Wednesday, May 11, 2005

U2 - not blowing 'em away in the Windy City

A few weeks ago the Sunday Independent's magazine had a feature length article about how U2 is still "the greatest rock band in the world". Barry Egan had been dispatched to Anaheim to see for himself after rumors floated back here that the shows on the current tour haven't been getting great reviews.

Today I stumbled on to the Sun-Times's Jim DeRogatis's review of Saturday night's show in Chicago. To say that DeRogatis was less than impressed would be seriously understating it.
[I]t was every bit as phony, bombastic and manipulative as a Britney Spears concert, the Republican National Convention or a televangelist's miracle-working dog and pony show.

As a fan who's seen the group a dozen times and who ranks 1992's Zoo TV tour on the short list of the best concerts I've ever experienced, U2 has never seemed as pointlessly pretentious and preachy.
"Britney Spears" - that's a serious allegation.

DeRogatis is clearly bored with Bono, but he seems equally annoyed with the rest of the band.
The 45-year-old front man's hubristic sins went on and on -- there was a facile routine about how Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all "true" (with Buddhism and other religions conspicuously absent from the list), speeches about how "we" can end poverty in Africa, and boasts about how world leaders take his calls. Still, while he was the most obnoxious presence, it would be wrong to single him out as the only offender.

Guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. gave their silent approval while providing the music that served as background and afterthought for all of this speechifying, and they did so in a rote, autopilot fashion that created a disturbing contrast between the impassioned windbaggery and the passionless rock 'n' roll.
DeRogatis acknowledges that most of the fans seemed happy enough, but today's Sun-Times has a selection of letters from fans who were happy to read his review. The Tribune's Greg Kot was only a little happier with Saturday's show. Kyle Munson in the Des Moines Register was even more up-beat.

I've already said that I like the new album. However, I find it hard to take Bono's theatrical politics. I can imagine the band feels the same way. I know people like Bono or Springsteen feel they have something to say and they don't shy away when they've got the attention of thousands of people, but I think it falls flat.

I really think that it does no good for the causes they espouse. Much better to keep it local (as Springsteen used to do with his "Let's support the local soup kitchen" or whatever) or focus on one narrow, achievable task. Bono sounds too much like a Miss America wannabe seeking "world peace".