A few years ago after, the night after the Grammys or some such awards show, my Mom came over for dinner and struck up a conversation about U2, who had been a featured performer. “What do you think of that band?” she asked me, “Aren’t they really popular?”
My Mom is pretty hip and never hesitant to form and share an opinion. I told her what I thought of them, which wouldn’t surprise you, then she gave me her analysis.
“Their music was only OK, but the singer was a real showman. He had a lot of energy, really got the crowd worked up! Does he always carry the band like that? It seemed to me they would be nothing without him.”
I saw U2 on Letterman again last night, playing another new song that featured The Edge playing one of his standard, digitally delayed riffs; Larry Mullen playing yet another variation on the beat from “Sunday Bloody Sunday”; and Adam Clayton massaging steady root notes out of his bass. Although the song had one musical innovation it’s taken U2 nearly 30 years to implement – an actual middle eighth (check it out, beginning at the 2:50 mark) – I couldn’t help but think about my Mom’s take on Bono and the band. They’d be nothing without him.
My Mom couldn’t have appreciated the role that The Edge’s little guitar trick plays in U2’s popularity and slightly “cutting-edge” status (no pun intended), but I think she was spot-on regarding Bono’s energy and showmanship. Love him, hate him, or not really give a hoot, an argument can be made that—relative to his bandmates—Bono is the hardest working man (or woman) in rock today. Can you identify a band member (ie, not a solo artist with a faceless backing band) who carries a heavier load within his or her band?