Music has long been part of human existence. Without music, one can say that life would pretty much be boring and colorless. The significance of music is immeasurable since its functions can be limitless. It can evoke emotions and be used as a form of self-expression. It is art in itself, and the most celebrated. However, as beautiful as it is, it is also as complicated. It has a lot of properties, elements and characteristics. With every instrument that can produce sound, there is an identifying factor that gives it its unique tone, but can easily blend with the others to produce a sound different from its original tone.
Because of music's intricacies, there are a number of classifications that can systematically identify the different kinds of music. One of which is genre. A song can be classified whether it is Jazz, Hip-hop or Classical. Among these, the most popular kind of music in this day and age is Rock and Roll. It is mostly comprised of an electric guitar, electric bass and drums. It has a certain appeal to the youth because of its rhythm and the feeling of excitement it can create. It is also exciting to learn more about rock music and what are its properties and elements that make it different from other genres.
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To analyze this, I will refer to U2's 360 European Tour in Barcelona last 2009 because of the band's reputation in the history of Rock and Roll. However, I am not implying that U2's musical style is definitive of this genre, it is just that a lot of modern bands see them as one of their influences, and this band is known for being one of the rock icons.
On June 30, 2009 U2 had the first leg of their 360 tour in Camp Nuo in Barcelona, Spain. They held it inside a huge arena and the concert was attended by thousands of U2 fans. They sang songs from their latest album and some of their all time hits that dated back in the 90s. The arena was decorated with enormous screens, mirrors, smoke machines and lights. The concert was not just another concert. It was more of an experience. With the interaction of lights, smokes and other effects, this concert was definitely not just like any.
The concert opened with a sequence of strong drum beats, and then followed by chords of electric guitar. The strong drum beats and power guitar chords gradually become at sync and after a few seconds of this, Bono's voice surrounded the whole stadium. The crowd cheered loudly, and the concert started to feel interactive.
They started off with a song that has a loud and an upbeat tempo to liven up the audience. They continued to play upbeat and loud songs towards the middle. After sometime, Bono sang softer and songs with slower tempo. This gives off an intimacy vibe towards the audience. The performance is also convincing because of how Bono sings. He gives emphasis on notes that complements a song, and gives the song its dynamic. Some of the songs' rhythm urge people to stand up and dance.
It can also be seen in some of the songs that the fewer the instruments used, the softer and slower the melody is. But it is amazing how they use the different timbres of an acoustic and electric guitar, and somehow still give off the same effect. Despite the instrument used, the songs are still fun and enjoyable. But they used these different timbres to play a noticeable and specific style. For example, they played a portion of a song by plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar rapidly, making it more "traditional Spanish" to suit the audience, since they are in Spain.
It is also noticeable how the songs gets slower and pitch lowers as the song concludes; giving it an emotional gradual stop. With this, it creates a smooth transition towards the next song. There is also this pattern that is evident in some of the songs. Some of the songs start slow and then it becomes fast and upbeat in the chorus, making the tunes catchy. Some lines and tunes of the songs are repeated which, in turn, makes them memorable. As the song progresses, the drums pounds harder, the guitars are louder and faster to keep up with the drums, and Bono sings his heart with emphasis on some notes. This continues or changes until everything gets calmer up to the finale of the song.
In addition to this, the band also altered some notes of the song to insert all-time crowd favorites such as Here Come's the Sun from the Beatles and Michael Jackson's Don't Stop til You Get Enough. This brought more participation from the crowd, as if the band wanted more assurance that their audience is listening. In fact, about 70% of the concert, the crowd is singing-and dancing along the band. This makes the band more energetic and enthusiastic when playing. The playing of the instruments and vocals become more "powerful" when the crowd cheered them on. The crowd singing along gives more appeal to the songs because it is somehow "infectious". You'll get infected by the joy and enthusiasm of the crowd that you wanted to sing along also. If you do not know the song, you'll do anything just to keep up with them; may it be searching for that song or just swaying your body to have this sense of being "in" with the crowd.
Everybody loved the band, especially the vocalist, Bono. Being the front man, he gives that flavor to the band that further defines their musical style. As with instruments, vocalists also have timbres, and with someone who has heard Bono, you can't be mistaken that it is his voice when you hear it. He has this cool voice that makes their songs soothing despite their upbeat tones. They play rock with an edge but without any trace of aggression. He sings with heart and passion and not just like an empty singer who does it just for the fame and fortune. Every song he sings is heart-felt. An audience will know that he loves what he does and he wants to extend that love to the people listening to him. Bono is truly admirable. He had plenty of concerts but you can see from his performance that he never gets jaded. Unlike any other band, he is well-poised and not trying to be out-of-control in front of the crowd. It is evident that the crowd loves him and he reciprocates by giving his all on stage.
Another distinct characteristic of U2 songs is their lyrics. Melody and rhythm of a song is important, but personally, I think the lyrics, the message and the feelings behind the song are the most important. In U2's songs, they talk about human experiences: love, hate, pain, despair, elation and happiness. In their song Walk On, there's this line: "And I know it aches/And your heart it breaks/and you can only take so much" is so relatable. And the song is not just simply expressing pain, but somehow they are reassuring that everything will be alright, which is further asserted when they inserted the song "You'll Never Walk Alone". They also tried to be socially-relevant by inserting a message about the some of the problems that our society is facing (e.g. AIDS, malaria).
Another song that struck me is One which implies that everyone is like brothers and sister, and although we are aware of it, we keep on hurting each other. The fact that they are not just expressing their personal feelings is what makes this band more admirable. Some songs are about human emotions, some are about having fun and some are inspirational. They use music to influence people and send a meaning message for humanity. Some of the songs are definitely a feel-good song because of the lyrics and the melody. One of which is "A beautiful day". Faster tempo and louder songs like "vertigo" made me feel pretty excited. It made me want to jump up and down.
The music of U2 is truly remarkable. From the melody, harmony and rhythm that they create to the meaning of their songs, the concert of this band is truly not just any other concert but an experience. The guitars, drums, keyboards and bass are in perfect harmony that you cannot really see how many instruments are played there, or if there are any technical alterations by modern equipment. One cannot really focus on the technicalities of music because the elements of music just guides us through a progression of what it seems like a story. The loudness of the music and every succession of notes can be overwhelming.
It induced a warm feeling; something that is not really explainable, but it's there. After watching the concert, I was deeply happy and satisfied. I loved all their songs although I was not really a fan of theirs. But after this, I can say that I will learn more about the songs of this group and will learn more about music to create and express art the same ways these guys did.