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The Irony Curtain
November 6, 2009 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Twenty years ago in Berlin a wall came down. But at a free concert last night given by U2 in front of the Brandenburg Gate, MTV Europe decided to put a wall back up.
posted by jefficator (66 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
They really are a jelly donut.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:31 AM on November 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I figured some kind of Roger Waters "The Wall" 1990 Berlin type thing, but this news story is so weak it doesn't even register in my teacup.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 11:34 AM on November 6, 2009


The fact that Jay Z was mentioned, killed it for me.
posted by stormpooper at 11:36 AM on November 6, 2009


Man, was Richard Stallman there too? I guess it was free, but you know, not free.
posted by GuyZero at 11:38 AM on November 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I like U2 as much as the next guy*, but Metafilter does U2 about as well as they do obese, SUV-driving declawed cats.

*Meaning, I stopped liking them around 1991 or so.
posted by bondcliff at 11:39 AM on November 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


There's no such thing as a free concert.
posted by amro at 11:39 AM on November 6, 2009


Those wacky European socialists, always expecting free stuff to be free!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really? Gonna compare a barrier blocking off a pop concert to the motherfucking Berlin Wall?
posted by xmutex at 11:41 AM on November 6, 2009


Metafilter may not do U2 well, but this is more about MTV Europe, I suspect.
posted by echo target at 11:41 AM on November 6, 2009


Really? Gonna compare a barrier blocking off a pop concert to the motherfucking Berlin Wall?

Yeah, considering the concert was to celebrate the fall of the wall, erecting a large barrier is pretty ironic. Especially when it's a metal barrier, rather than something you can look through, like a chain-link fence.
posted by explosion at 11:44 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


U2 shows are getting expensive. One guy asked Bono how much it would cost to go to a U2 concert, and Bono says, "It's free". So this guy said, "No thanks, man, I think I'll stay at home." Then Bono said, "Stay at home? That'll be $100."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:46 AM on November 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Was the wall soundproof too? 'Cause if I lived near the Brandenburg Gate I would have thought that to be very considerate.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:47 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


U2 sucks balls and Bono is a douchebag.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:47 AM on November 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


If MTV Europe can't be sensitive to symbolic historical parallels, then the world is truly lost.
posted by brain_drain at 11:48 AM on November 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


There was probably some mundane insurance or liability-mitigating reason for the wall. To discourage non-ticket holders from congregating and obstructing traffic or crushing themselves against the barrier or whatever.
posted by anazgnos at 11:49 AM on November 6, 2009


Meaning, I stopped liking them around 1991 or so.

I held on to about 1994 or so. The grotesque armature of their fame and the live spectacles they keep disgorging is impossible to get past, and it's been like that for a long time now.
posted by jokeefe at 11:49 AM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


If the point was to minimize problems for the people living nearby, you need something to discourage those without tickets from gathering to watch the concert. The barrier could have been requested by the city.
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2009


One time I was ice skating with my friend Thrasher, and a shitty late-period U2 song came on over the ice rink's speakers. At the time, Thrasher and I were in a sort-of-band together where he played bass and I played banjo. We were both pretty terrible. Thrasher stops skating and says, "Greg, we should only play U2 covers from now on."

"Okay," I said, "but only if we play all their songs in 6/8 time."

"Sure," said Thrasher. "But also, we can't play the good U2 songs; all we're allowed to cover is shitty late-period U2 songs."

"Agreed," I said.

And so we got about as far as our 6/8 cover of "Elevation" before we burned out on the idea. But at any rate, that's how come I learned to play Elevation in 6/8.

I dont know what this whole germany thing is about
posted by Greg Nog at 11:55 AM on November 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


*Meaning, I stopped liking them around 1991 or so.

Did I go to high school with you guys? Which one of you was the guy who got his copy of War from his cooler older sister?

You guys are middle-aged hipsters. You're probably all bragging about how you liked Monarch so much better than The Reminder and discuss how well Jewel has aged.
posted by GuyZero at 11:56 AM on November 6, 2009


"No one, no one is blinder/Than he who will not see/No one, no one is blinder/Than me" -- "I Threw a Brick through a Window"

I dislike Monarch, The Reminder, Jewel, and post-1991 U2, so ..... FWIW.
posted by blucevalo at 12:01 PM on November 6, 2009


Schwache Soße!!
posted by chillmost at 12:02 PM on November 6, 2009


Bono and Whoopi, always with the goddam shades. Discuss.
posted by everichon at 12:05 PM on November 6, 2009


U2 sucks balls and Bono is a douchebag.

