Irish megastars U2 released their 14th studio album, Songs of Experience, on Friday. It’s a strange record, often toothless and superior while the world goes to shit, and their performance on last night’s SNL didn’t provide much more bite. They played “American Soul,” with a pre-recorded spoken word intro from Kendrick Lamar, and “Get Out of Your Own Way.” Predictably, that Kendrick segment was the peak of the set.
On “American Soul,” Bono ambled around the stage, switching between a mic and a stars-and-stripes megaphone. The track was never likely to take off—the piped-in sounds of an excitable rabble cut out halfway through the first verse—but at least Bono’s words bordered on protest: “It's a call to action, not to fantasy / The end of a dream, the start of what's real / Let it be unity, let it be community / For refugees like you and me.”
But “Get Out of Your Own Way” felt like the radio-friendly, #Resistance platitude that it is on record. It might be comforting to fans of a certain age: The Edge’s guitar had that familiar, chiming delay, and the chorus breezed past like the most sickly moments on 2000’s All That You Can't Leave Behind. But it fell flat. “Nothing's stopping you except what's inside,” sang the man who called “welfare and foreign aid a Band-Aid” to global poverty and championed “free enterprise” as a cure-all. “I can help you / But it's your fight, your fight.”
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.