U2101 – A Man and a Woman

When How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was first released, I immediately fell in love with quite a few of its songs – songs like “City of Blinding Lights”, “All Because of You”, and even “One Step Closer to Knowing” tickled my fancy with the very first hearing. There was one song on the album, however, that I did NOT love immediately, and that song is “A Man and a Woman”, the topic of today’s article. Nowadays, I like the song well enough, but it took several years to grow on me. I couldn’t tell you what it was that I didn’t like about the song, because the truth is that there’s plenty in “A Man and a Woman” to get excited about. Things like Adam’s bouncy and playful bass line, or Edge’s fresh-sounding acoustic guitar. How about Edge’s impossibly high backing vocals during the bridge and at the end of the song? Probably my favorite aspect of the song is the lyrics, which discuss the “mysterious distance” between male and female, and the difficulties in keeping a romantic relationship healthy several years in. It’s a topic that Bono should be well-versed in, seeing as how his and Ali’s marriage was on its twenty-first year when the song was being written. It’s amazing to me that even after all the time they’ve been married – thirty-three years, now, Bono still finds Ali to be mysterious. I recall hearing him say once, even, that that was one of his favorite things about his wife – her mystery.


There are plenty of great bits of wisdom in the lyrics to “A Man and a Woman” but perhaps the one that speaks to me the most is the line “I could never take a chance at losing love to find romance.” That’s why it’s so important to keep one’s relationship blooming, because otherwise one can easily become tempted to step outside of the relationship for something new. I adore the honesty of this admission by Bono. Relationships aren’t easy, but the payoff is there if you work at it. As Bono says of his wife in the first verse of this song, she’s “like honey on (his) tongue”.


“A Man and a Woman” has only ever been performed once live, and that occurred eleven years after the song debuted on disc. It was at the Decade of Difference concert, which honored former President Bill Clinton in October, 2011. This concert was notable for the performance, or course, but also because it was the first time any song from the Pop album was played in six years, and “Miss Sarajevo” made a rare appearance at a non-U2 concert. Altogether, it was an interesting day. The performance of “A Man and a Woman” was musically simple, featuring just Edge on acoustic guitar, and a canned beat that came from Edge’s Macbook, which was on stage with the dynamic duo of U2’s singer and guitarist. It actually sounded great, if you can believe it from the description I gave above. I think that U2 would be very wise to consider including the song in future acoustic sets, maybe on a rotational basis.

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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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