Less Zooropa than Zoolander, was my thought just before being struck by a flying missile. That’s precision karma for you. With an unnerving 15 ft between us, it confirmed Bono’s supernatural powers as limitless. They include orchestrating the perfect collision between hands holding an iPhone aloft, and my fella’s bouncing head to send the device crashing down on top of mine.
Welcome to The Bono School for Cynics that Can’t Enjoy Good and Want To Take Other Unnecessary Swipes Too. Or the last Dublin show of U2’s tour.
For my fella, it’s his third, and final, pilgrimage. A culmination of a month spent curating set-lists and judiciously selecting social media commentary to concur with his quiet fanaticism and hunt for the next live high. All of which are speculated on intensely through rear-view discussions with his mate on the drive down. They casually shed layers on arrival to reveal their respective vintage t-shirts while barely concealing their pride. They compliment one another’s clobber, but it’s really an exercise in cross-checking tracklists from tours emblazoned across their backs. It’s a draw. But I wish one of them would beat his chest.
They are here in their capacity as die-hards, holding out for the ditch and switch of songs; seeking negligible improvements in the tightening musicianship discernible only to a zealot’s ear. Edge’s signature guitar sound seems intact to me, but I’m confident I could take on this one-trick pony in a parallel park-off without much effort. Adam Clayton remains all tall and aloof, but Miriam O’Callaghan would make for a credible enough stand-in. And Larry Mullen Jr. Well, he’s no Animal, but he’ll do.
Miriam and Bono
(pic: Rolling Stone)
I’m here in my capacity as erstwhile fan/designated driver, shamelessly open to manipulation and nostalgia; fully expecting a few obstructions to both in the shape of Bono’s mawkish sentimentality and political sloganeering.
All are delivered with brash neck and an almighty two-fingered salute to the likes of me and my ilk. You have to hand it to them for having the regard to harness their team’s creative energies into assembling a catwalk that has Bono strutting through the annals of his own LED screened youth. Elaborate visuals that successfully erase such follies as Slade and Yes albums. For that’s what we mainly find peering through our innocent teenage eyes as experienced adults – the shells of extremes. From record sleeved claims to cultural endurance (The Clash, Kraftwerk), to remnants of all over bruising from emotional blows (love, bereavement).
The show is an unapologetic attempt to chronicle the inspirational sources of U2’s oeuvre into neat files marked innocence and experience. From the personal to the political. It works best when addressing the former. Bono’s early musical responses to grief are revived with a pulsating I Will Follow. Footage of his bridal mother, whose death threatened to derail him at 14, provides the backdrop to his plaintive cries in the more recent Iris with surprisingly touching results.
Less convincing are clunky attempts to tie up political loose ends and draw neat parallels between armed conflict then and now. I’ve lamented the passing of the authentic protest song movement here before, and Sunday Bloody Sunday unleashes its own peculiar red mist compounded by the cheap and exploitative theatrical stunt accompanying it tonight. As with much of U2’s musical stabs at political protest, it’s an unashamed triumph of style over substance. Crude revisionist simplifications dumb it down further to the depth of its ringtone. Troubled Northern Ireland segues into present day Syria with a swift change of tempo. Chalk it up to wilful innocence, just for tonight. This is what this show is all about.
But, best avoid a speaker landing on my head, so enough churlishness. As the old adage goes, if you can’t beat him up, join him. So I surrender to the heady mix of begrudged good will and hitch a lift on the crowd’s energy with my fading innocence grabbing me by my rickety hips to give my eyes a run for their roll. The rest is predictable anthemic history. They came. We saw. They conquered.
Top marks to my fella for giving Bono top marks for leaving Andrea Corr at home to stick pins into her Imelda May voodoo doll while the latter joined himself and Panti for a karaoke trot through Desire. A conspiracy no less.