Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlight. The fan of the month for January 2018 is user Hoosier2012. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"Bono has a knack for writing songs that speak to profound moments of uncertainty and mortality and humanity that I really just don’t find in the music of other bands"
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
Well, my name is Nathaniel, and I’m 27 years old. I’m currently living in Virginia in the United States, but I still consider myself to be from Indiana, since I lived there for a little over half of my life—about 14 years. I moved to Virginia in 2013 to go to law school, graduated in May 2016 and took the Virginia bar exam (and passed, mercifully…I never want to do that again), and now I’m a licensed attorney in the state of Virginia. I’m not currently practicing law, though—right now, I’m working for a non-profit, doing legal research and writing. I’m in the process of looking for a new job, which will hopefully put me somewhere between Richmond, VA and Washington, D.C.
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
Well, by way of background, I was raised in a pretty conservative Christian household. I love my parents, and they did a great job raising me, but they have sub-par taste in music—or maybe their music taste is decent, and I was just sheltered and they never really bothered to listen to the good stuff once they got old enough to have kids. Regardless, I didn’t hear much growing up aside from Christian contemporary music. My favorite artist growing up—particularly around 2000 and the few years after that—was Michael W. Smith, who is, as some of you may know, a friend of Bono’s…and I believe I’ve read that they may have worked on very early versions of North Star together? MWS also released a concert film in 2002 in which he covered “40,” so I guess I was being groomed to like the general sound of U2 for a while.
Anyway, I was sitting in a technical skills class at school one day in 7th grade, and the teacher was playing a mix CD that his wife had made him, and “Beautiful Day” was on the CD. I heard the song and really liked it, but I think it wasn’t until the second or third time I heard the song that I started to wonder, “Hey, who are these guys? They probably have some great music.” So I went over to my teacher and asked him if he knew who the song was by—I think he had to dig out the CD case to find the tracklist his wife had written him—but he told me that it was by U2, and so I went home to find some of their music. Shortly thereafter, I bought The Best of 1990-2000 on CD, and I listened to that album over and over and over again.
I was kind of a niche fan for a while—I couldn’t have told you about Streets or WOWY or Pride there at first (though I think I had managed to download Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year’s Day fairly early on)—but I listened to that CD like my life depended on it, falling particularly in love with songs like “Electrical Storm” and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” My grandmother gave me a cassette tape of The Joshua Tree sometime shortly thereafter, and so I rocked a cassette player for a while, listening to that album. (I was *so* cool. Haha.) I was somehow aware enough of the band’s activity—probably through their marketing campaign with Apple—that I knew when How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb came out, so I asked for it for Christmas in 2004, and my grandparents got it for me. I listened to that album on repeat for virtually the entirety of 2005, and then I asked for the Vertigo Tour DVD for Christmas that year…which I proceeded to watch, in its entirety, every day for a month after I got it. (My mom HAAAAAAAATED that DVD by the end of that month.) I think a lot of my friends were undergoing the same sort of musical discovery process with Coldplay around that time, but mine was with U2.
Over the next few years, I pieced together my U2 fandom and knowledge, and I really dove headfirst down the rabbit hole shortly after I got to college in the fall of 2008…which led me to U2Start in early 2009, I believe! And the rest is history…
You've seen U2 live a few times, can you tell us what that was like?
I’ve not seen U2 as many times as I’d have liked to—I’ve only seen them three times. The first time was the North American tour leg opener of the 360 Tour on September 12, 2009. (I really wanted to go to the following night, too—I missed out on the live debut of “Your Blue Room” and missed out on seeing “Until The End Of The World”…which I’ve still never seen live…ugh. Hopefully this tour.) Anyway, I went with my dad, and we were in the bottom ring of the bowl, at the back of the stadium…so I had okay seats, but I just remember thinking, “Damn, I really want to be down there by that catwalk where Bono is…how do you get down there?” But it was a great show—and that was the last time they played “Bad” for about a year, I think, so I felt pretty lucky to have seen that. Also, my dad fell asleep during “Pride,” which is why I joked that they dropped that song from the setlist for the next year, too.
