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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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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