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U2 Joshua Tree Tour 2019
· Night 40 setlist for U2:UV at the Sphere, Las Vegas, 2/3/2024
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· Night 5 setlist for U2:UV at the Sphere, Las Vegas, 08/10/23
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· Night 3 setlist for U2:UV at the Sphere, Las Vegas, 05/10/23
· Night 2 videos for U2:UV at the Sphere, Las Vegas, 30/09/23
· Night 2 setlist for U2:UV at the Sphere, Las Vegas, 30/09/23


U2 strikes again

Posted on Monday, October 30 @ 13:59:47 CET by Macphisto

(USA Today) -- In a marketplace of calculated pop hits and subdivided audiences, can the formula U2@Y2K yield big numbers?

The music industry is abuzz with nervous speculation about U2`s All That You Can`t Leave Behind, out Tuesday: The band`s 10th studio album, a back-to-basics celebration of rock, arrives at the height of hip-hop hysteria and the pinnacle of pop power. Confident that U2 can revitalize rock, optimists point to the band`s consistent commercial clout, radio and MTV saturation of first single Beautiful Day, and early critical raves. Cynics note the eroding fortunes of such once-mighty rock icons as Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins.

"We know the world is a different place," says bassist Adam Clayton, 40. "We know pop music is king. You can`t necessarily change that, but I hope we`re in a slightly unique situation. We have an audience that`s been very loyal and followed us down some side streets."

The Dublin quartet, while keenly aware of the altered landscape, followed its internal compass, flouted expectations and headed south of fad territory in crafting All That.

"We`ve got ridiculously high expectations ourselves," says guitarist The Edge, 39. "We tend to keep to our own counsel and do what feels right."

Adds drummer Larry Mullen, who turns 39 Tuesday: "We`ve never written music for the masses. We`re kind of selfish in that regard. We write music for ourselves. We were aware of what`s going on (in pop), and it gave us the will to write songs that would get on the radio. Rock `n` roll needs to be there, but nothing really exciting has happened since Nirvana had hit singles. What we recognized about a lot of this manufactured pop is that it`s well-produced and well-constructed. We have to compete on this level. Rock `n` roll has taken a back seat, and we`re not content with that."

Rock`s job, declares singer Bono, "is to bite the a-- of the pop charts. Rock `n` roll has gone back into its ghetto and left the pop charts to the tweenies. There is a — here comes an awful word — transcendence that I want from rock. I hear it in Radiohead and Lauryn Hill. It`s what I loved about Oasis. It`s what you associate with Bruce Springsteen. So there is unfinished business for U2. I`m still drunk on the idea that rock `n` roll can be a force of change. We haven`t lost that idea."

But has U2 lost momentum?

All That leaves the gate alongside releases by rap titans Jay-Z and Outkast in a tight race for a No. 1 debut. U2`s last studio album, 1997`s Pop, sold 350,000 copies its first week. Jay-Z`s 1999 release opened with 460,000. In November, U2 faces teen-pop tyranny in the return of the Spice Girls, Ricky Martin and the Backstreet Boys.

They don`t spit out bubblegum

While rock purists regard bubblegum with contempt, U2 expresses admiration for its immaculate construction and rejects the notion of a rivalry.

"I don`t see a competition between pop and rock," The Edge says. "They go through cycles. Right now, pop is more innovative and breaking new ground, and that`s why it`s doing so well. Pop artists are very ambitious, creatively and commercially."

Though Bono, 40, dismisses much teen pop as "a concoction mixed for the lowest common denominator," he appreciates its ingenuity and sophistication.

"There are extraordinary pop songs that blow my mind," he says. "You can`t slag them off. But I do think that rock music, when its engines are roaring, makes you want to run down the road, sell your house, call your mother and change the world. Pop tells you everything is OK. On radio now, there`s a bit of a stink in the air from cynical ideas and people who don`t say what`s really on their minds. It`s like perfume advertisers have slipped into the music business."

U2`s antidote is fresh air. All That strips away the decadent glitz, electronic tricks and ironic bits that decorated `90s triptych Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop, returning to an uncluttered `80s sound.

