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Take a deep dive into a band and their history

My favorite band is U2. A couple years ago I decided I would take my fandom to the next level…

I knew U2 was my favorite band after I heard the Joshua Tree album from front-to-back for the first time. It opens with one of the most iconic rock ballads of all time Where the Streets Have No Name (for added inspiration I’m listening to it as I write this). The opening organ chords and gradual fade-in of the guitar never fail to provide a borderline religious experience each time I listen. Then the bass guitar hits and Bono’s vocals swoop in… woah. I could go on but you probably get the gist. The album then continues with perhaps U2’s most famous hits – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With Or Without You. These are shortly followed by two of my personal favorites which I believe to be highly underrated in most circles – Running to Stand Still and Red Hill Mining Town. What I love about all these songs is that none of them are particularly joyful, but they convey a very real human longing in their own unique ways which I find even more powerful.

For much of my life, I was satisfied merely by the music this esteemed Irish rock band had to offer, but I eventually felt the yearning to learn more and get a deeper appreciation for their history and music. For this, I turned to the book U2 By U2. 20180622_233730Written in a narrative style with a healthy number of interview entries, personal letters, and band trivia, this book thoroughly deepened my appreciation for U2 and any band that really “makes it” from humble beginnings. To give you a taste of what I learned (spoiler alert: they end up getting famous), I read about how the band formed while the members were still in high school. I read how they believed in themselves while they had virtually no money and no fan base. I read about how they had to make impossible decisions like cutting a member of the band as they rose to prominence. I read how to varying degrees each member struggled with women, fame, and/or money as the years went by. And I read how their childhood stories and struggles continue to impact their music to this day.

20180622_233918While I was reading this book, I bought a few posters and street sign which had no name on it (get it? clever, right?) from Amazon to enrich my real life environment with the themes and characters I was learning about. These mementos served as a great concretization of my learning journey at this time and make very cool decorations in any apartment as well of course.

My U2 story culminated in April 2018 when I was finally able to attend my first U2 concert. On May 23rd I watched them perform their new album Songs of Experience at the United Center in Chicago. In all honesty, it wasn’t a rock-your-socks-off performance by any means, but it was of high production quality with excellent stage work and audience engagement. But for me, it was much more. The mood in the arena that night was one of reflection. U2 has been performing for almost 40 years but the members are quite clearly still learning new things along their journey and finding new ways to share it with their audience. My favorite part was at the end of the night when Bono sang an a capella version of Song for Someone in a dimly-lit arena while a light bulb hanging from the ceiling swung around hauntingly. On stage was a doll house of sorts with some projected lights to simulate a neighborhood. During an interlude in the song, Bono soliloquized about growing up in Dublin, about his house and his friends, and about his mother who passed away before her time. For anyone in the audience who didn’t know much about U2, this incredibly impactful portion of the concert would have passed them by without much effect. However, having read their book and having listened to nearly all their songs, I got a beautiful and deepened perspective into the soul of a man and a band who persevered much and are now trying their best to help other people do the same.

 

How can you partake in a musical awakening of the kind mentioned in this post? Here are a few simple steps to get you started

1. Pick out a band. Make sure:

  • You really enjoy their music
  • The band is >5 years old (less than that and there really isn’t any history to discover)
  • The content is “deep” enough to warrant some further exploration

2. Immerse yourself in their music. Try to:

  • Listen to all their albums, starting with the earliest
  • Listen to some live performances to get a feel for their “real” sound
  • Memorize a few favorite song

3. Delve into their history. Check out:

  • Any books they’ve written or that have been written about them
  • Documentaries or TV featuring them and their performances

4. See them in concert! Note:

  • This is a critical step and will hopefully bring everything full-circle

 

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