Opening Act(s): Jerry Floyd And Friends
Stories For Boys, Another Time, Another Place, I Will Follow, Twilight, Out Of Control, 11 O’Clock Tick Tock. (incomplete setlist)
New Musical Express, November 30, 1980
U2: Marquee Club
by Gavin Martin
What a strange place to discover U2! here they are buried in the capital’s heaving underbelly - the rank squalor and degradation of Soho.
In fact, rock music is a strange place in which to discover U2. More often than not, rock is sickness which feeds off money, sex, and drugs - a joylessly directionless pastime. People don’t use rock music, it uses them; an immovable addiction? The masses’ idea of leisure sounds too much like work to me.
Time to burn it down, time to rearrange the warped ideals and restore validity to rock music.
Time for U2 - optimistic, soulful, and clearsighted.
This evening it’s an imperfect U2 production. The edge is blunt (pun intended) and the vocals are badly mixed. But … with the callow eyes of pre-pubescent youth gazing from the backdrop, a sweet resonant haze of sound sweeps over the crowd, glided with golden chimes of guitar and coated with tonal creaminess. “Stories for Boys” is a song with a rare sense of space and textural control and it evokes a tumble of mysteries, dreams, and imaginations.
Strike the tuning fork! In U2’s world the games of young adults — rock and roll or even (gulp!!) life itself — should be like the games of young children: playful, restless, and exploratory. They have the unfettered and uncynical outlook of four bright young kids.
Only a blind man and the dead could ignore the passion and charisma generated by singer Bono. The very essence which underpins the performance is an electric vibrancy between the stage and the dancefloor. It’s something loads of groups try for, but only a few can achieve. Bono carries it to the edge of the stage, crouches and curls upwards, writhing like a tiger and uncoiling like a snake through a forest of outstretched arms and pawing hands. It’s unique spectacle and a unique feeling; the only comparison I can think of is with some old Iggy Pop footage once shown on OGWT.
Bono drives himself, the band, and the audience so fast that sometimes the zeal and the fervor predominates and the music loses its delicacy. You feel the internal combustion will burn the group out prematurely. Bono senses this air of “too much, too soon” and so tries to deflate the overblown U2 myth.
There are still bridges to burn and the heights to scale. Their intrinsic sensuousness is flawed by outward baseness: repugnant rock ‘n’ roll excess. That they should even be playing this venue with its counter-culture Amos Brearleys — dungarees, dope, and clammy smugness.
As musical craftsmen drummer Larry, guitarist The Edge, and bassist Adam use a cudgel where they should use a chisel. The sentiment of “Another Time, Another Place” is one victim of the sloppiness. They should either obviate or justify their relish for rock ‘n’ roll’s sticky frills and cliches.
Bono doesn’t want to overemphasise his Christian faith, which is ridiculous but understandable. “Messiah Rock - a guy who takes Breaking Glass seriously,” critics and cynics will sneer. Rock ‘n’ Roll people are frightened by religious matters unless the creeds are safely distanced (Rasta and Eastern mysticism).
U2 still have contradictions in their makeup, they could be mapping out vectors of emancipation but they too often enforce the myth of slavish dependence. I’m not saying that Bono should become the white James Brown, but he could benefit from a copy of “Reality” for Christmas.
When they get good I could almost cry smiling. “I Will Follow” is “the sort of song that should be in the top one,” says Bono. Ain’t that just so! The sound of Arthur Lee’s Love without LSD. “Twilight” is crisp and pellucid, tingling with slivers of warm, laconic drumming. Tightly coiled, firing incisive pellets of emotion and colour is “Out of Control.”
U2 are a positive answer to Killing Joke’s negativity. At 11 O’Clock it’s time to go home and the children aren’t crying anymore. “Tick Tock” is the only requiem they want to hear. Another foolish game comes to an end….
An inverted hippyism: U2 are not “far out”, they are near in! Closer to the heartbeat, closer to the senses, and closer to the soul. They can get wiser, stronger, and better. My advice is simple: keep on pushing.
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