Covers Album “Scratch My Back” Proves Peter Gabriel Still Willing to Take Chances

February 27, 2010

Since the days when the worldbeat-driven art pop of So rocketed him to unlikely superstardom, Peter Gabriel has busied himself finding virtually every way to show that his desire to create art trumps his desire to create commerce.

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When Bad Was Good

February 25, 2010

“This is a song about the city we grew up in. A song about Dublin city. This is a song about a friend of mine who was given on his 21st birthday enough heroin into his bloodstream to kill him. This is a song called Bad.”

Do you remember when bad was good? For children of the 1980s, this has many implications. For U2 fans, the song “Bad” evokes the good in the human spirit responding to death’s devastation. Who among us first generation of U2 fans can forget the legendary Live Aid performance with Bono’s mullet, white shirt with bolo tie, long black jacket, black leather pants, tall black boots, and the frontman following his muse into the audience to embrace a stranger, to embrace us.


For the young, thirsty, and invincible of every generation, bad will forever seem good. But then the bad that seemed good can turn really, really bad. In 1985, I watched the bad that seemed good turn terrifying, and I remember listening to the lyrics of desperation, dislocation, and letting go in U2′s “Bad” to help me understand. Twenty-five years later, I still cannot shake the memories. Twenty-five years later, I hope I’m finally letting the lessons of that cold, February morning sink in.

In late January 1985, the coldest night of that winter, I spent the night in my car, wrapped in blankets, outside the local Ticketmaster on 9 Mile Road, awaiting seats to U2′s first arena show in Detroit at Joe Louis (then and today the home of the world renowned Red Wings hockey team). The Thursday night was cold, and I only had periodic company from my partner in rock and roll obsession, fellow high-school DJ Joe Ginis.

It was not the epic overnight narrative and sense of community I’d had a few months earlier in Royal Oak to score tickets to U2′s Fox Theatre show. This night was too cold, too lonely. Being the first and only person to wait all night at this location, I was confident I’d score great seats.

When the onsale finally arrived, I could not predict that the man working the computer that morning would skim at least a dozen tickets for his friends before selling me a single one. No one had taught me the serenity prayer at that point, but I was an earnest and faithful boy, grateful to have tickets for the concert that would be an official field trip of my high school youth group from a nearby Presbyterian church.

Upon arriving at Southfield High School on Lahser Road later that Friday morning, I immediately realized something was terribly wrong. All classes had been dismissed, and students walked the halls in a bleary and teary-eyed fog. That morning, we learned that we had lost John Salo. My handsome and talented high school mate and former comrade on the Southfield Jay swim team from sophomore year had died.


It’s hard to forget John Salo’s charm, humor, and goofy charisma. For the entire ninth grade year, he saved his lunch money, mooching food from cute girls who never finished a meal, and stashed his cash to save for an elaborate Vietnam-era array of military fashion and gear. He would wear the getup to school on Halloween 1983.

We often ate lunch together, and our crew spoke of topics sacred to young men, such as euphemisms for masturbation and rock and roll. I remember that John listened to The Clash and Peter Gabriel and was particular fond of “Biko,” a song that had special significance to a bunch of guys on the swim team. For the league swim meat in 1984, John and our mutual friend Erik Enyedy wowed the school when they got mohawks for the occasion.


While I waited for tickets early that February Friday, John had been drunk with friends. He decided to walk home, passed out in a ravine, and froze to death. Not unlike Bono’s friend with heroin, my friend lost his life to the tragic nature of drug abuse. Even at 17, 24 years before I would face my own addictions and finally find my way into the rooms of recovery, I saw that the fatal nature of the disease called alcoholism was not an abstraction. The bitter bite of booze claimed John far too soon.

That morning, U2 tickets in hand, “Bad” became much more the soundtrack of my life than I wanted it to be, but I cannot imagine coping with losing John without it. “Bad” was good to me as song for healing, but the bad behavior that seems like a good idea to the reckless rebel can inevitably catch up with you.

Sadly, adolescent wisdom and awareness about the devastating effects of addictions, particularly to the lethal but legal nicotine and alcohol, could not protect me as a middle-aged alcoholic. Throughout the 2000s, drinking caught up with me, until I finally decided one May morning in 2009 to give up the high cost of low living.

John’s bad decisions and accidental death deepened my relationship to Bono’s “Bad.” How could John’s bad be good? It’s not to his lost life or to his grieving family that can we say this bad is good. I’d like to say that John’s bad taught me to let it go, to surrender.

But in a sense, even the death of a dear soul like John Salo couldn’t teach me a lesson I had to learn for myself. First, I had to face my own death to break away into the light and into the day. Somehow, I didn’t fade away and am now wide awake to my own addictions and to the power of God’s grace in my life. I write this winter to remember John twenty five years later, to appreciate U2′s song twenty-five years later, and to pray that others might wake up from the isolation and desolation of addiction before it’s too late.

–Andrew William Smith, Editor

U2 Guitarist’s Plans Don’t Find Green Harmony

February 24, 2010

Published: February 20, 2010
Reposted from

MALIBU, Calif. — The house that the U2 guitarist longs to build here would have a copper roof, fashioned to resemble fluttering leaves. Boulders that dot the property would be left in place and assigned charming names like Dinosaur Vertebrae and Cistern. The dirt dug up to build would be reused, when possible.

