My 11-year-old son John Henry hates U2. I can’t really figure it out, since he digs Coldplay. I thought it might have something to do with South Park’s recent skewering of Bono, but if I recall correctly, he has hated U2 since long before that episode aired. A year or so back, I loaded someJoshua Tree
material on his iPod, and he said “Dad, why do all U2 songs take five minutes to get started?”
Anyway, I decided to give the band one last push by taking him to see U23D at the Imax theater out at the Marq-E Entertainment Center. Supposedly, this movie was not just the greatest concert film ever, but also a new breakthrough in 3D technology. Short of taking him to an actual show, this would be the best chance I would have of converting him.
En route in the car, I played U2 songs all the way.
First up was “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” After “New Year’s Day,” that was the song that made me more or less a fan for life. (I jumped off the bandwagon at Rattle and Hum and relatively recently got back on.)
John Henry’s verdict: “This sucks. It sounds like Arab music.”
Next up was “One Tree Hill.” We were driving on the West Loop headed north. As we past the Summit, I thought back to the Joshua Tree tour. I saw the band twice then, once outside of Nashville and once here in town. At the Nashville show, on the concourse I happened upon a gorgeous brunette former classmate I had had a crush on since sixth grade, and out of the clear blue sky, she French-kissed me. I still feel grateful to the Irishmen for that cherished high school memory.
John Henry was unsaddled by such baggage. If anything, to him “One Tree Hill” was just the name of a dorky teen drama. “That’s really gay,” he pronounced. “He just wails into a microphone. You can’t understand anything he says.”
“Bullet the Blue Sky” was next in the queue.
“See? He’s just making noises. There’s no words.”
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“So is it just Bono you hate, or do you think the whole band sucks?” I asked.
“They just suck,” he said.
By then we had rolled up on the Marq-E, which is not doing so well. We parked at the other end of the center from the theater and walked through the arcaded promenade, about half of which was shuttered. The half that remained alive resembled Sharpstown Mall – silk-screened T-shirts with slogans like “I’m a Hustla,” a guy doing caricatures, and an indoor place where kids could go jump on bouncy castles.
“John Henry,” I said. “I will bet you that when you leave here you will be a U2 fan.”
He just rolled his eyes.
We paid our money and got our 3D glasses, got an Icee or two and a box of Skittles to split. (John Henry actually laces his Icee with Skittles – what, is that the PG equivalent of dropping a Jolly Rancher in your cup of lean?)
The movie started with little preamble. It takes you right there, to a gigantic Buenos Aires soccer stadium, crammed to the heavens with chanting, dancing U2 fanatics. “Vertigo” was the opener, and that was somewhat appropriate in describing the sensation this movie makes you feel. When one of the Argentines threw a cup of liquid in the air I winced, expecting to get soaked, and I really thought that the people waving their hands in the air in the film were in the theater with us. The overhead shots of drummer Larry Mullen Jr were especially impressive. At the close of songs, I caught myself getting ready to applaud.
As the band moved through their repertoire – the set list and show were quite similar to that of the Toyota Center gig a couple of years ago -- I thought back again to how much they meant to me. While their message was hippy-dippy, their music was not. It was like nothing heard before – The Edge’s chiming post-punk guitar and Bono’s heavily operatic theatricality and sweeping grandeur, delivered with piss and vinegar lacking from the ‘60s bands.
They were the band for those of us who were angrier at the world than we were at our parents, those of us who were sadder than we were pissed off. It was because of U2 that I festooned by 1977 El Camino with an Amnesty International sticker.
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Still, by the second or third time Bono got way too up in my greeyul for comfort, I was a little bored by U23D. I suspected John Henry had not been won over – hell, when your seatmate asks you the time less than halfway through a movie, that’s a pretty strong clue. It was less the visual spectacle that kept me sitting there to damn near the bitter end – we left a minute or two before the credits – than it was just hearing songs like “Pride (In the Name of Love” and “With or Without You” on a truly kick-ass sound system.
“So, you still think U2 sucks?” I asked.
“Dad, they really suck,” John Henry said. “All they do is rip off other bands.”
This from a Coldplay fan. Ah, youth. – John Nova Lomax