- 11 Nov 20
My Sweet Beloved's Danielle Harrison Byrne shares her reflections on U2's legacy, as part of our 'Voices on U2' series.
In 1983, living in Los Angeles, I was a completely music-obsessed 13 year-old. When my parents took me to the Us Festival in May that year, I got to stand among 670,000 other people and experience the raw, sincere power of U2.
That was the War tour. I had heard ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ – one of the key tracks on that album – on the radio before then, but everything about seeing them and hearing them play it that day struck me profoundly. I felt its intensity, even though I had no idea what the words meant. I would come to understand the true meaning of the song when I moved to Ireland many years later and learned about the country’s harrowing history. The roar of Bono’s words – “I’m so sick of it!” – still gives me the chills.
I have always felt that U2 are using their words and music to send a message to lift and unite people: that they aim to inspire empathy, compassion and strength-in-solidarity. And what’s particularly impressive is that they do all of this in a way that seems like... osmosis. One minute you’re just feeling the music and then – bam! – the words start coming together, and then you’ve absorbed the story.
Then you understand... this is someone’s story. Like the way ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ just goes straight into your bones.
U2 always had that quality in their music. I hadn’t listened to Boy in years but it is still really fresh. ‘I Will Follow’... what a heartbreaker of a song that is.
U2 are a big stadium band. I saw that in fledgling form back in 1983, and you can hear it in a song like ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’ on All That You Can’t Leave Behind. But I think, as a band, you have to just not worry about writing for this reason or that reason. Just focus on being true to yourself and then others can feel it.
U2 have succeeded in that. I think they come across as kind people. I can imagine it’s difficult to stay humble, with their level of success, and to not become a jaded-ass. That they have succeeded in that, too, after over 30 years at the very top, is no small achievement.
Derek Byrne, guitarist with My Sweet Beloved, adds...
The question is often asked: what influence did U2 have on Irish bands and on Irish music? The answer: it was huge. U2’s music, image – and the huge success they had – embedded Ireland’s musical stamp even further into the global map and gave the Irish people a massive sense of pride. It was very powerful to see that a band – coming from such a small country – could impact the world on so many levels.
Having a home-grown Irish band at the pinnacle of music internationally, for young musicians here to emulate, inspired the country with creativity, imagination –and the hope to one day follow in their footsteps. It is also inspiring for musicians to see how they have stayed together as a unit for over 40 years. Clearly, they have an extraordinary commitment to one another, and a bond, which I suspect comes from doing what they love most in the world: creating music together.
• My Sweet Beloved’s self-titled debut album My Sweet Beloved is out now. The Hot Press verdict: “This debut finally heralds the arrival of Ireland’s newest great alt-rock band” – John Walshe 8/10
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The third single from the album, 'Big Smoke', is currently on release.
With two anniversaries rolled into one, 2020 is an important moment for U2 – marking 40 years since their extraordinary debut album Boy, and 20 years since their marvellously resonant All That You Can’t Leave Behind. To celebrate, we released the Hot Press U2: 80-00-20 Special – out now!