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"Joy is right next to happiness, which is not so interesting." — Bono

U2 are the sweetest thing at Glastonbury

- June 25, 2011

by Ken Sweeney

Last night U2 left their comfort zone of the highest-grossing tour in history to play to their toughest audience yet at the UK's Glastonbury music festival.

In front of a crowd who are traditionally suspicious of 'stadium rock', it could have gone either way.

But U2's debut performance at Worthy Farm turned into a triumph last night as the Bono & Co crew abandoned their 360 tour setlist to perform a 'greatest hits' package, which when you're U2 is some songbook to draw on.

But with so much material to choose from, inevitably there were disagreements about how to approach their headlining slot.

"There were an awful lot of opinions," said drummer Larry Mullen. "Everyone had a view about how it should go.

"There were the 'Where The Streets Have No Name' camp and the more subtle approach, the 'Achtung Baby' dynamic approach, where you build slowly.

"Then there were those who thought we should open with '40' (from U2's 1983 album 'War'). We went through a number of combinations."

Part of U2's success is that Bono knows how to play the role of rock star with all the panache it demands.

And Glastonbury was no different, with the band's singer breathing new life into some of U2's best known hits as if he were singing them for the first time.

At his side, The Edge delivered the distinctive chiming guitar sound that has become the signature of U2's music.

Although logistics meant the group couldn't bring their now famous stage 'The Claw' to Glastonbury, they did have some strong visuals representing different parts of their career, from War to Zoo TV, to light up the vast stage at Worthy Farm.

However, violent scenes broke out in the crowd as a protest against the the band's tax status was foiled by security guards.

As Bono and his bandmates took to the Pyramid Stage, activists from direct action group Art Uncut inflated a 20ft balloon emblazoned with the message "U Pay Your Tax 2".

But as the campaigners tried to release it over the 50,000-strong crowd, a team of 10 burly security guards wrestled them to the ground before deflating the balloon and taking it away.

Campaigner Stephen Taylor said: "U2's multi-million euro tax dodge is depriving the Irish people at a time when they desperately need income to offset the Irish government's savage austerity programme. Tax nestling in the band's bank account should be helping to keep open the hospitals, schools and libraries that are closing all over Ireland."

There had been confusion the previous night when some protesters turned up to what they mistakenly thought was an anti-U2 gathering in Glastonbury's Pilton Palais Cinema Tent.

However, 'Killing Bono' turned out to be a screening of the 2010 film comedy based on the memoirs of Bono's schoolmate Neil McCormick rather than a meeting of plotters.

Watching U2 last night among the massive crowd were thousands of Irish music fans who had travelled over for the festival.

Some, like Bono's old pal Gavin Friday, came to watch U2 but many others came to see the hundreds of other artists who are performing at Europe's biggest music festival over the weekend.

These included Paul Tierney (31) from Tallaght in Dublin.

"I didn't come for U2. I'd be at Glastonbury this year, even if Jedward were headlining," he said.

(c) Belfast Telegraph, 2011.

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