04/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

U2's Middle-Aged Makeover (and What It Says About Us)


Tonight U2 wrap up the first phase of their middle-aged world domination plan. They conclude their five-day residency on "The Late Show with David Letterman" after playing a mini-concert on "Good Morning America" earlier in the day. Now they move on to summer tour preparations. Get ready to see a lot of U2 for the rest of the year... and beyond.

GALLERY: See the History of U2

U2 have become our Rolling Stones (I'm writing to the people who bought U2's first album when it came out not the folks who bought some reissue). We used to look at our parents getting all misty-eyed at Stones concerts, yammering about "the greatest rock 'n' roll band." We made fun of those aging geezers singing "Satisfaction" and "Jumping Jack Flash" for the bajillionth time.

We are now them. Singing "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

I don't want to talk about the merits of U2's new album, "No Line on the Horizon." It sucks. It's genius. It's boundary breaking. It's pap. Read the magazine or blog of your choice to get the opinion that matches your own preconceived notions. There's an opinion for everyone, and there's a bit of wisdom in each.

The album is not the point. U2 keeps moving. THAT is the point. And there is a difference between moving and just going. The Stones "go." They are moving on inertia.

Every time U2 comes back, we get a chance to rally around something. It's nearly impossible to rally around anything these days except tragedy. Remember when we ALL came together around a band and an album? We gathered together to celebrate each other. The band was there, but they weren't the point. WE were the point. Now we huddle in a million tribes around subgenres, chat rooms, message boards. We sit alone with our cynicism and convince ourselves that nothing is cool, nothing is right, and nothing is worth celebrating. We don't move. We barely even go anywhere.

But U2 keeps moving. They dare to get out, wear their hearts on their sleeves, and demand to be the next big thing. How many dudes pushing 50 have the balls to say, "I'm going to be the next big thing"? There are a million young dudes all standing in line to be the next big thing. They're taking your job, your girl, your place at the bar. The place for dudes pushing 50 is at the back of the line next to the dump bin of Rolling Stones vinyl.

Not so, says U2. Life begins anew each day when we decide to open our arms in front of the crowd that loves to hate. They lead with joy and believe that they can still matter. Maybe they don't. Maybe everyone is laughing behind their backs. In front of their faces. Maybe U2 will have the last laugh. Maybe the album sucks. But who cares? Who else do you know who works this hard in their forties? Except Obama. That guy is definitely busting his ass.

So I'll play the new album for a week while I hear another one in my head (probably, "Achtung Baby"; I still love that one). After a week, a couple songs will make it into my iPod (the Arcade Fire-wannabe ones), and the rest will go on the scrap heap. But for the rest of the year, while U2 continues their media assault, I'll cheer them on. If they win, I win. They give me permission to hold on to my dreams a little bit longer.

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