Eff the Brotherhood
Rather than wait it out with the plebes in front of Exit/In on Thursday night, we sipped a beer while watching the line dwindle from across the street, our bratty impatience immediately put in check when we realized it had cost us a Diarrhea Planet performance. Fair enough. Guess we'll have to go back and read one of our 47 other DP reviews or wait until their full-length drops on Infinity Cat to relive the experience.
From the opening riff of the opening jam of their spanking new full-length We Are the Champions, every lyric of every JEFF the Brotherhood tune was echoed by a die-hard chorus that filled the place from wall to wall. The Spin can't remember the last time we saw JEFF, but that's only because it was a few weeks ago at Bonnaroo. It doesn't take a veteran Scene reader to know this is far from our first JEFF rodeo. We were stepping on the Brotherhood bozac before there was a "Brotherhood," and though we may have griped a time or two about their notoriously, ri-donk-ulously ubiquitous local shows, the real payoff has been watching a good band get even better, acclimating from a scrappy stoner-punk twosome to a couple of heavy-metal pop wizards. Still just guitar, drums and voice, JEFF has somehow gotten less minimal, keeping their angst on the surface, and injecting all the frills between the lines.
It was around this time we noticed a new addition to the venue: a shiny new sign explicitly forbidding stage diving. Whether there was an incident that set this precedent or Exit/In just got a great deal on a sign, we don't know — but it sure as hell didn't serve its function. In fact, if any precedents were set, it was the level of ape-shit the Exit crowd went during headliners Fucked Up. Much in the same vein as JEFF, with whom the band has been touring for a few weeks, Fucked Up elevates the art of a heavy pop song into both extremes. Jamming that much testosterone into a melody can go either way. But rather than fall the way of the Nickelback, Fucked Up's percussive brutality, screaming amps and ultimate hardcore frontman drastically counter lush guitar melodies and darling harmonies with surprisingly awesome results.
Portly and shirtless frontman Damian Abraham twice ventured into the crowd to dole out sweaty, fleshy bear hugs, and with the aid of an extremely long microphone cable, performed half a song from way up in the balcony. He returned with a plastic drink cup suctioned to his forehead, which stayed there so long (the duration of the set), we found ourselves fixated on this almost more than the music itself. Now that, friends, is worth waiting in line for.
Love is blindness
Outside Vanderbilt's Stadium Saturday afternoon, we saw locals using blankets and beach chairs to establish their own makeshift nosebleed sections lining the Vanderbilt venue. We entered the field — which felt utterly dwarfed by the band's forbidding UFO of a stage, dubbed "The Claw" — early enough to land a spot in the inner-stage pit, where Irish rock stars would soon be surfing over our heads on moving catwalks and blinding us with what looked like a contracting spider sac impregnated with vivid digital imagery.
Relatively speaking, Bono kept his political and humanistic proselytizing to a minimum. Given the mid-show shout-outs the U2 singer made to Nashvillians and philanthropic allies like Michael W. Smith, Dierks Bentley and Bill Frist, we felt lucky by the end of the show to have made it without the onstage appearance of any special guests.
Not so fast. Immediately following their final bows, Bono pointed to a front-row fan holding a sign reading "Blind Guitar Player." A moment later and Adam Bevell of Mesa, Ariz., who proclaimed to a roar of laughter, "I'm real nervous, man!" was leading his heroes, along with an accompanying chorus of 45,000 fellow fans, through a rousing surprise encore of the 1988 Rattle and Hum hit "All I Want Is You" before making off with Bono's guitar. And ... he's blind. Literally.
Combine Bevell's guest spot with an abridged version of "The Wanderer" — the band's 1993 collaboration with Johnny Cash, which they performed in front of an audience for the first time at the close of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" — shout-outs to Hendersonville and name-checks for Vandy's since-demolished Underwood Auditorium (where they last appeared in Nashville back in 1981), and the world's biggest band did a pretty good job of personalizing rock's biggest-ever tour for Music City.
As for the band themselves — with Bono characteristically clad in black leather, The Edge in a black beanie and Garth Brooks-worthy headset mic, bassist Adam Clayton in an off-white, posh track suit, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. in what Bono proclaimed as the same haircut he's had "since 1981" — they sounded as flawless as you'd expect a band to sound on the biggest concert stage ever constructed. Bono, in fine voice, nailed his finest Pavarotti on a mid-set "Miss Sarajevo," and nailed his finest Bono circa-'93 on an acoustic "Stay."
And as for the production, it was dazzling — surely unlike anything Nashville has ever seen. U2's is a show no other band in rock, past or present, is capable of. But with all its mesmerizing bells and whistles, the band's gargantuan stage can at times work against them as much as it works for them. We had to remind ourselves to pull our eyes from the 20-foot-tall Bono onscreen and focus on the real thing onstage, especially considering how he was crooning "Mysterious Ways" mere inches above our heads. And at points when a cascade of LED screens would descend from the belly of The Claw to engulf the band, it almost looked like the stage itself was performing "Zooropa" and "Vertigo" to tape.
Of course, that probably mattered little to Adam Bevell, who could only hear the sonic spectacle at hand, and who perhaps chose to dedicate "All I Want Is You" to his wife Andrea for, as the song says, giving him "eyes in a world of blindness." When all is said and done, that's what U2 fans want out of the band as well. This was fun, and hopefully we won't have to wait another 30 years for Bono and the boys to come back.
We had a long holiday weekend. We're gonna go sleep it off. Email email@example.com.
It pains me to lose another venue to what will surely become some sort of…
Christ almighty. Forget your genre-bashing, forget who can "sing" and put that "if some pop…
Memories of one decent night there. Occasionally whoever was in charge would rally and a…
Is no worse that what many "supposed" critics of the modern era keep supporting like…
I think I know good rock from bad but I really can't tell with this…