Bono will never quite fit the Glastonbury bill

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Richard Godwin, London Evening Standard

In Bono's head, it's just possible that the British festival-going public reacted to the news that U2 are to headline next year's Glastonbury by fashioning a series of vast stone carvings of Bono's head and positioning them along the White Cliffs of Dover.

In reality, music-lovers have mixed feelings about the prospect of the authors of Vertigo pitching up on the Pyramid Stage. Every report made the inevitable acknowledgement that the Irish quartet are the biggest group in the known universe, perhaps in other universes too.

Yet almost every media outlet also felt obliged to add a lick of cynicism to their coverage, an acknowledgement that while the band are liked they are disliked in equal measure.

Disliked, indeed, with impressive venom. At the 3,568-strong Facebook group, I Still Hate Bono and His F*****g Face, a campaign has begun to get as many festival-goers as possible to wear T-shirts emblazoned with the legend "Bono is a t**t". "Hopefully," explain the site administrators, "in this small way, we can stop Boneo [sic] from preaching his toss."

Why the antipathy? It's not as if U2 are -- shudder -- a hip hop artist, like Jay-Z, the last Glastonbury headliner to attract such opprobrium; are they not rock giants with a canon of stirring songs and a populist choice for Glastonbury's 40th anniversary year?

And surely if Bono can win the ear of such friends of freedom as George W Bush, can persuade such upstanding organisations as the Labour and Conservative parties to beam his face into each of their conferences, can write a line of poetry such as "elvis the plastic, elvis the elastic with a spastic dance that might explain the energy of america"... well, winning over a bunch of field-hippies ought to be a doddle?

The anti-Bono Facebook group explain their resistance with a series of baroque outpourings involving obscure revenge fantasies and the phrase "halfwitted w**ksock".

But even to take the balanced view -- hard, if like me, you find yourself laughing a bit too loudly at some of those rantings -- something about U2 and Glastonbury does not sit quite right. And not simply the prospect of standing in the mud, being lectured about poverty by a multi-millionaire tax exile in a silly hat.

The most successful Pyramid Stage headliners acknowledge the uniqueness of the slot, its special capacity for communal experience. It demands spectacle, for sure, but it takes humility, too, which is why more grounded stars such as Radiohead, Blur, Coldplay and, yes, Jay-Z (who pulled a superhuman effort to win over the rock crowd) have triumphed.

The intergalactic U2 bulldozer does not represent any of the force of subversion, rebellion or even common humanity Glastonbury still manages to encapsulate. Moreover, if Bono can pay a reported $3 million to rebuild a stadium in Montreal to meet his requirements, I fear for what he'll do to poor farmer Eavis's field.

The truth is U2 need Glastonbury more than it needs them; with low sales for their last album and no fresh ideas since 1988, this is really a last-ditch attempt to appear relevant.

The hope is Bono's demands will not extend to silencing all other stages and roping the stone circle off for his G20 friends -- that way, attendees who stay unconverted can find a more fulfilling way to spend their Friday night. Such as taking elephant tranquilisers.

© 2009 ES London Limited

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"Bono will never quite fit the Glastonbury bill"

Bono is not playing the bill...U2 is. i know people who HATE u2 also, and they always jump straight to bono, hate his glasses, hate his mullet, hate what they believe is his incompatibility of being rich and trying to end poverty.

sorry - i don't get it.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 27, 2009 10:42 PM.

Ian McCulloch: 'U2 Are for Teenagers' was the previous entry in this blog.

Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert is the next entry in this blog.

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