Around 2pm yesterday U2 posted on Facebook there was going to be a concert in Times Square in New York City at 7:30pm. It was dubbed “U2 minus 1” because Larry, Edge and Adam were playing without Bono. This was to be the first time U2 will play as U2 without Bono. Chris Martin of Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen were going to sub in for Bono and sing with U2. (Although I felt Larry should have stepped in and sang. After all, it is the Larry Mullen Band.) Carrie Underwood and Kanye West were also scheduled to perform. This was a surprise concert as a benefit for World Aids Day. Had it not been a surprise, I would have already been in New York City. And at 2:30pm, I could have made it in time but I’d have to take off work, leave the dogs and pay for an expensive last minute train ticket. Luckily, the concert was going to be streamed live on YouTube, so that would have to suffice.
When I got home from work, I found out ESPN was actually broadcasting the concert – well part of it anyway, the most important part. As part of the Monday Night Football pre game show, ESPN showed the Edge interview (which was not showed on YouTube) and both U2 performances. ESPN did not however show performances by Carrie Underwood or Kanye West. Interesting that ESPN did not show performances by two current, popular artists who currently top the charts today, but showed the performances of an old band like U2. Guess U2 is relevant after all. Even though ESPN was showing the Edge interview at 7 and U2 performances at 7:30 and 8:05, I still had my laptop open to the live stream on YouTube, so I wouldn’t miss anything. I didn’t trust ESPN to show everything, or not to cut out an ending to a U2 song. Good thing I had the live stream up because otherwise I would have missed my favorite part of the night: Larry and Adam introducing Kanye West. I know it’s probably wrong to like an introduction more than a performance, but Larry screaming and growling KANYE WEST was just too priceless. I’ve watched it over and over and over again. I’m obsessed with it.
I love Bono’s singing. Not because he has the best voice ever, although it has improved immensely over the years, but for the passion with which he delivers a song. I didn’t fully appreciate Bono’s performances until last night. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Bono’s performances, but last night really shed a light on how lacking U2 would be without Bono. Chris Martin was good, but he is no Bono. Martin has a good voice, but he lacks Bono’s passion. It was obvious how excited Chris was to be on stage with U2 singing U2 songs, but his enthusiasm did not translate into his singing. Martin did not have Bono’s strength for “Beautiful Day.” Chris didn’t belt out “TOUCH ME” or the chorus “Beautiful Day.” But I loved his shirt SUBSTITU2 – classic! Chris Martin did do a good job on “With or Without You” though – that song was definitely more suited for his singing style. On the other hand, Bruce Springsteen was all passion and not a lot of singing ability. I’m sorry, I know Bruce is considered one of the best and everyone loves him, especially U2 fans, but I have never been a fan of the Boss. During “Where the Streets Have No Name,” he grunted the lyrics. Bruce was better singing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” but this wasn’t his first time singing this song with U2 – although Bono had always sang along with him. Still it was a great performance. Even with Springsteen, I cried during “Still Haven’t Found” as it is and always will be my favorite.
I do find it kind of fantastic that after 27 years, U2’s performance of four songs included three from The Joshua Tree. Talk about an album standing the test of time. I guess if Bono had been there, U2 would have played songs off their new album Songs of Innocence. But Bono wasn’t there, and this was the first time U2 had ever played together as U2 without Bono. Once U2 played a concert on ZooTv without Adam, and once Larry and Adam performed “One” with Michael Stipe and Mike Mills of REM in a performance dubbed “Automatic Baby.” Last night was an historic performance. Bono was sorely missed, but it was great to see Larry, Edge, Adam (and Sammy, Dallas and Stu) back in action. This bodes well for the KROQ performance in two weeks. The U2 minus 1 tour continues.