Yes there would be a pool, but its central purpose would be to ward off fire should the local native plants not do the job. And every imaginable green building technique would be used.

But all of this does not mollify those who police the mountainside along one of the most gorgeous stretches of American coastline, where public access versus exclusive seclusion is an ever-raging debate that even a member of the most vocally earth-hugging rock band on the planet cannot escape.

Standing high above the Pacific Ocean, wearing his signature black beanie, David Evans, or the Edge, his nom de guitar, made the case for his proposed 156-acre development that would include five houses, his own among them. The project would “respect and honor the landscape,” he said, and set a new standard for building in remote areas by incorporating the environment rather than mowing it down.

“We just had this dream of building a house that was in perfect harmony with these hills,” Mr. Evans said. “We see it as something that could be a bench mark of sustainability.”

But Mr. Evans’s vision has attracted the ire of his potential neighbors in an exclusive enclave below, as well as the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy, who together deplore the road that would be built to get to the development — one that would snake up with switchbacks — and the amount of dirt trucked in and out of the site.

Other critics are also not fond of the homes themselves — ranging from 7,317 square feet to 12,004 — which they argue would diminish the skyline, one already pocked by the homes of some of those who are raising objections.

“What is so silly is they say it is so green,” said Paul Edelman, the chief of planning and natural resources for the conservancy, which has drafted a letter opposing the development. “But every time you drive up there, any savings you would have are shot by fossil fuel.”

The future of the project rests with the California Coastal Commission, a mighty and aggressively view-preserving state agency that has jurisdiction over most development near the coast; it is expected to rule on the proposal this summer.

The mountain skirmish features both traditional adversaries — those who would like to live in remote areas and those who would like to preserve them — as well as new and increasingly visible foes: green on green.

On one side are conservationists and the state agencies charged with preserving public spaces, views and access. On the other, Mr. Evans with his green building plans and U2 environmental credibility, enhanced with the blessing of Mark Massara, an environmental lawyer and former Sierra Club official.

“Rather than fighting every project,” Mr. Massara said, “it’s a much more prudent exercise to try and inspire other landowners to do things that are not only in the best interest of the environment, but also to protect the homes and enhance the values here.”

Mr. Evans and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, bought the five lots in 2006 with the Irish developer Derek Quinlan for $9 million. The designer of the houses, Wallace Cunningham, said his goal was to make them emulate their natural surroundings among the butterflies and rattlesnakes a few miles above the Malibu town center. He also wants to make them “biographical,” and to that end, he stayed with Mr. Evans, his wife and their two children to study how they live in their current Malibu home.

But the conservancy and residents in the canyon below want none of it. They have complained most loudly about the 20-foot-wide, 1,600-foot-long access road, which they argue would be an eyesore and geologically unstable, and the 70,000 cubic yards of dirt required for the project. Upsetting the ecosystem is also among the worries.

“This is the biggest and most problematic development we have ever had here,” said Lawrence Weisdorn, the president of the Serra Canyon Property Owners Association, which represents about 95 homeowners below.

There is also the question of whether the houses would be highly visible from the coastline — a big “no” under the state’s coastal act. Mr. Evans insists that concerns about visibility stem from misconceptions because the houses would actually be notched in the hillside, not standing on top. As for the road, he believes that an independent analysis conducted by the coastal commission would find it less onerous than some fear.

Steve Hudson, a district manager for the commission, described the amount of grading required for the project as “significant,” but said “the issues regarding geologic stability are still being evaluated.”

Mr. Evans said that fears about the size and scope of his project had been overblown, and that when people actually looked at his plans, “they completely mellow out.”

He added, “There is this myth about how this road is going to be an eyesore, but it is so much better than anything up here,” an allusion to the faux Italian villas and their nonnative, fuchsia flowers in the distance.

U2 taps Interpol, Kravitz, The Fray as 2010 tour openers

February 24, 2010

By Alex Young, re posted from

In addition to the giant claw and the massive red, U2’s still ongoing 360 world tour will also likely be remembered for its heavyweight openers. This trend will continue when Bono and co. embark on the second leg of the 360 tour next June, as the legendary band has chosen to followup leg #1 openers Muse, the Black Eyed Peas, and Snow Patrol with the likes of Interpol, Lenny Kravtiz, and The Fray.

As Slicing Up Eyeballs points out, Kravitz will open the band’s initial three dates in the west coast, The Fray will handle then handle the slot for Oakland, Seattle, and Edmonton, and Interpol, who will likely be supporting a new album by then, will hit the road with U2 for six dates. An opener has not yet been announced for the final three nights in Montreal and New York City. David Byrne would be fun.

We should also note that U2 has been rumored to be playing this year’s Ottawa Bluesfest, set to take place from July 7-18 at LeBreton Flats Park. Maybe the Imagine Music & Arts Festival as well?

