In the fall of 2002, around the time that U2’s Best of 1990-2000 came out, I was working at a record store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I remember that during the first time I played the store’s promotional copy over the in-store stereo system, when “Mysterious Ways” came on, one of the girls I worked with said “I love this song! I didn’t know it was U2!” At the time, it made me wonder how many people who claimed to be unfamiliar with U2 actually knew and liked the band’s music, and I suppose I still wonder that to an extent, but lately when I recall that incident, it’s made me appreciate what a great, accessible pop single “Mysterious Ways” is.
“Mysterious Ways” made its live debut at the first date of 1992’s ZooTV Tour, along with several other songs from Achtung Baby that also received their initial public performances at the same show. When the song first appeared live, it ended with a great coda that featured an extended guitar solo from Edge. Unfortunately, that guitar solo was excised for the U2360 tour and hasn’t been brought back yet. I’d love to hear a performance of Mysterious Ways with the original, unexpurgated guitar solo, but that seems doubtful as the band seem to be playing the song for its popularity with casual fans who wouldn’t be familiar with the longer ending. It’s a song that I doubt that the band will stop playing any time soon, due mostly to its obvious appeal.
I actually forget sometimes what a great song “Mysterious Ways” really is. I’ve heard it so many times now that i sometimes only half-way pay attention when it comes on, and I don’t give it the attention it deserves as one of U2’s signature songs. The song is a great blend of rock, pop, and funk, and is probably the most success that the band has ever had playing around with some funkier textures. Whenever I allow my mind to wander while the song is playing, I can’t help but picture an exotic belly dancer shaking her hips to the song’s rhythm. This is probably mostly due to the involvement of Morleigh Evans (nee Steinberg – Edge’s current wife) on the same tour that introduced the song, as she was the belly dancer on stage at the tour’s later dates.
Lyrically, the song plays with the old saying “God moves in mysterious ways” by comparing the Holy Spirit to a woman. I think that the song’s lyrics found their genesis in Bono’s own relationship with his wife, Ali, whom he has described in the past as “mysterious”. I can say for myself that when my wife and I are in sync, that is, when we are working together in a true partnership, I feel more spiritually balanced. I believe that the song is telling us that even if we don’t understand what a female is thinking or doing, and the Holy Spirit is included in this group of women, to have faith and allow her to work and everything will turn out just fine.