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"Great ideas are like melody lines to me. I'm attracted to ones that have a force and clarity and feel inevitable." — Bono, 2002

Back to Basics

- February 09, 2001

by Jeremy Novick

It was the hottest ticket in town. Following Madonna's lead, U2
played a small gig - for the fans, you understand. A thank you. Hey,
so a few celebs sneaked into the rarefied "them and us" upstairs
zone. So they only played a touch over an hour and a quarter
(presumably they had to get away to the after-show party that well-
developed man was barring us from), but no one cares about that
stuff. This was something special. Whether it was worth the GBP1,000
I heard a tout asking for outside... well, I guess that depends how
many GBP1,000s you've got.

Stripped down to the core - no golden arches, TV screens or ironic
lemons - this was U2 at their purest. Free of the embellishments, the
secret of their success was laid bare. Four perfectly attuned
musicians, a fantastic back catalogue and maybe the most charismatic
singer of his generation.

Drawing on the rock star template laid down by the likes of Vince
Taylor, Bono looked the part - black leathers, black shades, black
hair - and was on top form, mixing his trademark passion with the
stagecraft learned from 20 years at the top. Holding the mike out for
the crowd, surfing the raised arms of the adoring mob, singing From
The Cradle To The Grave into a mobile phone and patting his heart, it
was all there. Could he get a signal in that cramped, damp hall? Who
cares. It looked great.

Like all the best frontmen - Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie comes to
mind - Bono's voice is a tool more than an instrument. And it's not a
question of whether it holds, more that it simply doesn't matter.

Clearly enjoying themselves, they ran through the old ones - I Will
Follow sounded so sweet, twee even - but concentrated on the last two
albums. In an environment where sweat replaced artifice the songs
sounded better than ever.

As the songs came and went - Desire, Discotheque, Beautiful Day -the
crowd at the front (not, you suspect, the GBP1,000 merchants) turned
the normally rock-solid Astoria floor into something resembling a
trampoline. Bono took off the shades, pushed his wet hair back and
surveyed the scene. After nearly two decades in the enormodomes, it
was, you suspect, as big a treat for them as for us.

© 2001, The Express.

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