Finally found what I was looking for

A year-plus in the making, but we finally made it!

If you are reading this, you probably know how much I love U2, and what they have meant to me over the course of my life.

Last year I was talking with my friend (and fellow U2 fan) Tom, and he jokingly asked if I wanted to go out to Chicago over 4th of July weekend  to see U2, who were on their second leg of the 360 Tour. I thought about it for about five seconds, and then responded, “Uh…YES!” This was my chance to make up for missing them when they came to DC. I had debated and debated over getting tickets. Normally this wouldn’t have even been a question – of course I would go. But there was a lot going on at the time, and I am (very sadly) not a huge fan of their latest album, so it seemed to make good fiscal sense to sit that one out.

Then I made the mistake of reading reviews of the show, which were universally, overwhelmingly, positive, and had been kicking myself in the pants ever since.

So when this opportunity came up, I seized it. Tom got the U2 tickets, I got my plane ticket, and we waited for July 5th.

Then Bono broke his back and the concert was postponed until 2011. I still went out to Chicago, and instead of seeing Bono, I saw my college town and some old friends and ate Quatros Pizza.

While I was disappointed at the time, turns out it was all for the best. Fate and mysterious ways and all that. (See what I did there?)

Without getting into too much detail, I will just say that this has not been a good summer. It’s been stressful. So stressful that I was basically sick for the whole month of June. By the time July came around, what I needed more than anything was a break  – and not “stay-cation” style – I needed a break from my normal life and routine. I needed to not be on the East coast. Lucky for me, Bono broke his back last year and I had tickets to see U2 on July 5, 2011 in Chicago.

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Musical blasts from the past

This weekend, I was looking through some old CDs and found the following gems:
Pearl Jam: Live on Two Legs (live concert album)
Moby: Play
Cake: Fashion Nugget

The latter two are special because I totally thought they were lost. But no! I immediately imported to my computer and iPod and have been happily listening for days. Does anyone else remember the genius that is “Southside“, “Run-on”, “Stickshifts and Safety Belts“, “Perhaps“, and the live version of “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town?” It’s 1997 again!

Here’s the question, though. Cake’s “I Will Survive”: Great cover song or Greatest cover song? Covers are a difficult thing, and if you blow it, you really blow it. (See, Blige, J. Mary and U2’s “One”. I’m still not over it.) But if you tap into something previously unheard in the song,  you could have something truly spectacular. (See Cocker, Joe and  The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends”.)

This cover is what made me love Cake back in the day, and even though I kinda hated their follow up album Prolonging the Magic, there’s no doubt these guys have talent. And seriously, the guitar and sax solos they deliver? So, so good.

Once again: Great cover or Greatest cover? You be the judge:

(Though, to be fair, their cover of “Manamana” is pretty epic, too.)

You and I

Happy Friday, y’all.

After a stressful week of icky weather combined with still having to go to work (and actually having lots of work to DO), the last thing I wanted today was to be sans my iPod. But it happened. And unfortunately, I discovered this only after I got to the Metro this morning.

However, this forced me to use my work computer for music, which led me to YouTube, which led me to this performance of “You and I” by Wilco and Fiest (the best song on their self-titled album), which led to me holding back tears as I sit at my desk working on an Excel spreadsheet.

Happy Friday?

I love this song so much, you guys. Not only is it just really sweet, but Jeff Tweedy’s voice kills me. This is a song I used for a birthday film last year, and it turned out to be one of my favorite segments.

Is Wilco touring? I feel the need to see them live again. Haven’t seen them since they played the Spring Fling in my college parking lot back in 2003.

Happy Friday, guys. This performance is so nice they play it twice.

“So put up your fists, and I’ll put up mine.”

Last weekend, I saw one of my favorite musicians, Rufus Wainwright, currently on tour for his newest album, All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu.

I got the tickets months ago, and while I love me some Rufus, was a little conflicted about going. I wasn’t super crazy about the latest album, but figured – well, it’s Rufus. He’s amazingly talented and always puts on a good show.

