Opening Act(s): DJ Jon Carter
Until The End Of The World, Beautiful Day, Elevation-Steppin' Stone, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Gone, Discothèque-Staring At The Sun, New York, 11 O'Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, Desire, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Mysterious Ways, One-Unchained Melody, All I Want Is You, Bad-Ruby Tuesday-Sympathy For The Devil. Encore(s): 40.
U2 play a free concert for over 1,500 people in London, following the success of the Irving Plaza club gig in New York back in December.
BONO BOUNCES BACK AFTER SAVING THE THIRD WORLD
by James McNair
WHEN U2 WON the NME's Godlike Genius award last week for services to music, their guitarist The Edge joked that having God in the band helped.
He was, of course, referring to Bono. If U2's singer has a messianic complex, though, you'd have to admit that he channels it positively. Could Marilyn Manson convince US congressman Jesse Helms to return $ 435m in cancelled Third World debt? Not even with a hand-gun and a fresh coat of lippy.
The Edge has also conceded that Bono's philanthropy has eaten into band- time recently, but with the US premiere of the Bono and Wim Wenders-produced movie The Million Dollar Hotel just gone, last night's gig marked the start of an intense period promoting the latest U2 album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.
The intimacy of the venue certainly added to the opening-night cachet. Punters keen to see the group in an environment where they wouldn't need binoculars had reportedly paid up to pounds 3,000 for a ticket. But for most fans, this was obviously something of a pilgrim's regress. Almost all of us were in our 30s, and some of us even wore Boy T-shirts dating from 1980. Even so, it was hard not to feel a frisson of excitement when Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town" signalled both the end of the DJ's set and the imminent arrival of U2.
Though the black leather-clad Bono was already crowd-surfing during the opener, "The End Of The World", for a time it seemed that the party would fail to ignite. "Beautiful Day" aside, much of the new material which crowded the front of the set sounded formulaic and leaden.
Fortunately, Bono soon decided to have a chat, and this instantly established some much-needed camaraderie. As well as describing The Edge as a "Zen Presbyterian", and telling us that drummer Larry Mullen's wife was so hard she was attending the gig just days after giving birth, Mr Vox announced that U2 were "re- applying for the job of best band in the world". Huge cheer. Raised eyebrow from Mr Vox.
With the crowd now fully on board, what ensued was an intimate greatest hits set taking in such golden oldies as "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" - U2's first ever single for Island Records - and "I Will Follow", a song which reminded us that the adjective "chiming" might have been coined to describe The Edge's harmonic-rich guitar -playing.
Oddly touching as these songs were, the best was yet to come. Bono dedicated a delicate guitar and vocal-only version of "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" to Salman Rushdie, and "One", recently given Johnny Cash's seal of approval, was a timeless-sounding reminder of Bono's finest hour as a songwriter.
© 2001 Independent.
U2 Take London - Rock Stars Still Walk Among Us
by Danny Eccleston
Last night, U2 played a one hour, 20 minute set in front of a collection of fan club die-hards, media/arts world figures and fibrillating competition winners at London's Astoria Theatre. Q4music, in spite of the temptations posed by touts offering £800 for a ticket, squeezed by through a coterie of disparate celebrities to witness the Dublin band's first UK show of a comparable size since they played Hammersmith Palais in June 1983. What a long time ago that was.
Few bands can claim to have since compiled such a canon and proved so regularly masterful at playing it live. While U2's last live music campaign - the PopMart tour of 1997/1998 - caused a brief but real crisis in the band (technical problems and under rehearsal led to a disastrous Las Vegas debut in April 1997 and left bassist Adam Clayton feeling "extreme fear" for the first precarious batch of concerts) the Astoria show concentrated on core rock band skills - riffs, charisma, top-notch songwriting - pulling off an admirable renosing of Pop material (Discotheque, segueing into Staring At The Sun, was a revelation) and an, if anything, even more successful incorporation of pre-Eno-watershed songs.
Illustratively, a surprise 11 O'Clock Tick Tock gave way mid-gig to an even more unexpected I Will Follow. Angular and unfunky they remain, but urgent and, more importantly, performed as if the band can't see the join between these youthful studies in texture and dynamics and their later, most fully conceived songs (without question, One and The Ground Beneath Her Feet). The impression created by latest album All That You Can't Leave Behind - that U2 can finally embrace all the bands they have been and feel embarrassed by none of them - is brought into even sharper focus. U2 have been freed from the constraints of ideology; all they do now is rock'n'roll.
Every way that U2 could have messed up tonight - 1) posing like a band you can only see with binoculars; 2) wearing the superannuated PopMart get-up they've inappropriately sported on their TV spots over the last two weeks; 3) slacking off because they're preaching to the converted - they didn't. Sporting T-shirts and jeans, the band reclaimed a sartorial dignity befitting their ages. Bono looked his leanest in 12 months. During Bad, the slowburning Unforgettable Fire track they ended the pre-encore section with, he tightrope-walked the crowd-rail, grasped the proffered hands and leaned back, trusting both audience and stomach muscles not to give out.
Bono revived another old Bono trick: weaving in lyrics from other people's songs. Hence Joy Division's Transmission, The Teardrop Explodes' Reward (now wouldn't Julian Cope just hate that) and Craig David's Walking Away (quoted during One, and on reflection, practically the same song - naughty Craig). The old Bono arrogance ("Hello, we're the best band in the world") was back and rather beautifully encapsulated in the moment he took out his mobile phone and shared All I Want Is You with a mystery callee (doubtless the wife).
Highlights, then: Desire (shuffly and semi-acoustic, foregrounding the lyrical lewdness of "the fever when I'm inside her") and Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of (assured and delicate). Lowlights: Mysterious Ways (they buggered up the beginning) and, er, that's it. Finale: "40", a trigger to owners of Under a Blood Red Sky to sing "how long to sing this song" for about an hour. Conclusion: some real rock stars still walk among us, thank Christ.
The Guest List
Mick Jagger, rock legend
...Although he seemed to be text messaging throughout.
Salman Rushdie, hermit author
Risked a high-profile night out (at least it wasn't on the Edgware Road).
John Hurt, he of the fag-ridden voice
Had the best seat in the house, next to someone who looked remarkably like Marianne Faithfull
Elvis Costello, of the classical/pop crossover
Should this be the sort of thing he'd like?
Stephen Hendry, snooker prodigy
Looked fairly bemused by beery London gig-goers
Roy Keane, Man U captain and maniac
Pushed a Q staffer out of his way (in character), then apologised (out of character)
Dave Stewart, silly pop man
Wore a luminous orange puffa jacket. Do you think his beard is really that black?
Alex James, best bass player "in the house"
Wore ska-style olive Harrington jacket. Was misbehaving with Keith Allen as usual
Keith Allen, professional gumby
Ed O'Brien, Radiohead's gentle giant
Nicked swirly guitar tips. Probably
Colin Greenwood, Radiohead's gentle dwarf
Wore "so this is what we should be doing!" expression throughout
Neil Hannon, aka The Divine Comedy
After many years of trying, he's grown a little beard.
Herbie Knott, Lara Waldeck & Colin Stone, Q4music competition winners
Appeared to be having a fairly good time.
© 2001 Q magazine.