Tribute Band: 2U*

June 27, 2005


By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
2005.06

This year they’ll play nearly 200 shows to rabid fans excitedly singing along to each of their tracks. It’s not U2, well, not quite, anyway. No, this band bringing little bits of U2-mania to parts of the American East Coast is 2U, which bills itself as, "The world’s second best U2 show."

The band, made up of Tom Thornton on lead vocals, Joe Cumia on guitar, Ray Sicoli on drums and Pat Rotolo on bass, has been together since the summer of 2003. In that time, the members of 2U have done so well with the whole being-U2 thing that none of them have a day job.

Cumia, who is sometimes referred to as "Joedge" by his mates (Thornton being "Tombono," Sicoli "LarRay Mullen" and Rotolo "Padam Claytolo") answered some questions for Interference.com about what it’s like to be part of the self-proclaimed second best U2 show in the world.

How did the band come together?

Through many auditions and rehearsals. It took two of the last three years to come up with the perfect lineup—business-wise, aesthetically and artistically

How did you come up with the name 2U?

Ray Sicoli, our drummer, came up with the name. At the time he didn’t know that we’d be listed first on every website that we submitted the name to because the name starts with a number. It’s also the mirror image of U2 and we take pride in being just that in every way when we perform—a mirror image of U2

What was your first memory of U2?

The Red Rocks Concert, I was so impressed with that show, I became an instant fan.

When did you first think about playing U2 songs?

About 5 years ago, right after "All That You Can’t Leave Behind" hit the airwaves.

What’s your favorite U2 song to perform and why?

"Pride," the solo rocks and people always sing along to that song. No matter if there’s 100 or 10,000 at the show, it always gets people going.


(Image courtesy of 2U)

What is your favorite U2 era to perform and why?

The current U2 era is always the best to perform; it gives you the option of doing all of the new songs as well as any of the old ones. If you’re doing a "period" show you can’t really do songs from "All That You Can’t Leave behind" or "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" without destroying the illusion. If I were to play "Beautiful Day" with a Quaker hat and a braided pony tail it would be like The Edge traveled in a time machine to play songs from his own future.

What are the best and most challenging parts of performing as U2?

Tom as Bono gets a lot of attention, pictures and phone numbers. Joe gets to just play and sing, which is cool. Edge doesn’t have to say a word on-stage and it’s a very relaxing gig.

What’s your favorite performing memory?

The Hard Rock Cafe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, earlier this year. We were treated as if we were U2.

Have you ever met a member of U2?

No.

What would you like to say to U2 if you had the chance to meet the band?

"Thanks for providing me with the opportunity to make playing music my full-time living and, more importantly, thank you so much for the years of amazing music you and the guys have written. I’m glad to have had the chance to tell you how much of a profound impact you’ve had on my life. Thank you." Then I’d give him a big hug (in a manly way of course) and then I’d probably run into the nearest bathroom to go throw-up.

What’s the best thing about being in a U2 tribute band?

Besides getting to do what you love for a living? The attention is nice, traveling is great too. Mostly it’s getting to do all of the things you love to do for a living and not having to get up early in the morning.

For more information, visit www.notu2.com.

Achtung Carrie! #9 – A Look Back at Elevation, Part One*

June 27, 2005


By Carrie Alison, Chief Editor
2005.06

I’ve been lucky enough to see U2 in concert six times in my life—two shows during the 1997 PopMart Tour and four during 2001′s phenomenal Elevation Tour. Each show is distinctive and memorable in myriad ways that I’ll share with you now.

After having the chance to see PopMart twice, I never would’ve dreamed that I’d be lucky enough to see the Elevation Tour four times, even landing in the Heart twice! Below are two Elevation Tour experiences and some photos I took along the way, with memories of the final two soon to follow.

Elevation Tour Launch, Sunrise, Fl. – March 24, 2001

To say I was excited to attend the liftoff of the Elevation Tour in Sunrise is an understatement—it was more than that, much more. I grew up in South Florida and because of work and distance, am not able to go back as much as I’d like to, so the tour launch enabled me to visit my old stomping grounds in West Palm Beach and my best friend who had been paralyzed in a terrible horseback riding accident in 1997.

