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"I don't want people coming to me, or the group, as some sort of God substitute or guru-like goons because I can look at myself in the mirror and just laugh." — Bono

U2: Trinity College and McGonagle''s

- February 08, 1979

by Bill Graham

It's no secret at headquarters that I have a special spot for U-2. Indeed, I've no hesitation in rating them the best unrecorded band in Ireland and one whose potential is still barely tapped.

Unfortunately, circumstances weren't the best for this review. Production of our yearbook meant that their two recent McGonagles gigs, the first for the Hot Press/McGonagles party itself, the second on the third day of this New Year passed without praise in print. They were simply the most exhilirating performances by a local band I've witnessed in the last twelve months.

Last Saturday week, U-2 played twice. The matinee was at McGonagles, an enterprising foray to capture the teen audience barred by licensing laws and late night opening.

Unprofessionally, my clock stopped so I lost an hour, only appearing to catch the last four numbers. Neither I nor U-2 were happy with the sound but the band did succeed in their primary aim of attracting and impressing a sizable underage contingent. They return there this weekend.

(Memo to McGonagles: because these customers aren't winedrinkers, extra effort must be made to aid the atmosphere.)

The later date was two hundred yards down the road in Trinity but the late arrival of the hired equipment and a hurried sound-check weren't the best preparation. U-2 were solace for the bewildered, even if their set slumped slightly in the finalk third, before a racing version of "Street Mission." So if the band were scrambling, it's indicative of their growth that an average set nonetheless promotes their merits rather than exposes their failings.

Partially, it's due to Paul Hewson. Undoubtedly the best front-man since Geldof, he's a powerfully-charged battery of energy, and utterly unignorable. His enthusiasm is such that even a potentially pessimistic song like "Concentration Cramp" doesn't flounder in grim negativity, he and the band trampling underfoot all those confining restrictions of school days.

Furthermore, except for one purloined Kinks riff, U-2 owe no obvious debts to earlier styles. Their songs are uniquely their own, vibrant celebrations that are both direct in impact yet not so simple in style. It's U-2's most enduring asset that they've taken only the ideals of the new wave, but not its licks, so that while their songs retain pop vivacity, their structures stretch towards more complex forms. They are already their own category.

So many estimates of local bands end with double-edged compliments, ifs, buts and lukewarm qualifications. U-2 belong to a whole other league.

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