At Least U2 Still Carries The Torch For Rock & Roll

It seems to be a general rule of thumb that the longer the big artists keep playing, the more haters they generate over time. This is largely a by-product of the Internet Age, where haters feel emboldened to crawl out of their lonely holes and relieve themselves on somebody else’s parade. But it was also true pre-digital, when even the greatest artists like the individual Beatles and Dylan were constantly tormented by chronic complainers whining that their new stuff sucked compared to their old stuff, and so on and so on.

U2 is another example. If you judged them only by what was written about them online, you’d think they were one of the most hated bands ever. And yet this year they sold out dozens of football stadiums in North America and they will do the same next year. Clearly they are also one of the most beloved Rock bands out there too.

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I am agnostic on these guys. They’ve written and performed some of the greatest music in Rock history, but as far as I’m concerned, they’ve spent a lot of time going through the motions, recycling themes and sounds over and over as the years have gone by. This is why I was so impressed with their performance of “American Soul” on SNL last weekend. There was a freshness and vitality to it that I haven’t seen from them in a while.

It starts with the collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, which, even if it was recorded for this performance, gives the song a texture different from the usual U2 fare. The band itself was in fine form, these guys are total pros and still deliver textbook Rock savvy. But what I liked best about the song was the chorus: “You are Rock & Roll/ You and I are Rock & Roll”.

God bless these guys for saying that. Back in the Seventies there were dozens if not hundreds of songs which celebrated Rock itself – you know, listen to the music, I dig rock & roll, it’s only rock and roll but I like it, yeah yeah yeah. Artists just couldn’t help themselves from celebrating this relatively new kind of music that had taken over the world.

But today, nobody sings the praises of Rock & Roll. As the zeitgeist has come to relegate Rock to a secondary status in popular culture, I found it very refreshing and inspiring that these guys are still carrying the torch for the music that once changed the world. You and I are Rock & Roll? You’re damn right we are.

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