Opening Act(s): Red Beat, Thompson Twins, Delta 5
The Ocean, 11 O'Clock Tick Tock, Touch, An Cat Dubh, Into The Heart, Another Time Another Place, The Electric Co., Things To Make And Do, Stories For Boys, Twilight, I Will Follow, Out Of Control, All Along The Watchtower. Encore(s): 11 O'Clock Tick Tock.
Pete Wylie from Wah! Heat joins U2 for a cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower". This is the first time U2 cover the song; it later goes on to become a setlist staple on 1989's Lovetown Tour.
New Musical Express, January 31, 1981
U2, Delta 5, Thompson Twins
by Paul Du Noyer
Chuffed but awkward, a different man when he's not singing, Bono makes use of the first pause in U2's astoundingly powerful set to thank the capacity crowd - and by implication the other 700 said to be standing disappointed outside the hall.
Almost shyly the lad recalls it was a bare year ago that U2 took their first tentative steps on the British circuit, away from their safe, Irish home. And now this: in his own words, the climax and fulfillment of U2's first stage. Tonight was a triumph of an exceptional kind, and there could have been nobody present who didn't know it.
The group had followed on a well-received but slightly flat appearance by Delta 5. Not that I want to maon too much about a set played with such spirit and infectious enthusiasm, but something in the Five's drably determined sound leaves me detached. Partly I doubt the strength of the material: even the better-known pieces like "Anticipation" and "Now That You've Gone" and "Try" lack any memorability except that derived from their repetitive insistence. If Kelv's drumming is firm and driving, and Al's guitar nicely abrasive in a Wilko-ey way, the two-bass underlay too often seems lumpy and dull. The girls' vocals are similarly dour, not really enlivened by the occasional silly falsetto.
In the middle, Julz prances with Ant-like exuberance, and the group as a whole exude some sense of pleasure in what they're doing. But the dutiful attempts at funk just sound contrived. Predictably, it's "Mind Your Own Business" with its coy "Grapevine" bassline, which is reserved for the encore. Even that song only confirms instead of disturbs the impressions I've formed.
Before Delta 5 were the Thompson Twins, now expanded in size and improved in performance. Having already droned on at some length about this outfit there's little for me to add here except recommend that you make the effort to catch them live and if the records don't grab you then don't let that put you off.
Finally, U2 emerge to a roar of acclaim that took me aback. But nothing, not even the fine first LP, prepared me for what followed. A very brief "Ocean" opens the onslaught, and subtly. It's an amazing "An Cat Dubh" which takes the night to a peak - and the power coming from all four elements (Bono's singing, Adam Clayton's bass, Larry's drumming, and - great name - The Edge's guitar) added up to a performance of epic dimensions. Most striking of all, that early impact never lets up from beginning to end. "Another Time, Another Place" and "Stories For Boys" keep things on the boil.
Bono, The Edge, and Adam are a blur of shirts and haircuts, pouring out music that's at once simple and rich, a massive, monumental sound, but one that draws its grandeur from pure emotion and excitement rather than old hard rock posture and bombast. "Twilight," "I Will Follow" and "Out of Control" complete the basic set, but it's too late to stop now. It's hard to recall an atmosphere so charged as tonight's.
Called back for more, U2 reappear with Bono bringing on "one of the new breed" - his ally and counterpart Pete Wylie from Wah! Heat. Wylie, too, has a voice of formidable force, and the two singers deliver a stunning version of "All Along the Watchtower." "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" is the parting shot.
It really was a night for going over the top, whatever that might be, and one for going over the top about. U2 have "arrived" and count among the most valuable assets in modern music.
What clowns we waste the word "rock" on.
© 1981 New Musical Express. All Rights Reserved.