Find all of U2’s confirmed tour dates below. Tickets for N. American concerts are still available via

U2 2010 Tour Dates:
06/03 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Rice Eccles Stadium *
06/06 – Anaheim, CA @ Angel Stadium *
06/12 – Denver, CO @ Invesco Field *
06/16 – Oakland, CA @ Oakland Coliseum #
06/20 – Seattle, WA @ Qwest Field #
06/23 – Edmonton, AB @ Commonwealth Stadium #
06/25 – Pilton, UK @ Glastonbury Music Festival
06/27 – Minneapolis, MN @ TCF Bank Stadium ^
06/30 – E. Lansing, MI @ Spartan Stadium ^
07/03 – Toronto, ON @ Rogers Centre ^
07/06 – Chicago, IL @ Soldier Field ^
07/09 – Miami, FL @ Land Shark Stadium ^
07/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Lincoln Financial Field ^
07/16 – Montreal, QC @ Hippodrome
07/17 – Montreal, QC @ Hippodrome
07/19 – New York, NY @ New Meadowlands Stadium
08/06 – Turin, IT @  Stadio Olimpico
08/10 – Frankfurt, DE @ Commerzbank Arena
08/12 – Hannover, DE @ AWD Stadium
08/15 – Horsens, DK @ Casa Arena
08/16 – Horsens, DK @ Casa Arena
08/20 – Helsinki, FI @ Olympic Stadium
08/21 – Helsinki, FI @ Olympic Stadium
08/25 – Moscow, RU @ Luzhniki
08/30 – Vienna, AT @ Ernst Happel Stadium
09/03 – Athens, GR @ Olypmic Stadium
09/06 – Istanbul, TR @ Ataturk Olympic Stadium
09/11 – Zurich, CH @ Letzigrund Stadium
09/12 – Zurich, CH @ Letzigrund Stadium
09/15 – Munich, DE @ Olympic Stadium
09/18 – Paris, FR @ Stade de France
09/22 – Brussels, BE @ Stade Roi Boudoin
09/23 – Brussels, BE @ Stade Roi Boudoin
09/26 – San Sebastian, ES @ Anoeta Stadium
09/29 – Seville, ES @ Olympic Stadium
10/02 – Colmbra, PT @ Stadium
10/03 – Colmbra, PT @ Stadium
10/08 – Rome, IT @ Olympic Stadium

Shearwater’s Journey Across The Golden Archipelago

February 23, 2010

With each progressing album, Shearwater polish and perfect their sound, and The Golden Archipelago is no different. Indeed, doing all that and more, it manages to expand Shearwater’s sound to include overtly prog-influenced elements as well. Completing a trilogy of albums commenting upon man’s effect on nature, The Golden Archipelago just might be the band’s best yet. Folks, let the hype surrounding Shearwater begin.

This time focusing on islands, Jonathan Meiburg’s lyrics are vague and obtuse, offering moments of time, impressionistic slices of experiences, with a melancholy, existential twist (as seen in “Meridian,” among others: “In the boom and swell/from the waves to the heights/reverberations of our old lives”). Fortunately, Meiburg’s impossibly haunting and radiantly enthralling voice, which tends to stretch syllables to endless lengths, perfectly complements this approach by effacing the necessity for absolute meaning in the lyrics. Instead, a sublime mixture of sensuality emerges, focused on creating an aura for the listener to be subsumed into.

The album begins with a recording of “The National Anthem of Bikini Atoll,” sung by refugees from Bikini Atoll, an atoll in the Marshall Islands, rendered uninhabitable since the United States conducted twenty-three nuclear device tests on the island between 1946 and 1958.

Meiburg provides the lyrics to the ambivalently sorrowful and joyful song describing the anguish of being torn from your home, a home you shearwater250cannot go back to, ever (“No longer can I stay; it’s true. No longer can I live in peace and harmony.”) on the first page of the 50 page lyric book/dossier of documents and photos accompanying The Golden Archipelago.

A portion of the song will reappear on the penultimate track on the album, “Uniforms” (“Eber im lok jiktok ikerele/kot iban bok hartu jonan an elap ippa,” which translates to “The thought is overwhelming/Rendering me helpless and in great despair”).

Always ones with an affinity for using sonics to reflect the essence of their lyrics, Shearwater narrates a visual scanning and gazing over an island on “Landscape at Speed,” (“From the slope and the rise/of the mainland/unfamiliar shapes/through the atmosphere/over rain clouds”) which then dissolves into an instrumental soundscape for the majority of the track.

Much of the “prog” influence comes from the band’s choppy, melodramatic piano lines, exemplified in “Black Eyes,” where the piano drives the entirety of the song through its fluctuating emotions of unease, disquiet, and anxiety. With “Corridors,” frenzied arpeggios take the place of the piano in “Black Eyes,” to great effect. And taking a page from the lessons of 1970s arena rock, Shearwater use abrupt changes in dynamics, moving from a whisper to crashing percussion and dissonance, to accentuate poignant moments in the songs.

At once an expression of majestic beauty and a reminder of the potentially destructive nature of mankind’s “progress,” The Golden Archipelago is Shearwater’s heartbreaking testament, challenging us to reconsider the inevitable reverberations of our actions, which reach far further than we could possibly imagine.–Cassie Traun, Editor


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