meantime supped with the devil — which is f how come they first carried the still-lingering reputation as the oddest-ball
i November 1982) told their manager they
As U2’s TV circus rolls into a town buzzing ith anticipation, Eamonn McCann considers the post-Achtung Baby U2. Meanwhile,
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Alastair Mabbott chronicles the ups and downs of the band to date.
e’s like a virgin, is Bono. these days. touched for the very first time. Although there’s no shortage . ofpeople in Ireland to argue that he’s been touched from the very beginning.
But then. maybe that’s the point. That they’ve come full circle. through giddy god-trips and periods of pompous apparent pratology, back home to the brink of being born again. Maybe for U2, this is the very beginning.
They were born-again before. back in their Boy-hood days - or at least three quarters of them were: Adam. as befits a bass player.
outfit to find space in the mainstream. What was anybody to make ofguys who (in
wouldn’t tour in support oftheir second
5'l'he List 5—7 18June l‘)‘)2
album because the on-the-road rock’n’roll lifestyle didn’t harmonise with the spirit of the Chinese Christian mystic Watchman Nee, ofwhom it has so often been said: Eh? Who?
And they went from that to the hyper-inflated bombast of Bono parading the stage with a white flag the size ofhis own seeming sense of importance, proclaiming before ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ that ‘This is not a rebel song’. from which it was but a small step to pronouncements on the Meaning Of Life and interviews over-Iarded with all manner ofbullshit and spoof.
Coming at awkward angles from out of left-field, U2. by the time they paused in the shade of The Joshua Tree, were a cult band with a mass following. They were the best-known. most banded-together rock group since The Beatles: for a time. everybody except people with painted-on ears could put a name to all four. and it was
impossible to imagine a change in the line-up. But as to what they were about, only core members of the cult seemed able, intuitively, to comprehend.
The likely truth was that U2 didn’t know either. Or rather that what they were about wasn’t articulable in ﬂat speech.
From the outset, U2 has been wholly in communion with its audience. making contact not directly but by poetical means, using music and words to create a soundscape of the soul whichfelt like familiar territory to millions of mainly-young people. This is what poetry does in quiet solitude for those who know its arcane codes. and is decreed by the snobbishness of the High Art establishment to be inappropriate — actually, impossible - for an arena full of people with pimples.
By definition. it is difficult to convey the process and its meanings in prose, and, in
Why is Bono wearing eye shadow? Why won't The Edge take cit his hat? What is all that business with Trabant cars?
the given, class-divided cultural context in which such matters are discussed. impossible in doing so not to come across as a prat.
But then again, in the rock‘n’roll business a fellow has to be saying something. and thus the Bono sub—genre of bullshit interviews and the vague but nonetheless real and pervasive feeling that this lot put ludicrous importance on being earnest.
Not any more. maybe. Achtung Baby is the band’s least-laden, most direct album for a decade, no overly-obtrusive straining after ‘significance’, just the fab four nearly naked. as if. having feared to say straight what they’d been told couldn’t be said through rock music, they‘ve finally found the nerve to discard the disguises and the devious stratagems and be done with gothic, arch pretence. Unlike anything at all we’ve ever heardofor from U2. bitsofit are . . .funny!
It feels like they’re starting allover, not ‘reinvented’ as the single transferable glossy-monthly mag-piece would have it, but simply revealed. held up for open inspection so we can see that the silliest thing about Bono so far has been his fear of seeming foolish.
Mind you. the art-form is still rock’n’roll, wherein the art lies in subverting the form. The form is never free ofgaudy accoutrement and glitz. and the gizmos and baubles decreed by air-head style-counsellors. Questions remain which serious people might be embarrassed to know the answers to.
Like, why is Bono wearing eye shadow?
Why won’t The Edge take off his hat?
What is all this business with Trabant cars?
But most ofall. they’re the best new band around. and I’m betting my reputation that they’re going to be big.
Eamonn McCann is a Derry-based journalist who has folio wed U2 ’5 career for man y years and wrote the thought-pro voking articles ‘SeIf-Aid Makes It Worse’ and ‘U2 Pressgangbang' for In Dublin magazine.
U2 play the SE CC, Glasgow on Thurs 1'8.