After taking care of some personal matters, three of my best friends and I headed to the National Car Rental Center. Two of them had gone to that first PopMart show with me, and anticipated that I’d turn on the waterworks as soon as I heard Bono’s now-famous "woo hoo!" intro to "Elevation." There were tears, sure, but this time I was seeing a U2 concert as a remarkably healed young woman, not the scared and confused college girl who cried her entire life out of her eyeballs at PopMart.

PJ Harvey, my favorite female rock artist of all time, was due to open the show but, unfortunately, she took ill with a cold and Irish pop band The Corrs had to fill in. I still look back on this and say that had Polly Jean opened as planned, this show would have been one of the best and most important shows of my young life.

What a sight to behold—the launch of a U2 tour with so much energy and anticipation dangling in the air like the scent of dandelion in a summer breeze. The world press was in attendance, no doubt waiting with baited, yet resolutely critical, breath to either praise every second of the show or tear U2 apart for embracing its own popularity and epic sound. No one in the audience knowing what U2 would play, how the longtime band mates would play it, how long they would play. With a band as beloved as U2, with 25 years of joyous music under its over-100-million-albums-sold belt, how does the biggest band in the universe launch its first tour in four years?

With the lights on, that’s how.

Unlike PopMart, which saw the band approaching the stage on foot through the seated audience—the Elevation Tour launch brought the house down with the lights on. I remember that vision as if my eyelids had chosen it as a permanent screensaver. The strains of "Elevation" began, you could hear guitar, the audience roars, everyone stands on their feet to scream as loud as they can, and then it started—Bono’s now legendary "woo hoo!" clarion call.

The woo hoo’s continued for about 30 more seconds, which would then, one assumes, usher in the big reveal of the band shortly after the house lights had gone down. This was not the case. I remember wondering if the band had even arrived, given South Florida’s penchant for insane interstate traffic delays. More guitars. The house lights are still on. You can hear the crowd mumbling this sentiment, wondering what is going on. Then the band takes the stage. With. The. House. Lights. On.

It really is a marvel to see U2 doing what they do best. No matter how you slice it, how much you try and fight it, your guard will come down at a U2 concert, even when you least expect it. It could be during a rousing number such as "I Will Follow," a quieter moment during "Stuck in a Moment," or an emotionally stirring tune such as "Gone," all of which were played on this night.

Aside from hearing some of my all time favorite U2 jams again in concert, two distinct things stand out for me on the night. Bono introduced a new token bit for the Elevation tour—band member introductions. Ever-youthful drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. was introduced as "the man who gave us our first job," bassist Adam Clayton crowned "the man with the biggest instrument in U2" and Edge dubbed "the scientist of the band."

Not since the early days of the War Tour in 1983 and Bono’s infamous speaker-climbing escapades have we as fans gotten to experience a true "oh no!" moment at a U2 show. Most moments, no matter how poignant, are choreographed to a T. On this night, however, even though it was Opening Night, Bono had a stunning and scary moment for himself, and all of us, and, shockingly, not on purpose. During a spirited rendition of "Until the End of the World," Bono fell off the stage while at the edge of the catwalk and was knocked out momentarily. The sound of tens of thousands gasping at the same time is something I’ll never forget. Bono, of course, was fine. And, as MacPhisto used to say, it was off with the horns, and "on with the show."

Elevation, Atlanta – March 30, 2001

Driving to Atlanta from Florida is always a test of personal skill and determination, the interstates and highways within Atlanta’s city limits are some of the most horrifying experiences I’ve ever had on the road. Three or four lanes of traffic on either side of you. Cars whizzing by at speeds that can only be described as extreme or "oh my God!"

The Philips Arena was thankfully easy to find, unlike many places in Atlanta (just try to find Bacchanalia and you’ll know what I mean.) We had gotten there three hours early to get situated in the general admission line with hopes of securing a good vantage point near the stage on inside the arena, the area typically know as the Heart. To our amazement, only about 50 people had staked their place in line by 3:45pm, so we knew we had arrived in the nick of time. All we had to do now was wait.

