What could be better than seeing U2 live in concert? How about seeing them in an intimate pub setting with Bono three feet away from you? Okay, that probably won’t happen, but you can see 2U, called the “second best U2 show” up close and personal.
The New York City based band consists of four talented musicians whose aim is to recreate the experience of seeing U2 live. Joe Cumia is one of the original members who plays the Edge, Tom Thornton not only sounds like Bono, but he bears a striking resemblance to the Irish singer. Pat Rotolo on Bass is also an original member and Vinnie Tattanelli began performing six months ago after playing drums for the national act Nine Days.
This U2 tribute band started their act in the spring of 2002. They originally called themselves Joshua Tree, but changed it when another Boston band went by the same name.
“The name that starts with a number is the first on the list,” said Cumia. “Most tribute bands are about naming themselves after a song or an album. We went the other way.”
“It’s the mirror image [of U2],” said Thornton.
2U plays all over the United States and even internationally. They have gotten so popular, playing five nights a week that the guys gave up their day jobs. They’ve played in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado, Puerto Rico, and Nova Scotia.
One of their dreams is to play in Dublin. According to Cumia, if all goes well it will happen next year.
Cover vs. tribute
According to Cumia, as a cover band you can fall into the trap of playing the same songs over and over. And then you are competing with other cover bands that all play the same thing. The band also loves U2’s music.
“Unless you cover it and make it your own, it’s not as good,” said Cumia. “Yet U2 has stayed relevant the whole time. They stayed on top of their game without straying from who they are.”
“They are honest,” said Rotolo.
“Bono said all you need is ‘three chords and the truth,'” said Cumia.
According to the band, U2 fans are different than the average fan of other groups that just wants to hear one or two hit songs.
“The people that come to see us appreciate it if we play a deep track,” said Cumia.
“They are an album based fan group. They appreciate the whole album,” said Thornton.
The other problem with cover bands is that after awhile your fans grow up and stop going to see you.
“The Nerds are an anomaly,” said Cumia. “They’ve been around forever, but for most cover bands that doesn’t happen.”
Making it work
2U has about 45 songs that they play regularly and they work hard to keep their act fresh.
“That’s the difference between the working professional and the guys that want to be rock stars. They want to be the Bono,” said Cumia.
“That’s what I mean about being honest,” said Rotolo. “We go up and do the best we can do.”
There are other U2 tribute bands, but most focus on only a few albums or their most recent songs. According to Cumia, he doesn’t mind the competition.
“Unforgettable Fire has been together awhile. They are really good,” said Cumia. “Anyone that wants to play it – good for them.”
2U brings decades of music to life. When U2 is between albums or concerts, 2U is always out there giving fans their fill.
“That’s what sets us apart,” said Cumia. “We pay attention to detail. I think Tom [Thornton] has paid the same in eyewear that we have in equipment.”
“We’re more serious,” said Rotolo.
Their live performance is so convincing that while in Puerto Rico the fans were on their feet screaming before they went on.
“In Puerto Rico, we were U2,” said Rotolo.
“They actually put us on Spanish MTV,” said Cumia. “People were on their feet screaming when we got there.”
“It was freaky,” said Rotolo.
This past Saturday, 2U returned to The Whiskey Bar in Hoboken, where they packed the place. Instead of playing two or three sets like most bands do, they gave fans a two and a half hour concert like performance. For fans that don’t know the ins-and-outs of the music technically, they will be looking to see how well the singer performs.
Thornton had no problem convincing the crowd of his ability to sing like Bono, particularly the girls that lined up by the front of the stage.
It is uncanny just how much he looks and sounds like Bono. Thornton even has his mannerisms down. The band played many favorites including: “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” “Angels in Harlem,” and “With or Without You.”
Not only was the crowd dancing, they sang along with Thornton. When the band got to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” Thornton’s voice was drowned out in parts because the fans were screaming so much. This band is just great. If you close your eyes while they are playing, you’ll think you are at a U2 concert. For a tribute band, there isn’t a better compliment.
2U will play at the Whiskey Bar in 2006. They also have a show on Jan. 13 at Tommy Foxes in Bergenfield and on Feb. 9 at The Red Lion in NYC. For more information check out their website: www.notu2.com.