It was finally Saturday 5th May.
Over a year of waiting.
Back in March 2017, I fell in love with the music of U2 after seeing tribute band U2Baby. They inspired me to write down my experience of that night, because, the performance I witnessed made me listen to U2 songs in a way I never had before, and to seek out more. It’s fair to say, I fell in love with U2 songs, as performed by U2Baby.
Their return coincided with my birthday shenanigans this year, and after reviewing every other gig I’ve been to since theirs, I’d vowed to leave my reporters notebook at home and just enjoy a night out as a crowd member with my friends for once. However, I couldn’t leave my ears, my brain and my heart at home. They go wherever I go and so yet again I’m compelled to write down my experience, after being left physically and mentally buzzing.
A rare sunny bank holiday weekend, an even rarer Saturday off for me, I woke up knowing I had an epic day ahead of me. During the day I met up with two friends I hadn’t seen for a few years, drinking wine and having a picnic down by the river.
After a quick pit stop home to refuel and change, I was out for the U2Baby gig I’d waited so long for. I’d managed to persuade some friends to join me so I knew the night was going to be as brilliant as the sun soaked, wine filled day. My photographer friend L and I had worked hard to promote this gig in our own way, desperate to provide the kind of crowd U2Baby deserved, fresh from their headline slot at a Tribute festival in Bahrain.
Support came in the form of local acoustic singer/songwriter Tash Hurdiss. Her voice is absolutely incredible, and the audience were stunned into impressed silence during her set. Particular highlights included outstanding covers of Chris Isaacs’ Wicked Game, and Space Oddity by the legend Bowie, for which she was joined onstage retrospectively by Cerys and then Chris, her band mates and also extremely talented local musicians, adding extra support with their guitar flare. Space Oddity, especially, moved most people I had the pleasure of talking to, with Tashs vocals, surprisingly deep and smouldering, lending themselves perfectly to a fitting tribute to a much loved musician. For me, a highlight was a song she wrote herself titled Josephina. From seeing her perform before, I know the song is about her best friend, and it is beautiful, brings tears to my eyes as the message of wishing her well and how much she loves her is so clear. She created a buzz, and since the gig I’ve read so many comments about how amazing the support act was. A triumph for Worcester, the Marrs Bar and those of us desperate to see local artists get the foot up they deserve.
The venue had filled up around me as everyone had been transfixed by Tash, so by 9.15pm when U2Baby took to the stage, we were ready to party.
A wicked guitar riff and energetic drum beat lead us into the first song The Fly, and some of the crowd were on their feet dancing from the outset, something I’ve not seen at a gig for so long, usually waiting until at least a few songs in. This song was the perfect opener on the night, showcasing the bands skills with reverberating guitar solos, rhythmic beats of the drums and the bass was booming. Next was I Will Follow, an early single by U2 with a more indie rock feel, with a chanting chorus that anyone can, and did, pick up on, to sing along to.
Third on the set list was Out of Control, a song written by Bono on his 18th birthday, keeping the crowd singing along and dancing with its fast tempo and wicked, almost mod/punk style verses.
More well known tracks such as Beautiful Day and Vertigo kept us all on our feet and singing along.
Lights of Home was the first song we heard from latest U2 album, Songs of Experience and for me this is where, with a slightly slower tempo and gentler backing track, the vocals of the lead singer really began shine. His voice on the higher notes leading to the title line really took hold of me, I couldn’t help but listen to every word, their meaning becoming clear to me. As I’ve said before, I fell in love with U2 songs the first time I saw U2Baby, but vocally, the tribute bands singer, Ric, resonates with me stronger than Bono himself. As I explain in that first review, U2Baby introduced me to songs I’d never heard before, so it is their version I seek out when I want to listen to a certain song for a reason. Visually too, when I watch U2 performances, I recognise the stance that Adam takes to be the same as that I’ve seen from Ash. The intensity on The Edges face perfectly merges with my memory of Simon. The powerful beats and gentle brushes I see from Larry replicate my recollection of Jon, and the encouragement of interaction from the crowd and stand behind the microphone that Bono takes, is reminiscent of Ric. I’ve done things the wrong way round, seeing U2Baby before becoming a U2 fan, but it works for me. Even down to the equipment used, these guys do not miss a trick.
More classics, Desire and New Years Day, led us into the soft opening of “The Little Things That Give You Away”, another vocal exposing song, which was delivered beautifully and had the hairs on the back of my neck standing. A favourite of mine from the new album, despite many people saying its a “safe” song. The lyrics have developed a personal meaning for me, and to hear them being sung with such emotion makes the crowd fade away so that it’s just me and the band stood in the room. Towards the end, the track picks up pace around the heartfelt vocals, so that the voice and instruments merge beautifully together alongside each other, drums and cymbals crashing, before falling away softly as the song ends. U2Baby performed it with such passion, I felt every word.
The first half of the set was finished off with Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and Until the End of the World, leaving me and the rest of the room wanting more. I didn’t even venture to the bar for fear of missing something.
