhisto? Weird, but very welcome. Where old MacPhisto (1993) was campy and clever, new MacPhisto is flat-out creepy, especially the devilish Snapchat-like filter that they’re showing on screen over Bono’s face. You might have nightmares if you stare too long. But I welcome MacPhisto back with open arms because I’ve grown tired of the Bono that bludgeons the audience with overly simplistic messages about the state of the world. MacPhisto always gave Bono a way to get his message across in a wayyyyy more interesting manner, to say things in a way that he might not have been able to say otherwise. He made you think. He made you have to do a little work to figure out his point. And I’ve always liked U2 best when they challenge me. So bring it on, Mr. MacPhisto. I’m ready to be challenged again.

    8) Speaking of creepy, how about “The Blackout”? MacPhisto wasn’t the only borderline scary part of the show. The shadowy figures that filled the screen during “The Blackout” — primarily images of the band membres, it seemed — were like something out of a horror movie. Some were almost shapeless; some appeared to have a visible skeleton showing. Weird.

    9) I loved the way they did “Pride.” The @U2 crew was talking before the show began about how this stage setup is very difficult to capture on video, because the band uses the different stages. You can’t simultaneously point a camera at both the e-stage and the main stage. And now they added two mini stages in the Red Zones where Adam and Edge stood during “Pride,” giving us four stages to watch at once. But no matter how hard it is to capture on camera, it was really cool to see each band member in four different spots on the floor. It’ll certainly change how GA ticket holders choose their spot every night. The song itself also had an extended intro that I really liked; I’m no musician, but it sounded like Edge was playing some new guitar parts (or maybe just making some new sounds) before the song kicked in.

    10) The “One” video is really powerful. I don’t know if you need to be a parent to be affected by this video, but as a parent of two kids that will soon be heading out on their own, I got really emotional watching it. It shows a typical kids’ day — waking up, breakfast, school, afternoon playing, etc. But every child in the video is wearing an army helmet, just like Edge’s daughter Sian wears on the Songs Of Experience cover and Peter Rowen wore in early U2 promo photos. The adults in the video, meanwhile, are helmet-less and either don’t see the helmets on their children, or they see the helmets and it’s totally normal, as if that’s just how the world is. Either way, it was extremely moving to this parent.

    11) It’s a really long show. Look, I know many of you have complained over the years that U2 concerts are too short … but I left the BOK Center wondering if this one was too long. U2 played 27 songs — tied for the most they’ve ever played with a show in Cologne in 2015. There were three other full-length songs that were part of the Tulsa show — the intro song, the intermission (“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”) and the song played during the encore break. Thirty songs is a lot, you guys. And 2.5 hours is a long time to watch a band play. To be clear: I’m not complaining! I’m just saying that it was kinda weird for a U2 show to run this long. And if this is the new normal on the E+I tour, some of us are gonna have to make a few mental and physical adjustments out in the audience!

    12) “13” is no “40,” but it might be my favorite concert ending ever. As the band played “13,” Bono walked out to the e-stage where a miniature replica of his Cedarwood Road home had been placed. He lifted the roof and pulled out a lightbulb. Turns out the lightbulb was hanging from the rafters and, when it had been lifted up to his face level, Bono held and it threw it forward. The lightbulb swung back and forth as Bono walked off the e-stage and the show ended. The E+I tour ended the exact way that the I+E tour began, but in reverse order. It’s not a communal singalong like “40” has been, but this ending is the most perfect way to wrap up and put the ribbon on a beautiful live telling of the U2/Bono story. Genius.

    Final Thoughts

    Night one in Tulsa had its share of innocent mistakes. There were forgotten lyrics, flubbed notes/chords and even the production team seemed to miss a cue here or there. That’s an experience to be expected where a U2 tour opener is concerned. In the end, I’m left with similar feelings that I’ve had after seeing past tour openers: The show was good but flawed, and — most importantly — offered a peak of the greatness to come.


    It was 33 years ago today (My first U2 concert)

    April 24, 2018

    April 24, 1985 — 33 years ago today I saw my first U2 concert at the Spectrum in Philly.

    The story begins a couple months earlier, on a Saturday morning when tickets for U2’s April 22 show in Philly went on sale. I couldn’t get to the mall early enough to line up for tickets, but my dad finally drove me there around lunchtime. I walked to the Ticketron outlet, which I think was located in the back of JC Penney, and asked if there were any U2 tickets left for April 22. The lady typed some stuff into her ticket machine and told me the only seats left were in the upper level behind the stage. I told her I wasn’t interested. (What a snob I was!) She said they might add another show if this one sells out.