Once my boyfriend and I had pulled up some floor and sat down expecting to quietly relax and gaze at the nearby buildings—I was pleasantly surprised when a friendly female voice addressed me to ask, "So where are you guys from?" Shocked by the friendliness of this complete stranger, I turned around to meet a wide grin from her. "Tallahassee," I said. "Are you really? My gosh, what a coincidence!" she said. "I went to Florida State!" "So did I!" I said, shocked again. "Wow," she said, leaning back against the arena wall, closing her eyes and smiling.

My conversation buddy then put her headphones back on, from which I could hear the unmistakable sounds of a live version of "Bad." Ah yes, I really was communing amongst a bunch of U2 fans. Several feet down from us stood a group of 20-something guys with goatees debating whether or not they thought U2 would play "Desire," "Wild Honey" and "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For" during an acoustical set tonight. The discussion became pretty heated with various theories and confident reasoning, punctuated by the dramatic pauses offered by a cigarette.

The time slowly passed as the late winter early evening breeze blew through downtown Atlanta. In two hours, the line of 50 people had grown to a loquacious throng of approximately 250 anxious fans. When a security guard exited the arena at last around 5:45pm, everyone rose to his or her feet, awaiting the announcement that we would be let in to claim our place around the heart inside.

What should have been a straightforward procedure to let the impatient crowd inside became a war zone when for no apparent reason, the security personnel for the arena began separating the GA line into two lines—letting the back end of the line move forward, effectively allowing the people who had arrived five minutes before the doors opened to go in first. This is when the other shoe dropped. Those of us who had been there for hours ran over to merge with the new line, desperate to get inside. This caused the "late arrivals" to become incensed at us "early arrivals" and began screaming at and threatening our line—thinking they had every right to go in before those of us who were starving, hot and exhausted and had waited outside for three hours. It was terrible; I couldn’t believe a riot had broken out at a U2 concert. As the situation grew more extreme and out of control, the venue security did nothing to stop what was happening once angry concertgoers started squeezing through the very thin open doors.

Once inside, my boyfriend and I received the bracelets that would gain us entry into the Heart. The chaos was not over yet, however, as people immediately started running to get inside the arena, pushing and knocking over people in their way. We couldn’t believe it. What we thought was going to be a wonderful, communal experience had mutated into the type of atmosphere I’d imagined for the Warped Tour, not a U2 show, compounded by the fact that the Philips Arena security team didn’t care to efficiently manage the situation to prevent injuries or the riot that had transpired outside.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to run fast enough to grab hold of the Heart’s ramp, but we didn’t care. After everything, we were just happy and honored to be in the Heart at all in time to see pop starlet Nelly Furtado perform. At first, I’d questioned U2 bringing on the young Furtado as a warm-up act simply because she was just riding the success of one hit single, the ubiquitous "I’m Like a Bird" that had found its way into high rotation on VH1 and MTV. We had assumed she would be nails-on-a-chalkboard irritating with her nasal voice, but what we witnessed was the performance of a very talented young lady with her Portuguese history firmly in her mind and in her beats.

When U2 took the stage shortly after Furtado’s set, I was anticipating my energy level to be at bay since I had only seen them six days previous. I was mistaken. The "woo hoos" get me every time. No Bono spills that night, but I do believe longtime friend Michael Stipe was in the house as U2 took on small bits of REM classic hits—"Losing My Religion" and "Everybody Hurts" during the encore performance of "One."

It would be seven months before I would see another Elevation show. In that time, the face of one of the greatest cities in the world (and my new hometown) would change forever when two hijacked commercial airliners took down the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. U2 fans in America (and the world over) would look to the band’s legendary strength and tidal power as a security blanket and shoulder to cry on in the coming months as the fearless band honored its fall tour schedule and helped all of us begin to walk on.

Images courtesy of Carrie Alison.

Carrie Alison can be reached at carrie@interference.com

Review: U2 at City of Manchester Stadium, June 15, 2005*

June 22, 2005

By Kenneth MacLellan
2005.06

Despite its reputation for rain, Manchester greeted its second night of Vertigo 2005 with as many dark clouds as there are songs from "Pop" and "Zooropa" in U2′s current set.

