U2101 – Luminous Times (Hold On to Love)

I’ve heard it said before that with all love there is a little bit of hate. Indeed, a popular phrase, used frequently in music and movies is “there’s a thin line between love and hate”, and nearly a decade ago, scientists discovered that brain activity concerning the two emotions is centered in the same part of the brain. Even though I have never found the two emotions capable of coexistence in my own heart, I can understand how the two could get all mixed up. One day you’re living single and perfectly happy with it, the next day, you’ve met the partner of your dreams and it’s hard to imagine going on without that other person. This might make a person feel weak, or like they’re incapable of fending for themselves. I can see where some indignation could creep in. It’s obviously something that a lot of people feel, and I think that this includes Bono.


An example that I’ll cite is the song “Luminous Times (Hold On to Love)”, a B-side from the Joshua Tree sessions, released in 1987 on the “With Or Without You” single. The words to this song represent a powerful and poetic expression of love from Bono to his wife, Ali, but there’s one lyric that’s always stood out to me as being particularly interesting, and a little bit at odds with the romantic tone of the rest of the song. This lyric, “She is the avalanche, she is the thunder, she is the waves, and she pulls me under” has always struck me as being a little fearful, and perhaps a little resentful. The first thing that Bono compares his wife to in this verse is an avalanche, a very powerful and dangerous natural event. Avalanches fall down upon their victims, usually burying them completely, and, to the observer, often erasing any trace that anyone was ever there.  This feeling continues with the lines about being pulled under the waves. Perhaps Bono felt at the time that he was losing himself to his love for his wife, or that he was being buried beneath the force of her personality. Human emotions are complicated things, and I don’t think that Bono’s feelings are any exception. Incidentally, I don’t think that it’s an accident that this song found itself paired with “With or Without You”, as that song deals with some of the same subject matter.


The music to “Luminous Times (Hold On to Love)” is quite compelling, with drums that pound like a thunderstorm and keys that echo the depth of  feeling that Bono is mining for his confession of love. There’s also a wonderful, emotional burst of jangly guitar from Edge that underscores the intense sentiment during the second chorus. Pair this evocative music with a vocal that’s particularly impassioned even for Bono, and you’ve got a robust combination that makes a potent proclamation of a husband’s complex feelings for his wife.


“Luminous Times (Hold On to Love) has never been performed live, which isn’t all that unusual for a B-side. Considering the song’s slow pace and the fact that it’s virtually unknown to the casual U2 fans who appear at the band’s concerts, I find it doubtful that the song will ever get played live in concert. Still, if ever the time was right, surely the upcoming Joshua Tree 2017 Tour would be the perfect opportunity to give the song it’s live debut.

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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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