SOE New York City Listening Party

Original Story by Kelly McNamara (2017-11-30)

Nothing to stop this being the best day ever…

The opening line of “Love is All We Have Left,” the first song on Songs of Experience, seemed pretty appropriate when it was played at the NYC Listening Party last night at the Back Room, a cozy speakeasy on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

About 25 radio contest winners and their plus-ones lucky enough to be in attendance were treated to cocktails served in teacups and mugs, with beers in brown paper bags. A table at the bar had loads of snacks, cheeses, and stuff to pick on while the wait staff passed around various hors d’oeuvres.

IMAGE: The Back Room (Image courtesy of

The fireplace was lit, and photos from different stages of the band’s career were posted up on the walls. A small stage was set up with three easy chairs and an image of the Songs of Experience album cover with a track listing on the left side. To the left of the stage, there was a bookshelf along the wall, which was actually a hidden doorway apparently leading to the green room for the event.

IMAGE: The Listening Room (Image by Kelly McNamara)

The dimly lit atmosphere felt very lounge-like. Couches, chairs, and tiny ottomans had been set up in casual rows with bar stools making up the back row of this intimate gathering.

Around 8pm a brief announcement was made and the album was played straight through on a great sound system set up just for this event. Watching the crowd, it was easy to tell those who had already heard a leaked copy of the album those and who hadn’t.

IMAGE: Outside The Back Room (Image by Kelly McNamara)

It was interesting to hear some cheering after “You’re the Best Thing About Me” was played. I heard someone mention that they heard elements of “Beautiful Day” during the opening notes of “Get Out of Your Own Way.”

Hardcore fans getting a first listen seemed to have the same look on their face during “American Soul,” trying to place the familiar sound of “Volcano.”

IMAGE: The Track Listing Displayed (Image by Kelly McNamara)

When “Summer of Love” began, the lights brightened a bit to yellow and seemed to really catch everyone’s attention, resulting in applause as it finished playing.

“Red Flag Day,” my personal favorite, really got the crowd going… a resounding “WOOHOO!” was heard as it segued into “The Showman (Little More Better).”

During “The Blackout,” a few fans got up and tried to ‘reenact the video’ with some celebratory dancing.

As “Love is Bigger than Anything in Its Way” was beginning, the book shelf door opened and Brian Murphy came out. Everyone straightened up a bit in their seats.

As “13 (There is a Light)” and the album came to a close, the lights came up to a round of applause and Morgan Spurlock, the political activist filmmaker behind the documentary Super Size Me, took the stage and told us what a fan of the band he was. Morgan then welcomed U2 to the stage, as two additional chairs were brought up! FULL BAND!!

As Edge and Adam walked out to a standing ovation, the bookshelf remained open… it took a few minutes, but Bono and Larry walked out, just as the audience had started to settle down a bit.

Once all four were settled in their seats, Guy Oseary came out. He quickly and quietly made his way to the back of the room and never came to the stage.

IMAGE: Drinks at The Back Room (Image by Kelly McNamara)

The format was similar to that in Los Angeles earlier in the week; fans submitted questions and Morgan read them off of an iPad.

A fan named Kerry asked a question about what songs might have surprised the band in their popularity. Adam explained that he was going to answer the question a bit differently, and talked about “Red Hill Mining Town” being played throughout The Joshua Tree 2017 shows and how he felt the song was rediscovered for him, with the new arrangement being a highlight.

Edge discussed “Bad” and how it was written in the studio. He said he was amazed at how the song just seems to get better and better each time it is played live.

Larry elaborated on Edge’s thoughts, explaining how audience reaction is a big deal and how taking any song from the studio and playing it live is a big leap of faith and rather terrifying. He noted that ultimately the audience is the arbiter in the end.

Bono took “Bad” and wanted to share a story he said they haven’t discussed publicly before, explaining where the title of the song came from. As teenagers trying to “feel arty,” they went to go see an Andy Warhol film entitled Bad. Afterward, Bono had an argument about the film with a friend who was a heroin addict. The title of the song references that friend, that movie, and the argument that ensued.

Another question posed brought up the 37-year anniversary of U2’s first appearance in NYC at The Ritz. Larry and Adam reminisced about how big the room felt and Larry explained how “size does matter.”

Bono spoke about heading to the The Mudd Club in TriBeCa after the show that night, which was the hottest club at the time…and they weren’t allowed in. Their promoter scaled a fire escape and snuck in through the kitchen. Still waiting outside, the band heard some crashing and then the door opened and their promoter was promptly tossed out, looking a bit worse for the wear.

A fan named Patricia asked the Edge about set lists and how the process goes in selecting which older songs are played on a tour. He explained that as huge music and concert fans, they know what great shows sound like; they are transcendent. The band members are just hoping for moments like those that will ignite and connect with the crowd. Edge continued by saying that while it is done by consensus, Bono is largely responsible for the final result as he is the one putting himself out there in front.

Bono spoke about the fact that U2 is not a “jukebox band—any requests?” and referred to Bruce Springsteen as one of the greats who does just that. He explained that U2 works on the effect of the collection of songs and trying to take the audience to “another place. He said the band just tries to play the “best night of our lives every single night.”

IMAGE: The Album Cover at The Back Room (Image by Kelly McNamara)

Mark asked Adam about new artists that were currently inspiring him. Adam mentioned Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z and his new album, commenting that the lyrics were “extraordinary.” He mentioned a band out of the UK called The Horrors and mentioned that when they were in LA, he was listening to a lot of 21 Pilots. Bono brought up Royal Blood and Imelda May. They also joked about a “new artist” named Noel Gallagher having an album out.

IMAGE: The Album Cover (Image by Kelly McNamara)

A fan named Vicki asked Larry why NYC has always had a special place in U2’s heart. He explained that in the 80s in Dublin, nothing seemed possible, and NYC and the dream of NYC was full of possibilities. He went on to discuss how, thankfully, Dublin and Ireland have changed while NYC hasn’t. He’s lived in NYC for 25 years now and is happy to call it his second home.

After about an hour of Q&A, the evening ended with a group picture, some handshakes, and some Songs of Experience swag bags for the contest winners—keepsakes of a night they will never forget.

[Ed.: Kelly attended the listening event for Songs of Experience on November 29, 2017 in New York City, and we want to thank her for taking the time to write up her experiences from the evening. Users had to surrender their phones and cameras upon entering the venue but we will have some photos of the swag bag items at a later date. — AJS]

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