U2 Article w/Who comparison...interesting.

Sigel, James (N-CSC) james.sigel at lmco.com
Thu Apr 28 15:53:09 CDT 2005

An interesting comparison to The Who...


U2 still winning fans, influencing people 
The world's biggest band has had its downs, but has managed to stay on
Tom Harrison
The Province
Through everything, there has been U2. Since 1980, U2 has transcended
post-punk, roots-rock, nu-rock, grunge, electronica, emo, and have been
together long enough to witness an '80s revival
The band has managed to remain relevant, so that even as bands as
diverse as Duran Duran and Gang of Four have taken advantage of '80s
nostalgia, U2 has cut its own swath.
It has made mistakes along the way, but such vulnerability, as opposed
to infallibility, has made it more human and kept it earthbound.
At one time, Chris Blackwell, who signed the group to his Island
Records, speculated that U2 could be to the '80s what The Who were to
the '60s. That was a bold statement, but within reason.
If The Who were known individually -- Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey,
John Entwistle, Keith Moon -- fans also knew U2 -- Bono, The Edge, Adam
Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. If The Who was distinctive instrumentalists
who added up to something uniquely greater than the sum of their parts,
U2 was as distinctive. If The Who pushed the boundaries of rock with its
records, U2 did it with its shows.
What Blackwell probably didn't foresee was that in 2005 the same four
guys would still be together, still pushing at boundaries. U2 would be
bigger than The Who, in 2005 possibly the world's biggest band.
The stability of the band has created a platform sturdy enough to have
made Bono a spokesman, like him or not. He has been smart enough to use
his power discerningly. He knows that whatever he says will be
newsworthy, so he has been careful to align himself, and by extension
U2, with meaningful causes. His stand on reducing third-world debt has
resulted in people from the first world being aware that there is such a
thing as third-world debt. When Bono expresses his disappointment in
Paul Martin, it isn't just Canadians who listen.
That's a very dangerous power, for which rock musicians usually aren't
prepared. In this way, U2 is like The Beatles. As a catalyst for the
'60s, The Beatles naively made statements that carried more weight than
they probably knew. They made them anyway.
At a time when most bands are discouraged from being controversial, U2
has shown the courage of its convictions. It has stuck its neck out and
risked the chop. This has earned respect.
Not everything U2 does is fully understood. What was Bono really saying
when he assumed his Mephisto character? Rattle & Hum, the movie, was
overstatement. The Pop album and Popmart tour were misguided.
Yet the band has been smart enough to make reparations, the result being
that, with All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2 is more popular than
There is a '60s-like interest in what the band does. Then, listeners
would gather 'round the radio to hear the latest Who or Beatles single.
What would they do? What innovations were they introducing? The current
U2 album provoked the same kinds of questions.
U2 is one of the few bands that has lasted 25 years. It has adapted with
the times yet remained recognizably U2. In the '60s and '70s you could
follow certain groups as they developed and changed. There are few
modern groups that are given enough time or room to develop and change.
It's one of the things the new rock fan misses in contemporary music and
finds attractive in older rock. They can discover The Who or rely on U2.

Jim in Colorado

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