Last week, I wrote about “Red Flag Day,” a song that I only came to appreciate after a few listens. This week, I’m writing about a song that I have a similar relationship with — that is, one that didn’t bowl me over with my first listen, but one that I have come to love dearly with subsequent hearings. In this case, the song in question might have even taken over my number one spot for favorite track on the album. That song is another one of Bono’s odes to Ali, the love of his life — “Landlady.”
Even if “Landlady” isn’t my favorite song on the album (my pick for that honor seems to vacillate between a couple of tracks) it definitely contains my favorite moment on the album. That short, four bars of guitar that comes right before the coda to this song is among the most sublime things that I have ever heard. It’s so chill and beautiful that it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. In fact, that guitar part and the performance that follows it are what elevate this song to such heights. The coda is gorgeous, melodic, and packed with deep meaning. Hell, the whole song is meaningful, but that end…it really affects me.
The lyrics to this song are about all the ways that Ali supports Bono — emotionally, financially, physically, and so on. I honestly believe that Bono wouldn’t be the man that we all know and love without this support from his wife. He couldn’t give as much time and energy to touring if she wasn’t there taking care of things at home. U2 might never have taken off if she hadn’t supported him financially before the band made it big. I think that it is very likely that he wouldn’t have the courage to be as forthcoming in his lyrics as he is without her reinforcement – “I go where I would not dare.” This song is Bono’s way of recognizing the sacrifices that she has made for their relationship. It is profoundly personal, yet enormously relatable at the same time. The coda is where he brings it all home. Here, he describes all the ups and downs of life in the band, and how his whole life, everything that has ever happened to him, all of his experiences, have been about her and bringing them back together in one way or another. When he sings “Every heart that kept me,” I can’t help but feel that he is talking about me and all the rest of us who feel the band and their music deep down in the core of our beings.
“Landlady” is a hard song to predict the future of. I’m really not sure if it is going to be a regular part of the Experience + Innocence Tour or not. It is such a captivating piece of work that I almost hate to imagine the tour without it, but it falls into that mid-paced range that the band eschew. Still, if “With or Without You” could get played over eight hundred times, surely “Landlady” could make it to the stage at least a few times. Maybe this song will be this tour’s “The Troubles”, where it isn’t played every night, but it receives occasional airings, especially if Ali is in the crowd.