Re: Bono's voice/JT/Popmart/Looseness

John J. Hlavaty ([email protected])
Fri, 17 Jul 1998 03:03:41 -0400

"rob okorn" <[email protected]> wrote:
>It's sad that any semblance of well articulated assertions(aka facts)
>are construed as pretentious rather than matter of fact for the mere
>fact that it deviates from other's opinions. Then they decide to use
>lame inaccuracies that I only focused on 'vocal range' and that Bono's
>texture is superior now. Guess what I went out of my way to include a
>number of vocal facets so this person has selectively juxtapose what she
>sees as convenient to make a point devoid of merit. Vocal texture?, I
>guess you haven't heard 'Sweet Fire of Love' from '87 which leaves that
>point far from the realm of truisms. Sweet fire of Live vocally has
>incredible tone/texture coupled with fiery passion/emotion. You'll note
>I refrained from mentioning vocal gymnastics, needless to say the vocals
>are awesome.
>In terms of Bono's voice, listen to the tone, TEXTURE, power, nuance,
>EMOTION, passion, range from the best 80's shows. The band have slowed
>the pitch/speed on songs to compensate and mitigate any brittle vocal

Ooh, let me jump in on this argument. :-D

It is true that as far as "raw emotion" is concerned, the 80's
Bono clearly beats the 90's Bono - but then, that's because
the nature of U2's music in the 90's is vastly different.
When a moment of "pure emotion" is required, like in "Gone",
Bono's range is as brilliant as ever. But for the most part,
the songs this decade have deviated from his "blowing out
a lung" vocal style that he did in the mid-80's.

One could argue that it's because of Bono's decreased vocal
range that forced the alteration in his singing. And to
some extent, this is true. Keep in mind that we are now talking
about a man who is 38 - hardly the "young pup" he was back
in 1984-87 (aged 24-27). Years of touring, and admittedly,
smoking and alcohol, as well as just general aging, have detracted
from his voice. But this is true for any singer - and, like any
GOOD singer, Bono has altered his vocals to accomodate.

A good analogy is Michael Jordan from the Chicago Bulls. Jordan can
no longer jump as high or as far as he once did. At 35, this
is not the same "Air Jordan" of 1987 (when he was 24). But
Jordan is still considered one of, if not THE, best basketball
players out there today. The fact that he continues to win
scoring titles, MVP trophies and NBA championships proves this
point. But how does Jordan manage to do these things with
his decreased abilities? Simple, he altered how he plays.
Bono, like Jordan, is so naturally good at what he does, that
he can alter how he performs while still dominating his field.

I've heard several "POP" era performances where Bono has
the pure passion and energy that he did as a 23 year old!
If you hear him sing "New Year's Day" he sounds just as
powerful as he did in 1983 and even better than he did during
the ZOO years. But to sing that way for an entire show night
after night would destroy his vocals completely. As such,
he had to alter his singing. Bono's voice went out all too many
times during the JT tour - something that isn't mentioned nearly
as often as it should be. But when his voice occasionally went out
on the "POPMart" tour, suddenly every cried about their "lost
singer". When I was a child (aged 11-12) I was in my school's choir.
After weeks of practicing and then performing, on one particular night
my voice was gone. I had no solo (fortunately ;-D) and my voice was
just one of many, but the constant singing still knocked it out. If this
can happen to a person this young, imagine what could happen to one
much older who now is the only voice heard (besides Edge's backing

Lastly, I will argue that Bono has now truly learned how to sing.
This started with 1988's R&H and continues to today. Singing
is not just pure emotion or vocal range - rather it's how
one presents a song and the vocal texture. The "scratchy voice"
Bono had in "One" worked brilliantly for that song, but would
have failed for "With or Without You". The near "crying" voice
he achieved in "Please" is quite reminiscent of 1987's "Mothers
of the Disappeared". On UF, Bono screamed more than he sang.
But now, he has a HUGE vocal range that enables him to
cover all styles. Therefore, I much prefer "today's Bono" than
one from yesteryear.

>As far as spontaneity and looseness, even something like the 8/8/87 is a
>hundred times looser than any popmart show.

Stop right there! You simply cannot compare any "POPMart"
or ZOO era show to those from the 80's. Both of these latter
tours were heavily connected to video and as such, the spontaneity
was decreased. When the show allowed for some looseness,
U2 capitalized on it (like on the b-stage), often throwing in tidbits
from other songs or expanding a song. But for the overall shows,
the songs had to tie into the video. Perhaps you don't appreciate
this video connection - fair enough. But this is the main reason for
the lack of true spontaneity in current shows.

That said, spontaneity is not always a good thing. During
the JT era, at times Bono's voice (going back to the above thread)
didn't always allow for him to sing a song. So a song would
start and then quickly end. Other times, I've heard boots where
it seemed there was a mix-up in which song was going to be
played next. So, spontaneity may sound nice, but it also can make
a show flow far less smoothly.



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