It’s late 2006 and Kanye West is on stage at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium. This is the tour that shaped his album Graduation . We are all witness to the moment that Kanye became Kanye, when he moved from just another performer to a cultural artefact. But the crowd isn’t here to see Kanye. He’s just the opening act. We’re here for the largest of all the larger-than-life acts currently walking the Earth. We’re here to see U2. U2 stars busk for the homeless at festive charity gig in Dublin
Read more When I received the request to write about my love for U2 in a public forum I did what anyone would do and presumed that I was being bullied. I’m still not entirely convinced this isn’t the case. To expose yourself as a devoted U2 fan is akin to saying “I love to do my taxes”. There’s nothing evil about it, it’s just a little sad.
There’s good reason for this, of course. My glasses aren’t so rose-tinted that I can’t see that I’ve chosen to love one of the most obnoxious bands of all time. This is the band that put an album on your phone without asking. The band that has been represented in pop culture by a very earnest man in very silly glasses. A band whose music is the sonic equivalent of a lukewarm creamy soup.
(It goes without saying that any true U2 fan has a rebuttal handy for all of these. They gave you a free album and it’s actually pretty good. He has a medical condition. Soup is good for you. And so on.) They’re too simple, too preachy, too cringeworthy To love U2 is to be comfortable with paradox. You balance music that feels innately personal with the knowledge that it was designed to fill stadiums. You weigh songs that speak to humility against the fact that they come out of Bono’s mouth. You juggle the anti-capitalist messaging of Zooropa with the use of Vertigo to launch the iPod. Though, again, many fans would argue that launching the iPod with the worst single U2 has ever recorded was in itself an act of defiance.
There is no special gravitas that comes with being a U2 fan. Never in my life have I ever “introduced” someone to U2. They don’t need to have their artistic record defended by me. They’re one of the highest grossing band of all time. They’re doing fine.
What I want to speak about is the joy and freedom of loving a band whose faults are so well known, whose successes seem so far behind, and whose name carries no cultural credibility for those proudly repping the fandom. They’re too simple, too preachy, too cringeworthy.
To love U2 is to fully embrace the “dance like nobody’s watching” mentality championed by throw pillows everywhere. Not in the least because the second U2 comes on through the speakers, the dancefloor clears and your party is over.
It’s knowing that something doesn’t have to be good to be good to you . That sounds like a phrase from a self-help manual but it’s true to me. There’s no cool way to listen to U2. You have to be OK with the fact that this isn’t cool, it isn’t what you should be listening to, and yet it makes you feel something. It is the modern dilemma – how can something be so large, so commercial, so watered down, yet still feel so personal.
To stand in the crowd in a U2 show is to be surrounded by absolute dorks, to know that you are one too, and to feel the strength in those numbers. Pious plonker or just misunderstood: why we should all lay off Bono
Read more There is something defiant about being earnest in the current times. When it feels like ironic detachment is the only coping mechanism possible to process the modern world, it takes effort to give your heart to something imperfect, undeserving and annoyingly positive. But it’s an effort worth making. It’s a mentality I strive to hold – to never be so concerned with personal image that you aren’t willing to really feel what needs to be felt, to cry out when it deserves it, and to love something that could easily be left by the wayside.
My pride in U2 fandom goes beyond their music, though I will argue to my grave that every album has at least three good songs. It is about being the kind of loser who will speak in a major publication about a lame thing that makes him happy. We all deserve that feeling and if you can find it in something as uncomplicated as a four-chord structure laden with effects then all power to you. There is nothing cool about loving U2. That’s why I love them.
• James Colley is a comedian and writer for Gruen, Tomorrow Tonight and The Weekly
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