Struck in a moment I can’t get out of

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.

 

U2 live

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.

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Special cut out ‘n’ keep Leaving Cert 2015 souvenir edition

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Leaving Certificate 2015

Subject: Comedy (Honours)

Paper One

Section One: Credibility

Question One

“My name is Bono and I am a tax compliant rock star. It is not an intellectually rigorous position unless you understand that at the heart of the Irish economy has always been the philosophy of tax competitiveness. Tax competitiveness has taken our country out of poverty. People in the Revenue accept that if you engage in that policy then some people are going to go out, and some people are coming in. It has been a successful policy. On the cranky left that is very annoying, I can see that. But tax competitiveness is why Ireland has stayed afloat. When the Germans tried to impose a different tax regime on the country in exchange for a bailout, the Taoiseach said they would rather not have the bailout. So U2 is in total harmony with our Government’s policy. I think for many reasons people have taken a dislike to our band and to me. This is another one. I have worked as an activist for all my adult life, and I think overall that no one can doubt we have been pretty effective. You can criticise me for a lot of things, but probably not for my commitment of time and energy to this. I think some people who criticise us in Ireland and America have a history that you can trace back to our opposition to Noraid (Irish-American fundraising for the IRA in the 1980s). A lot of others probably hate our music” (Irish Independent)

A. Complete the following sentence: Joyce defined the Irish condition as “silence, exile and cunning.” Bono has made his a composition of noise, tax exile and _________________. Support your answer with reference to the content and style of the text.

B. Are you willing to be lectured on economic justice by very wealthy tax exiles, or not? Do you accept the right of a wealthy tax exile to award himself a position of moral leadership on such issues, or do you not? Nominate your preferred rich/rawk star you would prefer to hear from instead. Support your answer with reference to the text.

C. A man who thinks defending the rights of the world’s poor and the rights of global corporations is the same thing. How would you begin to satirise that? Illustrate with pictures where necessary (extra paper can be used). 

D. Compare and contrast Bono’s advocacy with that of classic noblesse oblige: the privileged should show charity to the poor (and be lauded for doing so) such as a Victorian coal baron who liked to found the occasional library.

E. Sunday Bloody Sunday is: (choose one)

a. Not a song about Bloody Sunday but a brainless attempt to characterise the Troubles as a story of ignorant and hate-filled Irish people not being able to live beside each other in peace, and adds insult to injury by using a title which referred to a British army massacre of civil rights demonstrators for a song which excuses Britain of any responsibility. The equivalent would be to write a song on the various ethnic and religious groups in India being too stupid to live together and calling it Amritsar bloody Amritsar.

b. The fear Alan Partridge experiences the day before Monday

c. The trauma Michael Lester experiences after four hours on The Sunday Game with Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane.

Singin’ in the reign

Bono and The Edge were back in the terrestrial armchair with Tubridy on Friday night showcasing a few of the reasons that had them anxiously jumping the download queue and straight into the arms of Apple. Then dragging the unsuspecting iTunes subscriber into a non-consensual threesome. In the weeks following the release of the album, an immoderate amount of criticism has been levelled at the band. Wagging fingers shot up waving the consequences of their desperation to stay relevant on standards of artistic integrity. Listening to the unplugged offerings on Friday, it’s not hard to understand why they felt they could do with a leg-up from a sturdy pair of clasped corporate hands.

In Shane Hegarty’s excellent piece on the comparison of Bono’s subsequent apology with the sentiments of Booker Prize winner, Richard Flanagan, parallels were drawn between the desperation afflicting both parties. Flanagan’s anxiety was born out of a need to earn a sufficient amount to live, and generate sufficiently good material to attract an audience. Bono’s arose from the need to cling on to a sizeable  pre-existing audience. As Hegarty observed, “..the band’s privilege blinded them from the truth most artists, of whatever hue, know all too well. You have to earn both. Each and every time. Both men generalised – Flanagan about writers, Bono about all artists – but only the former sounded sincere, as if reflecting a universal truth that will never change. Bono, unfortunately, sounded as if he were really just talking about himself.”

Listening to the latter’s reflections on the criticism, he remains as impervious as ever to such truths. “You know, I’ve got an umbrella, and when the shit storm happens, I just put up my umbrella”. Which is the multi-millionaire musician equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears while shouting I CAN’T HEAR YOU until the other person goes away. Presumably he pays someone else to hold said umbrella. “The truth of it is, the music business, the model for it was broken”. Can’t argue with that. Rock n roll is dead, embalmed and playing the eponymous lead in U2’s production of Weekend At Bernie’s.

Last time I remember seeing Bono with his hands up was on stage in 1998 sandwiched in another threesome with John Hume and David Trimble. Back in those heady days of hopeful peace-building in Norn Ireland. A year had passed since Mairia Cahill was raped by a known IRA leader. The kangaroo court was yet to process her hearing. Her traumatic reunion with the perpetrator as part of the medieval style reading of body language would take place two years later.

In the rush to shelter Gerry Adams from the ensuing shit storm this week, prominent members of the party faithful clamoured forth with offers to hold his umbrella. Commentary from all directions has been shrill and unrelenting. Definitions of justice and judgement are being tug o’warred with back and forth over the unmistakeable line of truth.

Like U2’s desperate determination to wade through the current ‘noise’ clutching their mid-life crisis album, Gerry and his comrades swerved by the truth with their fingers rammed into their ears chanting I CAN’T HEAR YOU in the vain hope everyone will just go away.

Sinn Fein doesn’t have a monopoly on the truth of the matter. And sadly, the victims and survivors of sexual abuse and rape among the nationalist community do not have a monopoly on the horror and trauma of that experience in that warped part of the world.

In their rush to throw enough legitimate shit at Adams that will stick, the fulminating establishment are at risk of dismissing the notion of ‘context’ in its entirety. In a thirty-year conflict, characterised by dysfunctional daily living with the state functions of law and order substituted by grassroots rule, a brow must surely be arched at the shock and surprise that has greeted the revelations.

This year saw the first tribunal open in Northern Ireland addressing institutional child abuse. Given its stunted standards of accountability, it is only now that efforts are able to be directed towards the legacy of victims and survivors in the broadest meaning of those terms. Given the Southern establishment’s pre-occupation with Sinn Fein, and that party’s amnesiac approach to bleaching history, there is a danger in ignoring the fact that it is not just Mairia Cahill who is being denied the right to truth. It is all those victims of sexual abuse during and immediately following the Conflict, irrespective of the colour of their flag or the cut of their God.

The likelihood that there were women on all sides who were condemned to ‘community’ police investigations shouldn’t raise a brow, but many questions. Long before now. That’s one shit storm that would have everyone scrambling for cover.