Friday, December 16, 2005


Final show of my 2005 U2 marathon. This time Jean & I head down to Charlotte. This will be her 3rd show this tour (one show each leg) & her 11th all time (what a trooper). This will be my 8th for the tour & 17 total.

Door to door from our house to our uptown Charlotte hotel is exactly 2 hours. We check in & then head down to Ri-Ra's Irish pub ~4:00 pm. You can hear the U2 songs playing from across the street. The crowd is filling in. Bass for Jean, a Harp & a Guinness for me. We chat with some other fans & hear some of the "I first saw them in Buffalo in 1983" & "I drove down from Ohio" kind of hard core fan commentary.

We regroup & grab a bite at the nearby Latorre's ("Latin inspired cuisine"). We get a mojito & split the signature entree which was a fantastic scallop dish.

At 6:30 we head down to the arena (knowing that the doors usually open around 6:00 pm) & the GA line is slowly moving through the doors. The most friendly & relaxed security of all of the venues I've been this year. They were mostly eyeballing people & no wands/bag searches. One security guy was firing up the crowd. "Who you gonna see tonight? U2!!!"

We get our tickets scanned & get "proceed to floor" not getting in the bomb shelter. We end up with a good spot at the tip of the ellipse somehat on Adam's side about 8-10 rows back from the rail.

Institute comes out at 7:25 with the usual gig only this time they substituted "The Chemicals Between Us" for "Everything Zen." That was cool to hear that song - always liked that one. Gavin was still doing his pretty boy/I'm in love with my hair schtick. I predict one more release from that outfit at the most.

The Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" U2 concert prelude/intro cranks in at 8:40 surprisingly early. I figured given they play 2 - 2 1/4 hours there must be an 11 o'clock curfew (which must have been the case as the show ended promptly at 11:00). U2 comes out opening with "City Of Blinding Lights."

The crowd was very fired up. It seemed most of the fans throughout the venue up to the rafters were on their feet most of the show. Hearing "Gloria" for the first time in 20 years (last heard 4/29/85 at the Omni in Atlanta) was a special treat & a personal highlight of the show & tour. Otherwise the set list was similar to the Atlanta gigs. Tonight's version of "Original Of The Species" was the 4 member performance with Edge on piano (& not with the 5th member of U2, Terry Lawless). I really liked the versions in Atlanta with Edge layering on some sweet guitar effects. But once again another solid performance & a great show.

Main Set: City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo - She Loves You, Elevation, Gloria, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - In a Little While, Beautiful Day - Many Rivers to Cross, Original of the Species, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love and Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday - Rock the Casbah, Bullet the Blue Sky, Miss Sarajevo, Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One

Encore(s): Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways, With or Without You, Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Yahweh, 40

I learned a few days later that "Instant Karma" was on the set list, but had been scratched (perhaps due to the curfew). They had started playing that last month in NYC with Patti Smith as part of their John Lennon tribute.

On a down side that arena was built for noise (for games) & not for sound (for concerts). For a brand new freaking building it’s unfortunate the acoustics are horrendous. And you know I know it’s not the band’s PA. I have been in similar vantage points throughout the tour. In order of best sounding venues for my 2005 U2 experience: MCI Center> Philips Arena>United Center>>Charlotte.

Being the Type A kind of guy that I am I have compiled the 8 set lists from my 2005 shows & listed the songs performed. A typical set list has ~22 songs. Not counting the numerous snippets of songs (like Sgt. Pepper, Blackbird, Ole Man River, etc.) I got to hear 38 different songs on this tour. There were only a few that I missed out on (& I have no room to complain by any means - only comment): The Ocean, Fast Cars, Crumbs From Your Table, Angel Of Harlem & Instant Karma.

The 2005 rock & roll concert year was as good as it gets.

1. City of Blinding Lights (8)
2. Vertigo (10) [played twice at 2 shows]
3. Elevation (8)
4. Electric Co (5)
5. An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart (2)
6. I Will Follow (3)
7. Out Of Control (1)
8. Gloria (1)
9. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (6)
10. In A Little While (3)
11. Beautiful Day (8)
12. New Years Day (3)
13. Miracle Drug (5)
14. Original Of The Species (4)
15. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (8)
16. Love and Peace or Else (8)
17. Sunday Bloody Sunday (8)
18. Bullet the Blue Sky (8)
19. Running to Stand Still (2)
20. Miss Sarajevo (6)
21. Pride (8)
22. Where the Streets Have No Name (8)
23. One (8)
24. MLK(1)
25. Zoo Station (3)
26. The Fly (4)
27. Until The End Of The World (3)
28. Mysterious Ways (5)
29. With Or Without You (6)
30. All Because of You (6)
31. Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of (4)
32. Yahweh (5)
33. The First Time (2)
34. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (1)
35. Walk On (1)
36. Party Girl (2)
37. Bad (2)
38. “40” (4)

"Time won't leave me as I am. Time won't take they boy out of this man."


Friday, November 25, 2005


Friday - 11/18/05:
The pilgrimage continues. Bob, Dennis & I fly together to Atlanta & connect with Mr. Peabody at Houlihans at the airport just after noon. We grab some lunch & MARTA to the Renaissance Hotel. Our rooms aren't quite ready so we pay a visit to the Rathskeller to wet our whistles. We end up on the 9th floor with connecting balconied rooms & a nice view of the downtown skyline. Then back to the MARTA (all weekend pass $9 bargain) 3 stops down & one over (knight to QB3) to the Philips Arena around 3pm (Wait a minute we took a cab that one time). Bob & I are in the GA line today & get numbers 360/361 with the line going around the corner (in the sunny side). We meet our line neighbors & then head off to Jock's & Jill's Sports Bar conveniently located in the CNN building adjacent to Philips. Snacks & libations. Then by 5pm it's time to maintain line position as the queue tightens up.

The doors open at 6pm. Bob & I get scanned & get the dreaded "proceed to floor." We end up about 4 rows of people back from the outer tip of the center of the ellipse - nice spot. I have my ellipse band from DC & tell Bob I'm going to give it a go. We are both doubtful. BINGO!! I get in!!! The hidden blacklight symbol on the wristband tonight (small hearts) is the same as the 1st night in DC! This trick did not work for me the 2nd night in DC because different symbols were used. Fortunately, there's some repetition. The real bummer was that Crutch had given me his DC ellipse band so that I would have two to use for this very reason, but somehow I had lost it :(
[feeling real bad about Bob right now].

The front of the egg is already about 5 rows deep, but the back is still open. I go to the back rail of the ellipse right smack in the middle. I have heard this is a killer spot. This is where Bono makes his entrance & when the band is out on the ramps they are right in front of you. It also offers a great perspective of the band on stage without losing out on the light show.

I meet a couple from Spartan- burg, SC, who are awfully nice. This one guy was more than willing to go out & take Bob my armband (since I could not do it) to get him in the bomb shelter & he did with success! The trick is to have it taped so it slips on & off easily. (When you get banded, they purposely wrap them tight so that this should not happen). Hard to believe, but we have worked the system to our advantage.

The opening act, Institute, featuring gavin Rossdale (former Bush front man a.k.a. Mr. Gwen Stefani), comes out at 7:25 playing a 45 minute set. The highlights were the Bush songs ("Machine Head" & "Everything Zen"). Unfortunaely, this outfit will be a flash in tha pan. Still, a decent set.

Just before 9:00 pm the show starts & sure enough Bono is escorted in the barrier between the rail & the stage ramp right in front of me. Once again another killer show. This really was a fantastic spot to be in. The sound was fabulous & the band was really on. This crowd was pumped!!! Eye contact with Adam Clayton at some point.