    Off I went into the mall with about $50 burning a hole in my pocket. I walked to the other side of the mall and went to Listening Booth, one of the two record stores it had. I was probably browsing for 10-15 minutes and had grabbed a couple vinyls to buy. The store was playing WMMR-FM, the main Philly rock station. U2’s “I Will Follow” came on so I decided not to go to the register just yet. At the end of the song, the DJ came on and started talking about U2’s tour and s/he says, “Tickets for U2’s April 22 show have just sold out and the band has added another show at the Spectrum on April 24. Tickets for that show go on sale in five minutes at all Ticketron locations.”

    I dropped the vinyl records immediately, left the store and ran as fast as my pudgy 16-year-old self could run — all the way across the mall back into JC Penney and back to the Ticketron outlet. It took me four minutes to get there. I was fourth in line and out of breath.

    The lady recognized me and smiled when it was my turn. I asked for U2 tickets on April 24 and she told me the best available were 4th row floor seats. (Yes, actual seats on the floor.) I bought two for less than $50 and went with my great friend from high school, Chris Gennusa.

    Our seats were a little off-center on Adam’s side. Lone Justice was the opening act and I really enjoyed them. When U2 came on, there was a surge forward as people all around of us got out of their seats and went toward the front of the stage. I think we ended up in the equivalent of where the first row had been. The energy and vibe that I felt for the next two hours, or however long it lasted, was amazing and something I’ve only ever felt at one other show. (April 20, 2001, if you’re curious.)

    I snuck in one of those Kodak Disc cameras (yes, in my pants!) & 10 of my photos came out. They’re on Flickr. The best one is up top of this post.

    It was an unforgettable night and the start of a wonderful journey.


    My U2 Liberation

    April 21, 2018

    Today, U2 fans around the world — including many of my dear friends and @U2 staffers — went to great lengths to track down U2’s latest Record Store Day release. It’s a vinyl version of “Lights Of Home,” one of the new tracks on last year’s album, Songs Of Experience. From what I can tell, most everyone spent a good amount of time and/or money looking for this vinyl and was successful — yay!!!

    I wasn’t one of them. Also yay!!!

    I’m in a different place with U2 right now. For sure they’re still my favorite band, still the soundtrack of my life, etc. But my fandom isn’t anywhere near the same as it’s been in the past.

    Last year, for the first time ever, I didn’t buy a U2 album when it was released. That actually happened twice last year. First, when U2 re-issued The Joshua Tree for its 30th anniversary, I didn’t buy it. (I bought every other U2 re-issue as soon as it came out.) It happened again when I didn’t buy Songs Of Experience right away, but instead waited to get the free copy that came with my concert ticket purchase.

    On previous Record Store Days, I’d always get in the car — often with my son — and drive 150 miles roundtrip to Yakima and/or 120 miles roundtrip to Walla Walla to hunt down the newest U2 vinyl release. (I’d often buy out the entire supply so that we’d have prizes to give away in various @U2 contests.) When U2’s RSD contribution was announced this year and I saw fans reacting online with things like “take my money!” and the like, I thought to myself … I’m glad I don’t feel obligated to buy everything they release anymore.

    Things have changed. Today, I was able to sleep in, have a nice, little breakfast, get some errands done, hang out with my wife, workout, get my hair cut … and not worry in the slightest about whether I’d have another U2 vinyl to put on my shelf and never look at again.

    I originally titled this blog post “My U2 Divorce,” but that’s too strong. I still listen to them. I’m seeing them later this year. The album covers are still on my wall. It’s not that we’re divorcing or even separating; it’s just that I don’t feel so locked in and obligated to do every little thing a fan is expected to do.

    I’m liberated, and I’m super happy about it.

    PS: my bank account is, too.


    Two Weeks with U2’s Songs Of Experience

    December 14, 2017

    It’s been about two weeks since U2 released its latest album, Songs Of Experience. Our crew at has already published a group album review — something I declined to take part in because the deadline was way too soon for me to have anything intelligent to say about it. I did take part in a spur-of-the-moment podcast about the album on the day of its release, but I wasn’t even sure of song titles at that point!

    Here we are a couple weeks later and I’m still really torn on this album. I don’t feel the same as the U2 fans who are touting SOE as U2’s best album since All That You Can’t Leave Behind or even … gasp! … Achtung Baby. But I also don’t feel the same as the folks who’ve dismissed the album as one of U2’s worst, either. I’ve been listening to it a lot, as evidenced by the stats on my profile:

    (I’m really surprised to see Arcade Fire there, but that’s another blog post for another day….)

