U2101 – Grace

As I think about my personal history with the song “Grace,” the first thing that comes to mind is an anecdote from about eighteen years ago. I was sitting in line before my first general admission show, a concert at Rupp Arena for U2’s stop in Lexington, Kentucky on the Elevation Tour. The topic of what songs we did and didn’t like came up, and I remember one woman who was waiting in line near me stating that she hated the song “Grace.” Maybe I was naive, but I remember this as a kind of pure time, before all of the negativity crept into U2’s fan base, so when she said that she had such strong feelings against that song, it really stuck with me. Now, I remember that event and I am reminded of how diverse U2’s fans really are. Some songs, like “Grace,” that really resonate with me just don’t hit with other fans, while another song that I might not think is one of U2’s strongest efforts is among another fan’s favorites. It’s just a reminder of what a big, wide world we live in.

I really love the song “Grace.” I love the idea behind the song, I love the music, and I love the lyric. The song reminds me to be grateful for all of the wonderful things that I have in my life and does so with a beautiful, lilting melody. Maybe the coolest part of how the music and the lyric work together is the fact that the song is a gentle reminder. Certainly, sometimes, I probably need a more forceful admonition that I have lots to be grateful for, but the band chose to go a pleasantly mellowed out route with this number. “Grace” is infectious, chill, and harmonious, which I think is just perfect for the trait that the song is describing. I also get a lot out of the song’s juxtaposition between grace and karma. Karma is a kind of universal law that states that we all get what we deserve, while grace is kind of the opposite idea, one that states that good things come to everyone, even when they are not deserved. These two concepts are delicately balanced, and the song demonstrates this balance wonderfully.  I also appreciate that, after all the hype about All That You Can’t Leave Behind being a return to basics for the band, the album closes with this little nod to electronic music. It is not what I would classify as a dance tune by any stretch, but it also is not what I would classify as traditional sounding, and I love that U2 kept that door open for themselves.

“Grace” has never been performed live, even as a snippet. I can’t say that I am surprised that U2 has never played a full-length version of the song in concert, but it is a little surprising that “Grace” has never even been snippeted. It is the only song from All That You Can’t Leave Behind that has never been performed in any fashion in front of an audience. Like a lot of the songs that U2 has chosen to ignore live, “Grace” is not the type of song to get one’s blood pumping, but it is the type of song to get one’s heart beating, and one’s brain working. There is a lot of interesting imagery to unpack in this song, and I believe that it has something that even the hardest critic could benefit from. Even though it might not be the right song for U2 to perform in front of a mass congregation, there is still a lot to appreciate in “Grace,” and maybe I can convince some of you who have a lesser view of the song to take another listen. Thanks for reading.

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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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