The cell phone has become the Bic lighter of the 21st century concert experience turning the venue, as Bono puts it, into the Milky Way.This show was just as excellent as DC night 1. This one personally falls into a 3 way tie for 1st place with DC & UNC 4/23/83.

Main Set: City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Elevation, Beautiful Day, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - In a Little While, Mysterious Ways, Original of the Species, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love an Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday - Rock the Casbah, Bullet the Blue Sky, Miss Sarajevo, Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One - Ol' Man River
Encore(s): Until the End of the World, The Fly, With or Without You, Happy Birthday, Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Yahweh, All Because Of You, 40 (Bold indicates variation between 11/8 & 11/19).

I brought along my sign (U2 + me = Desire) implying "pick me to play guitar with you on stage," which the band does about once every 5-10 shows (past songs: "Party Girl" & "Angel Of Harlem"). Bono & Edge were out on the ramp in front of me performing "Stuck In A Moment" & Bono had a pause while Edge was singing his falsetto bridge. Bono looked over at my sign, then me, then my sign, then me again. I winked. Sorry, no guitar for you, O, but at least I had a connect. What a great show. Back to the hotel for a night cap & down time.

Rise, shine & rally Saturday morning & head down to the arena around 11:00 am for GA numbers. Today for the floor it's Dennis & me plus Clayton & Marie who join us later in the day. We get numbers 208-211 (Bob & Mr. P. act as stand-ins for The Watkins). Today we are on the shady side of the building & it's a bit brisk. Closer to door time we connect with Lupus & his new Panamanian friend. The doors open 10-15 minutes later today & there are some delays getting to the floor as not one of the 4 of us got a positive bomb shelter scan. We end up about 5 rows of people back from the tip of the ellipse. Institute does a similar a repeat performance.

Dennis had to duck out for fresh air mid-way as the conditions got the best of him - the evaporation of youth, I guess. But U2's show tonight is just as fired up as Friday's. "I Will Follow" was incredibly energized. They have now substituted "Miracle Drug" (a staple throughout the tour) with "Original of the Species," which has evolved into a fantastic live number - now much more electrified than the studio version. Edge's solo on "Bullet" was by far the most inspired of the tour so far (& I've heard 80% of the bootlegs). Bono nailed the Pavarotti "Miss Sarajevo" solo like never before. I never liked "Stuck In A Moment" (from ATYCLB) but the acoustic version they've been doing the last few weeks is really really nice. Bono was running laps around the ring tonight, which he did a lot on the last tour but no much this year. Closing with "Bad" another satisfying concert comes to a close. I kid you not (& funny we were joking about this prior to the show) a guy next to me shouted out, "Play 'New Year's Eve'!"
Thanks to Bob for taking my camera in Saturday night & providing the majority of the photos you see here.

Main Set: City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Elevation, I Will Follow, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Beautiful Day, Happy Birthday, Original of the Species, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love and Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday - Rock the Casbah, Bullet the Blue Sky, Miss Sarajevo, Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One, MLK
Encore(s): Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways, With or Without You, The First Time (acoustic), Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Bad

Friday, October 28, 2005


DC Day #2: After a brief rally at Crutch's pad, back to the city. We get to the GA line ~12:30 & get numbers 121-123 (Bob joins us on the floor tonight). Do the hang with the line neighbors thing, then head to Chintaown for lunch. Back in line similar scene as yesterday doing MCI Center bar/WC checks & then it's time to go in. We thought with 3 tickets to scan our odds might help us get in the ellipse tonight, but no. However, we are just outside (by one row of people) the outer rail of the ellipse at the front ramp. It quickly fills in behind us. You can forget leaving your spot & reclaiming it past 7:00 pm (last call of sorts). We note a flurry of activity over in the reserved seats & spot Condaleeza Rice with her entourage. Figured she drew the White House short straw as there's no way in hell Shrub would make an appearance (although for the 2001 Elevation Tour Jesse Helms came & said everyone's hands "was blowin' like a field of corn"). More importantly, we spot Tom & Ruth in the next section over.

Back to the floor. We see a crew member tape down some papers on the outer rail stage. It's not the set list, but the lyrics to "Walk On," which the band has just started doing acoustic performances on this leg. (The B-man forgot the lyrics at the Chicago debut of the song a few weeks earlier). Damian Marley again does a decent 40 minute set.

We are in nearly as good a spot as last night. When the band comes out on the ramp one has a better perspective of the whole band - plus the visuals/backdrop are better seen.

The sound is certainly much louder with the PA coming into play. This night's set is as energized as last night. A wonderful acoutic version of "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses." We get "Out Of Control," which I've never heard live before & they close with "Bad." These three tunes have only made a few appearances this tour. No disappoinments. Afterwards we connect with the Proctors for some late-night down-winding at their hotel - very nice. The interval between the 2 am crash & the 7 am wake-up to get to the airport reminds me of the "Lisa's Pony" episode of the Simpsons, where Homer gets 1 minute of sleep after his night shift at the Kwik-E-Mart before his alarm goes off to go to his day job. All worth it.

Thursday night's setlist (bold where changes occurred between Wednesday's & Thursday's shows):

Main Set: City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Elevation, The Electric Co., Out of Control, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Beautiful Day - Many Rivers to Cross, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love and Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet the Blue Sky, Happy Birthday (Pavarotti's 70th), Miss Sarajevo, Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One

Encore(s): Walk On (acoustic), Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (acoustic), With or Without You, All Because of You, Bad

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Fly up to DC (luckily cheap airfares) with Bob for the 10/19-20 U2 shows at the MCI Center (aka the Phone Booth). We hook up with Crutch in the city & stroll over to the venue to get in the GA line around 1:30pm. There's a chick at the front of the line who got there at 6:30 pm the night before keeping the log of names & assigning numbers. Her Sharpie marks your hand with your number. We are numbers 152 & 153. There are 2 lines for access to the floor - one for fan club members & one for those who are not. The rumor is fan club gets in 10 minutes ahead of the other. The reality that we learn later is that the fan club line goes thru 2 turnstiles (vs. 1 for the other line) which does move faster. We establish our place in the queue & get to know our line neighbors. This is a fairly easy going self-regulated scene. Everyone checks in & out periodically for food/drinks/WC. We head off for lunch & conveniently (& appropriately) find an irish pub, Fado. Great lunch & thirst quenchers. We discover that the MCI center has it's own little restaurant/bar right on the corner by the GA line. They are very cool allowing the fans in & out for drinks & especially bathroom access. A pleasant bonus. Around 3pm our neighbors in line say they're heading to the backstage loading dock to wait for the band's arrival for sound check. About 100 people eventually congregate with autographible memorabilia in hand. The security & police there gets all hot & bothered about where people cannot stand. Eventually U2's stage manager, Rocco, comes out & announces that there will not be a sound check either day. I wander over to him after the crowd disperses to confirm that this was not a smokescreen. I reluctantly put my 1979 Irish import 45 covers back in my jacket & head back to the queue. Around 4:45 the line evolves from spread out sitting around to standing closer together in preparations for entry. The keeper of the ellipse armbands chick comes out with her megaphone to review the procedure: ticket gets scanned for entry at the turnstile, then checked/marked with a Sharpie at the next checkpoint, then the next stop is where floor armbands are placed & the ticket is scanned for ellipse access. If you get "Proceed to Floor", you move on & do just that. If it says "Vertigo/Vertigo/Vertigo", then you go to the next table (after you fire off a big rebel yell)& get your armband for upfront access in the egg/ellipse/bomb shelter. Bob has a reserved seat the 1st night, so Craig goes 1st & gets the dreaded "proceed to floor." My ticket hits the jackpot resulting in several enthusiastic whoops. With armband #2 in place we head straight to the egg & land behind the 1st row of people 5 feet from & immediatley between the Edge & Bono's stage positions. I am just beaming. I cannot believe that this has finally happened. What a thrill!
Damian Marley, one of Bob Marley's 200 children, is the opening act. Nice reggae - occassionally rap-infused - but overall enjoyable. Good version of "Could You Be Loved." 40 minute set. Venue is filling up. Get to watch Edge's guitar tech, Dallas Schoo, check out all of the effects & hear him play samples of various riffs. 8:55 lights go down & out comes the band. I am in Nirvana. Sound was great with the PA above & behind me. No earplugs necessary. Eye contact with the Edge, who was incredibly fired up. He was beaming, jumping in up & down - pogoing- most of the show. The band was really on & the crowd was pumped. Two & one-half hours later Dallas tosses us a guitar pick after the show. This show is tied with the 4/23/83 UNC concert for 1st place in my book. My 13th U2 show.

