U2 is all but peerless in its longevity, relevance and success. The lineup is mostly unchanged from the time members joined forces in 1976, when drummer Larry Mullin Jr. placed an ad for like-minded musicians on his Dublin, Ireland, high school bulletin board.
Bono (aka Paul Hewson, vocals), The Edge (aka Dave Evans, guitars), and Adam Clayton (bass) responded, as did Dick Evans (he left in 1977 to form his own band).
The 15- and 16-year-old aspiring rock stars started out calling themselves The Feedback, doing Stones and Beatles covers. Briefly, they went by The Hype, then settled on U2 as they won a battle of the bands that resulted in signing with big-time manager Paul McGuinness in 1977.
Even with serious management, it was years of paying dues before band members stepped it up somewhat with the debut EP “Three.” It topped the Irish national charts, but did not cause so much as a ripple beyond.
BOY OH BOY
The band broke big in 1980, signing with Island Records, where storied producer Steve Lillywhite helped produce the first full-length “Boy,” which helped launch U2 worldwide.
The band stood out from the pack with a sound unlike anyone else’s, featuring Bono’s soaring vocals and Edge’s atmospheric bed of rich, effects-laden guitar.
The fact they were also fearless about sharing their socially conscious leanings and their Irish Catholic beliefs (only Clayton is nonpracticing) in both interview situations and lyrics made the musicians noteworthy in that nihilistic, punk-dominated era.
Success was cemented in 1983 with the third effort, “War,” scoring solid hits in the United States and beyond with “New Year’s Day” and several other songs.
ROCK THAT MATTERS
Always a thoughtful and thought-provoking outfit, U2 has managed to carve a niche with such songs of substance as the Martin Luther King Jr.-inspired “(Pride) In the Name of Love” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” from the “War” album – the latter of which is, in part, a commentary about an incident in Northern Ireland in which British troops killed 13 unarmed civil rights protesters.
Though the band gave “Sunday” a rest from live performance for a time, Edge revived it in a solo concert at a benefit for war-torn Sarajevo in 1997, and it has since been returned to the band’s sets as a commentary on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U2 can also have fun and look at the irony of fame with multimillion-dollar stage sets and tours that feature the getdown-and-boogie aspect of rock, as exemplified by their tours for Achtung Baby and Pop.
In 2009, U2 released its 15th album, “No Line on the Horizon,” to mostly positive reviews and fan response. The band was set to launch a worldwide tour in support of the album when Bono injured his back badly enough during final rehearsals that he required corrective surgery.
The musicians were forced to postpone their North American dates for almost a year, including a show in Seattle.
They play the makeup date at Qwest Field on Saturday.
Nearing four decades on, U2’s honest brand of rock ’n’ roll remains a true original, with a sound little swayed by the flavors of the day in popular music.
The summer tour is expected to be one of the biggest of the year, in both excitement value and revenue.