Second half opened with Even Better Than The Real Thing and the epic Sunday Bloody Sunday. Then we were treated to Trip Through Your Wires, a funky little tune I’d never heard before U2Baby compelled me to go add every album to my CD collection. The harmonica gets another outing after seeing it earlier for Desire, another string to the talented bands bow, and another addition towards their accurate portrayal of the band themselves. One and Ultraviolet followed, before Kite. I took my place firmly by the side of my gig partner L for this one, knowing what meaning the song holds for her. Such an iconic song with powerful lyrics, and a symphony of music to back it up, it was impossible not to feel the emotion from L and from Ric on stage, as his own voice cracked with the purest reality of the song, with the lyric “don’t want to see you cry”, having the opposite effect causing real tears to flow, testament indeed to the band to reproduce such a personal song to the same emotional degree as the real U2. If I see someone cry, it makes me cry too, I’m an emotional, sensitive wreck and music has magical powers to evoke and bring forth every possible emotion.
Following Kite , a little side story developed. Back in May 2017, lead singer Ric joined L and myself at a Mused gig at The Marrs Bar,a relatively local Muse tribute band. Their support act that night was fronted by talented singer, Maddie. Ric thoroughly enjoyed the support act but Maddies awkward boom stand bothered him, so much so he vowed to pass on an original 60’s stand that he no longer needed himself. Easily adjustable with just one hand, the stand was the same as ones used by the likes of Hendrix, Thin Lizzy and Bono himself. True to his word, the stand was presented to Maddie by Ric that night, showing support of a new generation of musicians.
Get Out of Your Own Way turned the mood back to a positive defiance, where the room joined in with the uplifting lyrics empowering people to stick up for themselves and do what they need to do. “I can help you but it’s your fight” rang around the venue. The songs from the newest U2 album going down well with the crowd.
Crowd pleasing anthem With or Without You, led into the deep groove of Bullet the Blue Sky, where a literal spotlight was directed onto Simon as “Economy Edge” by his brother Ric as “Budget Bono”, forcing the focus rightly so on the epic skills of a very talented musician and showing again the amazing attention to detail the boys pay to recreate, as closely as they possibly can, a real live U2 performance.
Next up was Running to Stand Still transitioning into Where the Streets have no name. Without having years of being a U2 fan under my belt, the live performance had escaped my notice of this particular combination, but having now researched it, and watched, I understand the link more, an underlying note feeding one spectacularly into the other. I don’t claim to be a U2 boffin on when and where each nuance and reference comes from, but I know the guys do, and that’s one of many reasons I’m so impressed by them. With some songs, I’m seeing and hearing things for the first time via U2Baby, things that die hard fans know all about from performances by the real band, from mannerisms and quirky little ad-lib outros on certain tracks. I’m learning.
Exit saw the introduction of The Shadowman. Research before the gig, when I heard that the guys were starting to include it in their own show, revealed to me that it was a character created by Bono to help him perform Exit, a song that associated to bad times for him, and it let him step into a different persona to avoid feeling the pain. Watching videos of Bonos Shadowman, the character is mysterious, almost creepy, maybe even a little eccentric, and although Rics portrayal was perhaps slightly less obvious, there were more than enough elements amongst his movements, vocal tone and of course change of outfit to include a dapper hat, to make the character recognisable to fans. Rics version of The Shadowmans entrance onto stage was sinister and almost hypnotic, setting the tone with an apt steely glare, captivating his audience.
The final track of the set was Bad, another song I hadn’t known before seeing these guys the first time round, but have grown to love. It is a fan favourite, especially when performed live as it has complex layers that build up with the intensity of the song, showcasing each instrument, including the voice, perfectly. A song written in memory of a friend with a heroin addiction, it’s another that draws raw emotion from the performers, and a song that has everything. Beautiful musical arrangements, poetic lyrics, powerful meanings and of course notoriety after it was performed by U2 at Live Aid (if you don’t know my reference, Google it). And in true Bono style, the tune ended up with an outro, this one being Heroes by David Bowie, and from just a few lines I was desperate to hear the band play the whole song.
After a few long seconds off stage, the inevitable encore opened a selection box of three more songs. The heart warming All I Want is You, where during the line “cradle to the grave”, the pitch Rics voice hits on a certain note, is enough to make me revert back to being an obsessed teenage girl again, the vibrant and colourful rendition of Helter Skelter and the final song, dedicated to yours truly for my birthday, Elevation, a feel good end to àn epic show. Everyone was up dancing, everyone! With chants of “More” as the band took their final bow, we knew the end had come but were reluctantly letting go, losing ourselves completely in another outstanding, electrifying performance. Why did it have to end? One thing I’ve found since following the band is that the U2 fans are like one big family, all connected by the messages U2 songs hold. U2Baby bring that message to the masses. To people like me, who never has and probably never will see U2 live. Following a tribute band like this one is all inclusive, giving everyone access to the experience of being at a real U2 gig. It’s a feel good, mood lifting, friendly experience where everyone gets together to have a good time. Each member of the band is an exceptional musician in their own right, and deserve to be recognised as such, each playing an audio and visual role in the performance. Each as important as the other.
If the music doesn’t move you, you’re not listening to it right.
Worcester NEEDS to see this band again. We need the excitement. We need the feeling of comradery they bring. We need nights out as epic as they deliver.
2019? I only wish we don’t have to wait so long.
*Disclaimer… All thoughts, opinions and recollections are mine and mine alone! Any inaccuracies can be blamed on the fact that I didn’t intend to review this one so I’m relying on my memory alone of the night! (’twas my birthday night out, in case I hadn’t mentioned!)
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