Being Irish, U2 is a band that has been totally unavoidable throughout my life. Since their international breakthrough almost forty years ago they have been inescapable on the musical and cultural landscape of my home country. Indisputably U2 is the most commercially successful musical act in Irish history. Even between musical projects, lead singer Bono has become a spokesperson and advocate for various global charity projects and initiatives. While I wouldn’t ever have been a massive U2 fan – they were a little bit too bloviatingly heterosexual for my refined taste – I tended to enjoy their songs and would sing along with gusto when they played on the wireless. In more recent years I developed a greater appreciation of them. Their song ‘Sometimes you can’t make it on your own’ was about the death of Bono’s father was quite beautiful. I still wouldn’t hold them in too high of an esteem but I enjoyed them.
It was always a half-baked ambition to see them live. It was never a pressing issue though– not like it was to see the Cranberries or Sinead O’Connor. It was more that it was almost a rite of passage for an Irish person to have seen U2 perform – at least once. The problem is just how popular they are; and how difficult it is to source tickets. Back in February I wrote of my frustrating attempt to source tickets for the November 2018 series of concerts in Dublin, using the Ticketmaster scam, and about how alternative means of acquiring tickets were more sensible. I had decided that it was time to lose my U2 virginity before Bono reaches his 60th birthday (which frighteningly is only 18 months away).
This week U2 are playing four gigs in the 3Arena in Dublin as part of their Experience and Innocence Tour. Last night was the first night. On Friday evening I went on to a resale site (not one of the scalper sites, rather a fan to fan site) and I purchased a face value ticket for the gig. I approached the arena reciting a mantra ‘If anyone asks me, my name is Antonio Pineda.’ That was the name on my ticket. I could do this.
As it so happened nobody questioned my Mexican credentials and I made my way to my seat – way up in the sky.
There was no opening act – which made sense, it can hardly be fulfilling for a band to open for U2 in their hometown. At 8.30 the massive video screen descended into the crowd and the show began. U2 are interesting for a rock band in the sense that they appreciate a spectacle. Their concerts are proper shows with sounds and lights and videos. From within the video display the band was revealed – standing on an elevated bridge which divided the standing audience in the pit, which was connected to the main stage.
What followed was a thoroughly excellent show. I had forgotten how many iconic songs they have written – ‘I will follow’; ‘Beautiful day; ‘City of blinding lights’; ‘One’; ‘New Year’s Day’; ‘Pride (in the name of love)’’ ‘Who’s going to ride your wild horses’; ‘Vertigo’; ‘Elevation’; ‘Even better than the real thing’ among many others.
The arena sized video screens and the stunning lighting design on the set were mesmerising.
Bono is a frontman of profound charisma. I cannot lie however, and I did look at him in a sceptical manner when he started preaching in his messianic manner about how to solve the world’s problems. His solutions are lacking in any sort of nuance. I might be slightly cynical but love is not going to save the planet, as quickly as the breakup of the neo-liberal, free-market capitalist system, which would involve a global redistribution of wealth after the strict regulation of multinational corporations. The band’s own tax situation remains endlessly controversial with their tax avoiding, offshore companies, and investments in Maltese shopping malls. That discussion is for another day though. Bono is a rock star, not a prophet. He means well. It is quite easy to ignore his preaching, and focus instead on the banging tunes; showmanship and sheer spectacle of the gig.
I am curious as to how the pro-EU and anti-Trump imagery was received in Britain and the USA.
Having been to many concerts this year – after Erasure, this show is my favourite of the year.