U2 may be the only band that has as many haters as they have fans. Me, I've had a love-hate relationship with them (actually mainly Paul Hewson) for the past decade. But whatever it is, I've been a faithful subscriber to the official fanclub for over five years, all for the main purpose of getting pre-sale tickets to their shows. I finally took advantage of it last year when I secured good seats to the 360 shows in Perth. And then in March this year, I was given the opportunity to renew my annual membership. So what was the subscriber exclusive this time? A compilation CD of the band's past collaborations with other artists, almost half of which most hardcore fans already own. That was a good-enough sign for lots of us to voice our disappointments to management for not putting enough effort in coming up with something creative. I mean after all, we are paying 40 bucks to renew our membership, and this is all we get?
Personally I didn't need to have the Duals album (I already have The Wanderer, The Saints Are Coming, Miss Sarajevo, When Love Comes To Town and the Allen Ginsberg-penned Drunk Chicken/America from The Joshua Tree reissue). But I decided to renew just before my membership expired. The compilation opens with a new rendition of Where The Street Have No Name, accompanied by an outstanding African group, known as the Soweto Gospel Choir. Seems like it was recently recorded, cause it sounds exactly the way the band plays the song in concert now. The version of Miss Sarajevo here is longer; it has an extra instrumental break before Pavarotti sings, and an extended outro with more violins. Ok, so at least it's not a replica from the Passengers album.
Sunday Bloody Sunday is taken from the show in Auckland last November, the one that has Jay-Z free rapping some stuff about politics; it's surprisingly enjoyable, though I'm glad Bono didn't bring him out during the Perth shows. What's worse is the cheesy Haiti tribute, Stranded. One; Mary J. Blige is an amazing singer, but honestly I think she ruined the whole song when she sang with Bono. It would actually sound better if she just did her own version, without backing by U2. The high point here is Stuck In A Moment, with Mick Jagger (if you don't already own the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts on blu-ray/dvd, go buy it immediately). Another is the Celtic folk The Ballad Of Ronnie Drew featuring some Irish musicians I've never heard of. Other than the Green Day, Willie Nelson, B.B. King and Johnny Cash collaborations, the rest of the stuff is pretty average.
Duals definitely isn't the best thing the fanclub has released. The Medium, Rare & Remastered (alternate takes, outtakes and b-sides) they put out two years ago -- now that was quality stuff. But I'm not knocking myself in the head for paying the pricey renewal fee; I figured I'd still probably end up reading Willie's tour diary too. And besides, I'm confident there will be some surprises coming our way this year (the long-rumored new album?), and when that happens, the members will surely benefit the most.
UPDATE: The band dropped by Hansa Studio in Berlin a few days ago, to film 'something'. Could this be for the Achtung Baby 20th anniversary reissue?