U2 - In the Name of Love
This article is from 2009.
After 30 years at the top, U2 remain an unstoppable force of live performance, global success and critical relevancy. Ahead of their Glasgow date, we ask some prominent figures in music to describe their relationship with the band and explain their enduring appeal.
Idlewild opened for U2 for three shows on the 2005 Vertigo Tour. The sheer scale of a show like this was the main thing that stuck me. The amount of money, effort and thought that went into this kind of performance was pretty unique. I don’t think there’s another band that put on concerts at that level.
In Manchester I watched the whole gig and it’s didn’t take long to be swept up in it. The only album I have is The Joshua Tree which I got for my 11th birthday on tape, but to be honest even if you don’t own a U2 album you’d be familiar with most of the set – their songs have been everywhere for 20 years. Definitely a band worth seeing at least once, and it was quite an experience to be onstage before them.
For me, U2 are the quintessential stadium rock band. They were one of the first bands I ever saw live as a teenager. I wasn’t a particularly big fan but something about their live reputation must have persuaded me.
I’ve seen them numerous times over the years, most memorably at Murrayfield on the PopMart Tour. It was the first stadium concert I had ever been to and it set the bar unfeasibly high, not just because the band emerged from inside a giant lemon but because, aside from all the glitzy stagecraft and showmanship, it was a musical thrill ride which honoured all corners of their catalogue. Their stage presence was so massive that when I subsequently saw them in the SECC on the Elevation Tour, it felt like a club gig.
I love the fact that they don’t shirk their reputation as the biggest and the best, and I fully expect U2 in-the-round to be both sublime and ridiculous.
writer, broadcaster and musician
I first saw U2 at Tiffany’s in Glasgow on December 1 1982. It was some kind of preview or rehearsal mini-tour before the War album was released. U2 were extraordinary, and so was the crowd reaction. It was the first time anyone had heard songs like ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. Bono had a mullet and was decidedly pudgy at the time. They played bits of ‘Loch Lomond’ and were quite loose and almost unrehearsed. It was nothing like the massive theatrical spectaculars of today. Very good humoured. Very friendly.
I saw them again two nights running at Barrowland on the sixth and seventh of November 1984. This was the Unforgettable Fire tour, a much more disciplined, harder, glossier business. The Waterboys supported, who were great.
I had to deal with (U2’s manager) Paul McGuinness, I remember, over photo passes and he was incredibly pleasant when he had no need to be. The show was very... worshipful, in a demented sort of way. I preferred The Waterboys.
I loved the PopMart and Zoo TV tours on video. But frankly, I think they should stop now. I’m greatly in favour of the compulsory sabbatical for rock musicians.
I’ve never been a massive U2 fan, but there’s no denying that their live show is something else. I was at their Astoria gig in London in February 2001 and was offered £800 for my ticket outside. No doubt the tout already had a buyer lined-up, so God knows what the sell-on price would have been.
The gig itself was a pretty stripped back club show, in that it didn’t have any of the fancy stage sets. It’s certainly the mark of a great band when they can still carry it off without the trimmings, and they were really on form that night.
I’ve seen them at the SECC in Glasgow as well, and it was probably one of the best gigs I’ve been to there. I usually find the atmosphere a bit sterile at the SECC, but U2 seemed to own every inch of the big shed.
Daniel Wylie, singer songwriter and former Cosmic Rough Riders frontman
Cosmic Rough Riders opened for U2 two nights in a row at Glasgow’s SECC In 2001. The show itself was, by U2 standards, scaled down – 10,000 people each night instead of the usual 50,000-plus stadium gigs they’re used to.
I’d seen them years before in front of 800 people at Tiffany’s and what stood out for me was how they managed to keep the feeling of intimacy between them and their audience in front of 10,000 – just as they had at Tiffany’s all those years ago.
The light show was great, the big screens were impressive and the heart-shaped stage that went out into the crowd was a nice touch. But what impressed me most was the band’s performance. Despite years of fame and success, they weren’t jaded, and from the first second of the show to the last, they delivered. Great songs, performed with vigour and enthusiasm.
MP and former Runrig keyboardist
Runrig’s tour itinerary for the weekend of July 30-August 1 1987 was just a little bit strange. On Friday night we had the delights of a gig in Plockton Village Hall to be followed on the Saturday by opening for U2 at Murrayfield stadium. Opening at Murrayfield changed the fortunes of Runrig and the whole experience was simply awe-inspiring. With The Joshua Tree, U2 redefined the whole stadium gig experience and it was fantastic to be part of it.
