When U2 soars, it is truly a thing of beauty. Those lofty ambitions, that extended reach, however, also make their musical crashes spectacularly bad.

The music that U2's Bono and The Edge, along with lyricist Glen Berger, provide "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" is so extraordinarily uneven -- even after years of preparation and its recent much-publicized delays and retooling -- that it just makes the whole experience that much more uncomfortable. Taken all together, "Spider-Man" generates a kind of musical turbulence that just seems unnecessary, that you would think experienced pilots would be able to avoid.

Well-crafted songs like "Rise Above," which is closest to the anthemic-but-moody rock U2 is best known for, and "If The World Should End," which drops Jennifer Damiano's pretty voice in Evanescence-like surroundings, just make the clunkers that much more confusing.

Even if you give Bono and The Edge the benefit of the doubt on the songs that require some plot points -- the aggressively bland "Bullying by Numbers" and the heavy-handed "D.I.Y. World" are especially painful -- they still strike out on song ideas they should be able to hit out of the park. "Bouncing Off the Walls" is a rock number about Peter Parker's exuberance for his new powers -- a feeling U2 has conjured for decades -- so why does it fall flat? "Picture This" is meant as a tender duet, but doesn't even match the flimsiest of the band's love songs, let alone masterpieces like "One" or "With or Without You."

What happened? At a listening party for the show's soundtrack, Bono explained that he and The Edge wanted to get involved because "U2's best work is done when we don't know what we're doing."

That might not apply here. The more Broadway experience they get, the better they seem to do. (The newest song "A Freak Like Me Needs Company" might be the best combination of plot-furthering exposition and a memorable melody in the show.) As "Spider-Man" stands right now, though, they still fall a bit short.


WHAT "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"

WHERE Foxwoods Theatre, 213 W. 42nd St., Manhattan

INFO $67.50-$140; 877-250-2929; ticketmaster.com

BOTTOM LINE Not enough memorable music to "rise above."

Top Stories