The second and third times were last year (I can’t believe it’s 2018 already) on the Joshua Tree Tour. My first GA experience was at the DC show on June 20th…and that was just brilliant. I drove up the day before, checked into the GA queue, and got number 96, which eventually got me to a rail spot on the tree stage, right in front of Larry’s drum kit. Being 7 feet (if that) from Bono and Adam and about 12 feet from Larry was just…absurd, in the best way possible. When you’re up that close, it doesn’t seem like you’re at a stadium show with 50-60,000 other people…until everyone turns their phone lights on during Bad, and you look around into a sea of phone lights illuminating a stadium, and you hear Bono exhorting the crowd to “let everything go”…that’s a full-body-chills moment, right there.
My second GA experience this year, though, was even better. I was able to go home (it’s about a 12-hour drive) and see the guys in Indianapolis in September. Beck played a phenomenal opening set, and then U2 really just played their asses off at that show…Bono, for some reason, really likes the city of Indianapolis, and they’ve had a lot of notable moments there (namely the first appearance of the Dalton Brothers, which he referenced during the concert). Since I was a history major in undergrad (at Indiana University…go Hoosiers!) and have been a history aficionado for as long as I can remember, I was really touched by Bono talking about how the city of Indianapolis was one of the only major cities in the United States not to experience large-scale rioting after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, since Bobby Kennedy was giving a campaign speech there at the time and broke the news to the crowd and spoke very eloquently about the need for peace and unity at that time…I definitely teared up while he was talking about that. That’s a really important moment for the city of Indianapolis, even though it might be one that most people don’t know, and it was incredibly special that he mentioned it. The band also performed the tour debut of “You’re The Best Thing About Me” that night, which was excellent. Also, I can’t let any discussion of the Indianapolis show go by without mentioning Guy (@guykirk9 on here) and his energy in the GA section, particularly during the encore of the show. He was over at the top of the tree stage and was completely locked in with Bono during both Elevation and Vertigo…I really think those two songs were so energetic and so good because he was jumping up and down and losing his mind and Bono was feeding off of that.
I’ll be seeing U2 at both DC shows this year. I’ve got seats for the first night, but I’m hoping to secure a GA ticket for the second night somehow, since the presale was a bit of a mess for me…
When you're forced to leave to a deserted island and you can take only one U2 album with you, which would it be?
Probably How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. I know it’s not their absolute best album (behind JT, AB, and probably Pop in that regard), but it was the studio album that really brought me into the fold. Miracle Drug is one of my favorite songs ever, and I’m convinced that City of Blinding Lights is (still) the best song they’ve released since Beautiful Day.
Does anyone in your family or one of your friends like U2? If so, did they introduce you to U2, or did you “convert” them?
I’m going to the two DC shows with a friend this year…he liked U2 before I met him, but I think I’m slowly indoctrinating him to be a bigger fan. I know a few other people who like them, but they’re not quite as (nearly as) obsessed as I am.
I get a lot of shit from people about liking U2 as much as I do, which is fine—Bono certainly does occasionally invite ridicule upon himself, and I get that—but I think what those people don’t get is that even though U2 may not be technically proficient on the level of bands like Led Zeppelin or The Who or Rush or Cream, and while Bono may be overly ostentatious and come off to a lot of people as a self-righteous arse who has appointed himself to be the savior of humanity (clearly I don’t see things quite like that, but I understand why some people might), Bono has a knack for writing songs that speak to profound moments of uncertainty and mortality and humanity that I really just don’t find in the music of other bands. What other frontman for a rock band can go on a several-minute-long monologue regarding King David and the Psalms and how it relates to blues and rock ‘n’ roll music? (His latest Rolling Stone interview is phenomenal.) Bono really is a modern-day psalmist. And I think, in the music of U2, I’ve found more that I can connect with, on a broader range of topics, on a deep emotional and spiritual level, than any other band or artist I listen to.
Anyway, I could probably write a lot more about that (and I’d like to sometime), but I know I’ve already said quite a bit, so I’ll leave it for another time. As far as my family goes, my dad is a big fan of City of Blinding Lights…but that’s about it. I gave my brother one of the copies of Songs of Experience that I got from buying my tickets for this tour, so I’m hoping he listens to it sometime. He doesn’t listen to much aside from classical music, though (he plays the violin and the viola), but I’m still hopeful that I can convert him.
