Apart from one small detail, Zooropa’s closer fits in with the rest of that album perfectly. “The Wanderer” conforms perfectly with that album’s futuristic sounding euro-pop and even continues the use of Biblical themes from the song we talked about last week, “The First Time.” In fact, with the exception of that one small detail, “The Wanderer” is on par with any other funky, melodic, gorgeous and foot-tapping and imminently singable song, completely unique and yet immediately recognizable as U2. That one small detail, of course, is that someone from outside the band takes the lead vocal. It really doesn’t matter…it is still a great U2 song, and I shall now explain why.
Firstly, as I started to explain above, other than Bono’s powerful vocals, the song has all of the earmarks of any other U2 classic. Edge’s sparse guitar, Adam’s driving and groovy bass line at the steering wheel, Biblical and spiritual themes in the lyrics, an aching vulnerability, and commentary on the modern world that we all find ourselves in. I was about to change that last bit so that it reflected the song’s twenty-five years old age, but as I think about, the song is just as relevant today as it was when it first came out. We are all still looking for our own name in the world, we are still searching “for one good man – A spirit who would not bend or break.” Now, more than ever, we are “drifting through the capitals of tin, where men can’t walk or freely talk,” and the threat of an “atomic sky” looms ever-nearer. Germane stuff, indeed.
Now, I love hearing Bono sing this song as much as anyone of you…that was one of my favorite moments of the Vertigo Tour, and I listen to that performance often. Still, there is something about hearing the wise, lived-in voice of Johnny Cash sing this song, in particular, that has to be one of the savviest decisions ever made by the band, ever. Knowing that Cash really did go wandering, that he really did experience all the things that he experienced, makes his the perfect voice to relate this tale. Bono of 1993 just didn’t have enough world-weariness in his voice to give it the proper gravitas. I think that Bono of 2018 could pull it off quite well, but that will probably never happen.
Maybe it should, though. As I write this article, I become more and more convinced that this song would fit in with the “experience” side of “Innocence + Experience” like a hand in a glove. In the current show, there is a segment where Bono talks about how much fun it is to gain experience, and that’s more or less what this song is about. Heck, there is even a line that says “I went out there in search of experience.” It would be perfect! That said, the song might not be energetic enough to engage with a live audience the way the band wants to at that point in the show. Still, if they shake the show up for the second leg, I hope that they at least consider including “The Wanderer.”
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