Here's the set-list (bold where changes occurred between Wednesday's & Thursday's shows):

Main Set: City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Elevation, I Will Follow, The Electric Co. - Send in the Clowns, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - In a Little While, Beautiful Day - Many Rivers to Cross, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love and Peace or Else,, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet the Blue Sky, Miss Sarajevo, Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One - Ol' Man River

Encore(s): The First Time (acoustic), Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of, With or Without You, All Because of You, Yahweh, 40

Sunday, September 25, 2005



Bob Mould opened his Fall US Tour at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC, Thursday night 9/22. This guy is MR. LOUD ELECTRIC GUITAR. He played the same Strat for 80 minutes running through a mixture of his entire carrer of Husker Du, Sugar & solo material. I swear he looked at the frets 3 times, otherwise his left hand is all over the place doing all these complex monster chords & leads while he sings into the microphone with his eyes closed (must have to really concentrate). A crowd of maybe 400, average age 32, 80% male. Several hard cores mouthing all the lyrics. Of note they now sell Carolina Brewery drafts at the Cradle. 2 thumbs up!

Approximation of setlist:
The Act We Act
A Good Idea
I Am Vision, I Am Sound
Underneath Days
Hoover Dam
High Fidelity
Hardly Getting Over It
See A Little Light
Could You Be The One
I Apologize
Chartered Trips
The Receipt
Best Thing
Celebrated Summer
Beating Heart The Prize
If I Can't Change Your Mind
Makes No Sense At All

Bob is now on the Yep Roc label, which originated in Carrboro (some connections with Merge) & is now based in Graham, NC. This label has amassed quite the list of familar alternative acts including Paul Weller, John Doe, The Fleshtones & Chris Stamey:
  • Yep Roc

  • Check out the really fired up fall schedule at the Cradle:
  • Cat's Cradle


    Coldplay at the Alltel Pavilion on Sat 9/10 was most excellent.
    The opening act, Rilo Kiley, were a pretty talented semi-alt.rock band.
    Sold out full house. Average age 23. The main act was on from 9:15 - 11:00 & pretty much it was the Chris Martin & this is my band show. I guess this is fairly typical of front men, but there was not much acknowledgement of the other band members. Nonetheless a very clean sounding/tight performance. The 1st 5 songs were an especially nice start up. Clayton was at the show the night before in Charlotte & thought Martin's voice was a little off (I didn't notice it that much), but Clayton was dead on given they cancelled 2 shows the following week citing throat troubles. These guys pretty much do the same set list except for 2 slots where they do Everything's Not Lost or Amsterdam in 1 slot & Don't Panic or Green Eyes in the other.
    After many listenings X&Y just isn't quite up to snuff with its predecessor, but hopefully they'll be inspired for album #4. If not they may just kind of fade out along the likes of Live (remember them?).

    Set List - Raleigh -9/10
    Square One
    Politik (New Orleans lyrics)
    God Put a Smile on Your Face
    Speed of Sound
    A Rush of Blood to the Head
    *Everything's Not Lost (Amended lyrics, dedicated to those out on the lawn and those who were going back to school)
    White Shadows
    The Scientist (Chris messed up the first attempt by coughing, Will told him to start again)
    'Til Kingdom Come
    Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
    Happy Birthday (all sang to Jonny Buckland since it was his birthday!)
    *Don't Panic
    Swallowed in the Sea
    In My Place
    Fix You

    Setlist - Charlotte 9/9
    Square One
    God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
    Speed Of Sound
    A Rush of Blood to the Head
    White Shadows
    The Scientist
    Til Kingdom Come
    Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
    *Green Eyes
    Swallowed in the Sea
    In My Place
    Fix You

    Greg Kot Changes His Mind:

    U2 back to frisky self this time out
    September 25, 2005

    Source: Chicago Tribune
    Greg Kot

    In contrast to its four-show run at the United Center last May, when U2 was starting to sound like a highly competent but not particularly adventuresome junior version of the Rolling Stones, the Irish quartet was in friskier mood in two encore concerts last week.

    U2 tossed aside the predictable set list and dug deep Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are some key differences between the shows last week and the ones last spring:

    Then: The band doesn't make the case for its latest hit-and-miss album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." The new songs are bunched together and dispatched early on, as if Bono and the boys didn't know how to integrate them into their performance.

    Now: "Miracle Drug" (with the Edge's beautiful guitar figure getting some breathing room at the top) and "Original of the Species" (a killer soul ballad with falsetto harmonies) are showcased instead of buried. The arrangements are less fussy, the melodies more apparent. These are the kinds of moments that send skeptical fans rushing back to the album to hear these songs with fresh ears.

    Then: The theatrics of Bono, who stumbled around stage blindfolded in empathy with Iraqi prisoners and spoke at length about religious tolerance, got to be a distraction.

    Now: The blindfold is still around, but Bono tones down the speechifying and play-acting. Instead he focuses on the songs. His voice sounds like a howitzer on the rockers, blowing down the doors on "Elevation," and yet he manages to convey a fragile poignance on ballads such as "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own."

    Then: No surprises in the set list.

    Now: U2 pulls out the soaring and underplayed "Miss Sarajevo" from its mid-'90s Passengers" side project with Brian Eno. Bono steps in for Luciano Pavarotti, whose cameo vocal carries the recorded version into the stratosphere, and lets it rip. A jaw-dropping moment.

    Then: An efficient march through the new album, followed by the hits and two encores.

    Now: A hodgepodge of old, new and off-the-cuff gives the evening an anything-can-happen quality, even to fans who have seen several shows on this tour. An acoustic "Wild Horses" is particularly welcome, as is a seemingly impromptu segue into the Broadway standard "Old Man River" in conjunction with Bono's comments about Hurricane Katrina and America's resilience during times of crisis. A flamenco "Fast Cars" turns the first encore into an unruly dance, magnifying the theme struck by the erotic push-pull of "With or Without You."

    Then: A relatively simple performance, not too dependent on technology, especially in comparison to past tours such as "Zoo TV" and "Popmart." But the choreography of certain segments is apparent.

    Now: The light-bulb curtains remain, but the staging is even more frill-free than before, and there's more room to roam within the set list. The focus is once again squarely on the music.

    Conclusion: So long, Dinosaur Act. The art-rocking, risk-taking U2 is back with a timely reminder of why this city embraced the band in the first place, 25 years ago.

    (c) Chicago Tribune, 2005.