    As I’ve listened to Songs Of Experience, I’ve been jotting down my mixed feelings in a list of “yays” and a list of “nays.” I was gonna call these lists “loves” and “hates,” but I don’t feel that strongly about any of it just yet, with a couple exceptions that I’ll note below. So with all of that as an introduction, here’s a snapshot of my current thoughts on the album two weeks in.


    1) “Love Is All We Have Left” is a cool opener. It’s not a great song by any means, but it’s not meant to be. It’s different. It sets a unique mood for the album, and I like that about it. It’s not an up-tempo rocker or obvious single like U2’s started with on its last few albums.

    2) The piano in “Lights Of Home.” I’ve always wished for more piano in U2 songs.

    3) Speaking of which, “Lights Of Home” is gonna be a killer in concert.

    4) “You’re The Best Thing About Me” turns out to be a really strong song. I think it’s one of the best on the album, which was about the last thing I would’ve expected when U2 started playing it on the Joshua Tree tour this fall. But it’s really grown on me.

    5) Kendrick Lamar’s guest turn in between “Get Out Of Your Own Way” and “American Soul” is awesome. (As is the fact that those songs aren’t billed as “U2 featuring Kendrick Lamar.”) I wish his rap would continue longer into “American Soul.”

    6) The callbacks to Songs Of Innocence aren’t as weird as I expected.

    7) “Red Flag Day” is gonna kill in concert, and one of my early faves on the album.

    8) “The Little Things That Give You Away” is fantastic, arguably the best song on the album. I’m thinking this is a situation where playing it live first made it better for the album, because I didn’t love it during the JT tour this summer. But I do now.

    9) I love “Landlady.” This is also arguably the best song on the album, and I’d say it wins that argument right now. The chorus is beautiful, especially the way Bono sings about being “weightless.” I came to terms pretty quickly with the song title, which is a word in our culture that isn’t filled with positive connotations. My goodness … one of their biggest hits uses the name of a pretty serious medical condition (that I happen to suffer from) and they’ve had plenty of dodgy song titles over the years.


    1) The “free yourself to be yourself” ending on “Lights Of Home” seems out of place and unneeded. It feels like they had this cool singalong chorus that calls back to the last album and couldn’t figure out where to put it, so they tacked it on the end of this song. (That said, I often find myself singing it loudly throughout the day.)

    2) The “haaahhhaahhhaaahhhh” part in the chorus of “Get Out Of Your Own Way” is in my top 10 least favorite U2 musical moments ever. I’m talking about what you hear at the :26 mark of the song and then again in future chorus repeats (but not the final ones, thankfully). It’s just awful. It sounds like they’re old men in pain. Why not just stick with a regular “ohhhhohhhhhohhhh” or “yeahhhyeahhhyeahhh”? (And then they repeat this awful “haaahhhaahhhaaahhhh” in the chorus of “The Blackout,” which is an unforgivable sin.)

    3) I get that Bono is writing a lot of these songs as letters to people around him, saying things he’d say if it was his last chance to talk to them/us. I get that he’s had a “brush with mortality” and all that. But dang … too many of the lyrics make me feel like I’m at a Tony Robbins self-help seminar.

    Nothing to stop this being the best day ever

    Nothing’s stopping you except what’s inside
    I can help you but it’s your fight

    It could be too late
    But we still gotta try

    When all is lost
    We find out what remains

    Today we can’t afford to be
    Afraid of what we fear

    (And that’s just in the first half of the album…)

    4) “The Blackout” seems like filler, totally unnecessary. It feels like the latest successor to “Vertigo” and “The Miracle” and all of the other straightforward rock songs U2 has done over the past few albums. And the opening verses — with the callouts to Fred, Ned, Jack and Zac — are a huge nay from me. (Then again, as with #1 above, I often find myself singing the song throughout the day.)

    5) Same with “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way.” So many fans love this song, but I just can’t get into it. In fact, what I’ve done a couple times is uncheck both “The Blackout” and “Love Is Bigger…” so that my listening experience takes me from “Landlady” straight to “13,” and I really prefer that much better.

    So there you have it. For now. I think if I were to make another list of Yays and Nays in a month or two, it would be different. And I’m also reminded that Songs Of Innocence didn’t really take off for me until I saw it in concert in Vancouver at the start of the I+E tour. I’m sure the same is possible, maybe even likely, when I hear this album in concert next year.

    But for now, Songs Of Experience is an album I mostly like, but don’t love.