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U2 Minus One At Times Square For World Aids Day, Monday, December 1st, 2014, Reviewed

Bruce 2, Times Square New York, december, 2014

Bruce 2, Times Square New York, December, 2014

Let’s give Bruce Springsteen this much at least: given the opportunity to release his inner Bono, to go to that place where low culture reaches high opera, he didn’t falter. In a “Where the Streets Have No Name” so powerful, he seemed to jerk U2 out of any coyness the leaderless band might have had,  he got in your face and howled, turning an anthem into… a bigger anthem? A kinda melding between the two greatest Arena (well, maybe the Stones as well…) acts of all time. The Edge, who had been in the process of stealing the evening from his band mates, as well as Chris Martin and Carrie Underwood, stepped back into lockstep and Bruce and U2 killed it. It was a little piece of rock and roll history.

Maybe four hours before word had started filtering down about a surprise gig by U2 with, as Chris tee shirt would witterly have written on it, a  “Substitu2” for Bono, at Time Square. I mulled going over  in person, Time’s Square is only 15 blocks from my office, but it was cold and rainy, and though that wouldn’t stop me as such, my experience of these free gigs have been very iffy. Looking at the crowd filling up Duffy Square on webcam at work, I knew I was better off at home…

The show, sponsored by Bank Of Americas, was a push to eradicate AIDs presented by Bono’s organization (RED), and introduced by President Bill Clinton who looked a lot less sinister when he was overweight. Chris came out and U2 seemed to be playing behind him  with a smirk on their face. Chris is a divorced man of  37  and still you can take the man out of the public school and yet not take the public school out of the man, he isn’t bad, he is just a  tad callow; “Beautiful Day” was alright, “With Or Without You” not so much. U2 themselves didn’t break a sweat, they seemed resolutely unmoved. I was gonna give Carrie Underwood her own paragraph but can we not and say we did? “Blown Away” sounded like it always does, “Change” with U2 backing her was lousy but whatever,  it made the point of the evening: 36 cents can change stuff.

Kanye West performed eight minutes plus with a guitarist and a sequencer and no he didn’t steal the show the way he stole 12-12-12  because Bruce was in the wings and Bruce knew how he wanted to handle the U2 gig whereas Kanye handled it by completely ignoring the situation and rapping “Power”,  ” Jesus Walks” , “Black Skinhead”, “Stronger” and (you tell em Mayfield) “Touch the Sky” while Bank Of America or U2 or both rudely and ridiculously censored West every time he swore. I mean, really, why ask Kanye to help you and then blanch every time he says fuck? What did they expect? I wonder if they warned West in advance.

Sometimes I think West is the loneliest guy in the music business. He spent Thanksgiving in Paris while his wife and daughter with with their family in L.A. And at the last bow of this night, when everybody came out, Carrie wouldn’t even take his arm. It is like he was some sort of other thing out there. How did they manage to insult him twice in ten minutes?

And here is a third insult: the night belonged to Bruce who followed his powerful inner Bono “Where The Streets Have No Name”  with an equally powerful “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking”. Bruce can get you to follow him anywhere, but here he did  it by channeling that blarney and dreaminess that isn’t Bruce, Bruce is steely,  the streets certainly do have names where Bruce s from. They are E Streets and Thunder Roads.”Take me to Church now” Bruce shouted before the instrumental break and truly the trio seemed to chime like angels and the spirit of the U2 leader overtook Bruce and suddenly all the power of U2 was there, they heeded his call.  Seeing Bruce embrace U2, and push them to really get to it, you gotta think…. one night they Bruce and Bono should flip bands.

Till then, Bruce can be our Bono whenever he wants to do it and it was a blast to see his joy at doing it… on AIDs Awareness day… and the whole thing over in 45 minutes.

Chris Martin – C+

Carrie Underwood – C

Kanye West – A

Bruce Springsteen – A

U2 – B-

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