    I’ve fallen off the radar screen this summer due to the good fortune of spending a month in the South of France. Since our return I have been working practically non-stop to catch up on my hours (since I don’t get paid vacation) & thus have had little time to blog. Jean, the kids & I joined Jean’s folks from 7/18-8/12 in a village called Mougins, which sits in the hills above Cannes overlooking the Mediterranean. Jean’s parents are real Francophiles & waited for our kids to be at a travelable age to do this. My French is minimal (since I took Spanish in college & German in high school), but I can get by – I do know how to order a beer, ask for the check & inquire of the WC’s location (all the basics for survival). Great food, excellent cheese (they don’t kill the fromage there, they say, like we do in the US), & of course, tip-top wine at rock bottom prices (& the bier pression hit the spot as well). Fantastic weather – low to mid 80’s w/ low humidity & 3 days of rain total. Some great day trips to the likes of Monaco & St. Tropez to name a few.

    One highlight day trip – getting back to the subject at hand – was U2 (how timely!) in Nice on 8/5 at Stade Charles Ehrmann, a soccer stadium. Alex McDonald, age 7.5, the McDonald household’s biggest U2 fan under the age of 40, got to go to his 1st concert to see his favorite band. We went into Nice at 2:00 pm to park & the lots were already near capacity. Trying to find the bus stop we ran into a girl from Montreal (who “hates” U2, but visiting w/ friends who are fans) & catch a bus into the city for a few hours. Walk into old town for drinks/glace. Pick up sandwiches & walk a bit waywardly towards the special events bus stop back to the stadium. Friendly stranger spontaneously (triggered by our U2 shirts) directs us 2 blocks to the right bus stop. We arrive at the stadium near 7pm. We felt lucky to have some of the 3000 reserved seats, while 50,000 other fans are SRO. (Thanks to my successful fan club pre-sale purchase at 4:00 am in February navigating a French ticket site). The stadium had one concrete tired section on one side of the field & the stage was set-up on the other w/bleachers in the end zones. Opening act, the Zutons (7:15-7:45), were an ok Zydeco-like band. Act 2 was Keane (8:15-9:00), who were quite good, but a bit homogenized after a while. Immediately prior to U2 (9:45-12:00) there’s a big commotion 1 section over & down from our seats & lots of turning heads from the field below. It was Elton John. I could just see the top of his strawberry toupee/weave...

    Then U2 is out & cranks! I’ve always felt sound suffered in stadiums compared to indoor shows, but these guys have it all figured out – it was clean & crisp. It was surprisingly louder than I expected & was glad I brought the ear plugs. This was my chance to enjoy the spectacle of the light show (GA/floor in Chicago was better for the band view). It was all totally excellent. Michael Stipe & Quincy Jones (“You’re one sexy MF,” to quote B) were mentioned as being there. Bono’s voice is as solid as it ever was. (Rumor is he’s smoking less – he’s down to 1 cig only after 2 night stands). They’d just started performing “Miss Sarajevo” recently in the tour. This song is on the “Passengers” CD (which was an Eno/U2 collaboration that was almost released as a U2 album). Bono sang Pavarotti’s operatic part of this song beautifully. (He’s taken on a little opera as a dedication to his late father, who loved to sing opera). This crowd was really into the show. Tons of very loud sing alongs (like the, “oh,oh,oh.....uh, oh,oh,oh” in Pride)...and the beers were cold. Tres bien!
    Main Set: Vertigo, I Will Follow, The Electric Co., Elevation, New Year's Day, Beautiful Day - Sgt. Pepper's - Here Comes the Sun, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, City of Blinding Lights, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love and Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet the Blue Sky, Miss Sarajevo, Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One - Everybody Hurts
    Encore(s): Zoo Station, The Fly, With or Without You, All Because of You, Yahweh, Vertigo
    BTW, Alex’s wardrobe now, when clean, is either a U2 or Tar Heels tee shirt. Rock on.

    Back in the US, it’s off to the RBC to see Green Day last Wed night. Yes, lots of youngsters with their parents. Some parents without their youngsters. They even offered a parent’s “quiet room.” Two advantages to the average age being 20: beer lines are short; turnaround time at the urinals is quick!
    Opening act, Jimmy Eat World, were tight & played 45 minutes. Their hits, Bleed American & The Middle, were great. The stuff on their new album shows signs of slump unfortunately. Green Day came out at 8:40 & played 2 hours...well, er, uh..performed for 2 hours. The songs sounded great. They just had too much stage antics/filler for my tastes. Probably 90 minutes of music out of 2 hours – that’s good for 10 more 3-minute songs, eh? One of their tricks is to bring kids up 1 by 1 to play their instruments for 1 song, which is quite the gimmick/crowd pleaser. They like to use those hot flash (pot-flashers?) devices where you could feel the heat from our seats (mid court/ring, 12 rows up). Overall, worth the trip.

    Next, it’s my first live viewing of Coldplay, 9/10 at Walnut Creek in Raleighwood. Looking forward to that one as their live video from 2003 is killer.
    Then, it’s Bob Mould at the Cat’s Cradle 9/22. He put his guitar down in 1998 reportedly for the last time saying he was getting too old for loud rock & roll. He then went on some electronica/DJ kick in DC for several years. I read an interview where he said last year he saw his axe sitting in the corner & he hadn’t picked it up in a long time. Once he did he couldn’t believe how much he missed playing. He now has a pretty solid new CD that’s like a cross of all of his old styles: Sugar/Husker Dü/Workbook-like/ hint of electronic modulation. I guess he got through his mid-life crisis.

    This is indeed the year of live music. The remaining fall O-tour looks like this: Stones(65 point favorites)@Dook on 10/8, U2 at MCI Center in DC (10/19-20), U2 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta (11/18-19), and, last but not least, guess who, U2 in Charlotte (12/12). I haven’t seen this many concerts in 1 year since I lived in Chicago. “Live music is better bumper stickers should be issued.”


    Jean & I went to see the Pixies at the “Disco Rodeo” (lamé rename of the Ritz) in Raleighwood Sunday night.
    The opening act, the Bellrays, were crankin’. They’re like a cross between Mothers Finest & the Ramones.
  • Bellrays

  • A sold out & very incredibly fired up crowd. Average age ~35. This crowd was so fired up they were screaming out the lyrics of obscure songs like “Bone Machine” right & left. The band was beaming (& drinking St. Pauli Girls) throughout. Since they reformed over a year ago they’ve played a ton of shows & it’s apparent in how tight they are. Everybody was bald except Kim Deal (who smoked a ton o’ butts). They unravelled during “Bone Machine” & laughed. Frank Black (or is it Black Francis) said, “We’ve played that song 500 times & we’ve never f***ed it up”
    Lots of tunes from Doolitle: Wave Of Mutilation (2 versions- slow acoustic & fast electric), of course Monkey Gone To Heaven, Debaser, Here Comes Your Man, & I really got off on both Number 13 & Gouge Away. This band overcame the horrendous tin can acoustics of the venue. What’s cool is they’re on the ‘buy a CD of our show bandwagon.’ You can get one here:
  • Pixies Discs

  • Main page:

  • Setlist:
    01 Bone Machine
    02 Cactus
    03 U-Mass
    04 Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)
    05 Monkey Gone To Heaven
    06 Subbacultcha
    07 Stormy Weather
    08 Something Against You
    09 River Euphrates
    10 Gigantic
    11 Gouge Away
    12 Dead
    13 Debaser
    14 Broken Face
    15 Tame
    16 Hey
    17 No. 13 Baby
    18 Caribou
    19 Planet Of Sound
    20 Alec Eiffel
    21 In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song)
    22 Wave Of Mutilation
    23 Where Is My Mind?
    24 The Holiday Song
    25 Here Comes Your Man
    26 Vamos
    27 Into The White
    28 La La Love You
    SPIN review:
  • SPIN

