Three years have passed since the last U2 world tour but now, just when you thought it was safe to go back in a stadium, two more may be coming at once. Despite the uncertain reaction to them delivering their new album onto almost every iPhone on the planet, the band’s belief that there is an unquenchable thirst for their music seemingly remains.
Bass player and noted spoon collector Adam Clayton recently spoke to Rolling Stone about their forthcoming live plans. “There is talk of doing two different kinds of shows,” he said. “One night would be a kind of loud, explosive rock’n’roll kind of event and then the other night’s show take the acoustic arrangements of some of the songs, and kind of present those songs in a much more intimate way. But we don’t really know how that’s going to sound and look.”
It’s not an entirely original idea, of course. Back in 2008, I saw Neil Young play a phenomenal show at Hammersmith Apollo where he opened the show alone, surrounded by his acoustic guitars, and played a quiet, beautiful set before going off for a break and then reappearing with a band to blast his way through a raucous electric set. One of the things that made the show so exciting was the sense, particularly during the acoustic set, that Young really could do anything next. He would scan the stage for a new guitar while deciding what to play, and could easily satisfy even relatively obscure requests.
It’s unlikely that most of us will ever be able to take a band containing a singer named Bono Vox as seriously as an artist like Young. That’s before you even get to The Edge, a man who would look entirely ludicrous if he wasn’t stood next to Bono at all times. Some believe he was named because of his ‘edgy’ style, although this seems unlikely given that he used that same Rolling Stone interview to say that he likes Cage The Elephant but thinks Neutral Milk Hotel are “strange hippy stuff.”
Still, if U2 were to use their acoustic shows to embrace a greater sense of spontaneity and vulnerability, it could be just what they need to break away from the stereotype that’s grown around them for bombastic rock. Then again, they could probably do with incorporating both acoustic and electric dates into one date, as Young did. Expecting fans to cough up for two consecutive dates in the same city may help them break their own record for highest grossing tour, but won’t exactly do anything for the stench that still hangs around them for being venal corporate tax avoiders.
The band have already made a move towards this idea by re-recording their new album (which they’d worked on for three years) as an entirely acoustic record (which they spent a week on). Their back catalogue would lend itself perfectly to the same treatment live – as pompous as U2 have grown, the quality of songwriting on records like ‘The Joshua Tree’ is undeniable.
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So how about they just scrap the pyrotechnic-packed stadium shows altogether? If I could grab Bono Vox’s ear, I’d tell him that people might start warming to his band more if they unplugged and reinvented themselves as a quieter, acoustic proposition. A bit of reinvention never hurt anyone, even U2.