U2 Unleash ‘Pop’

U2 Pop

U2 are a profoundly polarizing band. They are simultaneously easy to love (they make wonderfully glorious rock anthems, put on ridiculously great concerts and have been consistently good for 30 years) and extremely difficult to love (they’re constantly experimenting and circling back, and Bono’s politics sometimes eclipse everything else about the band).

Musically speaking, the band was probably at its most polarizing on this day in 1997, when they released Pop. After dropping the watershed album Achtung Baby in the beginning of the ’90s and embarking on a game-changing worldwide stadium tour, the group spent the next few years experimenting with just about everything. The odd, electronic Zooropa set the table (as did the truly odd Original Soundtracks, the album credited to the Passengers that was actually just a U2 record), but Pop was an entirely different reality for the group. With dance music making a bid to take over the airwaves and influencing rock artists left and right (even the Rolling Stones were sampling), U2 decided to go all the way with Pop.

The album’s first single, “Discotheque,” set the tone. It was essentially a club song based around a thumping disco beat that featured shimmery guitars and keyboards and nary a mention of a blue collar uprising. Instead, the group decided to party. Was it ironic? Perhaps. Probably. Actually, nobody was entirely sure. The rest of the album stretched even deeper into the dance music abyss (especially the house-influenced “Mofo” and the beat-mining “Miami”).

Pop became one of the most-debated albums of 1997 and holds an odd place in the band’s history (as in, they tend not to bring it up). Still, there were tremendous songs lurking under all that electronic slop — like the effervescent “Staring at the Sun.”

– Kyle Anderson MTV

Dublin’s Docklands Showcase a New, Hip Quarter

There is arguably no place more central to Ireland’s capital than the River Liffey, snaking its way through the city and dividing Dublin into north and south sides before emptying into the Irish Sea at the city’s edge.

This photo taken Feb. 26, 2010 shows graffiti covering buildings at U2's former Windmill Lane studios situated in Dublin's Dockland's area. Many of Dublin's most iconic sites can be found situated close to the River Liffey. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison) (AP)

It is along the Liffey riverbanks that many of Dublin’s most iconic sites can be found: the majestic Custom House, the quaintly preserved pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge, the Guinness Brewery. In paintings, postcards and memories, the riverbanks form the perfect microcosm of Dublin and its lifeblood, thriving with traffic, pedestrians and the buzz of the capital.

Many visitors to Dublin use the Liffey as a landmark to point them in the direction of major tourist sites. But that limits their riverbank wandering to the city center, from famed O’Connell Street down to the cobblestoned warren of the Temple Bar tourist quarter and nearby museums.

Those who venture farther, however, following the river to Dublin Port, will find a new, modern Dublin along the shore, replete with dining and entertainment options in a sleek, trendy setting. Mixed in among these neighborhoods on the north and south sides, they can also find elements of the old Dublin tucked away, along with memorials and reminders of the city and country’s rich history.

Following the Liffey on the north side away from the city center, visitors will come upon the International Financial Services Centre with tenants like KPMG and JPMorgan Chase. Adjacent to these financial powerhouses, however, is a beautifully restored building called chq — the latest incarnation of a former tobacco store with vaults underneath. Continue reading

Still the world’s biggest band adapts to changes, political and musically

Even while maintaining its status as one of the few musical acts that can still fill stadiums, U2 is struck by how quickly its world is changing – musically and politically.

Charismatic front man Bono, in a reflective mood as U2 closes the North American leg of its “360” tour, notes the different, more polarized atmosphere in the United States since the band performed its anthem, “City of Blinding Lights,” at President Obama’s inauguration in January.

“I didn’t think it could come to this so quickly, after the joyous occasion of that election,” Bono says in an interview on board the band’s plane, as they jet to another stop on the tour. “I thought America was looking good. … Things are getting a little rough now.”

Bono says he’s been in touch with Obama and is confident the president will deliver on promises made during the campaign, including the singer’s favourite issue: funding to fight AIDS in Africa. “The Obama administration is just getting going. (He) has promised to double aid over the next years, because even though (President George W.) Bush tripled it, … the United States is still about half as what European countries give as a percentage, and I think he knows that’s not right.” Continue reading

U2 lifts off in Atlanta

U2 Atlanta

Photo by Spun2U

Caroline Syverson, 14, was eating a sandwich, late Tuesday afternoon, before going to her first U2 concert, with her friend and her stepfather and her stepfather’s girlfriend. “I just want to see if Bono is wearing sunglasses,” she said. “And if he’s going to take them off.”

Just after “Beautiful Day,” four songs into a thunderous, nearly sold-out show at the Georgia Dome, Bono took off his sunglasses. Beads of sweat dotted his face –  a vein stood out in  his temple. “Thank you all,” he told the audience, “for helping us build this—madness.”

And then he gestured up. Above him, all around him, was the 170-ton, four-pronged stage, looking like a metal claw from the Planet of Giant Robot Crabs.

“Really, we built it to get closer to you,” Bono said.

Joke? Hard to know. Because the massive stage was engineered for stadiums and halls big enough to generate their own weather. How do you get close to 65,000 people at a time? Continue reading