  • New albums:
    The new Oasis is everything it’s hyped up to be. It IS their best album since “Morning Glory.” There’s only 2 throw away tunes in the middle, but it’s full of real catchy stuff.
    The new Coldplay “X&Y” is taking some time, which usually is a good sign. I don’t see it surpassing their last. “Speed Of Sound” is mighty good, but it sounds too much like “Clocks-part2.”
    There’s a couple of songs on there where I’m noticing an influence from the Church (the band, not the building). I’ve got a live BBC recording from 2 weeks ago & they still sound really excellent on stage.
    New Audioslave has a little sophomore slump regurg, but has a handful of good tunes.
    New Robert Plant is a go get it. It’s the most Zeppelinesque solo album he’s ever done. Has a great sound. Only a few disposable songs.
    Just downloaded but have not heard yet the new Foo Fighters, having read mixed reviews. It’s a double (one acoustic, one raucous) w/ guests, Nora & John Paul Joneses (no, they’re not together).

    Mr U2 OCD update:
    I now have 110 U2 boots, including 24 from the current tour. Tonight is their 3rd show of the European leg, following the 28 spring shows in the states.
    The torrent sites keep changing hosts thanks to corporate legal threats. Here are some current active sites:
  • U2 Torrents

  • Trader's Den

  • Keep on rockin’ in the free bird!


    Here’s the N&O review:

    Modified: Jun 14, 2005 7:13 AM
    Pixies age with flash
    The rock band tears it up and that's good

    By DAVID MENCONI, Staff Writer

    RALEIGH -- If they ever make an audio-only version of "Batman," Pixies singer Charles "Black Francis" Thompson would make a heck of a Joker. Seen on a stage, he looks completely nonthreatening -- until he opens his mouth and lets loose one of the most harrowing howls you've ever heard. He's an avatar of doom with a goofy side, capable of making you shudder and giggle at the same time.
    Sunday night at a packed-to-the-rafters Disco Rodeo, Thompson basically peeled what little paint there was clean off the walls. The other three Pixies followed in his wake, pounding the crowd into submission throughout an 80-minute performance. That's on the short side, but the set was a marvel of economy. The band was all business, blazing through 28 songs with minimal chit-chat and maximum impact.

    The Pixies have always had an otherworldly quality, and Sunday's stop on their reunion tour was like seeing a band that outsells U2 in some parallel universe. The crowd greeted every song with exultant shrieks of recognition, shouting along with surreal lyrics as if they were top 10 singles: "If man is five, then the devil is six, then God is seven ... This monkey's gone to heaven!"

    The Pixies have never cracked the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and you couldn't pick a less likely-looking bunch of rock stars out of a jailhouse lineup. Even in their late-1980s prime, they were a little too long on paunch, short on hair and heavy on irony for MTV.

    But they sounded great then, and in many ways they sound even better now. All four Pixies are more technically solid than they were 15 years ago, and time has been kind to their music. Songs that seemed startlingly weird in 1989 now sound a lot like the hits Nirvana had a few years later. And the twangy, bouncy pop of "Here Comes Your Man" sounds downright bubblegummy.

    The early part of Sunday's set drew heavily from the Pixies' 1989 album "Doolittle" (the lone gold record in their catalog). "Debaser," "Wave of Mutilation" and "Monkey Gone to Heaven" remain the best distillation of the Pixies' subdued-verse-exploding-chorus formula that proved so fruitful for Nirvana, and they sounded awesome at Disco Rodeo.

    As usual, they played few instrumental solos -- just the raw power of two guitars, bass and drums churning up a maelstrom that felt like a tornado about to suck you into its vortex. The guitar battery of Thompson and Joey Santiago did most of the cutting, but bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering kept up.

    Highlights included the spaghetti-Western atmospherics of "Caribou," "U-Mass" (with its screamed chorus of, "It's educational!"), "Subbacultcha" and "Planet of Sound." If this is nostalgia, count me in.

    Staff writer David Menconi can be reached at 829-4759 or


    For Chicago 2 (5/9) we arrived at 7:00 pm. I had seen the Chicago PD writing a citation to someone (who looked like a fan & not a scalper) for selling tickets at the main entrance (which is verboten). There was no line to get in the GA entrance. No security wanding. We just walked right in with my camera in my back pocket. Both my ticket & Jean’s ticket were scanned & got the dreaded “Proceed to floor” as opposed to “Vertigo” which puts you in the egg/ellipse/bomb shelter/pit. We were able to get about 20 feet from the outer ellipse Edge side of center. After Kings of Leon (they were good, not great. They did not suck) finished many people left the floor for the bathroom/beer break. Essentially everyone else moved ahead. It was nearly impossible for the returnees to get back to their original spot. From our vantage point the sound was killer (very loud BTW). It can be hard to see the main stage at times & I’m 6’1”. When the band comes around to the front of the ellipse it’s a fantastic view. The crowd was really on for this show as the band was definitely sizzling.

    For Chicago 3 (5/10) I went solo. I arrived at 6:30 pm & the GA line was about 75-100 people deep with heavy security wanding going on. I walked around the venue for a while & spotted at least a dozen scalpers mumbling “tickets’ under their breath (none at the main entrance). I watched the GA entrance line fade out & then walked right in around 7:10 again without any wanding. There were 10 people in front of me. Every single one got “Proceed to floor”. I thought for sure my odds were looking good. Nope. Sorry. (Is there someone with a remote camera & a remote control making these “random” egg selections??)

    I hung out by the soundboard & watched the crews for a while. I witnessed 3 separate ellipse banding feeding frenzies between 5-10 minutes prior to show time & 5-10 minutes after liftoff. This all occurred in front of the relatively open soundboard area behind the tight fan cluster towards the stage. There were 3 different crew members who had about a dozen bands each. They all were surrounded with wrists (including mine) in their face. One crew member got pissed at being crowded & said. “I’ve had enough of you people. Get out of here... that’s it” I ran into a guy (who bought a GA ticket outside for $60) who got lucky for Chicago 2 the night before. He said he was standing in this same area talking to 2 very attractive women when a crew member slapped bands on them. He stuck his wrist in & got one. He identified the same crew member again this night. We went to her & pleaded, but got the cold shoulder big time. I kept my eyes peeled for other bandings but that was it. So I then moved up to 15-20 feet from the end of the stage on Adam’s side. I spotted the band’s manager, Paul McGuiness, at one point. I thought the crowd was less fired up the 2nd night. The big surprise was a reprise of Vertigo at the end, which was major league fired up. The best of the 3 renditions.

    The 2 sets I saw were unusually very similar & this was likely due to the tour DVD being filmed only on those 2 nights in attempt to put together editable sequences.

    Last night’s set list at Chicago 4 (5/12) was the most mixed up & apparently most fired up show to date according to the reviews:
    Main Set: Vertigo, All Because Of You, Elevation, Gloria, The Ocean, Beautiful Day, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Love and Peace or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet the Blue Sky - When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Running to Stand Still, City of Blinding Lights, Original of the Species, Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, One
    Encore(s): Until the End of the World, The Fly, Mysterious Ways, With or Without - Strangers in the Night, Yahweh, Bad - Norwegian Wood - Sexual Healing - 40
    Comments: For the last of four nights in Chicago, and with the film cameras off, U2 throws its setlist in the blender. 'Vertigo' opens a show for the first time. 'All Because of You' and 'Original of the Species' are played in the main set for the 1st time. 'Until the End of the World' makes its Vertigo Tour debut. The show closes with 'Bad', which gets extended with several snippets, finally wrapping up with a bit of '40', the traditional show closer this tour.

