Honesty Goes Out Of Control
December 08, 1979
U2's lead singer Bono is tense and anxious about the band's first gig outside their native Ireland. While the gear is set up he stands with the rest of the band around the side of the stage. Guitarist Dave Edge's hand is in plaster following a car crash, and they don't know how he'll cope. U2's feeling of tension comes, it seems, through no straining from the notion that they're already a toted community with two significant front covers under their belts, but from a feeling close to bursting with an urgent need to get their music across.
"We'll show them, we've got to show them, you know..." The flood gates spread wonderfully open as the band sweep elegantly into "Concentration." Everything pours out, the sound soars with a kind of majestic relief. U2 are at least where they belong, progressing their fresh, vigorous r'n'r sensibility to the perimeters of a wider audience.
It was good seeing a band taking the stage by the throat once again. U2 has so much to say and so little space to say it in, as support to the Dolly Mixture. The space they had was stuffed brilliantly with a smart sampling of their potential.
U2 are about four people. Their music has minimum distortion and, free of fad or image associations, their songs reflect the strength of the four individuals. Imagine that strange quality that everybody used to aimlessly tag to Penetration, that weird thing called "honesty," and you come close to the U2 vibe. There's a kind of naive, young, rushing feeling about their music, flickering at times between the Skids, Penetration, Doors, the Fall, and Swell Maps.
The guitar sound is a tackier, rawer Adamson breed: the overall noise sprawls about as decadently and as exotically as Penetration at times did: in singer and spokesman Bono they already have a focal point as engaging and charasmatic as a Mark Smith, somebody who call pull all the various band attitudes together, somebody who gives new and disarming angles of parody to the Heavy Lead Singer role (at one point he excitedly asked for a fag from the audience, and heroically receiving it spent the rest of the song cooly trying to light it and failing).
Bono is U2's fall guy. He gives the kind of warmly instructive performance that's at the root of the band's music. Bono is the archetypical mixed-up, fucked-up teenager who doesn't know where or how to ask for direction. He says, "I've heard a lot about all your lovely fads and fashions over here. Well U2 aren't either of those..." and the music reflects the unaffected, honestly searching character of Bono's frantic, obsessive performance.
You see, I've this strange notion that you shouldn't have to leave a gig feeling deflated, that you shouldn't be let down because you've seen something that's saying it's better than than you or that somebody has told you is better. U2 seem to possess the ability to instruct a wide, immediate audience about myths and lies and dark areas of modern living, particularly relevant to the young, male individual. The sugar coating for these bitter pills you're invited to swallow is the most refreshing new pop music I've heard all year, powerfully poitning along a scintillating guitar sound, a flexible rhythm base and Bono's ever-improving, identifying vocals.
The effect is, three or four times in 20 minutes, having the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, startled by an elegant guitar or bass flourish or moved by the collective, climactic inner tension of songs like "The Dream Is Over," "Inside Out" or "Shadows and Tall Trees." The unifying, centrifugal force of the music on something like the first recent Irish CBS release "Out of Control" (available here on import -- try Rough Trade) is simply remarkable.
Small chinks linger; the exaggerated pap spoof of "Boy/Girl" and the line "I open doors for you so I can shut your face" meaning the only reason men open doors for women is to assert their male superiority, which in itself is far more effective than any self-righteous sexist histrionics.
All the way there's a lot of soul on display, a lot of laying things and ideas right on the line. Really I can only recommend you go far out of your way to catch them before they return home at Christmas. Bono, like some r'n'r evangelist says, "We'll need your support." I'd say U2 give the lie to a lot of current youth rebelling masturbation.
© Sounds, 1979.
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