Some of you might have expected me to write this article a few weeks ago, when U2 launched the Songs of Experience promotional era with that video of a live performance from Amsterdam of “The Blackout,” but I decided at that time to hold off on covering the song until a studio version was officially released. Well, that time has come, as U2 released “The Blackout” on November first, both for sale as an individual track, and as a gift to those who pre-ordered Songs of Experience via outlets like Amazon.com and U2.com. Fans of this song should also be on the lookout for a vinyl single release coming next week to record stores on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, one week before the official release of Songs of Experience.
“The Blackout” is an exciting, danceable tune that sounds a little bit like Achtung Baby era U2 in its aggression and the way it combines rock and dance genres, but mostly unlike anything the band has ever recorded before, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. I’m not one of those fans who is clamoring for a return of the “good old days.” Instead, I want to hear new sounds and new ideas. I want to hear U2 break the mold once again as they race headfirst into the future. I love that U2 is not afraid to tread new ground — a lot of bands with U2’s history would have recorded The Joshua Tree part II or even Part III by now, but U2 has never been a band to attempt to recapture past glories. That’s one reason that The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour was such a surprise to me, and I am glad to see that that tour didn’t foreshadow U2 turning into a nostalgia act.
“The Blackout” relies mainly on the rhythm section, as Adam provides a groovy, funky bass pattern and Larry’s drums perfectly and dramatically highlight the peaks and valleys in this exhilarating piece of art. Indeed, “The Blackout” also shows the artsy, experimental side of the band, with that unconventional instrumental break between each line of the verses and another unexpected section of what sounds like keyboard between the second chorus and the middle eight. Somehow U2 blends this unorthodox bent with the pop sensibility that has been emerging in a lot of their recent work for a successful combination. “The Blackout” has a strong vocal melody, particularly in that compelling chorus, over Edge’s wailing and Larry’s insistent drumming. The chorus of this song is a real highlight, to me, and I love the way, in the video, Bono and the crowd jump in time to the music. This part of the song makes me want to react the same way. It is truly electrifying.
Surprisingly for a brand new song, “The Blackout” already has some live performances under its belt. The song was performed a handful of times in front of a live audience for the video shoot back in July of this year. I don’t expect that to be the end of the song’s live career, either. I fully expect “The Blackout” to make a nightly showing on the upcoming Experience + Innocence Tour. I would be surprised if U2 fans don’t leave those shows remembering “The Blackout” as a highlight, because if I learned anything from the video, the song is even rawer and more thrilling live. I can’t wait to hear it in person!