    Jean had a Bono & Adam sighting after she & I split for the day Tuesday. They were coming out of the downtown Park Hyatt ~4:00pm on their way to the sound check.
    We went into Sak’s to check out Bono’s new EDUN line of clothes, way to metrosexual for me. The clerk said Bono was doing an in-store Wednesday.
    My friend Max talked to one of his paramedics that provides EMS/first aid at the Riviera in Chicago. He said Bono was there Wednesday night to see the Killers.

    Well, that’s more than enough. It was a thrill to go on a musical journey.

    Here's the Tribune review:
    U2's march of the tired warhorses hamstrings fine ensemble effort

    By Greg Kot
    Tribune music critic
    Published May 9, 2005

    The corporate juggernaut that is U2 takes over Chicago this week with four sold-out shows at the United Center in-between singer Bono's latest efforts to save the world. These efforts would have been enhanced Saturday by a concert that relied less on U2's past and more on songs that haven't overstayed their welcome.

    On opening night, Bono lamented that a decade ago he would place calls to the White House in the midst of the band's "Zoo TV" tour, but they went unanswered. "They take my call now," he said, and the audience cheered. He went on to urge the audience to text-message his Unite Against Poverty organization which is designed to pressure politicians to follow through on the United Nations' goal of cutting world poverty in half by 2015. It was yet another example of the rock concert as political advertisement, following closely on the heels of last year's Bruce Springsteen-led Vote for Change tour that aimed to oust George Bush from the White House.

    U2's gambit will no doubt engender a lot of eye-rolling from those who have grown tired of Bono's increasingly high celebrity-activist profile. But the singer's social activism also had musical relevance, as it provided the thematic backbone to U2's current tour. During a sequence of songs including "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" that addressed how religion continues to become an excuse for violence, he donned a scarf adorned with religious symbols and declared, "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed is true."

    The scarf became a blindfold on "Bullet the Blue Sky," which segued into the Civil War anthem "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." It was a bit of Bono-esque theater, part hokum but all heart.

    For anyone who has felt anything for the band since it made its Chicago debut more than two decades ago at the Park West, the do-gooder self-righteousness is part of the package. It's driven as much by ambition and ego as it is social and artistic reasons, and sometimes it works spectacularly: "Zoo TV," unanswered White House phone calls and all, remains a landmark of multimedia arena rock.

    My quibble is not with the motive so much as with the execution. Things got off to a rocky start a few months ago, with a bungled ticket sale that brought a public apology from drummer Larry Mullen Jr. at the Grammy Awards, and again from Bono during Saturday's encore.

    The tour follows the release of the band's latest studio album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," but doesn't really make a case for it. Though the album is strictly U2-by-the-numbers, a retreat back to its early '80s sound, the stage is the true measure of the quartet's songs.

    The band was in fine form: Bono brought a new sense of nuance and phrasing to his singing, the Edge delved into blues by way of Jimi Hendrix during his guitar solo on "Bullet," and Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton remained implacable guardians of the Big Beat. Little wonder the "Atomic Bomb" tracks came on strong at the United Center, with a tambourine-inflected "All Because of You," a luminous "City of Blinding Lights" bathed in confetti, and especially a hymnlike "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," with Bono paying tribute to his late father while pacing the walkway that ringed the elliptical stage. Here was U2 at its best, shrinking a stadium to a living-roomlike level of intimacy.

    But at least half the show was consumed with a run through U2 warhorses that were already starting to sound exhausted on previous tours: "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "One." Save for the belly dancer missing in action from "Mysterious Ways," this was tired nostalgia, apparently to sate customers who shelled out hundreds of dollars for tickets.

    It appears U2 is falling into the same trap as the Rolling Stones: Charging big money for a stadium show obligates the band to turn into a hits jukebox. But especially in a city such as Chicago, where U2 has been embraced like few other bands, the quartet can afford to take more chances. The promise of U2 has always been big music tied in with conviction, imagination and innovation. Now the band sounds like it believes less in its ability to surprise and dazzle with its new music, and more in the necessity to recycle its past. If that trend continues, U2's avid concern for social justice won't be enough to keep it relevant.


    Bono didn't like that review, so here's the face off:


    Bono: 'We need to talk'
    U2's frontman sits down with Greg Kot to 'clear the air' about negative reviews, the band's direction and the role of rock 'n' roll

    By Greg Kot
    Tribune music critic
    Published May 22, 2005

    Bono is steamed.

    It's not every day that I answer my cell phone and hear the lead singer of U2 expressing serious disagreement with something I've written, but that day has arrived.

    "You've offended us," he says as I weave up Lake Shore Drive during evening rush hour, trying not to crash into a concrete barrier while I reach for my notebook. "There's a dark cloud over us and we need to talk."

    I've covered the band for 15 years, interviewed Bono a half-dozen times and attended virtually every one of U2's Chicago concerts since the Irish quartet first played at Park West in 1981. Along with R.E.M., U2 is the most important mainstream rock band of my generation, a band that set a new standard for how an arena rock concert could feel and what it could communicate. In the '90s, Bono, guitarist The Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton gave their well-honed approach a twist on such adventurous albums as "Achtung Baby" (1991), "Zooropa" (1993), the "Passengers: Original Soundtracks I" side project (1995) and "Pop" (1997).

    But "Pop" bombed commercially by U2 standards, and the band seemed to lose its nerve. It made two consecutive albums, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" (2000) and "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (2004), that retreated from the innovations of the '90s and settled for a retro '80s sound. In February, the Tribune published an article in which I chastised the band for a series of dubious artistic and business decisions. It was prompted by a flood of irate e-mails from fans who had paid $40 to join U2's fan club in order to gain access to pre-sale tickets for the band's North American tour. The sale was a public-relations disaster. Some fan-club members reported they couldn't even get tickets, or paid nearly $200 for third-balcony seats, while scalpers were selling tickets on eBay for more than $600. It was the latest in a series of missteps that prompted me to question whether this once-vital band was turning into the Rolling Stones, more of a corporation focused on perpetuating itself than a creative force.

    There was the ubiquitous television ad (for which they were not paid) in which "Vertigo," the first single from "Atomic Bomb," was turned into a commercial for Apple's portable music device, the iPod. There were the unusually conservative albums, evidence that the band had run out of ideas or the will to challenge itself and its audience. There was the live appearance at the Super Bowl halftime in February 2002, the type of marketing opportunity that presented even the most idealistic brand of rock as just another product.

    It was these criticisms that prompted Bono's Lake Shore Drive call. A day after that conversation, I attended the first concert in U2's four-night sold-out run at the United Center. My review focused on the tired set list. U2 played some new songs early in the two-hour performance, but instead of building a case for the new album and possibly redeeming it, the quartet reserved all the big-bang moments for its greatest hits, songs that had been in the set list for a decade or more. They sounded more than ever like the bands they once arose to replace, the dinosaur acts of the '60s.

    All of this is part of what should be the relationship among the artist, the critic and even the audience, which at the United Center was wildly cheering (as they always do) every note. Critics, on the other hand, are not cheerleaders. They are paid to honestly and passionately react to what the artist does -- for better or worse. When it's the latter, audiences are often more vocal in their defense than the artists. But Bono was different.