Cite, please.

*Meaning, I stopped liking them around 1991 or so.

I'm so much cooler than you. The U2 cream started to turn for me with Joshua Tree. Trying too hard. Plus, everything just got way too crowded.

This Berlin thing is hilarious in a dark way. Welcome to the true deep freedom of the West. Something along the lines of: all men are created equal with exceptions ...

Meet the New Boss - Same as the Old Boss.
posted by philip-random at 12:06 PM on November 6, 2009


Which one of you was the guy who got his copy of War from his cooler older sister?

Older brother, actually, and he was done being cool by 1988.

And when I was in high school it wasn't very cool to like U2. That was the era of the hair band. Hair bands were huge, which made me uncool for liking U2. I'm still rather uncool, thank you very much. I'm really not sure what a hipster is.

Anyway, this thread is great if for no other reason than enough of us might be able to pressure Mr. Nog to upload his 6/8ths version of Elevation to MeFi Music.
posted by bondcliff at 12:06 PM on November 6, 2009


If nothing else, today I learned that The Gipper would have not approved of this show (audio clip, full speech and transcript).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:07 PM on November 6, 2009


Wait. Stuff from the 90s is now stuff that people who are middle aged talke about as being stuff from their youth?

You fuckers need to stay young. You're pushing me into dotage!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:07 PM on November 6, 2009


Should've gotten Pink Floyd.
posted by Kabanos at 12:09 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I learned this because I was too young for this speech to get lodged in my little brain, beyond the knowledge that I've heard Ronny say that phrase before).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:09 PM on November 6, 2009


Your favourite waddling leather jacket and cowboy boot wearing middle aged besunglassed and begoateed intense yet sensitive charity crusader sucks.
posted by fire&wings at 12:10 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


im at a bar in sd where they have posted the pics and funeral programs for navy seals kia. i should have gone to the stan. those are men of character. it doesnt help they are playing one by u2. were one, but were not the same. we get to carry each other.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:11 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


look, the wall is ridiculous and all, but I think there's a larger problem here.

they only played for half an hour. that is some bullshit.
posted by shmegegge at 12:11 PM on November 6, 2009


some dunderhead got a notion (left over from freshman English, no doubt) that there was an irony in this wall thingie so by god let us spread the word.
posted by Postroad at 12:12 PM on November 6, 2009


U2's next concert is to highlight animal rights. The stage will be covered with baby seal hide.
posted by ColdChef at 12:13 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's about time someone put a wall around U2. I applaud MTV Europe for their dedication to public safety. As long as The Edge is running around loose we're all in danger.
posted by dortmunder at 12:20 PM on November 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men from MTV Europe. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Jefficator? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.

You weep for U2 fans and curse MTV; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the construction of this wall, while tragic, probably generated millions of euros in pay-per-view fees and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, generates Incremental Improvement and increases ROI.

You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like Success Metrics, Brand Identity, Segmentation. We use then as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very Value Stream I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said "thank you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up some Low-hanging fruit and monetize some Consumer Appeal.

Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
posted by Ratio at 12:21 PM on November 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


I have to admit, when I heard that U2 was doing a free concert at the Brandenburg Gate and they were giving away a limited number of free tickets, I thought that meant that they were going to have the tickets be for "the good seats" and then the rest of those who showed up would be allowed to watch, you know, for free. Like those mammoth concerts they used to do in Central Park once upon a time.

I'm unsure of the logic followed by MTV Europe about making this some kind of exclusive event. Surely celebrating the 20th anniversary of the removal of the Berlin Wall should be something everyone who wishes to celebrate should be admitted to.

Yes, U2 is still the biggest band in the world, and their presence may cause a bit of mayhem. But isn't that the point of getting them to play there in the first place? If you didn't want the crowds, you'd just ask local bar bands to play, and I'm sure Berlin has hundreds of those.

It really does seem as though some group within the larger MTV Europe organization really didn't think this through all the way. Maybe in this age of "any publicity is good publicity" they are happy for a little manufactured controversy. But it seems like there was just a bad approach taken to this whole event.
posted by hippybear at 12:23 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the East Germans that made the wall come down. Alles klar?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:25 PM on November 6, 2009


Cite, please.

