U2's finest hour wasn't lifting us up singing about MLK, a spiritual celebration of the history of American music, or even future pop from the edges of our imagination: It was an insistent, eccentric, and infinitely prescient project that almost wasn't, named Zooropa.
The days of stadium rock would seem to be mostly behind us, as the bands that once filled those huge venues wind down, either finishing their careers or moving on to smaller spaces as the audiences dwindle, and few new artists find their way that far up in the ranks. Last year, U2 proved themselves to be one of the few bands still capable of carrying a stadium-sized venue, as their massive 30th anniversary tour for The Joshua Tree packed FedExField and similarly big venues elsewhere across the country. But even U2 has come to recognize the value in closeness to their audience, and their latest tour production for their latest album, Songs of Experience, follows in the footsteps of their last regular tour for 2014’s Songs of Innocence in bringing the band as close as possible to as many of their fans as possible, despite the still large arena spaces that they’re playing.
2017 was a pretty intense year all around, but there was still time for lots of music. For me personally, it included covering bands that I had never dreamed I'd get to photograph, crossing many entries off from my bucket list of artists to see, and even traveling overseas for several festivals. Choosing the "best" shows from among the numerous ones that I attended and covered for ChunkyGlasses was a daunting task, not least because I'm pretty selective about which shows I'll even do, meaning that I rarely see a bad one. Still, there were several that definitely stood out as being the best of the best. Here are my picks for my top ten shows (and festivals) of this year.
A legendary band, touring on an anniversary of a landmark record, could raise either undeniable excitement or the sense of mercenary greed. U2, of any band now active on the planet, comes the closest to justifying the hype for a 30th anniversary tour of The Joshua Tree — a generation-defining record with songs that will be hummed and recognized for decades to come, and surely known long after the band is no longer active or perhaps even remembered.
With Joshua Tree comprising the meat of the show’s sandwich, the opening and closing sets were neatly divided — before Joshua Tree, and post-Joshua Tree. With the opening set, Larry Mullen, Jr. walked out unhurriedly onto a bare stage in the midst of the audience to take his place at the drum kit, where the quartet played four songs without video disruptions. With Mullen’s drumbeats sounding out righteous outrage, “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” came unmoored from their initial time and place in strife-ridden Ireland, to become cries against the carnage of 21st century violence, both at home and abroad.
Thirty years ago a little "punk" band from Ireland changed pop music forever with the release of their fifth album, The Joshua Tree. Built on American roots music and soundscapes from the future, The Joshua Tree elevated the Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr from scrappy rock star activists to international superstars.
Join us as we explore the roots of this landmark album, it's impact on the musical landscape then and now, and it's relevance in a world that, 30 years later, is seemingly less changed than any of us could have hoped.
In our latest episode: We review the new album Sukierae from Tweedy. Wilco front-man Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer may have the most appropriate band name ever, but does that familial familiarity translate to record? Is it nepotism, genius or somewhere in between? PLUS! Rawk feuds, U2 proposes a new music format that will “save the industry” and snacks - oh so many snacks - on Episode 81 of ChunkyGlasses: The Podcast!
So here’s the thing - there’s a point in your life when you decide who you’re going to be. When you stop listening to your parents’ music and start listening to albums that you picked out yourself, paid for with your own money that you want to devour, over and over again, like an entire pounder bag of Peanut M&Ms. And when you reach for the next album, you usually end up making a choice -- are you going to stay in the mainstream, or are you going to be indie? Play it safe, or take the more difficult road? If you were coming of age in 1983, when Thriller was continuing its two-year dominance of radio, a new chick named Madonna was being shoved down everyone’s throats, and Tom Cruise slid across the foyer in his tighty whiteys and a pair of sunglasses to the opening piano bars of Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll,” the choices could not be more stark. “Flashdance” or “Scarface?” Pick a side, bitches, or say hello to my little friend.
On the deeper, darker flip side of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Karma Chameleon,” 1983 gave us some of the most influential bands of the nascent independent music scene. Wrapping your sweaty palms around the self-titled debut LPs from Violent Femmes or Suicidal Tendencies made you immune to pegged jeans, leg warmers, rip-and-tear sweatshirts, jelly shoes, and horrifying haircuts. You were free to sport black denim pegged jeans, rip-and-tear t-shirts, Doc Martens, and equally horrifying alternative haircuts, and you were listening to much better music while doing it.
U2 released War, which was dark, brutal, and brought the political and cultural conflicts of Belfast to American teenager consciousness, even if we couldn’t find Ireland on a map. “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was certainly meatier, more difficult to digest than Madonna’s “Holiday,” and the almost embarrassing wealth of choices beyond the mainstream could color your life outside of your headphones as well.