U2 Take London

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2.8.01 - Q4music.com

'Rock Stars Still Walk Among Us'

Dateline:::::: 8 February 2001: 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. - Danny Eccleston

The Set List

Until The End Of The World
Beautiful Day
Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of
Last Night On Earth
Staring At The Sun
New York
11' O'Clock Tick Tock
I Will Follow
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Mysterious Ways
All I Want Is You

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 See above

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.

Copyright © EMAP Digital Limited 2001. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on February 8, 2001 3:13 AM.

U2 Again Revise Tour Schedule was the previous entry in this blog.

Bono Nominates Relief Agency For Cash Award is the next entry in this blog.

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