Postcards from "The Edge"
posted by Paid In Full at 12:38 PM on November 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Please.
It was a "free" concert in the sense that you needed a ticket to enter and the tickets didn't cost anything. However, there was a limited number of tickets available. For many reasons (security, crowd control, preventing concetgoers from getting trampled and crushed, etc) they needed to prevent people without tickets from entering the concert area. Thus, a wall. If they had prevented non-ticketholders from entering by burying landmines would this have been a non-issue?
Also, not getting to see your favorite band /= being trapped behind the Iron Curtain.
posted by banishedimmortal at 12:41 PM on November 6, 2009


Also, not getting to see your favorite band /= being trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

Also, irony /= false equivalence
posted by Think_Long at 12:46 PM on November 6, 2009


I'm calling newsfilter from x days ago.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:47 PM on November 6, 2009


And so we got about as far as our 6/8 cover of "Elevation" before we burned out on the idea. But at any rate, that's how come I learned to play Elevation in 6/8.

Our band learned that after exactly 7 beers each, you can play With or Without You in cut time with lots of distortion for about 20 minutes without gettin bored.

There are not many people that enjoy seeing my band play.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:56 PM on November 6, 2009


In a Rolling Stone interview, Bono explained his sunglasses: "Very sensitive eyes to light. If somebody takes my photograph, I will see the flash for the rest of the day. My right eye swells up. I've a blockage there, so that my eyes go red a lot. So it's part vanity, it's part privacy and part sensitivity."
posted by soelo at 12:59 PM on November 6, 2009


And, although I stopped liking them in '88 and am so much cooler than all of you because of it, I have to say, "One" is really one of the greatest pop songs every written.

Yes, I just said that
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:01 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


the new fence, which was draped with a white tarp that blocked the view of the stage from the street. Some fans already were trying to tear down the tarp before the concert.


Well, that's exactly equivalent to the old Wall. I'll bet they even hired ex-border guards to wag their fingers sternly at the people trying to take down the tarp.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:15 PM on November 6, 2009


"Very sensitive eyes to light. If somebody takes my photograph, I will see the flash for the rest of the day. My right eye swells up. I've a blockage there, so that my eyes go red a lot. So it's part vanity, it's part privacy and part sensitivity. To be completely honest with you, it's an affectation, a gimmick really."
posted by brain_drain at 1:19 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to say, "One" is really one of the greatest pop songs every written.

Yes, I just said that


To say I agree would be, I think, insufficient in showing just how much I love that song. Instead, I'll just say that once upon a time, I made a mix CD that was nothing but different live versions of "One".

The best one is this version, BTW.
posted by kmz at 1:19 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


STFU2
posted by tommasz at 1:26 PM on November 6, 2009


I have pretty much hated U2 since that song "Lemon". Just thinking about that song pisses me off.
posted by autodidact at 1:33 PM on November 6, 2009


Schwache Soße!!

Not being fluent in German, I read that in the same voice as that guy from The Usual Suspects.
posted by katillathehun at 2:14 PM on November 6, 2009


I have pretty much hated U2 since that song "Lemon". Just thinking about that song pisses me off.

Wait, seriously? Because the Stones did that awful "Emotional Rescue", it wasn't even on one of their experimental albums (which Lemon was), and while I think it's a horrid abortion of a song, I don't allow that to color every encounter I have with that band since.

(I'm assuming it's Bono's falsetto you hate about this song. Everything else about it is a pretty standard Achtung, Baby! / Zooropa era song, with lovely singing by Edge for large portions of it, and the sentiment of the song is actually quite nice, personifying Imagination in the form of a haunting woman who inspires men to pursue her with wild abandon in order to reach her and manifest their goals.)
posted by hippybear at 2:45 PM on November 6, 2009


> If they had prevented non-ticketholders from entering by burying landmines would this have been a non-issue?

It would sure have been a historic concert.
posted by languagehat at 3:00 PM on November 6, 2009


Zooropa is probably their most experimental album under the name U2 but it's a pretty natural fit between Achtung and Pop. The really crazy one is Original Soundtracks Volume 1, released under the name The Passengers which was U2 and Brian Eno. A few songs are pretty much unlistenable like Elvis Ate America but there's also gems like Miss Sarajevo and Your Blue Room.
posted by kmz at 3:04 PM on November 6, 2009


Evergreen Terrace performs "Sunday Bloody Sunday." I'll bet you didn't know that there was a pretty sweet hardcore song underneath all that other...stuff.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:20 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Evergreen Terrace performs "Sunday Bloody Sunday." I'll bet you didn't know that there was a pretty sweet hardcore song underneath all that other...stuff.

