Over the weekend I saw a U2 tribute band in Baltimore. A friend of mine suggested it, and the last time I saw a U2 tribute band, it was fantastic. So, sure, why not, I thought.
This was…interesting. Let’s start with the look. While “Bono” looked a great deal like Bono, the rest of the members didn’t measure up. “The Edge” looked more like Puffy Edge, “Adam Clayton” looked like Elton John (as pointed out by my friend in the middle of the show, which caused me to giggle for the rest of the night), and “Larry Mullen Jr” – he actually did the best job impersonating, and stayed behind the drums with his head down, so it was hard to see what he looked like.
The show itself: Well, the guys are definitely talented. They can play their instruments very well (“The Edge” in particular), and have obviously been at this a long time. The problem: They’re not U2. Of course. But, see here’s the thing about u2, and Bono in particular: Bono is the only one who can be Bono and get away with it. And the only the band can get away with being the band. Anyone who has seen U2 live knows what I am talking about. In the heat of performing, Bono sometimes gets swept up and does these little moves that are totally lame, but he pulls them off. Because he’s motherfuckin’ Bono. Anyone else? Not so much.
The other problem I had is the fact that they kept on going in and out of character. The show started off with everyone in character. A few songs went by, and they broke the fourth wall. “Bono” spoke in his non-Bono voice, “The Edge” started taking over as leader of the pack, and they started asking for requests. All that is fine and good, but I was expecting to basically see a recreation of U2’s current tour. So, they kind of went back and forth between “tribute” band and “cover” band. Pick a side, gents. We’re at war.
Now, my standards are very high. As most of you know, U2 is my favorite band ever. Times 1,000. I’ve loved them since I was 12. I have a U2 tattoo. Seeing them live is my version of a spiritual experience.
The other disadvantage is my only other experience at a U2 tribute band was phenomenal. Different band, for starters. The show was outside in a much smaller venue, making it more intimate. It was my first year in Illinois, and U2 was in the middle of their Elevation Tour (which, for the record, was amazing, and probably my best concert experience ever). The band remained in character for the entire show, and all us college kids went nuts for them. Of course, nostalgia sometimes paints things in a different light, so maybe they were terrible and I remember it differently. I did end up getting (cover your eyes, family) completely drunk. So, my memory *could* be skewed. What I recall most about that show, though, is the band captured not only the spirit of U2, but also, their energy level. You could all four men loved their job.
All in all, it was a good in Baltimore. No, they were not U2 — no one is — but it was a great people-watching experience, and I did get to hear some tunes I hadn’t in a long time.
A funny anecdote from the evening: My friend and I were taking a water break and watching the band on monitors over at the bar, when they played “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.” I turned to my friend and told him that song breaks my heart, because Bono wrote it about his father shortly after his father passed away. The first time I saw him sing it, he broke down a bit after, and told a lovely story about his father and Edge’s father. The tribute band finished the song, and “Bono” said, “That’s a lovely song, written for Mr. Bobby Hewson.” I said, “See? Bobby Hewson, that’s Bono’s dad.” And my friend goes, “You mean, his name isn’t Mr. Bono?” Me being in the crazy walking encyclopedia of U2 knowledge state that I sometimes fall into, said, “No. Bono isn’t his real name. It’s Paul. Hewson is his last name. Bono is just a nickna-…oh, you’re teasing me, aren’t you?”
Yeah, I can get a little obsessed. You really don’t want to unleash my inner U2 fan. It trumps the other crazy Gilmore/Buffy/Frasier fangirl in me.
And, for the record, neither group ever did anything that even compares to this. It is, in my humble opinion, the best performance Bono has ever given. (Again – Idol contestants: Watch and learn.)