“Love and Peace or Else” is a song that I believe to be, in some respects, underrated by the band itself. I say that because the band has ignored several perfect opportunities to revive the song since the end of the Vertigo Tour, the tour that was affiliated with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, the album which “Love and Peace or Else” is from. The band did think enough of the song to perform it for charity on MTV as part of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
Perhaps the reason that the song hasn’t been performed outside of the Vertigo tour is that it is too closely tied to the visual of the performance that accompanied it on that tour. You know what I’m talking about…where Larry would stand out at the tip of the ellipse, playing a single drum for the first half of the song. Right before the guitar solo, Larry would move back behind his regular drum kit while Bono took over the lone drummer duties at the tip of the stage. This act was a highlight of the Vertigo shows for several reasons; one, it got Larry out from behind the drum set, into the limelight, and two, it segued perfectly into Bono singing about his “Coexist” headband during “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” In this context, the song made a more powerful statement than it ever could have otherwise, and wherever the song was performed in the set-list on a given night, fans eagerly waited for the moment that that opening bass riff would come throbbing out of the speakers.
Speaking of that great bass part that opens the song, we have Brian Eno to thank for that dramatic intro. Eno’s involvement on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was really a leftover from the sessions for All That You Can’t Leave Behind’, which is where this song originated. “Love and Peace or Else” is also one of five songs on …Atomic Bomb to retain some of the production work of Chris Thomas, the album’s original producer. “Love and Peace or Else” went through more producers than any other song on the album, as it started with Eno and Lanois as a left-over from the previous album, then the band worked on it with Chris Thomas, and finally finished the song with Flood and Jacknife Lee. I would love to have been “The Fly” on the wall during the sessions for this album, to hear and see what each producer contributed to this densely rich song as it exists on the finished product. Producers aside, though, the highlight of the song is definitely Edge’s searing guitar solo, which makes me think of this song as a kind of sequel to “Bullet the Blue Sky.”
If you are curious, the time and place that I would have most loved for U2 to revive “Love and Peace or Else” was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anniversary concert which took place ten years ago this past week. You might recall that U2 collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas on a rendition of the latter group’s song “Where is the Love,” a question which is echoed in the lyrics of “Love and Peace or Else.” It would have been the perfect time for U2 to revive this relatively obscure song, but I guess that they wanted to limit their set-list that night to well-known hits. What relatively unknown gems do you wish U2 would play more of?
Please comment below and let me know what your favorite overlooked songs are!