Some 22 years later Bono is still plying his trade in these massive amphitheatres, while I now inhabit the green benches of Westminster. U2, though, have always felt that they have a political contribution to make. Whether it’s environmental issues or, in particular, Africa, U2 have access all areas in political arenas that other lobbyists would kill for. U2’s political contributions are the stadium rock of cultural comment and it is now impossible to separate their political contributions from their general appeal.
filmmaker, broadcaster and former Skids singer
The first time I saw U2 they played the Hammersmith in London to 10 people, but you knew something special was going on straight away. They played like a 1000 people were there. Bono had all the charisma he was to later show to bigger audiences.
The next time I saw them they were playing Yankee Stadium in New York on the Zoo TV Tour, doing a live satellite link-up with Lou Reed in front of 50,000 people. It was just one of those tingle-factor moments. The world was theirs; they were just the biggest band on the planet. Yet they still had the ability to make it very intimate.
U2 and Green Day covered the Skids song ‘The Saints are Coming’ out of the blue in 2006. It was extraordinary to see the two biggest rock bands on the planet doing a song I wrote in my bedroom in Dunfermline when I was 16.
And for an amazing reason – every penny that record made for me and U2 and Green Day went to a charity for kids.
U2 live is still an experience and I think we need it. It’s great to see a band as massive as U2 still delivering the goods.
founder of U2 fansite U2Station.com
U2 is Bono’s showmanship, charisma and unrelenting ego. He’s a rare frontman who can sit alongside the president of the United States and other world leaders, meet with the richest men in the world, orate on Africa, trade jokes with the Pope and go out on massive world tours while creating rock albums along with three guys he’s known since he was in high school.
I’m always intrigued by U2’s ambitious tour production – from Zoo TV to PopMart and now U2 360°. Though I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this band live several times, I’m constantly wondering: What can they do to top this? Are they desperately trying to remain freshly relevant even though they’re hitting their 50s? And will they end when they realise they can’t create interesting music, rather than become the Rolling Stones and tour until they’re old enough to be in senior citizens homes?
music journalist and broadcaster
I first saw U2 at Clouds in Tollcross, Edinburgh in 1981. They were very young and big on enthusiasm and energy, but unsurprisingly short on charisma. Back in those days Adam Clayton was the bad boy bucking the others’ holier than thou reputation with tales of wine, women and song percolating in the press. I had a Chinese meal with them after interviewing Bono in the back of their promoter Tony Michaelides’ Ford Granada and he was very unassuming. Adam seemed much more, how shall we say, gregarious?
By the time they played Murrayfield on the PopMart tour 16 years later, everything had evolved. That was the pinnacle of stadium rock, a show of monstrous proportions built for the big arenas and filling them sonically and visually. Others had tried but U2 genuinely knocked it off, playing seven or eight encores. But then, I recall seeing them play the Paris Bercy around the same time and feeling that they had done all that could be done with shows on that scale, and while it might not all be downhill from there on in, it would never scale the same heights.
U2 play Hampden Park, Glasgow on Tue 18 Aug
Some kind of monster
It’s not often that you get to use the words ‘the eponymous stage’, but U2 have made it quite clear in the naming of their latest tour that this one really is all about the venue, writes Lizzie Mitchell
U2’s tour is called the 360º Tour because it takes place under ‘the Claw’, a vast four-legged spider that has walked out of a Transformers movie to hover sci-fi-monster-like above the band, and a hefty section of audience surrounding the stage on all sides. Three hundred and sixty degrees in fact.
The idea, according to architect Mark Fisher, was ‘to make a set that was as intimate as you can make it in a stadium. So everybody in the stadium feels like they are real close to the band and the band feel like they’re real close to everybody in the stadium.’ As well as the circular stage at the centre, there’s a concentric walkway swooping through the crowds further out, which the band members can access via bridges. A cylindrical video screen suspended from the body of the spider projects the onstage action into the outlying audience, and a sound system in each leg ensures that the four little fellas in the middle can make themselves heard when they need to.
The four-legged design was inspired by the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport. Fisher is the architect, but perhaps the real mastermind is Willie Williams, a designer who has been working on U2 tours since 1982 and has reportedly been toying with the idea of a 360-degree stadium for several years.
And as with all really good gizmos, the Claw has already left at least one story of outrage in its wake. Residents of Ireland’s Croke Park blockaded the roads in protest against the 94 trucks scheduled to enter and leave the venue, one every three and a half minutes right through the night. In a resounding victory for the Croke Park Residents’ Alliance, the trucks were unable to pass and the Claw missed its ferry to Sweden.
So it’s all set for a concert staging revolution. Just so long as the giant spider doesn’t wake up, in which case the crowds will be screaming to a very different tune …
Get a virtual tour of the stage at www.u2.com/soundandvision