U2 are many things, but they have never been hip, exactly. It’s just not what they do.
U2 are about transcendence and yearning. They’re not about the East Village. And that fact hasn’t changed since Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant crossed the massive U2 hit “Where the Streets Have No Name” with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
So when they try to come off as ironic and knowing in Spider-Man they instead just sound caustic and a little sour – like your older brother who’s miffed he didn’t get the invite to the wacky party.
“All the weirdoes’ in the world are here right now in New York City,” Bono writes. That’s the kind of sentiment that’ll play well to the tourists just in from Kansas, but it sounds more than a bit lazy to the kids from New York. You wish he’d just leave it Lady Gaga, because it’s her style, not his.
One or two other numbers in an overall wonderfully successful score miss their mark emotionally too.
“Bullying By Numbers” is potentially as political a statement as Bono has ever made in his songwriting, but it still hedges its bets when it should reach for the juggler.
Bullying is bad, the song says, but it shies away from exploring why anyone would decide to become a bully in the first place. And that’s the kind of creative opportunity that no experienced Broadway songwriter would have overlooked, and it’s a bit of a shame Bono didn’t pursue it further.
What he does get right, in spades, is all the hurt and anguish of lovers who can’t quite tell the whole truth to each other. Bono writes about love and yearning with the authenticity of someone who’s had his heart scalded (and who’s scalded a few of his own) over the years.
It’s why he’s still famous, why his band is still such a force in rock. He can wrap bitter experience up in songs that are so sweet or so affecting that you’ll be powerless to resist.
Now, what about that $72 million spent on the show to date? Well, it was right up there on the stage, in those epic overhead battles, in all the dazzling theatricality and the rock concert flashiness.
Quite simply this show has the most amazing scenic design, costumes, lighting, and aerial rigging that you’ll ever see, period.
Sure, you can argue, the money might have been better spent on the refugees from the massive tornado in Missouri, but you could say that about the price of your last meal too. This is Broadway, where it’s go big or go home.
On Saturday night the audience roared its approval, and even the hardest hearts had to give the cast their due. America loves a comeback kid, and this may be one of the biggest comebacks that Broadway has ever seen.
Do yourself a favor. Get back in touch with your inner kid, go and see Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and be prepare to be amazed.
(For ticket information and showtimes, visit www.spidermanonbroadway.marvel.com).