Bono, Julie Taymor, Phillip William McKinley - Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images, The Edge
You would have had to have been held captive in Green Goblin’s lair to miss the news that the retooled musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark officially opened after what seemed like a decade of previews. The cast soundtrack also appeared on iTunes at the same time, much to the delight of U2 fans!
Let’s get right down to it. The set opens up with an instrumental interlude to warm up the crowd. Edge’s chord structures are cartoonish and over the top as they do battle with strings and xylophone tinkering. It’s big, bloated, and fun as hell!
Lead singer Reeve Carney is a dead ringer for Bono -- dare I say his voice might be better -- which makes this Broadway show sound suspiciously like a U2 album in spots. “Why does the eye of the needle steel your heart tonight?” he screams during “Boy Falls From the Sky,” making your skin do a goose bump dance that only happens when Bono sings the high notes on “Vertigo.”
Bono does join the cast album on “Rise Above,” the album’s single. The performance fell flat for me when they played this during the American Idol finale, but the song works much better in the context of a soundtrack. “You say rise above/open your eyes to love/I can’t/I know what you say to me/exactly what you say to me/I still hang on every word,” Bono sings on this romantic rocker before Carney explodes in the chorus.
On “Picture This,” Bono and Edge escape the U2 trademark sound to explore the sunny sixties melodies and clever songwriting that calls to mind early Kinks. “Picture this/the world is spinning on a tiny pin/nobody knows/the danger we’re in on this sunny day,” Bono sings.
“Bouncing Off the Walls” has a caustic guitar riff that propels the drama of the show, while “Pull the Trigger” has a slinky electronic beat, a wordy story narrative, and another metallic riff that sounds Les Miserables in kinky bondage.
Cast member Jennifer Damiano has a flawless voice as Mary Jane that slays you on the ballad “If the World Should End.” Even during a tender moment, her powerful voice brings the show to a rolling boil.
The music is breathtaking at times, especially on “Sinistereo,” a sexy yet dark track of jangly guitars and orchestral atmospherics that sounds like Alice in Chains if she was birthed by Eleanor Rigby.
Vocalist Patrick Page’s villainous “A Freak Like Me Needs Company” chews off every silly lyric Bono throws at him. It’s another slice of superhero fun and a sly commentary of the negative press the show has gotten. “I’m a $65 million circus tragedy,” goes one lyric.
You can hear Edge and Bono’s exuberance in the melodies; they are clearly thrilled with a musical holiday from U2 in favor of writing silly yet substantive music as colorful as a superhero’s costume.
It must be nice for Bono to take a break from saving the world in favor of doodling for a freakish cartoon affair. I loved every minute of this brilliant soundtrack, but my brethren in the press pool have not been as kind on Bono and The Edge’s score.
David Rooney from Reuters wrote, “With producer Julie Taymor serving as scapegoat, U2's Bono and The Edge, who wrote the forgettable music and lyrics, have been largely exonerated for their role in this $70 million folly.” Ouch! Based on the lackluster reviews, this music has inspired me to see the show before someone “turns off the dark” on the star-crossed production.