Needless to say, he did not disappoint.

He came out slowly, in a long dark robe, shuffling toward the piano, sat down, and started playing. We had been instructed not to clap between songs, as this was to be a continuous performance. What followed was a combination concert/art show. He played the entire first album straight through, while we listened and watched the images. (Which consisted of…eyes. Yes, eyes. I’m not sure either, though it did get sort of memorizing after a while.)

Then there was a brief intermission, Rufus came out again, this time dressed in a fabulous multi-colored suit, and basically played a greatest hits show. (Or maybe it just felt like that to me because I love almost all his songs.)

Toward the middle of this set, he stopped to introduce “Dinner at Eight”, saying it was a song written about “the man who started it all”, his father Loudon Wainwright III.

So..being the huge Rufus fan I am, owning all his albums, and having seen him twice prior, I should have known that, right? Right. I know that “Memphis Skyline” is about Jeff Buckley. I know “Martha” is about his mother dying. Why on earth didn’t I know this?

In retrospect, I’m glad Ididn’t know it, because I got to hear it again through a new set of ears. And jeez, Louise, is it not the saddest song in the world? What is it with male artists and their tourtured relaltionships with their fathers?

See? Saddest song ever, right?

I’ve been listening to Rufus all week, reacquainting myself with an old friend. And actually, the new album is pretty great. Man alive, can that boy play piano. That’s one of the things I love about going to shows – you get immersed in the music again, remember why you love it so much.

Rufus Wainwright is currently on tour. If you’re a fan of his music, or of music and piano playing in general, get thee to one of his shows. You can do that here.

Videos of the Day: Two of my favorites from All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.
“Who Are You New York?”

“Martha” (This is the one about his mom. I dare you not to get choked up.)

I hate myself for loving you

This dude DOES rule the freaking world. Go see Bill Cunningham New York, y'all.

I blame Bill Cunningham New York. It’s all Richard Press’s fault.

But let me back up.

Last month, I attended a screening of the aforementioned film, Bill Cunningham New York, at the Silverdocs Film Festival. Let me first say: Excellent movie. Excellent, excellent movie. I can’t say enough good things about it. The subject, Bill Cunningham, has a wonderful screen presence. I don’t know I’ve ever seen a better subject for a documentary film. I went into the film not caring a bit about fashion (save for Tim Gunn and Project Runway), and by the end, I appreciated what fashion does for the world, and in turn, what Mr. Cunningham does for fashion. So, go see the movie if you can. It’s screening at a film festival near you, and I’m sure it will get a distributor, if it hasn’t already.  

But that’s not the point of this post.

There’s a montage in the film that shows Mr. Cunningham at an event. I don’t remember which one (there are a lot in the film). It might be one in which he is honored. Anyway, the montage is of him at the event, snapping pictures every chance he can get, talking to people, snapping more pictures, rinse, repeat. At this point in the film, the audience knows that Bill has no ego, that he doesn’t really get how others view him, and doesn’t presume to think he’s any different or special than anyone else. (Which he is). Playing during the montage? Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”

Yeah.

Except that it works. It really, really works. It works so much I started to tear up.

And ever since then, I can’t get that song out of my head. When it comes on the radio, I turn it up. I’ve had it on repeat on YouTube all damn day.

What’s the problem?

Well obviously…I hate Coldplay. I mean…I HATE Coldplay. With a passion. With a vengeance. With the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.  I hate Coldplay…so much. Flames, flames on the side of my face.

Except I love this damn song. It’s so freaking catchy. It makes me want to dance. It gets my blood pumping.

But it’s fucking Coldplay.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I hate Coldplay because they want to be U2. They think they are the next U2, only they’re not because there can be only one. And listen, I know this is not a new theory, but I figured out their plan years ago. I was an all-day festival senior year of high school and Coldplay came out and did a short set which included the now famous “Yellow.”  No one was really paying attention, because they hadn’t yet “made it”, but I watched and thought to myself, “They have the exact stage set up as U2. The lead singer is bouncing about like Bono. They want to be U2.”

