The last great consensus? Throughout my youth, into my late 20s, there always seemed to be one album on the charts that everybody, everywhere, was listening to at the same time, the one that captured the zeitgeist, love it or hate it. Sgt. Pepper. Tapestry. Bridge Over Troubled Water. Hotel California. Rumours. Thriller. Born in the USA. U2’s Joshua Tree was about the last time I remember it happening, before everything fractured. This may just be an artifact of age and losing touch, I don’t know, maybe something by Adele, or Eminem, Beyoncé, or Kanye West fills the same niche for those not looking down the barrel of arthritic knee pain, but for me, it was Joshua Tree.
At the time of the attached video the stadium-filling Irish juggernaut was at its zenith, and in the manner of many who reach a certain summit, they decided to emulate the Beatles, and stage a rooftop concert that snarls traffic and shuts the town down until the cops move in, doing so here in LA just like the Beatles did in London’s Saville Row 20 years earlier. There’s a risk of looking a little too big for your britches when you invite such comparisons with the Fab Four, witness those little turds in One Direction, but here U2 pulls it off, with an energetic performance filmed as part of the rockumentary Rattle and Hum, which documented their 1988 US tour, and managed not to look like a sequel to This is Spinal Tap, despite the sometimes overblown and self-important profundity with which the band, and particularly frontman Bono, tended to present themselves. As the Rolling Stone Record Guide once said with respect to XTC, here, the lads sweat hard enough to earn their pretensions.
How times change. A few years back, in the general hubbub surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan, McCartney gave a street concert from atop the awning outside the Ed Sullivan theatre, shutting down Broadway for blocks in both directions. It was all above board. Nobody blinked an eye. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that all the NYPD wanted to know, while issuing the permits for the hours-long disruption of midtown Manhattan, was whether they should also suspend flights into LaGuardia, in case the noise of landing jets spoiled the acoustics.
Here’s a bonus cut from Rattle and Hum, a nice Gospel rendition of Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For: