Get Your U2 Fix
CD and Stage Review
What is a fan to do? U2 has been angling to release their new album before the end of the year, delighting fans and retailers eager for a blockbuster. The band has been working with über producers Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite and Brian Eno, and word has carefully trickled out that the sonic explorations were bearing wonderful fruit. Globetrotting from the south of France to Dublin to Fez, the lads were unable to hone the songs to CD length in time for a fourth quarter release. As Bono revealed on the band’s website, "I thought a while back we might have the album wrapped by now, but why come up above ground now if there's more priceless stuff to be found?" With big talk about the primary colors of rock (bass, drum, guitar) and the need to release their best album ever, the band will extend the anticipation.
So what is a fan to do?
There are several options, actually. If you are in LA, get ye to the Falcon Theatre in Burbank to see a delightful musical called As U2 Like It. Created mostly by the irrepressible Matt Walker with undoubted help from his trustworthy Troubadour Theatre Company, the production is a superb mashup of Shakespeare and U2 songs. The Bard has rarely seemed so musical; a tight band lays down grooves to “With or Without You” and “One” and a dozen other songs. The Troubies compress Shakespeare’s classic comedy, inserting not only U2 songs but witty asides that keeps the audience in stitches. The Troubies work without a net; the well choreographed production leaves room for improvisation and their ambitious tradition of melding rock music with classic storylines never seems to fail. Kudos to stellar castmembers Rick Batalla, Beth Kennedy, Kimberly Wood and Dan Waskom. The production is in rep with Alice in One Hit Wonderland, to which you can bring the kids.
If you can’t see As U2 Like It (and you will be sorry if so), another way to get your U2 fix is to do what record companies love: repurchase what you already have. In this case, there are beautiful slip cover ultimate reissues of several classic U2 albums. Each features an additional disc with obscurios like B-sides, unreleased tracks, remixes and the like. Fan(atics) will have probably assembled these tracks elsewhere, but there is an attraction of having everything in nicely assembled packages. The remastering of the original album burnishes the occasionally shrill sound of the original CD releases, which is a definite plus.
Joshua Tree is invariably the best of the lot. Twenty years on (20!!) the album’s grandeur is undimmed. It was the first U2 album to reach Number One in the US, driven by sterling tracks like the album’s opening tracks. The unprecedented triptych of "Where The Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With Or Without You" remain the highlights of their live shows. The bonus tracks include some now well-known songs that slipped out over the last couple decades: “Spanish Eyes” and “Sweetest Thing.” “Race Against Time” is a pulsing instrumental that leans away from the desert Americana infusing the rest of the album and toward the brooding Berlin sound of Achtung Baby. “Silver and Gold” is culled from the Sun City sessions organized by Little Steve Van Zandt (he who would later become a lieutenant for Tony Soprano). The package includes a 36 page booklet, with an essay by The Edge, previously unseen photos and handwritten lyrics by Bono.
Also available are similar treatments of Boy, October and War. The most recent installment in the remaster/reissue series is Under A Blood Red Sky. Originally released in November 1983, the EP culled eight live recordings from three shows on the band's War Tour. The second disc is the first DVD release of the band’s stunning June 1983 show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado buttressed by five previously unreleased songs, a director's commentary, digitally re-graded pictures and a 5.1 mix.
There is plenty on offer to scratch your U2 itch whilst the next album gestates.