by / July 26th, 2009 /

U2 – Croke Park, Dublin (Saturday)

Swine Flu is going to kill us all. The bankers should be shot. The ocean is going to rise and cover us all. Tony Blair made an honest mistake. George Bush is a christian who was doing us a favour. Saddam wasn’t so bad after all. Bertie was a crook. The media could have saved the record business. Politicians are crooks. U2 only care about their old hats.

The new U2 album is a dud. It’s not selling as much as The Joshua Tree. There’s seats still for sale in Row 36. Larry’s leaving the band. Bono’s hurt because we’re talking about him moving thumb tax. Edge is hated in Malibu. Adam’¦is’¦shit, nobody’s talking about Adam for a change. U2 are going to buy us all musical instruments. 360 is 270 because they cant sell tickets facing the crabs arse. The new turf is going to be English. Nobody within a 15 miles radius of Croke Park likes U2. How dare a band play old songs. How dare a band play new songs. The media hate U2. The public don’t care about U2. The Americans aren’t buying tickets. U2 aren’t hip. U2 aren’t young. U2 are this, U2 aren’t that. We were never proud of them. We never loved them and went to see them as teenagers before we got our media jobs. We never ligged into the Joshua Tree, Zoo TV and Popmart tours.. The Irish press hate U2 this week, its been U2 whinge all week. Agh. It’s only a band.

Let’s just go the show shall we? And make up our own mind. The stadium is full. The people clearly love this band. This time the production fits the stadium. This time the stadium doesn’t dwarf the band. This time the band open with 4 songs from a new record. -Breathe’ and the title track of -No Line On The Horizon’ see the band come out all guns blazing even if the sound mix is taking it’s time coming together. Wow, the crowd love the new songs. We thought they didn’t buy the new record. They even love -Get On Your Boots’, it’s the first moment where the whole stadium bounces, who’d have thought? Then they embrace -Magnificent’ even more warmly, clearly that should have been the first single.

Bono has a moment with Larry during -Beautiful Day’. ‘You love this town /even if it doesn’t ring true’, he catches his eye, something going on there for sure, doesn’t feel like love. Clearly the singer didn’t read the weather forecast, a snippet of -Here Comes The Sun’ aint going to break the total cloud cover, is it? Larry is scowling and he does it for almost the whole gig. They don’t do the acoustic part we heard about last night. During -Mysterious Ways’, he brings a young out of town girl up from the crowd, it’s magic but then he has a private chat with her, she’s trying to tell him something, he tells her he lives in Killiney and to talk to the Missus. It’s kind of lost on the crowd. Bono makes a joke about topping last nights show and then he makes a joke about the band topping themselves on Monday, there’s a deep intake of breath, it’s not an appropriate comment for a country with a dreadful suicide rate and he knows it. He recovers by saying they won’t top themselves even if some people want them to (and refers to the fact that those people aren’t here tonight, one presumes he was thinking they might actually be in the press box though)’¦.it’s awkward and unfortunate but it’s a human moment, this guy knows he’s not infallible.

-Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ starts as a big stadium moment and then just disappears, it’s over too quick, what happened? -Angel Of Harlem’ though is more magic, a great soul song, it provides real hope this could yet be a great evening but -In A Little While’ kills it and not in a good way. A recorded message from the space station with Bono acting as narrator. Recorded ? but we’re here now? This is a live show even if one of the astronaut’s families are here’¦a recorded message?? This is Sky + not Zoo TV. It fell flat on its arse. A real whatever moment. Then -Unknown Caller’, a great attempt at innovation on the new record but nobody is going to sing ‘reboot yourself, move to trash’, no matter who wrote it and no matter how big a screen the lyrics are on. The crowd are not up for it (even the obligatory oh, oh’s wrapping round the big screen with the jumping karaoke ball), the lyrics are clearly rubbish, they read even worse then they sound. The gig seems to have fallen flat. This time for real, nobody’s buying it.