What do you think about Songs Of Experience, how would you rank the album against other U2 albums?
I think Songs of Experience is a phenomenal album. I think it’s their best album since How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, for sure. I’m not sure if it cracks my top 5 yet or not—I think it’s probably pretty close, though. (It’s definitely behind The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and probably Pop. I think it’s fighting with All That You Can’t Leave Behind at around 5th place for me…not sure which one will come out ahead.) It’s great that after 41 years of being together, they can still manage to put together an album this brilliant. It still hasn’t fully sunk in that these songs are a part of the U2 canon now, though.
What is your favourite song on Songs Of Experience and why?
This is probably the most difficult question of the bunch. I think I’m going to say that it’s Lights of Home, which just edges out The Little Things That Give You Away. (I know, I know. It’s really close between the two.) Lights of Home just has so many little “moments” throughout the song—some lyrically, some musically—that make me say, “Damn, that is good.” I think I also like it so much because it talks about some of the religious tension that I’ve found myself in lately—recognizing that the church can be a force for good, but that the church has also been one of the greatest forces for evil throughout the course of history (which is so contrary to why it was founded). How do you reconcile, in your mind, a tradition that both encourages you to receive and share unconditional love, but also would seem to say that women are second-class citizens and the lives and feelings of LGBT people aren’t as valid as those of us who are cisgender and heterosexual? Something doesn’t seem right there. So, if you’re thinking about these issues and other ways in which the church has affected society, it’s eminently relatable to hear “Oh Jesus, if I’m still your friend…” (when you’re not even sure you’re on the same page anymore) “…then what the hell, what the hell have you got for me?” Those lyrics put a voice to the feelings of confusion and hurt that come from seeing the church fail time and time again at doing what it’s supposed to be best at doing…and that carries a lot of weight and a lot of meaning for me.
Having said that, I think that Little Things is, to borrow a phrase I’ve seen used elsewhere that I absolutely loved, U2 at its most uninhibitedly U2-ish. It embodies the lyrical and musical brilliance that have gotten them to this point in their careers, and it’s really an astonishing song…so there’s no disrespect intended at all to that song. I love it.
If you could go back in time, which U2-era would you like to be in, and why?
Since U2 are at their best when they’re performing live (and since this site is built around their live shows), I interpreted this question as “What U2 shows/which U2 tour do you most wish you had been able to attend?” I’d have loved to have seen Zoo TV and Popmart in person. That would be phenomenal…those were such spectacles, and some of those shows (Zoo TV in London, in Dublin, in DC, in Sydney, Popmart in Sarajevo) were some of the best shows U2 have ever played. Honestly, though, I know it has so much to do with how I got started on being a fan, but I think the tour I wish that I had seen in person most is probably the Vertigo Tour…even though the other two tours I mentioned were probably better shows. I’d have loved to be in the room where that happened—for Vertigo with the Stories for Boys tag, for City of Blinding Lights as the opener, for All Because of You, for Mysterious Ways with the slide solo, for The Fly, for Miracle Drug, and for 40 as the closer.
How different is U2 compared to other artists that you like?
Well, I do listen to a lot of classic rock (Led Zeppelin, Journey, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Queen, Styx, Van Halen, etc.), but my tastes are a bit broader than that. Some bands/artists that I listen to are fairly similar to U2 (like Coldplay and Muse), but many are not. I’ve done a bit of singing in my life—from choir and musicals in middle and high school to singing at a couple different churches to being in an a cappella group during law school—so I really like people like Adele and Josh Groban and Leslie Odom, Jr.—people who are just immensely vocally talented in a more classical sort of way. One of my all-time favorites is Tori Kelly—she’s got an incredible voice, and she also has the ability to write really emotional, personal, human songs. I loved the Hamilton soundtrack, and I got to see the show in Chicago in December 2016, which was probably the only musical experience I’ve had that rivals going to a U2 show. I think Lin-Manuel Miranda (the guy who wrote Hamilton and In The Heights and a couple of the best opening and closing numbers from the Tony Awards ever) is a genius on the level of Shakespeare. Lately, I’ve found myself listening to a lot of Ed Sheeran, Chance the Rapper, Camila Cabello, and yes, even a bit of Taylor Swift, too. (She’s too damn catchy not to listen…but clearly her music is not as cerebral or as profound as U2’s music. But you can’t do weighty all the time. It’s exhausting. Sometimes you just need a good pop hook.)