Even though the band had hinted that some of these songs would air in Europe, the decision to sideline this material is understandable: with the G8 summit fast approaching, U2 needs its arsenal of big anthems to raise awareness of the issues involved. And as well as informing the choice of songs performed, the upcoming event in Gleneagles also fires U2′s performance, as illustrated by the purpose and verve with which the band tore through June 15th’s opening trio of "Vertigo," "I Will Follow" and "The Electric Co."

"Elevation" came next and proved to be one of the few missteps of the evening. Although its selection reignited the interest of the more casual fan after "The Electric Co.", this teasing version of the song didn’t quite come off. With "New Year’s Day" next, "Until the End of the World" or "Gloria" might have been a better choice for this slot.

After a glorious, appropriate, "Beautiful Day", the band sprung a surprise. "This is a song we haven’t played in a while," Bono said. "Let’s hope Edge can remember it."

The band struck up "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For" for the first time in Europe this year. The Edge had no difficulty in recalling the chords and even Bono, prone to bouts of lyrical amnesia, got it right, too. The song was very well received and inspired the first full sing-a-long of the night.

The second surprise, and sing-a-long, came straight after with "All I Want Is You", the first outing for anything from "Rattle and Hum" this year.

As the song quieted down to the chorus of the crowd, "City of Blinding Lights" began to fade in just as "Where the Streets Have No Name" used to on Elevation 2001. A "Crazy Frog" away from being No. 1 song in the Britain, "City of Blinding Lights" got as an enthusiastic reaction as the previous two numbers and is testimony to the strength and popularity of the band’s new album.

Three more tracks from "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" followed–"Miracle Drug," "Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own" and "Love and Peace or Else."

The opera is in U2 and the show did feel like a three-act opera with "Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own" ending the first act, the point where the "Boy" becomes a man.

On cue, the sky began to bruise as the band started a second act that dealt with the awareness that maturity brings and the responsibilities we have on a global level at the start of the 21st century, particularly where Africa is concerned.

As well as the big songs like "Pride" and "One," this part of the set featured a Human Rights speech, a speech from Bono and African flags flashing on the screen to "Where the Streets Have no Name."

Like Bono banging a tom-tom along to the intro of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," it’s hard not to think that the political drum is thumped is a little too hard. Surely anyone in the audience of a U2 gig in June 2005, with a passing interest in current affairs, has at least a basic awareness of the issue already?

If the end of the main set was a reprisal of U2 in the late ’80s, then the first encore was a return to the ZooTV era with "Zoo Station" and "The Fly." Both featured Bono returning to the guise of The Fly and, like the 1992-93 tour, the former featured high-kicks and Dr. Strangelove-style gestures, the latter swamping the audience in a welter of buzz words and truisms.

Bono has said recently that he hopes this generation is remembered for something other than the internet, namely making Africa an equal partner on the world stage. This is a perfect summation of the third act of Vertigo. The information overload of the first encore was followed by an acoustic, prayer-like "Yahweh" that felt like a musical metaphor for a return to innocence. Closing with a second rendition of opener "Vertigo" underlined this further, making the show as circular as the black and red stage on which it was performed.

The band then bid us goodnight and left Manchester, having given the city two nights of thrilling rock ‘n’ roll and a lot to think about.

While we can do little to directly affect the fate of Africa, we can do as U2 has done and raise awareness, ensure that those eight leaders soon headed to Scotland aren’t cut off from public opinion as those currently closeted away inside the "Big Brother" house are right now.

The march to Edinburgh and Live8 may just work. After all, stranger things have happened, like a cloudless day in Manchester, for one.

Snow Patrol Talks Opening For U2 and New Album

June 20, 2005


By Carrie Alison, Chief Editor
2005.06

A Caribbean-style band making liberal use of a steel drum is working its magic on Memorial Day vacationers at a resort hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. Somewhere nearby, members of Glasgow-based Snow Patrol are resting up after a magical penultimate performance for it’s last round of touring in support of 2004′s brilliantly touching "Final Straw."

