In Turin, Italy U2 debuted two new and official songs: “Glastonbury” and “North Star”; quite possibly both ditties will show up on the band’s forthcoming album. However, were they decent, entertaining, and credible songs? Why exactly did U2 choose to add them to the European set? A theory: “Glastonbury” has so far replaced the formal show opener “Breathe”; “Beautiful Day” has now taken that song’s place. “Glastonbury” certainly attempts to achieve the anthemic quality and appeal that several songs on No Line on the Horizon so tangibly lacked, and Bono makes similar gestures.
U2 has indeed rehearsed “Breathe”, in Denmark just recently. But the hyper-Dylanesque vocal traits of “Breathe” seem to render it basically immaterial live, and Bono’s botched line during the band’s major California concert hasn’t helped its status live, as it was viewed by nearly the entire planet. (Though I thought “Breathe” went over fairly well at the 2009 show I evaluated.) It’s no surprise also that “New Year’s Day” sometimes succeeds “Beautiful Day”—two unmistakable and bona fide anthems right off the bat, with “Glastonbury” a little down the line.
As for “North Star,” its acoustic, folk music vibe interestingly recalls the defunct Oasis, but also the Verve, and especially Richard Ashcroft’s solo work. It’s a rare and acoustic song from the band – aside from the live version of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”. Moreover, the decision to showcase the Batman Forever song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” couldn’t be a wiser move, with its sexy, infectious techno bit combined with the Edge’s slick guitar virtuosity. It’s better than “Get on Your Boots”, though it shares several items in common with it.