That's a shockingly straightforward cover of the song, actually. So he growls instead of sings, and they put a fuzz on the guitar instead of the ringing bell sound used by Edge. Um... what else is actually different?

Why do I get the sneaking suspicion that a lot of the MeFites who loudly profess their hate toward U2 don't actually ever listen to the band, and instead are just on this kick about how cool and hip they are because they don't listen to the one band which is easily the biggest band in the world? Not that popularity = quality in every instance, but if the opposite of that equation were true, everyone should say "fuck the Beatles" all the time here on the Blue.
posted by hippybear at 3:29 PM on November 6, 2009


im at a bar in sd where they have posted the pics and funeral programs for navy seals kia. i should have gone to the stan. those are men of character. it doesnt help they are playing one by u2. were one, but were not the same. we get to carry each other.

Optimus, be sure to drink lots of water before bed tonight, k? It definitely helps the morning after, in my experience. [/friendly advice]

posted by jokeefe at 3:32 PM on November 6, 2009


Probably the best cover of Sunday Bloody Sunday is by... the Edge. Acoustic Sunday Bloody Sunday from Popmart Santiago.
posted by kmz at 3:48 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


So he growls instead of sings, and they put a fuzz on the guitar instead of the ringing bell sound used by Edge

It's even more straightforward than all that. There's an actual singer who is basically doing a Bono impression while the other guy growls. And the fuzz on the guitar is pretty much the other big change. Those two changes though, they're big deals. They create the impression that the people singing this song might actually be in a hurry to sing about something that they think is important. The original has so much polish on it that it's hard to take the point seriously.

But I'm a cynical old punk rocker so what do I know? That's not rhetorical either, my opinion could well be complete bullshit.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:56 PM on November 6, 2009


Probably the best cover of Sunday Bloody Sunday is by... the Edge.

Yeah, he started doing that in their Sarajevo concert and they kept it up throughout the rest of the POPMart tour. (IMO, a lot of the renditions of songs were really stellar on that tour overall.) The Sarajevo rendition has such poignancy, especially given the context of the recent events in the country and the fact that U2 was even playing there at all.

They create the impression that the people singing this song might actually be in a hurry to sing about something that they think is important. The original has so much polish on it that it's hard to take the point seriously.

Okay, to be fair to your point, I've gone back and listened to the original recording. It's actually very jagged and raw, with a fierce martial drumbeat (which opens the War album, BTW, quite a startling moment after the lyricism of October), and the guitar work by Edge actually isn't the bell-chime sound which he often uses in concert. It's dirty and angry noise, nearly percussion in and of itself. It's really only during the chant/chorus that the bell sound comes in, which works perfectly as a comment about Bloody Sunday, being both church bells calling to worship and bells of requiem for the dead. There is a bit of irish fiddle being used toward the end of the song, but I would hardly call that polish.

The song has morphed so much during live performance over the years, it becomes quickly easy to forget how really raw the band sounded for their first three albums. It was The Joshua Tree where they started adding all the heavy production layers. Before that, they were punk, garage, whatever you want to call them.

I do agree with you, that the Evergreen Terrace cover has an urgency to it, but then, what song done in that style doesn't have urgency built into it?

FWIW, I'm actually very VERY fond of the cover by Saul Williams (produced by Trent Reznor). It has an urgency which strikes me very deeply.
posted by hippybear at 4:18 PM on November 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh man, we can totally agree on the Saul Williams version. I shoulda put that one in actually. So, yeah, hell yeah there. As far as "urgency" goes (I know it's my term, but whatayagonna do? I have to admit that it's pretty abstract) the weird thing about the "Sunday Bloody Sunday" cover is that most of the time Evergreen Terrace seems like a band that's just going through the hardcore numbers. Their cover really hits a chord which most of their songs don't, which I was trying to alude to in my link to the song. The subject matter and the arrangement really lend themselves to that style, and can let your average hardcore band really shine. That didn't really come through though so I guess that's on me.