The show, held at the not-so-gracefully aging State Theatre, was densely packed and very hot, the kind of hot that drives even the most sensible people to seek shelter in meat lockers and more daring folks to remove their clothing altogether. (Where’s Nelly when you need him?) For the ecstatic fans in attendance on Sunday night however, leaving due to poor air conditioning was not an option. They came to sing every word, to celebrate, to dance and most importantly, show love to a band they have all grown to cherish, whether it be from the plaintive yearning of hit single "Run," or the enticing and rather addictive "Chocolate."

Clearly the message was received. Throughout the nearly 80-minute show, lead singer Gary Lightbody, guitarist Nathan Connolly, drummer Jonny Quinn, new bassist Paul Wilson (formerly of Terra Diablo) and keyboardist Tom Simpson could not hide their joy at the unanimous crowd reaction. Though the bandmates were sweating buckets and exhausted from the unrelenting heat in the venue, they gave it their all, even treating the enthusiastic audience to some new songs from their upcoming album all the while wearing ear-to-ear smiles as they were bathed in sweat.

Known internationally for its epic and rousing live shows, and thusly proved once and for all in Florida, Snow Patrol was a logical choice as one of the many buzz bands picked to open a handful of shows on U2′s summer jaunt through Europe, most notably for U2′s "homecoming" show at Croke Park in Dublin on June 24. While enjoying their day off before heading to New Orleans to conclude the "Final Straw" tour, I caught up with the affable and gracious Connolly and Quinn to talk about Snow Patrol’s Vertigo Tour stint, the stifling Florida heat and how they would like to spend their free time when given a chance. Golf and gigs—who knew?

Like U2, Snow Patrol started young and had to navigate the waters of getting better at your craft and the music business on your own. You’ve also instated a rule that everyone pitches in when making a record. What else can you think of that creates harmony within a band?

JONNY QUINN: [laughs] That creates harmony within a band? Well if you can get on after being on the road for 18 months I think that’s important. Because it’s not always just getting the music and the musicians and the ideas together it’s putting up with each other and all that sort of thing, and making sure that nobody’s ego ends up getting too big. [laughs]

I think that’s the key—if you all can stay as a family unit, that’s the key. A lot of bands split up because they’re not getting on, especially when you get successful and busy—because that’s when it’s probably harder and stranger anyway, you know? So it’s keeping it together. Certainly for us because we didn’t sell that many albums the first couple [albums], and it wasn’t going too well, so it was hard keeping it together, but when it’s going really well things just change, so that would be it.

I heard you recently met up with Bono in Chicago. Have you received his famous Bono talk? And if so, what advice did he give you?

QUINN: Yeah, me and Gary [Lightbody] met him. It was funny because you think that whenever you get to a level like U2, you don’t worry about how your gigs are gonna go, but he was saying that people who are typical these days are not "football fans," so they end up paying like two or three thousand dollars for tickets just to be there, and that situation’s happening with them. People all want to get in. I think I even heard it was going for four thousand in New York. So you don’t get the real fans who know all the words and they’re gonna put their hands in the air and make it a big gig—so that’s what they were worried about. Just shows you that there’s never, ever a shortage. I think that was his talk. He’s very good at making sure you’re not freaked out, because you are.

[laughs] You’re not gonna not take advice from Bono, you know what I mean?

But he’s very, very calm, and puts you at ease, especially because he knew that people are going to kind of be nervous around him, but that they know it’s no problem and it’s okay and they’re just ordinary people as well.

The first time you were scheduled to play in St. Petersburg was last summer during our intense hurricane season. In fact, the show was cancelled because a major one blew through. What’s the most intense weather you have ever experienced besides the Florida heat?

CONNOLLY: For me it would be this heat. I mean, obviously we didn’t fly into Florida last time, otherwise we would’ve been stuck here as well. It was three hurricanes in a row, wasn’t it? I don’t think that we’ve experienced anything that severe. This heat is definitely more than we’re used to. I think it might have been in Boston it was –12, and it was probably the coldest I’ve ever been. It’s quite cold where we’re from, with the rain, but it’s kind of mild and you don’t get extreme weather. It doesn’t go from extremely hot to extremely cold. Europe’s a bit milder than that, we just happen to get a lot more rain. It’s total extremes here, just crazy.

What would it take to make you guys feel “cool” even though you claim you make “uncool” music?