Shit, rain. Plastic magic mushrooms rise up to cover the band. Only Bono ventures out in the rain. The stage wasn’t made for this. It kills a few songs. The band are hiding, just getting through it alive, Bono is prowling the walkways, trying to make the best of it but the band aren’t connecting. Crew are wiping the walk ways in case someone slips. -The Unforgettable Fire’, is spine -tinglingly magic but the band are sheltering and it feels like it’s not clicking for them.

-City Of Blinding Lights’ and -Vertigo’ are certainly stadium pleasers but there’s still an unease about the lyrics there, is that what started turning people off them? They seem shallow, a front for a light show but nothing that means anything. And it doesn’t help that when one member of the band takes a walk around the platforms, the gig feels disjointed, like they’re not actually all singing and playing from the same hymn sheet. There’s danger here, the gig is slipping. Suddenly out of nowhere something that shouldn’t work but very clearly does. A dance mix of one of the weaker songs from the new album. -Ill Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight’, Larry is out on the walkway with his bongos, he’s stopped scowling. The bands faces are on the huge screens, messing, full of humour and mischief. The production has fired up. It looks incredible, it’s a reminder of the chances they’ve taken musically and visually in the past and it’s great.

The show is talking off now. -Sunday Bloody Sunday’ ,-Pride’ and -MLK’ are fantastic. Wow, this band once taught us things. Things that mattered. They still do. -Walk On’ is very moving, one of their best moments from later albums.. 80,000 people singing a song which tonight is dedicted to Burmese democracy. It works. Everyone loves it. Home stretch for -Where The Streets Have No Name’, it’s huge. They finish the set with -One’, clearly a great song, Bono ad libs ‘did you come here to play Jesus, I did’ it’s lost in the mix to most people. And then, another weird moment, after another Sky+ video of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seriously, what’s with the pre-recorded spontaneity guys?? The screens are now displaying a number for people to text and join the -one’ organisation, it seems crass and inappropriate, no matter how noble the cause, this is where the activism collides with the rock and roll band but no one wins. An advertisement at what should be the climax of a rock and roll show? It feels like a misjudgement the band know about (the stadium doesn’t embrace it) but they’ve decided to brazen it out. It’s weird.

The encore is great, with proper darkness having descended and their own space station in full technicolour glory. Bono is wrapped around and swinging from an old mic during -Ultraviolet Light’ and -With Or Without You’. -Moment Of Surrender’ from the new record is truly inspiring, it’s one of their finest and they perform it like they know it, a new creative high. Towards the end though, it feels like an anticlimax, the band leave the stage and the bow when they return feels belated and doesn’t quite work, something just didn’t click at the end, maybe they blew themselves out last night, maybe the rain killed the momentum but even a walk around saluting the fans seems lost.

There’s no doubt this U2 show is way ahead of where they’ve been for years and it should, over the tour, lose some of the obvious creases and gain a finer sense of what works and doesn’t. They’re only a band and tonight they’re a very flawed band, now and then they’re a great band, sometimes a clumsy band but it’s hard not to think their greatness far outweighs their awkwardness. When all is said and done, a clear home victory.

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Photos by Paddy Cummings

FREE IMAGE Hunky Dorys U2 25Jul pic1LR

  • Wow, super review. Nice one!

  • Alan

    Spot on review. Went from literally magnificent to a little deflated for the last 15-20mins. A great show ruined slightly bby poor last 30 mins. These guys are great, the stage is incredible, the crowd was as one but the interruptions ruined it and were badly timed. They should lose the space station, they don’t need it, nobody’s impressed, and move the Human Rights break to the natural break half way through or closer to the start – get it out of the way early. I support it but it was too close to the end to allow them recocer the momentum

  • John14

    Can’t say i would agree, seems like you were there to criticise. Not giving them enough criticism, it was a great gig and the crowd responded to it. Granted there were some dodgey moments. I was there on Friday and Saturday, they played an acoustic version of Stuck In A Moment and it got a fantastic reaction from the crowd, however In A Little While( a song i really like) was disastrous! Still thought it was better than Vertigo 2005, and some of the live songs are refreshingly good live!

  • John14

    Not enough credit even sorry!

