Author Topic: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress  (Read 7632 times)

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Offline The Exile

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Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« on: December 12, 2009, 01:08:13 PM »
Here's a link to Bono performing "Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad" on Spectacle last week:

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Before I watched I thought to myself cynically, "Oh great, he's going to butcher a song I have loved since the mid-nineties, I can't bear to watch." But as you can hear (and as I was shocked to hear), his vocal performance is absolutely stunning, just spot on and perfect (though I wish he'd sung the final note properly, but I'm not one to nitpick [yes, that was a joke]).

This reminded me of what I've been thinking since 360 started about where U2 need to go from here. I think they need to begin to allow their age and sophistication to show (it's OK lads, it happens to everyone. And yes, that's a bald spot...). You see, when U2 play stadiums it has certain effects on the band's (especially Bono's) performance: He jumps around wildly with this angry look on his face, huffing, puffing, and shouting at no one in particular. Now, I realize he is desperately trying to connect with the back row, and I respect that. But let's be honest, it is a tad pathetic and embarrassing sometimes, innit?

Another effect of a stadium show is that Bono naturally wants to sing in a high register in order to project his voice. Problem is, he just can't pull it off anymore. Time would fail me to list all the songs that either have been or need to be retired due to Bono's voice being incapable of reaching those high notes (Bad is one example). But as you can see from this performance of "Two Shots of Happy," Bono's voice is still absolutely amazing, but only when he sings in his proper range, which is NOT what it once was.

So here's what I'm saying: U2 need to rethink everything about their approach, one being the relationship of the tour to the album (the latter should drive the former, not the other way around). If U2 planned to play small venues, they wouldn't feel the pressure to put stadium rockers on their albums, and neither would they feel this desperate need to connect with the kids whose iPods are filled with Gnarls Barkley and Lady Gaga. Sure, they can still write songs like Magnificent (which I love), but there needs to be a whole lot more Stateless and a whole lot less Boots or Crazy.

There's just a slinkiness and sexiness that the band tapped into in the '90s that they are now at a perfect place to begin to recapture. Take that Velvet Dress-y vibe and couple it with the sick-yet-singable filthiness of a song like Acrobat, and they just may begin a whole new era of brilliance, albeit not with the kids, but with grown-ups (you know, like them).

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: December 12, 2009, 03:38:09 PM by The Exile »



Offline JoshuaTree94

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2009, 05:51:52 PM »
I don't understand how playing a smaller venue would necessitate a softer style. :-\ But I agree - Bono needs to adapt to his voice as it is.

Offline The Exile

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2009, 12:05:48 AM »
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I don't understand how playing a smaller venue would necessitate a softer style. :-\ But I agree - Bono needs to adapt to his voice as it is.

I think a smaller venue would cause him to adapt his vocal style (and range) in the same way that talking to people in your living room is different from talking to an auditorium full of people (I'm a public speaker, so I experience this kind of thing all the time).

The way I see it is that certain songs like Bad are just off the table the way Bono's voice is now (and I agree with that). But if they were playing in a context in which they wouldn't be so distant from the back rows of their audience, they could adapt the song, tone it down to a lower key, and reintroduce it. In addition to that, they wouldn't have to worry about putting a song like Never Let Me Go on their next album because they think it won't transfer to a huge live venue. Or on the other hand, they wouldn't have to include silly-sounding poppy songs like Crazy Tonight on their next album because they think they will work well in a stadium.

I'm just saying that I would rather (1) see the music shape the tour, and (2) hear older songs reworked for a small venue rather than sung poorly in a large one.

Offline emuhunter

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2009, 01:34:26 AM »
I personally think that the music DOES shape the tour though. For example, Elevation was an arena (at least in America, not sure about R.O.W.) tour because ATYCLB was the big return to terra firma. Although, at least for me, NLOTH wasn't quite the experimentation it was initially reported as, there are DEFINITELY innovative and fresh elements to the album. Consequently, the 360 tour is a big huge, even daring in this current economy, production.
U2 definitely fit the tour to the album, at least in my opinion.

As for songs being sung poorly, I don't know what you're referring to exactly. Yes, Bono's voice has changed and become more rough but if anything his technique and control have improved over the years. I agree he can't hit the same notes he used to be able to with his chest voice, such as with Bad, but that was an EXTREMELY high note for that particular part of his (and any other tenor's range for that matter) range. His falsetto, for example, is probably the most accurate and reliable it's been in over 10 years. If anything I think his voice is the best it's been since before Popmart.

Offline efdeat

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2009, 05:06:28 AM »
There's just a slinkiness and sexiness that the band tapped into in the '90s that they are now at a perfect place to begin to recapture. Take that Velvet Dress-y vibe and couple it with the sick-yet-singable filthiness of a song like Acrobat, and they just may begin a whole new era of brilliance, albeit not with the kids, but with grown-ups (you know, like them).