    After the review appeared in the Tribune, Bono invited me to attend another show. Later, he would acknowledge that my review of the first concert wasn't off base. "We weren't at our best," he said. When I attended the final show of the four-night stand, the song deck had been shuffled, and the band grew more daring. A new song that wasn't in the first night's set, "Original of the Species," was a highlight. It's a soul ballad with a melody so suggestive that it compelled me to go back and hear what I had missed the first time on the "Atomic Bomb" album. If not a return to the old boldness, the performance certainly made me aware of something that I had missed about the album several months before: the classic beauty of some of the less-immediate songs.

    The next morning, Bono and I met at a corner table in a swanky restaurant overlooking Michigan Avenue. "Stick 'em up," he rasped as he approached from behind, finger on an imaginary trigger pressing into my left kidney. It was 9 a.m., and the previous night's concert had left the unshaven singer a touch hoarse. But he was in a spry mood and claimed to do all his best work before noon. "I sometimes wish we could play our concerts right after I wake up," he said, peering out from behind his tinted wraparound glasses after ordering a breakfast of poached eggs and toast. The ire in his voice of the previous week had softened to a contentious but melodious brogue.

    "Larry [Mullen, the band's drummer] is going to kill me for doing this," Bono said. "But I want this on the record. Some of what is going around as a result of your article is not just unhelpful to our group and our relationship to our audience, but just really problematic for what in the broad sense you might call rock music. The things you think are wrong with it, and the things that I think are wrong with rock music, are polar opposite. Your vision of rock and mine are 180 degrees apart. And that's why I need to talk to you."

    A portion of that 90-minute conversation, edited for length, clarity and language, follows.

    KOT: You're an important band for my generation. A band that led by example: This is how to do it, how to be a successful band without compromising your principles. But when the ticket sale went wrong this year, I got hundreds of e-mails from fans who felt you had let them down, that their loyalty was betrayed.

    BONO: Everybody in this band knows about that debacle, and regrets it, and we've taken steps to prevent it from happening again. I think most fans understand what happened. Our eyes were not on that ball the way they normally would be. Our eyes were on trying to determine whether we would be going on tour at all. There are things that we can't discuss in the interview that were going on within the band that just took precedence. Most U2 fans knew what that was [serious health problems in the family of a band member]. I thought it was really disingenuous of them and you not to recognize that this is not normal behavior from this band. Complain, yeah. Something did go wrong. That was a mistake, and we tried to put it right.

    KOT: The first I heard about the internal problems in the band was when Larry apologized about it at the Grammys. Before the article was published, I tried for three weeks to get information from the band, to interview you. Yes, this was not normal behavior from U2. Instead, you steer me to the record company president and the tour promoter. You let these business guys answer for you.

    BONO: I'm really sorry about that. It's our fault that didn't happen. But it's done, and we've taken care of it.

    KOT: The ticket sale to me was just the tip of a larger issue, which is: Is the band losing sight of what it once was? The iPod ad, the Super Bowl halftime appearance, the Grammy Awards appearances -- I didn't think U2 was about that sort of promotion.

    BONO: That's a really important point that I want to get across to you. There's this poverty of ambition, in terms of what rock people will do to promote their work. That's a critical issue to me. The excitement of punk rock, in the Irish and UK scene when we were coming up, was seeing our favorite band on "Top of the Pops," right next to the "enemy." That would be exciting. We did talk shows, TV shows, back then. The great moments of rock 'n' roll were never off in some corner of the music world, in a self-constructed ghetto. I don't like that kind of thinking. I know some of it exists, and some of our best friends are part of it. It's not for me. Progressive rock was the enemy in 1976. And it still is. And it has many, many faces. This beast is lurking everywhere. It can describe itself as indie rock. It's the same [blanking] thing. It's misery. I have seen so many great minds struck down by it. . . . When you suggest we're betraying ourselves by doing TV shows and promotional stuff, to me the Super Bowl was our Ed Sullivan moment. It just came 25 years later. I didn't expect it. But it is one of the moments I'm most proud of in my life.

    KOT: Why is the idea of associating a song with a product a good idea?

    BONO: I accept that that is alarming. I really do. Our being on TV, I don't have a problem with that -- we should be on TV. But OK, associating our music with a product. You've got to deal with the devil. Let's have a look. The devil here is a bunch of creative minds, more creative than a lot of people in rock bands. The lead singer is Steve Jobs. These men have helped design the most beautiful object art in music culture since the electric guitar. That's the iPod. The job of art is to chase ugliness away. Everywhere we look we see ugly cars, ugly buildings . . . [he pauses, and looks out the window at the Chicago skyline]. . . . You're lucky here in Chicago on that front. But you see ugly objects in the workplace. Everywhere. And these people are making beautiful objects. Selling out is doing something you don't really want to do for money. That's what selling out is. We asked to be in the ad. We could see where rock music is, fighting for relevance next to hip-hop. And I love hip-hop. It's the new black entrepreneur. It's about being out there, loud and proud about what you're doing. Selling it on the street corner if you have to. From pent-house to pavement. Advertising the new song in another song. Taking on the world. Meanwhile, a bunch of white, middle-class kids are practicing in Daddy's garage, saying [adopts fake Midwestern whine], "No, man, that is just so un-cool." As hard as it is, as ghetto as it is, hip-hop is pop music. It's the sound of music getting out of the ghetto, while rock is looking for a ghetto. We never wanted to be a garage band. We wanted to get as quick as we could out of the garage. The people who say they like the garage usually have two or three cars parked outside. Rock music is niche. We want people who aren't in our niche listening to our music. If you pour your life into songs, you want them to be heard. It's a desire to communicate. A deep desire to communicate inspires songwriting. Rock music was most exciting when it was in the 45 [rpm single], when it was disciplined into a single. Whether it was the Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, Nirvana, the Beatles, the Stones. The 45 is the pure rock to me. That is why I wanted to be in a band.
    KOT: I understand that, but I've seen some of my favorite songs corrupted because of that attitude. [Iggy Pop's] "Lust for Life" is now a Jamaican vacation commercial. I don't know if I want to listen to that song anymore.

    BONO: If I love the song, I love the song. We looked at the iPod commercial as a rock video. We chose the director. We thought, how are we going to get our single off in the days when rock music is niche? When it's unlikely to get a three-minute punk-rock song on top of the radio? So we piggybacked this phenomenon to get ourselves to a new, younger audience, and we succeeded. And it's exciting. I'm proud of the commercial, I'm proud of the association. We have turned down enormous sums of money to put our songs in a commercial, where we felt, to your point, where it might change the way people appreciated the song. We were offered $23 million for just the music to "Where the Streets Have No Name." We thought we could do a lot of good with that money. Give it away. But if a show is a little off, and there's a hole, that's the one song we can guarantee that God will walk through the room as soon as we play it. So the idea that when we played it, people would go, "That's the 'such-and-such' commercial," we couldn't live with it. Had it been a cool thing, or didn't have a bad association, or it was a different song, we might've done it. But we have to start thinking about new ways of getting our songs across, of communicating in this new world, with so many channels, with rock music becoming a niche. I hear so many songwriters describe their songs as their children, that they have to look after them. [Nonsense!] They're your parents, they tell you what to do. They tell you how to dress, how to behave when you're playing them. They tell you what the video looks like. If you listen to them, they manage you. And if you get it right, they pay for your retirement [laughs]. Because songs demand to be heard. "Vertigo," which you didn't like, is deceptively simple. That riff, you can think, "Aw yeah, another rock song." It doesn't become great the first time you hear it. It becomes great the thousandth time you hear it. And that's true of a lot of rock riffs. So we have to get the density of exposure for that to be a hit.