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
Well, I used to like reading, but law school kind of beat that out of me. I’m slowly recovering, though—which is good, because I got several books for Christmas. I’m most excited about reading Ron Chernow’s new biography of Grant; it’s quite a large book (965 pages), but he’s a masterful historian and a great writer, and I’m looking forward to reading a more nuanced view of his life. My brother (who is a high school senior…he is ridiculous) is trying to get me to dive into the field of behavioral economics (I didn’t think it was possible for him to get nerdier than me, but here we are), so I’ve got a few books on that to read, too. I’ve also got a good friend from law school who got me a biography of Alexander Hamilton for Christmas and who has recommended several other books to me (I’m staring at a book on the Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones on my desk right now), so I need to get cracking on those, as well.
I watch a lot of TV and movies as of late, given that right now, I live in a house where I basically just stay in my room all the time. I love Game of Thrones, Narcos, West Wing, Top Gear/Grand Tour, Sherlock, and Doctor Who, to name a few. As far as movies go, I really enjoy things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but my favorite movies always seem to be historically and/or politically themed—movies like Spotlight, The Big Short, The King’s Speech, and The Imitation Game. Again, though, you can’t do weighty all the time, so I enjoy a good action movie, too…Bond movies, the Bourne movies, Crimson Tide, the Mission Impossible series, Marvel movies, Wonder Woman, stuff like that.
I used to sing and do more musical things, but I’ve not really done much on that front lately…I graduated from law school, so I’m not in my a cappella group anymore, and my guitar accompanist graduated and moved away, and I’ve not learned how to play the guitar that I have. (I should do that.) I like playing board games and bar trivia, too…and really just like hanging out with people and talking to them and getting to know them.
So I think that’s about it. Thanks for picking me as your fan of the month! And if you’ve made it through all of my long-winded answers, thank you for reading—I know there’s a lot here. I love the community on here—I think it’s reflective of the larger U2 fan community, which is really cool. I’ve met some great people here, and met some great people in the GA lines at the Joshua Tree Tour last year, and I think that speaks to the respect for humanity that runs through the catalogue of U2’s music and binds it all together.
Thanks for this interview Hoosier2012!
Note: Our crew members choose the fan of the month, you can't sign up for it.
Lights of Home just has so many little “moments” throughout the song—some lyrically, some musically—that make me say, “Damn, that is good.” I think I also like it so much because it talks about some of the religious tension that I’ve found myself in lately—recognizing that the church can be a force for good, but that the church has also been one of the greatest forces for evil throughout the course of history (which is so contrary to why it was founded). How do you reconcile, in your mind, a tradition that both encourages you to receive and share unconditional love, but also would seem to say that women are second-class citizens and the lives and feelings of LGBT people aren’t as valid as those of us who are cisgender and heterosexual? Something doesn’t seem right there. So, if you’re thinking about these issues and other ways in which the church has affected society, it’s eminently relatable to hear “Oh Jesus, if I’m still your friend…” (when you’re not even sure you’re on the same page anymore) “…then what the hell, what the hell have you got for me?” Those lyrics put a voice to the feelings of confusion and hurt that come from seeing the church fail time and time again at doing what it’s supposed to be best at doing…and that carries a lot of weight and a lot of meaning for me.
Wow man, that's some deep stuff right there. Amen (pun intended)!!
Lovely interview, Nate. Would love to meet you someday along the U2 road. Cheers
"I can program stuff in live and not actually play the lines. Some people might regard that as an easy option? Well, I guess that depends on whether they're pre-post-modern or post-post-modern, doesn't it?"
- Adam, 1996
did you know
This song 'Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of' is mainly, according to an interview with Bono, about Michael Hutchence and his suicide.