Three nights, three different sets, three distinctly different atmospheres – U2’s residency at Croke Park has provoked much debate and criticism but overall a lot of pleasure for a lot of people. In the last of our reports, guest contributer Stuart Bailie (NME, BBC and now one of the people behind the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast) offers us his views on the closing night:
One of the coolest U2 moments I’ve seen took place at Fort Lauderdale, Florida in March 2001. The band ambled onto the stage with the house lights still on, like they were a bunch of janitors, pushing brooms. There was no ceremony, no bravado, and at a stroke, they brushed away the tiresome conceit of Popmart. The titanium soul of the new tunes felt true and U2 had purpose again.
I loved the Elevation tour. They were able to reconnect to the old songs without sounding arch or apologetic. A series of friends passed away during the tour and the dark joke of -Drop The Death’ was whispered backstage. But that also gave the shows a sting, and the Slane show that became a farewell to the late Bob Hewson was rightfully intense.
So here we are at on the final night at Croke Park, hoping for something to give the night definition. We’re a long way from the revival shows of 2001 and the new record has yet to yield a thematic steer. Like many of us, U2 are hunting for sureties in a landscape that’s smeared and grey.
-Breathe’ and -No Line On The Horizon’ are despatches from those shadowlands. Bono wants to rail against something, but it’s not an easy job. It’s a little way from twilight, the stage looks underwhelming and the city wants rousing. There’s a hint of deliverance on -Magnificent’ as the singer looks to his Psalms for a remembrance of the old-time blues and the consolation of simply giving voice. We’re effectively prepped for -Beautiful Day’ and that image of the bird with the leaf in her mouth. Time to cheer up, good people.
-New Year’s Day’ is dedicated to our Polish friends and the notion that we can indeed break through. A crowd of young Italians are having a major party beside me, making synchronised gestures, miming out the lyrics and revealing a pure delight that radiates though this part of the crowd. Bono is singing lines from Primal Scream’s -Moving On Up’ as the night starts to resonate. -Stay’ is back from a five year holiday, acoustic and intimate while -The Unforgettable Fire’ is welcomed home as a much-missed pal.
The stage set is paying its way for -Unknown Caller’ as the bald lines of computer dialog reveal some kind of Zen secrets. The Joshua Tree tracks are delivered with regular grace, but interestingly, Achtung Baby is only represented twice. -Ultraviolet’ leads the encore as the lights twinkle and the mood turns soft. They sign off with -Moment Of Surrender’ and the express yearning that gives the night its identify. It’s about the quest to move from vision to visibility, from shadow to substance. I hope they can ultimately get there.
Photos of U2, BellX1 and The Script by Julie Bienvenu – click to enlarge.