    KOT: You told me the other day that U2 had "Kid A'd" itself to death [a reference to Radiohead's 2000 progressive-rock album "Kid A"]. It was a funny line, but I'm disappointed to hear that.

    BONO: I want to hear Radiohead, extraordinary band that they are, on MTV. I want them setting fire to the imaginations of 16-, 15-, 14-year-old kids. I was 14 when John Lennon set fire to my imagination. At that age, you're just [angry], and your moods swing, and it's an incredible time to be hit with something like that. Our last two albums are essentially about the combo. We used the limitations of the combo. We had 10 years of experimentation. We decided to rope it in, and tie ourselves to only one thing. And that's the only discipline. Is it a great song? Is it fresh? Experimenting in rock is at its best when you dream from the perimeters and bring it back to the center. All my favorite innovators disappear into the woods and bring something back, and you get to hear the songs distilled from those experiments. I used "Kid A" as an example, because I love the album. We did our "Zooropa," we did our "Passengers," even our "Pop" experiment. There were great ideas on that album, but we didn't have the discipline to screw the thing down and turn them into magic pop songs. We'd become progressive rock! Ahhh!

    KOT: You're killing me now. I thought those '90s albums were great. I didn't understand "Achtung Baby" right away. But after seeing the tour, I realized it was your best album. I still feel that way. And I loved "Zooropa" in that way, and "Pas-sengers." I even liked "Pop." To me, you guys were showing us how it should be done. You were [screwing] with our heads and making great music. You were doing those weird ballads from "Pop" as an encore at Soldier Field [in 1997]. I loved that you were so far out on a limb with saw in hand, and you were trying things, pushing things. And now you never play songs from those albums anymore. What happened?

    BONO: We have ideas that we want to communicate [in a concert], not just a bunch of songs. If we get it right, it feels like one song. What band at our level would play 10 songs, seven from the new album and three from our first album? The reason we do that is because this album and our first album have very similar themes. The first is an ode to innocence, as it's being held onto. The latest is an ode to innocence, as it's been remembered, with the thought that you can get back to it. There's nothing in U2's catalog that sounds remotely like "Vertigo." It's completely fresh. "Ver-tigo" is actually quite a gem, contrary to what you say, and it's very new. For the second half of the show, we take on this notion of the journey of equality. This is our generation's challenge. So we thought about using flags as a backdrop during "Where the Streets Have No Name." I remember singing it the first night: It's not a very good lyric, but it has really great ideas suggested in the lyric, the idea that you could go on a journey to that other place. That lyric was written in a dusty field in northern Ethiopia, and I can finally make sense of it because of what we're talking about in this show. And then we go into "One," and we could do a new arrangement of "One" as you might want us to, but you see, I'm only one member of this band, and Edge is three. And if he thinks an arrangement is perfect, why mess with it? He says, "I'm not jamming here. That's a guitar melody. I've written it. I can't improve on it." Adam and I are the jazz men in the band. But the Teutonic Larry Mullen and the Presbyterian Edge always demand, "No fat. Back to the original arrangement. We're not going to change the bass line just because we feel like it."

    KOT: It helped when you put "Original of the Species" in the set last night. It made me want to hear what I missed on the re-cord. That's what was lacking in the first show [at the United Center].

    BONO: It's a classic, especially on the album. We have to figure out how are we going to get that song on MTV. Those songs do not come around easy. The melodies of most songs are A-B, A-B, and this is A-B-C-D. The construction of it is unique. And I want you to want us to have that song out on the radio. Because it's about other bands [who value songwriting] coming through. It's not just us. Rap-metal nearly put the white race in jeopardy [as a creative force]. It's a travesty. Those [rap-metal] people should just take suicide pills and go away. What we have to offer, if we're lucky, are lyrics, some interesting arrangements and beautiful melody. That's what rock music can do right now. To be relevant, to set the imagination off on a new generation coming up. Songs that up the ante.

    KOT: It sounds like "Pop" didn't work for you because it didn't sell. To my mind, it worked because it was a good, daring album. There's no shame in not selling.

    BONO: It didn't communicate the way it was intended to. It was supposed to change the mood of that summer [1997]. An album changes the mood of a summer when you walk out of a pub and you have those songs in your head. And you hear them coming from a car, an open window. It changes the mood of the season. Instead it became a niche record. And I know you're a man who appreciates the niche. And I'm glad you appreciate that one, but that's not what it was intended to be. It's not about sales; we don't need the cash. It's about your ambition for the song. With "Pop," I always think if we'd just had another month, we could have finished it. But we did a really bad thing. We let the manager book the tour, known in this camp as the worst decision U2 ever made, and we had to wrap up the album sooner than we wanted. You don't need an album to communicate for you to enjoy it, you don't need it to be trimmed of fat to enjoy it, because you're enjoying the ideas, the textures. But for me to enjoy it, I need it to do that [communicate on a wider level].

    KOT: The last two albums look back. With "All That You Can't Leave Behind," I thought you made your retro record, you'd made your [version of the Stones' 1978 album] "Some Girls," an album that sums up all your best moves in a concise way. You're allowed to make that album, once. Now you've made "All That You Can't Leave Behind," and you're looking back and I think, whoops, you really are turning into the Stones. I expected more; I expected you to break out of that box.

    BONO: Hey, there are some amazing songs on [the Stones' 1994 album] "Voodoo Lounge." But what you're missing is that each time [in history] has a mood. You think it's looking back-ward; I think it's looking forward. I think to be in a studio, tied to the four-piece band setup right now is a very modern thing to do. And to use that mystery and power to write songs, we did two records like that. This one goes even further than the last one in that direction. You get beauty like "Original of the Species" that you can play on a piano. Just put piano and voice on that song, and it's special. That's not retreat. That is progressive. That is progress.

    KOT: The strength of your band has always been that you build a case for your new music on the road. And it's my job to say when you don't.

    BONO: As a writer who cares deeply about music, you're right to give rock bands a kicking when they deserve it. And we have deserved it at times. But you also need to explain to us how rock can progress. And I would like it if writers would step back and look at what we've done . . . [apart from] the codified rules and regulations that are suffocating rock music right now. Great groups were broken up, like the Clash, because of ridiculous concepts like not selling out. It's the cultural revolution in China all over again: Let's rid rock music of thinkers; let's rid rock music of big ideas. I saw it destroy great groups like Echo and the Bunnymen, extraordinary talents who crashed and burned on these things. You tell me about the hundreds of e-mails you got, well I got them with every single turn this band has made. I got them when we made the "War" album. I got them when we made "Joshua Tree." I got them when we made "Achtung Baby." Of course we're going to lose fans along the way who don't like what we're doing. But you need to understand what we're actually trying to do, and that's why we had to have this talk.

    KOT: I had to laugh, because at last night's show you said that "some really annoying people are standing up" for what they believe in, "and God bless them." That reminds me of you, including the annoying part.

    BONO: [Laughs] Yes, you're right.

    KOT: But you do have the courage of your convictions. You don't care what people think of you for having those convictions. You sparked a weeklong debate in this town about music, and what kind of social role it should play, and why people care about it, and why they should care about it.

    BONO: We've always annoyed people. Around the time of "Zoo TV," we were in danger of being cool, but we fixed that [laughs]. Now there are loads of people who would love to murder me on a daily basis. Stirring it up, it's good. Our definition of art is putting your head above the parapet, and be ready for the custard pie. I happen to love the taste of it.