I'm not sure what I think of the playing smaller venues, retiring songs, etc - it's early on the East Coast - but the prospect of the above is enticing.  What a sweet album that would be.  Good point about the grown-ups, which, after turning 30, I guess I have to admit that I am.  I wonder what the average age of U2's fan base is.

Offline JSab

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2009, 06:09:25 AM »
Dammit I'm right with you on that one about Bono singing in a lower register:

1. I prefer it, his higher notes (that being most of the songs he sings an octave too high for me) are impossible for me to sing rendering my singing abilities useless for those songs.

2. I love Bonos voice, but the high register singing sometimes ever so slightly annoys me :P - so then I listen to songs like Your Blue Room and such.

3. As you said, he needs to lay off, his voice wont be able to hold the notes for much longer.

Offline The Exile

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2009, 09:17:23 PM »
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Dammit I'm right with you on that one about Bono singing in a lower register:

1. I prefer it, his higher notes (that being most of the songs he sings an octave too high for me) are impossible for me to sing rendering my singing abilities useless for those songs.

2. I love Bonos voice, but the high register singing sometimes ever so slightly annoys me :P - so then I listen to songs like Your Blue Room and such.

3. As you said, he needs to lay off, his voice wont be able to hold the notes for much longer.

Imagine what a song like Bad (which with the exception of dropping a verse, has never been altered since it was first played live) would sound like if it were reworked. To my mind, as long as U2 is playing huge venues Bono will never be able to sing it since he needs to project his voice, and sing so high in the process (which really betrays how thin his voice has become). But in a different setting, one a lot more hushed and intimate, he could sing it with a reworked melody or maybe a couple keys lower, and thus reintroduce the song to U2's live repertoire.

If you stop and think about it, there's a whole host of songs that could all of a sudden become viable options for a tour's setlist if they tried something like this. But as long as they're in "blow-your-mind-with-our-huge-concerts" mode, we'll never hear them challenge themselves (with their music, I mean, not the stage they stand on to play it).

Offline JSab

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2009, 05:21:21 AM »
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Dammit I'm right with you on that one about Bono singing in a lower register:

1. I prefer it, his higher notes (that being most of the songs he sings an octave too high for me) are impossible for me to sing rendering my singing abilities useless for those songs.

2. I love Bonos voice, but the high register singing sometimes ever so slightly annoys me :P - so then I listen to songs like Your Blue Room and such.

3. As you said, he needs to lay off, his voice wont be able to hold the notes for much longer.

Imagine what a song like Bad (which with the exception of dropping a verse, has never been altered since it was first played live) would sound like if it were reworked. To my mind, as long as U2 is playing huge venues Bono will never be able to sing it since he needs to project his voice, and sing so high in the process (which really betrays how thin his voice has become). But in a different setting, one a lot more hushed and intimate, he could sing it with a reworked melody or maybe a couple keys lower, and thus reintroduce the song to U2's live repertoire.

If you stop and think about it, there's a whole host of songs that could all of a sudden become viable options for a tour's setlist if they tried something like this. But as long as they're in "blow-your-mind-with-our-huge-concerts" mode, we'll never hear them challenge themselves (with their music, I mean, not the stage they stand on to play it).

Yeah, well, that One version from the Miss Sarajevo single is amazing - his voice seems at his weakest, but he worked with it. They could do something amazing with Bad and like you said alot of other songs. I find small venues would be hard for U2 seeing as so many people would like to see them (well, if they dont haveto put in as much effort in terms of singing and such they could do more shows? Or do the big shows plus a special small venue one for wherever they go) (another option is to do the big venues, but then have more smaller speakers around the arena, not just from one location, so the voice projection issues wouldnt really be as bad, and it would be more intimate).

I couldn't quite put my finger on Bono's voice since the mid 90s - you got the word for it "thin" - well, thin when singing high, its still good, but I'd say Bono needs to start to tone it down.

They would easily have it in them to rework a setlist, it would be amazing I recon :) but who knows what the future brings. The whole voice projection thing explains Bono singing an octave higher for Your Blue Room live :P but its still not as good.

Oh well, we can hope for the best - even though I'm still very happy with U2, they're still my favourite band :)

Offline Boy83

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2009, 10:11:46 AM »
Well I think U2 can do a lot better with the songs they choose to play live. But I have to say I love the whole stadium touring, I much rather prefer to go to a large venue than an arena, but that's just me. I do understand your point.

