You would think being in the biggest band in the world that the boys in U2 would not have time to listen to young emerging artists. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Twenty-five plus years into their career U2 are still music fans first and foremost. From the early days listening to punk rock and new wave, too their embracement of American Roots music, too their flirtation with dance and now to the present day, U2 have always been fans of other artists.
With each tour, U2's tastes and ability to remain fresh are reflected in their opening acts. Most artists are very appreciative of being asked by U2 to open despite claims that it is an intimidating and daunting task. The opening act is an integral part to a U2 show because it sets the tone that the show has begun. The entrée has been brought out and the main course is soon to follow.
Too fully comprehend a U2 concert experience there must be an evaluation of opening acts past and present. Starting from the Joshua Tree tour to the present day Vertigo tour, U2's most notable opening acts are examined below.
The Joshua Tree Tour 1987
An established act for almost a decade when they opened for U2, the Pretenders is the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Chrissie Hynde. Busting out of the new wave/post punk scene, the band had many top 40 hits and was recently inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame a long side U2.
Big Audio Dynamite
Formed by Mick Jones after he was fired from the Clash. B.A.D. has had some success incorporating elements of funk, dance, and pop. The original band broke up in 1989 only to be resurrected two years later as Big Audio Dynamite 2 and later just Big Audio.
The former singer and guitarist for the Velvet Underground had attained living legend status by the time he opened for U2. With his countless musical and image einventions, Reed embodied New York with his dark poetic music that was seen as a precursor to punk rock.
Formed in the late 70's around the same time as U2, UB40 became one of the most popular reggae acts in the world. They covered Elvis and Neil Diamond to chart topping success. The band released their last album in 2003 to good reviews.
Lovetown Tour 1989-90
BB King had opened for U2 on the Joshua Tree tour for some dates but on the Lovetown tour this blues great opened every show. A crossover star his flame still burns bright with a recent successful collaboration with Eric Clapton and a tour with Jeff Beck.
Zoo T.V. Tour 1992-1993
The band that inspired Nirvana, The Pixies were the darlings of the underground in the late 80's and early 90's but inner band turmoil would result in the Zoo TV tour being the bands unofficial send off. They reunited in 2004 for a successful tour and greatest hits package.
The Les Claypool led trio whose experimentation and weirdness transformed them into alt rock favourites. Their music is less about lyrics but on instrumental prowess most notably Claypool who uses his bass as a means for communication and expression. The band has been on hiatus for the past few years now.
One of the greatest hip-hop acts off all-time P.E. brought hardcore political rap to the mainstream with menacing beats and social issues. Lyrics dealt with issues such as poverty, racism, and the social injustice. After a string of revolutionary albums in the late 80's and early 90's the reception from the band cooled off eventually resulting in the group going on hiatus.
The innovative Icelandic pop group that featured pop princess Bjork on vocals experienced critical acclaim in the UK and US in the late 80's and early 90's. The band disbanded in 1992 with Bjork going on to a successful solo recording career.
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground didn't experience overwhelming sales success but their legend has grown over the years. They reunited in 1993 for a short-lived tour and live album but broke up again due to the same old conflicts.
Pearl Jam opened for U2 on only a few dates in 1993 but already gained a huge international following by then. They literally played the game backwards becoming immensely popular than retreating from the limelight to cater only to themselves and their hardcore fans. Relying less on image and stunts but on the music, which seems to be secondary with many of today's artists. A new album is due in the summer of 2005.
Pop Mart 1997-98
Rage Against the Machine
With their mix of punk, hardcore and hip-hop, RATM exploded onto the scene in the early 90's paving away for the countless hip-hop rock acts that would follow. The band supported various political causes and in 2000, they would break up due to philosophical differences. Three of the members formed Audioslave with former Soundgarden crooner Chris Cornell.
When they're not stirring controversy and being featured in tabloids, the Gallagher brothers could write and perform some great music. Leading the new Brit Pop invasion of the 90's, Oasis became the biggest band in the UK and had some success in North America. The band's exploits have been tame the last few years as sales dwindled for recent releases. A new album is expected this year.
The surf pop band with its bright sunny sound has had a few huge hits including the Shrek anthem "All-Star". The band released their last album in 2003.
Elevation Tour 2001
The family group featuring three sisters and a brother came out of Ireland in the 90's with their blend of traditional Irish music mixed with pop sensibilities. U2 singer Bono has performed with them on various occasions.
Polly Jean Harvey came out of the alt-rock explosion of the early 90's and became a central female figure in rock at the time with her songs that dealt with dark subjects.
Probably the most unlikely of any artist to open for U2, funky hip-hop artist Kelis had a huge hit with 2003's "Milkshake". She recently married hip-hop star Nas.
Led by Scottish vocalist and famed alt-rock producer turned drummer Butch Vig, Garbage was born in the mid 90's and experienced some early success. The band's new album is due out in the spring of 2005.
Heavily influenced by ska, punk and new wave California band No Doubt became one of the most successful acts of the 90's with their mega selling album Tragic Kingdom. Led by the singer/fashion entrepreneur Gwen Stefani, the band opened for U2 in 2001. The band is on a break and Stefani has recently release her first solo album.
Vertigo Tour 2005-06
Kings of Leon
Southern American garage band Kings of Leon formed in the late 90's and have recently released a new album in 2005.
Pop punk outfit released their debut in the late 90's and have recently released their breakthrough album Final Straw.
The Las Vegas act came to prominence with their debut album, which contained such notable tracks as "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody told Me". They also made an appearance on the Fox teen drama "the O.C.".
This three-piece outfit has experienced some recent success in the US with a performance on NBC's Saturday Night Live and airplay for their song "Everybody's Changing".
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RELATED LINKS: Live Review - Chicago, May 7, 2005 U2 Live Concert Gallery