  • dave roberts

    Hi John, I had a very open mind…and I did actually enjoy the show (like I said, a home victory, thought I gave them plenty of credit, it’s in there !!)….they didn’t play Stuck In A Moment or anything acoustic on Saturday…and yes you’re right In A Little While was disastrous. The impression I’m getting from others is that Friday was a much better show than Saturday and that the acoustic part which included Stuck In A Moment on Friday was one of the shows highlight’s…would you agree? Did you not think it was a very very meek ending, crowd drifting off, not much of a roar? Don’t get me wrong, I think they do an amazing thing…and this is a serious value for money show. If you enjoyed it more than me, more power to you…and more power to them for giving you a couple of great nights, that’s magic and we all need magic in our lives.

  • Looks like an amazing show…even inspired me to write about it as a starting point for my recent post.

    Thanks for the great review and videos


  • Nice one(s) thanks so much.

    Didn’t realise The Clash gig way back when was in Dun Laoghaire – that’s where 2/3 of my relatives on mum’s side are!

    I’ll keep this info handy and link back, especially SLF.


  • Paul


    Your review was right on the button. I’ve been to a lot of U2 gigs over the years and felt that Saturday’s show, although technically a brilliant stage show/ lights etc, fell flat along the way. I feel like I’ve heard it all before and missed the extra solo inputs from Edge or Adam which featured on previous tours. Good performance of the new numbers – but even with just 2 songs for an encore I felt like the band just wanted to get it all over and done with. Bruce wouldn’t have finished like that!!

  • Ronan

    Great review. The best I’ve read on the U2 weekend as it happens. Every other one, even from papers whose criticism of U2 has known no bounds in recent years, was a fawning load of indulgence and belated and/or sudden U2-worship. Quite a few have been little more than extended thank you letters for the free tickets and the sambos in the media room…

    However, one thing that seems to be missing from practically everything I’ve read about the Croker gigs was the exact nature of the “health and safety” issue which prevented Hill 16 from being used. Could they not have put temporary seats onto it? Even for relatively meaningless friendlies and less-than-glamourous qualifiers the FAI installed temporary seats onto the “hallowed” pile of old GAA rubble. With the millions made from each gig surely MCD or U2 Inc. could have affored a few temporary seats. Sure, they wouldn’t have had a roof but at ‘event’ gigs like a U2 does that really matter?

  • dave roberts

    I believe the health & safety issue was related to the trucks and generator issues and where they would be stored. It would have been amazing to see that show in the proper round in Croke Park, there’s no doubt that it’s a brilliant production piece.

    Anyway, despite my relative criticisms on Saturday, I went back for more on Monday and… was astonishing. No stupid satellite link up…no stupid suicide remarks…no A Little While….Larry still looked in pain and the crowd still looked appalled and shocked after seeing the lyrics to Unknown Caller but it was a fantastic show….one of their best Dublin shows in memory…

  • Paul

    I went to the concert on Monday and whilst I enjoyed it I felt it was not as good as previous U2 Concerts I have gone to I thought the choice of playing “Breathe” for the 1st song and “Moment of Surrender” ( a superb song that will become a U2 anthem in time) for the last song were not good options as many people in the crowd did not know these songs from the new album and they are not punchy enough meaning the concert started and ended on a low note rather than an upbeat note. Other folks seemed to agree with my assessment as they were leaving in their droves before the concert ended. I know this is a discussion about U2 but I honestly thought “The Script” were excellent “except for the Bono like talking and brown nosing of Bono”. One thing I couldn’t fathom, okay I was in total disbelief was that they decided to end their set doing a Bowie Cover of “Hero”. Doesn’t say much about their belief in their own material and the direction their management team is giving them. Bell X1 were also very enjoyable.

  • Derek

    Good review

    I was there for Saturdays show. The feedback im getting is that this was the worst of the three shows. I thought it was an amazing night and yes it died at times, especially the human rights parts. I think if they left the politics out completely it would be better.Yes, they are just a band. I think the good outweighed the bad on the night. It seems though that some people just criticize for the sake of criticizing as if they are expecting perfection! They are still the greatest live rock band in the world today.

  • Pinky

    It wasn’t health and safety that stopped the Hill being used for the U” gigs – try asking the residents committe why it wasn’t used !