Prediction: U2 to Honor Johnny Cash at Nashville Show

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Tomorrow night at U2’s homecoming (of sorts), given that this is Nashville, and given Bono and the band’s past association and avowed affinity for Johnny Cash, the obligatory, “Hey, we’re in Nashville. That means we’ll be cute, and original, and improvise an ill-fated cover of ‘Walk the Line,’ or ‘Ring of Fire’ (or both),” show-ment is inevitable, or at least highly probable. Like, probable as in how the sun will probably rise in the east on Sunday.

This is likely going to happen during one the many cover-snippets the U2 singer is likely to vocally infuse into the intros, outros and instrumental sections of songs — or as an abridged ditty somewhere else in the set.

(Side note: I also wouldn’t be surprised if the singer threw in Kings of Leon reference somewhere in the snippet list.)

Now, I really don’t have a problem with the whole predictable ode to the Man in Black — he earned the allegiance. But what would be waaaay cooler than a “Walk the Ring of a Fire Line” hat-tip would be if U2 played, or at the very least pulled out a verse or two of, “The Wanderer” — the song that Bono penned for Cash in 1993, and which the MiB so brilliantly sang to close the Zooropa record.

In my opinion, “The Wanderer,” along with "Mystery Girl" (aka “She’s a Mystery to Me") — the song Bono and The Edge wrote for Roy Orbison, which was the title track for the late singer’s 1989 comeback-record-turned-swan-song — are the two best tunes the U2 singer ever wrote. And, come to think of it, a nod to “Mystery” tomorrow night would probably make my eyes water. But “The Wanderer” has never, ever been performed live. And that’s tragic.

“The Wanderer” gives a pretty good idea of what a twilight Cash record as produced by Brian Eno and Flood would’ve sounded like, in case you’ve ever wondered. Even if you detest U2, I defy you to deny this song as anything short of shimmering brilliance. It's a haunting sonic conflation of ’90s-style synth-pop, obscured rhythms and gospel swells that build up layer upon layer. Cash's aged baritone exudes a yearning despair that turns to wary resolve as he sings with the voice of a man lamenting the regret and loneliness of a life spent searching for a lost love he’d long ago abandoned, or a man overreaching in his search for a god that was by his side the whole time without his realizing it. Basically, it’s like a legit version of the “Footprints” parable. Though what would a Jew like me really know about that, right?

But seriously, it’s a really awesome song. Check it out:

And what the hell, I’ll go ahead and post Orbison’s version of “She's a Mystery to Me” as well. Really, this is just a simple, great, wistful pop song with a gorgeous descending melody. Bittersweetly, its high notes were the ones Orbison untimely ended his career on. Check ‘em out:

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