And 12 years later…

That’s one of the main reasons I hate them, but not the only one. I actually came to terms with Coldplay in college. My friends dug their albums. I started listening. I kinda dug their albums, too. Might have even bought one or three.

Then one day,  years later, I’m driving to the beach, put on their third album, and thought to myself, “This is just like their first two albums. All the songs sound exactly the same. You know what, self? You’re done with Coldplay. Done.” The next time  pulled over, I threw their albums out. Seriously.

Ok, I will admit to still liking a few songs – “The Scientist” and “Warning Sign.” But only in the sense that they are on some mix CDs I made back in college, and sometimes still listen to.

But “Viva la Vida” is a whole different story. Yes, I know the album has been out for a couple of years. And yes, I was aware of this song. I don’t live in a cave. But it never really hit me until Bill Cunningham New York.

This is a really good fucking song. Not only that, it’s different from anything they’ve done on their previous albums. Does that mean their 4th album is different? Did they break out of their comfort zone? Might this actually be worth buying?

Ack! No! Even thinking such things makes my skin crawl. Do not support Chris Martin. DO NOT SUPPORT CHRIS MARTIN.

Except I might have to download this damn song off Itunes. It’s too damn catchy not to.

I hate myself.

Video of the Day: I’ve been listening to this song with the browser down. Before writing this post, I took a look at the actual video. My hatred increased tenfold. You look like a douchebag, Chris Martin. Stop dancing like that. My recommendation would be you press play and put your browser down. Just listen to the song. Don’t watch Chris try to be Bono. YOU’RE NOT BONO, CHRIS MARTIN. He’s the only one who can pull off those moves.

Learning how to walk

Paul Hewson (also known as Bono) turns 50 today. This is hard to believe – not only because it means that U2 has been around for 30 years, but also because…Bono doesn’t seem 50. He doesn’t act 50. He doesn’t act 40. He still has the energy of a 25 year old, and the dreams and  ambition of a wide-eyed kid.

I could write a lot about what U2 and Bono have meant to me over the years. (Actually, wait, I have) I’ve loved them since I was 12, and will love them forever.  But I’m not the only one. U2 has meant many different things to many people. For me, they are the closest thing I have to religion. Seeing them live is like going to church. It fills me up, it makes me feel good about myself and the world, gives me faith in people. (I know, that’s weird. Unless you’ve seen them live. Then you know.)

I have lots of memories of U2 over the years – seeing them right after September 11th, seeing them live for the first time at Popmart, when my Mom thought the song was “Angel with a Hard On” instead of “Angel of Harlem,” watching Bono break down after singing “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”. But what really sticks out (and I’m actually getting teary writing this) is when I first heard the album All That  You Can’t Leave Behind and the song “Walk On.” I was a sophomore in college, and very unhappy. I didn’t know why I was so sad, and felt like no one understood how I was feeling. How could they, if I didn’t even know?

I walked down to the local record store at midnight the eve of the release, stood outside with the few other devotees, and purchased the album. Got back to my room, popped it in my computer, and started listening. By the time “Walk On” came up (the fourth track), I was already in love. And then, Bono started singing about the daylight being a long way off, and what I got no one can steal, and how I just have keep walking, keep breathing, keep being.  He understood. No one else understood, but somehow, Bono did.

Flash forward a year. I’m home for the summer, after leaving school the winter before. In a few months, I’ll go to Illinois and have some of the happiest years of my life. I’ll learn how to make movies while also making lifelong friends. But first, I saw U2 live for the second time, with my best friend, Jenn. We sat in the second tier, and at the end of the show, Edge played the familiar opening notes to “Walk On.” I took a breath. Jenn looked over at me, and silently took my hand. She didn’t let go until the song was over.

Happy birthday, Bono.

You’re safe, Bono

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.)