Friday, November 11, 2005

The Sell Outs

In the 1980's U2 dominated the world. And I was a big fan. Songs like "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" perfectly epitomized my tragic relationships of that time period. I'd listen to the "Joshua Tree" until my record(remember those?) began to crackle. To this day I'm still haunted by the "Rattle and Hum" epic ballad "All I Want Is You." I never saw them in the '80s as I was always away at college when they toured, far from a major city and usually broke.

"Achtung Baby" came out in 1992. It was a bit different from the rest, but they didn't disappoint with the beautiful ballad "One." They came to Madison Square Garden that spring, and for once I would not only be around but had the money. But tickets proved impossible to get. They sold out all their shows in seconds, with most tickets going to corporations and brokers. I called a few brokers and asked, "what kind of seat can I get for $150?" I was told, "you'll be lucky to get in the door and stand by the rafters for that." Decent seats were going for $500. There was no way I was going to pay that. I was willing to do the $150 for nosebleeds until a friend told me the band was no longer playing "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day." I wasn't going to pay that much unless I could hear all their hits.

The years went by and U2's albums, in my opinion, became meaningless pop junk. They went from a band with meaning with songs like "Pride" and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," to techno crap like "Zooropa." Gone were the political flag-waving rants, replaced by leather, giant TV screens and plastic lemons on stage. It was sickening to watch. U2 became perhaps the biggest sellouts in music history.

But despite the fact that I can't stand what has become of this icon of the music industry, I always regretted that I never got to see them in their prime. So when I saw last spring that they were touring the US, I decided to give it a shot. I figured I didn't have a chance at getting tickets, and wasn't going to waste too much time trying. But to my surprise I was able to quickly get tickets for one of their Miami shows, for this Sunday night.

So Sera and I will be making our first trip ever to Miami and making a weekend out of it. We leave tomorrow, and will get our first ever South Beach experience. I have no expectations for the concert, other than the hope that perhaps they'll play a few of my favorites. Thankfully the show is not at an impersonal stadium--there should be no giant TV's, no giant fruits on stage. And after 20 years of waiting I will at last get to see the band I once most yearned to see...or at least what's left of them.


Anonymous David Comay said...

I'll be curious to hear what
you think of the show. I
disagree with your assessment
of the band's work in the 90s
but to each their own (I
personally think that decade
saved the band in many ways
and contrary to what some
think, the songs of that
period are very much connected
with their 80s output).

5:17 AM  
Blogger exley said...

Funny you should say that. I had the same discussion with a co-worker. He said their change in the 90's saved the band. I'm not sure how that's possible when they were already the biggest thing and showed no signs of declining in '92. I know a lot of people who were turned off by their change, but a lot of people also tuned in. I wish they'd create more songs that can be identified on an emotional level. But the fact they can still sell out in minutes must say something about their last few albums.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Michael Tompkins said...

Have you seen Rolling Stones list of the best songs ever? I was not really surprised to see how many U2 songs were way up there on the list to go along with Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the usuals. But it did make me realize how great of a band they were in the context of history, not just now. I guess I looked at them different because they are a band that is still making music (Sidenote: The Rolling Stones are still making money, which is very different).

9:31 AM  

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