"On a couple songs, you get the sense that we`re sampling ourselves," Bono says. "We can work with a hip new guy and dial up a groove and an atmosphere, but the thing I want to go up against is Bridge Over Troubled Water. It`s about the songs now."

Nailing simplicity entailed shedding trappings that had become comfortable and automatic.

Clayton recalls: "Every so often, we`d lose our nerve and say, `Let`s try adding sequences or samples or loops.` And what always drew us back was the original sound of the band together in a room. It seemed to have a magic you don`t hear much these days."

U2 hopes to bring that magic to the stage on a world tour launching in April. Reflecting All That`s approach, the set will be scaled down to focus on the music. That prohibits the glittery spaceship, painted Trabants (a kind of East German car), mirror balls, pyramids of TV monitors, monster video screens and other eye candy that dazzled fans at `90s U2 stadium tours.

The colossal PopMart tour, supported by an army of designers, engineers, artists and accountants, "was like taking a blockbuster movie on the road," Bono says. "It was too much."

This time, U2 will downsize to the relative intimacy of, say, Madison Square Garden. The band aims to showcase as many as eight new tunes in the set list, along with sundry obscurities. If All That flourishes, six months of booked dates could expand to a year. Clayton foresees a relaxed scenario.

"We want to get back to being musicians and not get caught up in pictures, sound, new PA systems and the biggest possible screen at one end of a football field."

The album dictated the tour`s modest scale. "I`m proud of what we achieved in stadiums, but this record is not about that," Mullen says. "There`s no artifice."

Old sound`s return is rational

Don`t mistake All That`s effortless clarity as U2 on autopilot.

"We did consciously make a band record with simple, clear arrangements and direct melodies and lyrics, the essence of this group," The Edge says. "But the approaches are unconventional, and we drew from the experience of Achtung and Zooropa and even Pop. It`s not in any way a roots record. Having explored abstract arrangements and song forms on a few records, it was the right moment to concentrate on what sets us apart.

"About halfway through Pop, it occurred to us that as much as we enjoyed improvising with DJs and drum loops, we started to miss that quality that makes us U2."

That quality resists definition but owes much to the brotherly bonds formed in high school and fortified by 25 years of creative partnership.

"Deep down, we know together we`re better than we`d be on our own," The Edge says. "There is some kind of glue, history, chemistry and innate understanding. None of us is capable of explaining it, but it`s remarkable and undeniable when we`re in a room playing."

The chemistry sometimes turns volatile, reaching critical instability during the Achtung Baby sessions in Berlin, when U2 began doubting the validity of its solidarity.

"In our most miserable moments, we were tearing at each other and spitting at the hippie notion of oneness," Bono says. "In the `90s, people were expecting too much from us. And instead of throwing rocks at the bad guys, we turned on ourselves and had a go at subjects like ego and the hypocrisy of your own heart and the selfishness of being a spoiled-rotten rock star. We had to get it out of the way. We`re a lot tougher than we were when we had an open face to the world. I don`t have as many flowers in my hair, but I am still moved when I sing with this band."

Diplomacy is left outside

Survival requires "a brutally honest environment," Mullen says. "Once you walk into that studio, diplomacy is left outside. If you beat around the bush and try to not hurt somebody`s feelings, it might take four years to make a record instead of two. We are very blunt and clear, and that is hard on your ego."

Nobody tiptoes. The Edge`s week-long mad-scientist experiments may be aborted with a single frown. Bono`s scrupulous verses can be casually discarded.

"It`s not like a family," Mullen says. "It`s like a street gang."

Membership has strict rules: full-time commitment, undiluted passion, unquestioning allegiance.

"We don`t know how to be a band of convenience," The Edge says. "Absolutely nothing we do is nonchalant."

U2`s future hinges on unwavering devotion, not chart positions. Mullen says: "You make music because you love it and believe in it. When you start doing it as a career, you end up doing it for cash. We`ve avoided getting into that place. U2 is not just about the music. It`s about the culture and a set of beliefs and an integrity that can`t be compromised."

The strategy is "to approach every album like it`s our last," Bono says. "We can`t live in our past. We have to write songs that raise the temperature of the room and find words for feelings you can`t express. And then, as Quincy Jones says, you wait for God to walk through the door. Because in the end, craft isn`t enough."

By Edna Gundersen

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