As far as the "rawness" of the original goes, I think we're just working with different definitions of "raw." I get what you're saying with the bells and stuff, but I think that the real problem is just Bono's vocals. He's warbling what he should be yelling. I think that's sorta what I mean by polish. It's a song about a dirty subject that could stand to sound dirtier, and I think that's what ET manages to get with the screaming. And hell, U2 has a way more personal connection to the subject matter than Evergreen Terrace does. It's not really fair to second-guess them just because the other band happens to employ a yeller.

You're also right about that live performance thing, and on a re-listen I have to give you that the instrumentation is pretty solid. But again, Bono just doesn't sell it for me, and he never really has. I have to find passion in spite of how he sings rather than because of it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 4:44 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Optimus Chyme: were one, but were not the same. we get to carry each other.

But I thought "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was your favourite? It says so right there on your profile.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:47 PM on November 6, 2009


goodnewsfortheinsane: "But I thought "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was your favourite? It says so right there on your profile."

Oh, that's just what he does in the mornings. You don't want to know what he does at night.
posted by flatluigi at 5:48 PM on November 6, 2009


it becomes quickly easy to forget how really raw the band sounded for their first three albums.

I stumbled into U2 pretty much right at the beginning in 1981, when I was dragged along by my brother and his friends to see them play the Commodore in Vancouver (1000 people). It was a revelation; the eviscerating power of punk minus the negation. I had a new favourite band.

Two years later, it was the War tour at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (a 3000 seater), a concert that's apparently gone down in some kind of infamy as it's the one where Bono took a walk along the edge of a balcony (a good three or five storeys high) ... and a few fans followed him. Scary moment. Another shockingly strong concert. U2 owned that room.

But four years later, 1987 at BC Place (50,000 plus in attendance), touring the Joshua Tree, the feeling just wasn't there. Not even close. The venue was too big. The band couldn't begin to reach everyone and I think they've been fighting that dynamic ever since. Sure, they may do the best BIG HALL rock concert of any band on the planet, but give me Gogol Bordello in a thousand seater any day.
posted by philip-random at 6:30 PM on November 6, 2009


That's cool, philip-random. I also appreciate smaller concerts when appropriate. And yes, U2 does struggle to create intimacy in their larger spaces. I believe Bono's phrase for The Claw on the 360 tour was "this is our spaceship to intimacy" or some similar ho-ha.

I saw U2 on that same tour, at the Ft. Worth date, where they filmed the BB King segment for Rattle And Hum. There were, perhaps, 25,000 people there, typical size for an arena show. And they utterly rocked my world. I'd never been to a concert before where the audience was still chanting the chorus of the final song ("40") all the way to their cars in the multi-level garage. The sound of the singing echoing through that structure still haunts me to this day.

Of the times I've seen them in a stadium setting, the only truly affecting show of theirs was the Honolulu show at the very end of their Vertigo tour, which was a special night in so many ways. They played long past curfew, played some of the new songs they'd released as part of their 18 package, their crew lead Rocko got to put together a band of roadies to play as the opening act, then Pearl Jam played, THEN U2... emotions were high, people were there from around the world... Truly amazing. The other times I've seen them in a stadium, they are obviously struggling against the open air and the sky. Maybe the arena is the best size to see them play at this point in their career.

(Although there is something pretty amazing about being in a crowd of close to 100,000 people all singing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"...)

Back to the topic of this post... it's a shame they didn't let everyone within reach attend their show in Berlin. It could have been one of those Truly Historical Moments that U2 is good at generating. As it stands, it sounds like it was a PR disaster and a PPV bounty.
posted by hippybear at 9:32 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


No doubt, a HUGE stadium can have its moments. Case in point, the Joshua Tree show in Vancouver that I negatively referenced. The opening song was Where The Streets Have No Name, and the way that song builds, fused with the anticipation of 50,000 plus "true believers" ... well, there really really are no words for it. But for me, that's as good as it got.

Worth noting, I didn't give up on U2's music after that concert; just the willingness to see them in a HUGE venue. This, it turns out, has equaled not ever seeing them again as, short of dishing out as much cash for a ticket as it would cost me to fly to Hawaii return (or building a well in some destitute Third World region), I just haven't been able to justify it.

As for the Berlin show, yeah, they blew that one. Everyone. The band, MTV, the city of Berlin. What was supposed to be a "celebration of freedom" becomes a foot in the face to the everyday proles.
posted by philip-random at 10:35 AM on November 7, 2009


building a well in some destitute Third World region

Ha! Nice reference to the "build a well for Bono's birthday" project!

posted by hippybear at 10:45 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


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