Tuesday 21 November 2017

Out of the humbling comes a triumph

After three years of bad luck and missteps, U2 are poised for greatness again with their best work in maybe 20 years

RETURN TO FORM: U2 perform during their ‘U2: The Joshua Tree Tour’ at Croke Park in Dublin last July. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne
RETURN TO FORM: U2 perform during their ‘U2: The Joshua Tree Tour’ at Croke Park in Dublin last July. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

U2 released three versions of their recent single You're The Best Thing About Me. The real clue was, weirdly enough, in the acoustic version. Acoustic versions of songs can either feel like an incredibly intimate view into the heart of a song and a singer, or like bad busking. But this was different. And a few listens confirmed it. There was no doubt about it. It might not have been their greatest song ever, but there was a certain swagger to this version. It had some echoes of those acoustic B-sides U2 used to do around the time of The Joshua Tree. And it made you realise what had possibly been missing from U2 for a while: that swagger. It used to be that U2 led and we would follow. But in recent years, while U2 were making good music and putting on good shows, it could feel at times like they were trying too hard, like they were a little bit needy, a little bit forced.

But there was no doubt a certain swing to this version of this new song. It was notable too that the Edge was given the best bit of the song, the celestial, climactic bit. While the Edge is always there, singing backing vocals, he has previously only really come to the fore in low-key stuff like the folky dirge Van Diemen's Land from Rattle and Hum, and the muttering Numb. But here, the Edge was joyously singing out, sounding not unlike Bono. It spoke of a confidence from Bono too, to give the Edge the best bit and to almost let the Edge out-sing him.

There was something going on here.

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