I don't buy weekend tickets to Ireland and hang out in front of their gates, but U2 are the only band whose entire catalog I know by heart. The first song on The Unforgettable Fire, "A Sort of Homecoming," I know backward and forward — it's so rousing, brilliant and beautiful. It's one of the first songs I played to my unborn baby.
The first U2 album I ever heard was Achtung Baby. It was 1991, and I was 14 years old. Before that, I didn't even know what albums were. From that point, I worked backward — every six months, I'd get to buy a new U2 album. The sound they pioneered — the driving bass and drums underneath and those ethereal, effects-laden guitar tracks floating out from above — was nothing that had been heard before. They may be the only good anthemic rock band ever. Certainly they're the best.
What I love most about U2 is that the band is more important than any of its songs or albums. I love that they're still best mates and that they each play an integral role in one another's lives as friends. I love the way that they're not interchangeable — if Larry Mullen Jr. wants to go scuba diving for a week, the rest of the band can't do a thing. U2 — like Coldplay — maintain that all songs that appear on their albums are credited to the band. And they are the only band that's been around for more than 30 years with no member changes and no big splits.
It's amazing that the biggest band in the world has so much integrity and passion in its music. Our society is thoroughly screwed, fame is a ridiculous waste of time, and celebrity culture is disgusting. There are only a few people around brave enough to talk out against it, who use their fame in a good way. And every time I try, I feel like an idiot, because I see Bono actually getting things achieved. While everyone else was swearing at George Bush, Bono was the one who rubbed Bush's back and got a billion dollars for Africa. People can be so cynical — they don't like do-gooders — but Bono's attitude is, "I don't care what anybody thinks, I'm going to speak out." He's accomplished so much with Greenpeace, in Sarajevo, at the concert to shut down the Sellafield nuclear plant, and he still runs the gantlet. When the time came for Coldplay to think about fair trade, we took his lead to speak out regardless of what anyone may think. That's what we've learned from U2: You have to be brave enough to be yourself.