CONNOLLY: I don’t think it’s that we make “uncool” music…

QUINN: I think it’s that you can try to be “cool”—you just have it or you don’t. [laughs] I think we don’t see ourselves as “cool” because we don’t have the look like Franz Ferdinand or the White Stripes.

You’re not overly stylized…

QUINN: Yeah, I think that’s what people call “cool.”

CONNOLLY: It’s just not something we think about. We just get on with the music, really.

Well I think that’s “cool.” You don’t overly think everything, or your appearance…

CONNOLLY: Not to say it doesn’t work for some bands, I mean, obviously it does for Franz Ferdinand, and they’ve got the whole package but it’s not us, you know? We look uncomfortable as it is never mind getting dressed up.

Listening to your music, its sonic architecture, and feeling its big heart—is it an Irish thing to be all heart? What if any influence has U2 had on Snow Patrol’s sound?

QUINN: Is it an Irish thing? It may be! Ireland’s got a history of writers, and musicians and music, and writing’s always been a big thing because of all the famines and wars and people sang about things, and people in times of depression always wrote really amazing songs. When life’s too easy maybe you don’t get the same emotions out or you don’t get the same passion and music or whatever. The size of Ireland has a lot of musicians and writers and bands who are well known, and there’s only like five and-a-half million people that live there. For the export that it has it’s great, but I think that’s just a traditional thing.

With U2, it’s kind of one of those things of growing up in Ireland, and they’re from Ireland, and everybody knows of U2, and you’re double proud that U2 are from your country. It may have an influence but you wouldn’t know it; it wouldn’t be a conscious thing at all. Nobody can say it hasn’t affected, because no bands say, “they have nothing to do with me,” so I think everyone’s taken some sort of elements from them.

So it’s more unconscious than conscious?

QUINN and CONNOLLY: Yeah, definitely.

What can U2 fans expect from Snow Patrol in Europe this summer, and how do you feel about opening for them?

QUINN: They can expect us to do the same show we always do, but on a bigger stage. [laughs]. The biggest challenge is to try and hit that many people and make it work because it’s always quite a daunting task. We’ve only done it once before. It was the Tsunami gig and a long bill. For us it’s quite scary to get out in front of that, but we have to kind of say, ‘how are you gonna try and get everybody into this?’ A big challenge for us, you know?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, it’s hard to know what to expect

QUINN: We’ve just got to try and rock 60,000 people, and see if we can do it.

It’s at Croke Park, isn’t it?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, it’ll be a great night. U2’s homecoming is always a big party.

QUINN: Don’t trip up before you get to the drums or drop the drumsticks! It’s these things that you worry about. We’ve had some new songs as well, and we’ll get them out. It’ll be great because with a U2 crowd, they’re quite mixed and you get a lot of older people that wouldn’t know about Snow Patrol. It’s a brand new audience for us as well. Almost that many of the people haven’t even heard of us yet. So that’ll be good to get them into us.

How is the new record coming along, and when can fans expect to hear it?

QUINN: We’re talking about maybe next year, probably. I think as a band it’s important that we don’t rush it and get it right.

CONNOLLY: Make sure the album’s better than “Final Straw.” It’ll have to be good. If it takes a year, it takes a year.

QUINN: If it takes time, we’ll just do that rather than rushing the album out and then looking back and thinking we should’ve taken a bit more time to be more happy with it. There’s a lot of pressure to get it out because the label and all those people are “let’s get it going” but as long as we don’t leave it too long and it’s not a Stone Roses situation where it took five years or something, and that’s just ridiculous. We’re not being lazy about it, but we’ll make sure that it’s good.

Taking a cue from the Futureheads’ song of the same name, what would be a decent day and night for Snow Patrol?

QUINN: A decent day and night? A decent day would be to wake up in the daytime! [laughs]. Everyone likes to do different things. If you asked Tom [Simpson] it would probably be a game of golf, Gary would like to watch a game of cricket. I’d like to learn golf [laughs]. That’s what I’d do with my day—a perfect day would be to learn golf and a perfect night would be to go and see a band.

CONNOLLY: It’s hard to answer that without involving music, isn’t it? Like going to shows or something.

