I saw U2 play Soldier Field here in Chicago last night. It was the sixth time I’d seen the band live.
The fourth time was in 1983. The fifth time was in 2010.
So I’ve literally seen the band evolve from playing small parish halls in Ireland to NFL stadiums in the USA.
I should point out that not all Irish people, myself included, are automatic U2 fans. We have issues!
But it’s hard to deny their success in the USA. They are up there with Elton John and Pink Floyd in terms of FM radio ubiquity here.
Here are three things that I’ve noticed about the band U2 and the brand U2 over the years.
1. They have never changed. U2 today is pretty much U2 of 1978. When they had only one amp Bono was climbing up on it. They kind of always put on a stadium show. Playing big was in their DNA.
2. They weren’t afraid of being uncool. Lots of Irish people, myself included, were dismissive of what we thought was U2’s oversimplification of the Northern Ireland situation in the song Sunday Bloody Sunday. It turned out U2 were right and we were wrong. Bono and The Edge also were committed Christians in the early days. How uncool was that? Very uncool.
3. U2 thought big. The obvious path to fame for a hot Irish band in the early 1980s was to go, on bended knee, to London in the hope of maybe making it in the UK. U2,and their manager Paul McGuinness, instead set their sights on the USA. They worked the 1980s US college radio scene to death. Consequently, their audience has matured with them. Unlike say, Echo and The Bunnymen.
U2 stayed true to themselves. They were willing to experiment. And they dreamed big.