“It’s like landing a 747 onto your front lawn,” quipped Bono Tuesday night from the stage of New York’s 1,000 capacity Irving Plaza. “Feels like starting again. That’s a nice feeling.”
Bono never broke out the white flag of yore during U2’s one-off, seventy minute club performance (which was broadcast live over the radio), but the band did dig deep enough into their twenty year history to dust off the rare nugget “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” and a give loving nod to the punk band that inspired them.
“We got started on the poetry and punk rock of New York City,” Bono continued over the hoots of the enthusiastic whoops and whistles of the crowd, comprised entirely of contest winners and invited guests. “The music of Patti Smith, Television — but more than anybody, the band that got us started when we were fifteen, sixteen — Larry was fourteen, still is — was the music of the Ramones.”
He then dedicated a gently strummed version of “I Remember You” to Joey Ramone, before the band segued into “New York,” one of four songs spotlighted from their latest album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
Although he wasn’t in attendance, Joey Ramone said he was thrilled to hear about the tribute the following morning. “It’s great to get a little bit of credit here and there,” he said. “I think it’s a nice payback. There aren’t many people that kind of give back to artists that were their inspiration. Most people think they’re . . . they’re very self bloated.”
Ramone, who said he wanted to catch U2’s Irving Plaza show but “thought it would be too much hassle to get in,” is well aware of the band’s Ramones roots. In addition to having been invited to open for U2 on a couple of different occasions in the U.K. and Spain, he recalls the time Bono and Co. fessed up to pilfering a pair of Ramones tunes to land their first TV gig. “In Ireland, in the earliest days, they did like a national TV show, and when they auditioned for the show they did two Ramones songs and they told the producer they were their own songs, and that’s how they got on the show,” Ramone said. “Once on the show, they did their own songs, and that’s how they got their foot in the door.”
The Ramones weren’t the only artists acknowledged by U2 Tuesday night. Bono introduced “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” as a “a song about friendship, for our good friend Michael Hutchence.” Author Salman Rushdie was saluted with “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” a song he co-wrote with the band that was featured on the soundtrack to The Million Dollar Hotel. Midway through the twelve-song/two-encore set, before introducing Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen and the Edge, Bono compared being in a band to being in the priesthood or the mob. “It’s an organization that you won’t get out of while you’re alive. Being in a band is a wonderful thing, but it’s hard — ask Zack de la Rocha, he’s here somewhere, ask him about Rage Against the Machine. Billy Corgan’s around here somewhere, ask him about the Smashing Pumpkins. Two great bands soon not to be with us, and I feel very, very bad in my soul about that — and I hope you do too.” “Elevation” featured teasing guitar quotes from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Radiohead’s “Creep” and the Monkees’ “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone.” “Mysterious Ways” gave the nod to Marvin Gaye with a “Sexual Healing” coda, and the Stones received their customary tribute in “Bad.” They went out with a straight-up cover of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (with Bono reportedly referring to a cheat-sheet for the lyrics).
U2 is will perform on Saturday Night Live this weekend. Although there are no plans for further club dates, a full tour is scheduled to kick off next summer.
Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
I Remember You
I Will Follow
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
All I Want is You
11 O’Clock Tick Tock
Won’t Get Fooled Again