The iconic Irish rock band U2 consists of (from left) Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards and backing vocals) and Bono (lead vocals and rhythm guitar).
In God’s country
BLITZ REVIEW - Juaniyo Arcellana (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Of course, by the time you read this, the Irish rock band U2 may be crossing the equator after doing the rounds down under, and into Asia for the next leg of their current Joshua Tree tour with a stop at Philippine Arena in Cuidad de Victoria, Bocaue on the second week of December.

For recently hitched Filipino adults starting families in the ‘80s, the music of U2 on cassette tape and CD was indispensable: it was the golden age of analog, and the only other band that could rival them was their contemporary REM and maybe the Smiths and the Cure, although latter two came slightly earlier.

In the Diliman of that decade, UP student Aye used to drop by her professor’s room 1074 at Faculty Center with cassette tapes of the band, the debut Boy and the breakthrough album War, both indicative of greater things to come.

Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year’s Day displayed flashes of what would be their signature sound: the Edge’s guitar of sustain and reverb, drummer Larry Mullen’s martial like rhythms, Adam Clayton’s thumping bass lines and Bono’s unmistakable vocals almost like a rallying cry for the IRA.

At a music store in a reconstituted Farmer’s Plaza in Cubao that has survived countless fires, during the early years of marriage we purchased The Unforgettable Fire on cassette. Co-produced by the studio whiz of atmospherics and avant-garde Brian Eno, the album starts out with the delicately balanced ear-catching A Sort of Homecoming and never lets up.

The remastered version is certainly one to search for on YouTube, to hear the drums barely brushing against skins and the bass muted but snaking through God’s country. This is quickly followed by Pride (In the Name of Love) with unmistakable trademark hooks by the Edge: though the song is dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, it could in fact be tapped as partial soundtrack for gay pride parade if it hasn’t already.

Under a Blood Red Sky was issued as a live album, its title culled from a lyric from New Year’s Day, itself quite memorable with the verse “I will begin again,” sang with a resolve that comes only on the first day of the year.

Wide Awake in America was an EP left in the wife’s hometown in Negros, to give comfort to assorted insomniacs and other sleepless in Siaton. Wide awake being the phrase repeated ad infinitum in the song Bad: when Bono sings “I’m not sleeping” we believe him.

It was however The Joshua Tree, released in 1987, which is widely considered by critics as the band’s masterwork, and its 30th anniversary tour finally arrives in Manila two years delayed but none the worse for wear.

The first three songs of Joshua Tree are forever etched in the subconscious of every rock fan from Bocaue to Malatapay, and there’s barely enough room to recover after the 1-2-3 punch of Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With or Without You.

Clearly the band seized the moment, a rarity in the rock world possibly also done in the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed, Bob Dylan and the Band’s Basement Tapes, and maybe a handful of songs by Rage Against the Machine as well as Patti Smith. Carpe diem and it was all downhill from there.

Rattle and Hum was notable for BB King’s guitar solo in When Love Comes to Town. Achtung Baby also had some worthwhile cuts. If God Will Send His Angels is another obscure great song about strife on the planet in dire need of respite. Then the collaborations with the remixer Flood and singers Luciano Pavarotti and Mary J. Blige for a wide range of aural diversity.

Haven’t been able to follow much of the band’s later work, including How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and the William Blake-inspired Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Bono himself has been a most misunderstood controversial rock star, alternately branded as hypocrite and oracle.

But to hear strains of U2 guitar even at the edge of NLEX might be closest to religiosity you could get this holiday season.

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