U2 101 – Acrobat and Love is Blindness

1394319982I remember the first time I ever heard “Love is Blindness“, the first thing that I noticed was the similarity between the melody of the organ intro in that song to the vocal melody that Bono sings during some parts of “Acrobat“, the preceding song on Achtung Baby. Since that time, I’ve come to appreciate each song for its own merits, but I still tend to think of them being the two sides of the same coin. “Acrobat”, to me, is all about Bono’s Fly character coming to terms with the mistakes that he made in some of the album’s earlier songs. His mate is pissed with him, and I always think that she’s threatening to leave. He’s on his knees, crying “Baby, I know I f***ed up, please, don’t go. I’m an ass, but I can change. I can do better. I need you.” and I think that the largest part of him doesn’t even mean it. He knows that the philanderer, the explorer, the adventurer represent the truest parts of him – he’s happiest when he’s living up to the demands placed on him by those aspects of his personality, but he simply can’t live with the guilt of having driven her away. She’s not a bad woman, after all, and she deserves better. He knows this, and even though he resents her for it later on, he begs her to stay. In “Love is Blindness”, she relents, and spins a web of seduction and sensuality that he falls into once again, hating and loving it and her with equal intensity all the time. Finally, when she’s got him right where she wants him, she shows her true nature – the part of herself that she can’t deny, although she knows it’s unsavory. The black widow. She devours him whole with the sex act, and he’s at her mercy once again. I’ve always loved the parallel drawn between sex and death in the bridge of “Love is Blindness” “A little death, without mourning, no call, no warning” – in French, the term La petite mort, which translates into “the little death” in English, is a euphemism for an orgasm, and I think that Bono was playing with this double meaning when he wrote the lyrics to “Love is Blindness”, referencing the parts of ourselves that we allow to die in order to satisfy our sexuality, which, of course, gets all tangled up with romance – you know, that “team of horses of love and lust” that’s mentioned in “So Cruel”, which supposedly came out of the same sessions as JACK-WHITE-LOVE-IS-BLINDNESS“Love is Blindness.” I’ve also always found Edge’s guitar solo in “Love is Blindness” to be probably the greatest thing the man has ever done, artistically, and it’s always kind of tied into some of the same concepts that Bono’s playing with in the lyrics. The first few measures of the guitar solo (if you’re listening to the live version from the ZooTV fan club CDs, or watching this video, it goes from about 3:18 to 3:38) represent a man on his knees, although a bit more generally than the man in “Acrobat”. I always imagine Romeo singing up to Juliet, wooing her, desperate to catch her eye and win her affections. The next segment of the guitar solo (3:38 to  4:18) is all sweaty embrace, representing the consummation of the relationship. The sex act itself. The triumph that a man feels when he’s won the heart (and body) of the object of his affections. Following this elation, inevitably, comes the crash and burn. If we continue the sexual metaphor, this is literally “the little death”. You know how you always feel sleepy after an orgasm? That’s what this is about, but in a larger sense, it’s also about heartbreak. After the passion at the start of a relationship has faded, and the couple are left with nothing, holding out their empty hands, wondering where their love has gone. It’s the dull thud that occurs when lovers fall back to Earth and realize that their entire lives have come down around their ears. It’s final and devastating. It’s the end. It’s a funeral dirge for love lost.


indexLove is Blindness was played at nearly every ZooTV show as part of the closing encore. At a lot of the shows, it was followed by a kind of coda of Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love”, but I’ve always kind of pictured “Love is Blindness” as the closing scene, while “Can’t Help Falling” is the theme that plays over the end credits. As good as “Love is Blindness” is on Achtung Baby, it’s a whole other level live. It takes the emotions of the studio version and magnifies and expands upon them, telling the same story in a whole new way, kind of the “director’s cut” of the song, if I continue the video metaphor. Since the end of ZooTV, Love is Blindness has only been played once, in an abbreviated fashion, and apparently on the spur of the moment, in March of 2006. Acrobat hasn’t fared nearly as well, as it has never been played live at a U2 concert. The closest it ever came was in a rehearsal back in August of 1992, which was captured for what is now known as “The Hershey Tapes”, a set of bootleg recordings from those sessions. If you had asked my magic U2 8-ball 5 years ago if either song would ever ever again be given a full live airing, you’d have probably gotten  a response of “outlook not so good”. Then again, you’d have probably gotten the same response for “Zooropa” or “Your Blue Room”, and as we all know, those songs actually got played on the 360 tour, so nothing’s impossible. I’m keeping my fingers crossed with the rest of  you. Don’t forget to give us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  • #8794


    I remember the first time I ever heard “Love is Blindness”, the first thing that I noticed was the similarity between the melody of the organ intro in
    [See the full post at: U2 101 – Acrobat and Love is Blindness]

  • #8795


    I hope the U2 magic 8 ball leans towards playing Acrobat before LIB. Acrobat is stronger lyrically & musically in my opinion. Your break down of LIB is a great read.

  • #8810


    Two of my favourite songs. It would be a dream come true listening to them live. I’m sure Acrobat played live would sound powerfull and if they’d play Love is blindess right after I would melt.

  • #8913


    Great analysis of two great songs, Broadsword! Acrobat and Love Is Blindness belong to my U2 favourites. Both tracks are outstanding examples of musical intensity and it´s interesting to hear about the connection to Bono´s Fly character. For me the agitated sound of Acrobat also reflects all the inner struggles, chaos and contradictions Bono experienced after he had become a superstar. Love Is Blindness comes across as a slow and tender song first, but despite the quiet music I can sense a tension that culminates in Edge´s incredible guitar solo, which is like a sudden explosion or knife in the heart. I think all his notes express the pain, despair and anger he went through after the divorce from his first wife. When I attended a Zoo TV show I was lucky to hear that gem, but I would also love to listen to a live version of Acrobat.

  • #8796


    Great !
    I’m adding that Adelaide should have been put on DVD, a way better Love is Blindness performance during that concert, I would also mention Dortmund, Stockholm among the great Zoo TV shows but I’m sure there are many more !
    On the album version of Blindness Edge uses a more rugged effect on the guitar, it’s almost as if the tension and passion of the sexual act will break the guitar down but Edge tames it perfectly, especially towards the end of the song, in the twilight of the fade out where I think it’s some of his best work…I always turn the volume up to maximum to hear those last notes…I wished they would have given us the full extent of it on the remastered cd in 2011 but oh well. The live versions of the song are smashing too, no doubt about it but there’s something different The Edge plays on the album..something deeper, more intimate…
    Acrobat indeed is together with Love is Blindness in that twilight of the feeling which is expressed through similar notes and rhythms…something subtle that gives you a mixed feeling composed of waves of unsatisfied intention, despair, tension, sadness but also relief, relaxation, freedom, getting the grip on it…It’s something I can’t put my finger on that always sums me up as a person and what I feel in a perfect manner as does Achtung Baby as a whole !!!

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