Photo courtesy Anton Corbijn (an out-take)
What is it about U2 that means they can recreate that garage band effect in front of a packed rugby stadium? At Twickenham at the weekend, they had a way of the two, tree (sorry) or four of them dusting down an old record from three decades ago with some new material and making it feel contemporary. In honour of their return, here’s an entirely personal top five.
“Did I disappoint you? Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?” Writing a break-up song that ends up as a wedding dance down the aisle is the opposite of disappointing anyone. A song that transcends its intention has morphed into something bigger than 50,000 voices singing along in a stadium, or one heartbroken individual on his or her headphones. One thing to some, but not the same to others.
2 Where The Streets Have No Name
Sometimes it’s uncool to admit you have a favourite member of a group. Uncool follows U2 around the way, well, world leaders used to follow Bono. Often it’s the singer. A few times it’s the drummer. But the intro on this track is dragged by the scruff of the neck by its guitarist and taken to a special place. When The Edge’s guitar kicks in – the most distinctive jingle-jangle outside of Johnny Marr or Bob Dylan’s mornings – we go there with him (it’s all we can do). My favourite member.
3 Beautiful Day
To be popular is sometimes, occasionally, to be underrated. To concoct a stadium anthem devoid of snark – “feel-good” and “rock” are rarely in the same sentence unless it’s Dr Feelgood – is quite an achievement.
4 Stay (Far Away So Close)
If someone other than U2 had recorded this, they’d be building statues to it. Maybe they will one day. Film soundtrack man Craig Armstrong built his own monument in 2002.
5 I Will Follow
The earlier U2 stuff has a clumsiness to it, but also an urgency and passion. It can be rare for them to play pre-Unforgettable Fire material. So when they do rock this out, it’s a treat.