I have mixed feelings about the album The Unforgettable Fire. On one hand, my all-time favorite song is on this album, in “Bad,” but on the other hand, I also think that the only tracks that U2 has ever recorded that sound dated are on the same album. I don’t care much for the inclusion of an instrumental track like “4th of July”–I think that that song would have made a better B-side than album track, but there are also some real hidden gems that never get talked about to be found on The Unforgettable Fire. Songs like “Elvis Presley and America” and “Promenade,” the latter of which is the subject of today’s U2101 article.
“Promenade” is a slow, thoughtful piece that somehow manages to give the sense of being upbeat despite its simple instrumentation. There is some truly beautiful guitar in this song, and the sparse percussion and melodic bass, along with the gorgeous heartfelt vocal line make the song a real piece of art. “Promenade” is kind of short, at just over two and a half minutes, but really, I could stand another two or three minutes of this lovely track. There is an airiness about the track, a feeling like being in the wide open outdoors, looking up at the broad night sky with twinkling stars, sharing the experience with someone you love. “Promenade” is, lyrically, kind of hard to explain, until it gets to the very last verse when it all starts to make a kind of sense.”Tell me you’ll dance with me, turn me around tonight…to the higher ground.” In one sense, I believe that the song is literally about a dance, like a high school prom…that’s probably where the title comes from…but I also think that there is a deeper meaning. The singer is asking his lover to lift him up to a different plane of existence, a better place, separated from the mundane day-to-day doldrums that we all get caught in now and then. Only love can take us to such a place, and that is what Bono is looking for here, and he is using the dance as a metaphor.
I believe that it would probably be a mistake for U2 to play a song like “Promenade” live. I hate saying something like that, because I really love the song, but it just doesn’t fit in with a high energy show such as the one that U2 likes to put on for their fans. Think about when the guys played “Your Blue Room” live a few years ago…I was ecstatic because that song is also a personal favorite, but I could tell that the crowd just didn’t know what to make of the song, and I think that “Promenade” carries a similar dream-like mood. If the band ever got it in their heads that they had to play “Promenade” live, it would probably work best as an extended snippet, maybe at the beginning of “Streets.” Then again, U2 could surprise me and find a way to make “Promenade” palatable to a large audience, about half of which probably skip the track when and if they listen to The Unforgettable Fire. I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing one of my favorite songs from that album live a time or two, though, and if anyone can pull it off, it would be the four men in U2.