QUINN: Don’t get to see much music the last year-and-a-half, and above all I just want to see some bands again, you know?

For more information on Snow Patrol, please visit the official website.

Fan’s Perspective: Being a Teenage U2 Fan*

June 20, 2005

By Maddy Fry
2005.06

It’s the pivotal moment in every U2 fan’s life, that moment when the sky rips open and heaven itself seems to descend upon you with choirs of angels singing in a collective voice that turns the whole world from black and white to color, the moment when you realize that this band has title to your soul.

Like a lot of people, that moment came to me at a young age. Unlike a lot of people, however, it happened to me in 2002.

There was no heart and soul in rock ‘n’ roll, the days when belief had been put before ability in music had been long over. People my age only really liked pretentious hip-hop, R&B and drivelling nu-metal punk-pop, anything else just wasn’t cool. It had also been well over a year since U2 had released its last album so it wasn’t a brilliant time to become a born-again convert to the U2 cause.

We all know that at times being a U2 fan isn’t particularly easy. Wherever you go, there’s no end to the jibes about the music—after all, The Edge’s guitar playing isn’t that good, and would it kill him to play a solo once in a while instead of just noodling about with his FX pedals, playing all that pretentious crap? And that’s not to mention Bono, the epitome of self-absorbed, posturing, egotistical celebrity. Does he think he’s God or something, having so many pictures taken with starving Africans and politicians, you realize it’s all a show, and by the way, didn’t he once pay a vast amount of money to have his hat flown to him personally at a charity gig? None of this would hurt so much if it were about any other band.

All of this is magnified about 10 times when you’re a teenager. I am not yet 16 and even after the release of "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," the Vertigo Tour and the iPod ad, to be a teenage U2 follower is still associated with being some kind of political and emotional extremist.

Admittedly, the amount of band pictures I’ve pasted all over my school books and folders does border on the disturbing, but the derision I feel isn’t down to any fan tendencies to worship the band members as gods but simply, "How could you like a band so old?"

U2 isn’t just any supposedly "old" band, being a fan of the band is not the same as being a follower of, say, Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix. U2 has an aura of uniqueness that a lot of non-believers, particularly teenagers, seem to find intimidating.

This generally means that few young people can be found among the forums and fan communities on the internet. Listening to people in who are in their 30s and 40s talking about their first U2 show at Red Rocks in 1983 is inspiring but it does make someone born well after that feel slightly left out.

And getting concert tickets is harder for a teenage fan. As I’m not old enough to have a credit card, this year’s tour announcement—my first tour—was followed by one of my long-suffering parents spending the whole day by the phone and the computer while I was at school, wondering where the money that I was going to pay them back with was going to materialize from.

There’s also a lot of temptation when you are young. It’s been said that every great rock band is like a religion and as youth culture has slid into jaded, apolitical apathy, U2 and its consciousness-raising have become more important than ever. U2′s ideals of optimism and belief in the worthiness of life have kept me from getting caught up in the traditional teenage vices—binge-drinking, smoking, drugs. And in a sense, that’s giving a lot up, the right to be reckless and bloody-minded is something that many of my generation hold dear.

And yet it could never compare to the kind of things you feel when those U2 moments arrive. Like when Bono talks about the crises of the world’s retched and you realize that life is so much bigger than you’ll ever be, and the importance and responsibility that the idea that one person can make a difference is loaded with.

And those who sneer at you for preferring the likes of "All I Want is You," "One," "Walk On" and "Miracle Drug" to anything by 50 Cent or Green Day, sometimes all you can do is pity them.

To have U2 take you into its arms when you’re young is an amazing thing; you have an ideal for living, not just for adolescence, but also for life. At the very least it means being rescued from eternal pop culture damnation. But you also find yourself a better person in so many ways—humbled, yet uplifted, aware yet never cynical. Every great rock band is like a religion but U2 is salvation, sweet and pure.

It’s not easy being a young U2 fan. You make a lot of sacrifices. At times it’s a struggle. But that’s the great thing about writing on a U2 fan site; I don’t have to explain to you why I’m a fan. The struggle is worth it. You give yourself away, but in return, the band gives you something you can feel.

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