My God, The Joshua Tree still astonishes me. Where the Streets Have No Name transports me to another place. The Edge’s propulsive guitars, the thundering bass, Bono’s urgent, soaring vocals. I go there with you, it’s all I can do.
U2 has produced a couple of decent tunes since then, of course. But The Joshua Tree still stands by itself.
I suppose it holds a place for my vanished youth. But that’s not all. It really does represent a band, a singer and songwriter in full. U2 was still fresh, full of itself and fully in love with America. Bono had yet to discover irony (at least in his public persona) or become a global spokesperson. U2 could profess Christianity without sounding preachy or hypocritical, unlike most phony Jesus-spewing jerks who pollute the world. Then and now.
I sang this album’s praises as the budding music critic (and if I can find the clip from the Lantern, I’ll reproduce it here). AND HERE IT ISU2. In that regard, I was lucky enough to have R.E.M.’s Lifes Rich Pageant and The Joshua Tree drop into my lap. I also had Boston’s Third Stage (which I gleefully savaged). It was crap. If you’re really lucky, dear blogofile, I can dig that gem up as well. Preferably the full-length version, not the one Ken cut to ribbons (I love to rib Ken Torisky about this, even 20-some years later — it has become a standing joke between us).
U2 had expressly voiced its (their) ambition to become the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, and with The Joshua Tree, U2 achieved that singular bigness. They even had the audacity to steal back “Helter Skelter” from Charles Manson in their subsequent vanity album, Rattle and Hum. Bono said so. “Charles Manson stole this song from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.”
Hard to believe more than two decades have passed since the Lads from Ireland put out this little gem. Moments like this make me feel old. And insignificant.
I have only see U2 live once. It was in the decrepit old Cleveland Municipal Stadium on the Joshua Tree tour. The stadium might have had the world’s worst acoustics. But the bass shook the ground beneath us, traveling through the stadium like an earthquake in those opening notes of “Where the Streets Have No Name.” The biggest disappointment of that concert was the tame versions of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “I Will Follow.” Crowds were getting too ratcheted up with those tunes.
And so we move on.
Beware of little men with big ideas.
Bono said that rather recently.
The Lads also recently shouted, “Restart. Reboot yourself.”
I have taken that message to heart.
Time to reboot.