The problem here I think is that we're all used to bono using his high range voice and I think he still likes to use it and unfortunately he is loosing his ability to sing those notes live. but at least for me it was really nice to listen to NLOTH and see that he's not using his falsetto anymore. I mean listen to songs like NLOTH or being born and the best example MOS, those songs are sung with a lot of energy and they sound good. So I don't think it's a matter of him adapting his voice to what it is now and use it appropriately rather than just singing at low keys... But definitely adapt the older songs too as they wont be sung in the same way.

I have to confess it's hard to let go of such a wonderful voice and range which we all enjoyed over the years... :(

Offline soapit

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2009, 08:41:17 PM »
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I'm a public speaker, so I experience this kind of thing all the time.


you use a higher pitched voice than normal when you're public speaking?

Offline emuhunter

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2009, 10:42:03 PM »
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Well I think U2 can do a lot better with the songs they choose to play live. But I have to say I love the whole stadium touring, I much rather prefer to go to a large venue than an arena, but that's just me. I do understand your point.

The problem here I think is that we're all used to bono using his high range voice and I think he still likes to use it and unfortunately he is loosing his ability to sing those notes live. but at least for me it was really nice to listen to NLOTH and see that he's not using his falsetto anymore. I mean listen to songs like NLOTH or being born and the best example MOS, those songs are sung with a lot of energy and they sound good. So I don't think it's a matter of him adapting his voice to what it is now and use it appropriately rather than just singing at low keys... But definitely adapt the older songs too as they wont be sung in the same way.

I have to confess it's hard to let go of such a wonderful voice and range which we all enjoyed over the years... :(

Not using his falsetto any more? He uses it on all three songs you mention  :)

Offline The Exile

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2009, 02:16:28 AM »
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I'm a public speaker, so I experience this kind of thing all the time.


you use a higher pitched voice than normal when you're public speaking?

No, but I do speak differently when speaking to a crowd than when I'm speaking to a handful of people. Of course, you project your voice differently when speaking than when singing, but I think everyone would agree that one of the main ways one does so while singing is to sing in a higher key (remember Daniel Lanois's comments when talking about ISHFWILF in The Making of the Joshua Tree?).

My point is that it's tough for a singer to sing in a low key when he is trying to reach the back row of a stadium. Even Your Blue Room was sung an entire octave higher live than on the album. So Bono's got a dilemma, for the venues U2 plays demand that he sings in a higher range than he seems capable of doing these days.

Something's got to give. Before his voice does.

Offline soapit

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2009, 03:54:46 PM »
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I'm a public speaker, so I experience this kind of thing all the time.


you use a higher pitched voice than normal when you're public speaking?

No, but I do speak differently when speaking to a crowd than when I'm speaking to a handful of people. Of course, you project your voice differently when speaking than when singing, but I think everyone would agree that one of the main ways one does so while singing is to sing in a higher key (remember Daniel Lanois's comments when talking about ISHFWILF in The Making of the Joshua Tree?).

My point is that it's tough for a singer to sing in a low key when he is trying to reach the back row of a stadium. Even Your Blue Room was sung an entire octave higher live than on the album. So Bono's got a dilemma, for the venues U2 plays demand that he sings in a higher range than he seems capable of doing these days.

Something's got to give. Before his voice does.

yeah i was joking a bit, i just liked the image of you jumping on stage and using your high voice.

to be fair though your blue room is quite low and would sound very strange in a live setting sung like on the albums, (maybe that's your point tho)?

Offline u2pinstripes

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2009, 05:46:31 PM »
What good would a U2 concert be without Bono jumping around and screaming?  To me, the one thing that makes U2 stand out from every other group is their ability to play all types of music.  One hour into the concert you have Bono and the crowd jumping to Elevation, Until the End of the World, and NLOTH.  Two hours into the concert, you have a complete reversal in energy and emotion when they play One, Ultraviolet, Moment of Surrender, and With or Without You. 

Maybe it's just me, but I would hate to go to an arena and watch a snoozefest filled with Acrobat, a watered down Bad, Velvet Dress, Running to Stand Still, and In a Little While.  When Bono stops jumping around and they re-work songs, they are no longer the true U2 that we all love.  I was at 3 shows this summer, and not one time did I cringe and think "wow, they really can't play this anymore"

Offline u2pinstripes

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Re: Two Shots of Acrobat, One Shot of Velvet Dress
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2009, 05:56:21 PM »
And U2 is still young.  they aren't 70 years old.  I wonder how many people would queue to get a spot in the inner circle to hear a boots and crazy-less U2 for "grown ups".

I wonder how those rabid European crowds would react to a setlist filled with Velvet Dress and Acrobat? 

Everyone has their opinion, but what you think U2 should become is what I have always feared happening.  I hope that never happens..if anything we need more Mofo.