Vertigo, All Because Of You, Desire, She’s A Mystery To Me, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.
U2 perform on BBC’s ‘Top of the Pops’. The first five songs are performed outdoors in the rain in front of 200 people in the BBC car park. Bono is the only one performing live during Vertigo (the music is pre-recorded for timing purposes). The final two songs are performed in the BBC studio for future airing on TOTP.
The Final Word
U2 – London BBC Studios – TOP OF THE POPS
by Mark Reed
If you told me, when I first start listening to U2 in the early 80s, that some twenty years later, I’d be watching them play the BBC carpark in London, I’d have told you not to be so silly.
Of course, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that. I would’ve probably said “My dad’s bigger then your Dad”. Though with U2, my band is bigger than your band. U2 are the biggest band in the world today. (Sure, maybe The Beatles, and Pink Floyd, and The Stones were bigger, but what have they done for you lately?).
So what the hell are they doing, playing a carpark, for Top Of The Pops? Christ only know and Bono – depending upon your opinion – is either Christ, or knows him – so I’m sure all will become clear shortly. But less of that.
For tonight sees U2’s first public performance on European soil for three years, and anticipation is high : for some. Despite the relaxed queues from competition winners and ticketholders (aged between 16-21, in an attempt to appear ‘hip’ and ‘with it’), and a sense of almost-apathy from some fans, several hundred fans still attend the show : the ticketless few crowd around locked security gates, whilst most fans stay away, largely deterred by the driving rain and a desire to avoid the crush and chaos of previous such shows. The last time U2 did this – performing on the roof of their Dublin hotel – traffic ground to a halt. Tonight, in the pouring rain and with lashings of British reserve, such hysteria is muted by the fact that most of the fans are 20 yards from the stage and peering through the gates.
Inside, the young, the curious, and the employees of the BBC peer intently through their office windows and wonder. Frankly, its not really a U2 show, despite the band’s efforts. It’s more of a freakshow.
But less of that. More of this : the band appear after a brief roadie soundcheck (that sees the guitar tech playing parts from “Zoo Station”), to perform the three leadoff songs from their upcoming album “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb”, to general disbelief. Being the live premier of these songs (and the world premiere of both “All Because Of You” and “City Of Blinding Light”), the crowd isn’t always animated, more awed, but the material shone through.
“Vertigo” (though mimed with live vocals) went down a storm : it has Big Hit written through like a stick of rock. Though it is a great song, “Vertigo” is almost U2-by-numbers, a checklist of ingredients that when combined, become U2. Whereas other lead singles have been brave pointers of U2’s future direction, “Vertigo” is just more of the same.
Shame. Because the performance they pull off tonight is cracking.
Of the other two songs “All Because Of You” is a slinky, sexy thing : imagine “Elevation” and “The Fly” snogging in a dark corner of a nightclub and you’re almost there. “City Of Blinding Light” meanwhile is a determined leftfield step, a shimmering, unreal thing, that could have come off “Zooropa”, a love song to a city, a hymn to civilisation and technology. I don’t remember anything else about it, but it bodes well for the future. My God, does it bode well.
N/A short break later, and the band return : Bono is in a playful mood, he flirts with the crowd, tells long indeterminate stories about the songs, and – upon spying the Tardis, Dr.Who’s home, parked in the corner of the carpark – leads us in a chorus of “Ex-ter-Min-Ate!”. Both “Vertigo” and “All Because Of You” are reprised, sounding better and better with each listen. As “Vertigo” reaches its end, we are serenaded with a brief snippet of Oasis’ “Hello. Hello. It’s good to be back.”
The band then convene, before giving us a semi-acoustic version of “Desire”, and – in only it’s third performance in eleven years – their version of Roy Orbison’s “She’s A Mystery To Me”. Bono stops, stutters, and wonders aloud; “Should I try the second verse?”
N/A second version of the wonderful “City Of Blinding Light” later and it’s all later. And for a brief second, I get a view inside the bubble of a megastar. Of two inconsiderate Papparazi scum who crowd the barriers with armfuls of camera equipment, and climbing barriers so that fans who actually, you know, LIKE the music can’t see the band, and end up forcibly restraining them. Some of us didn’t come this far to see the back of your stupid, snaphappy backpack. And of professional autograph hunters, clutching their books of celebrity autographs, waiting to add Bono, The Edge, and The Other Two, to their starfucking list of scrawls.
N/And I’m so glad I’m merely infamous, and not famous. Because the kind of life I glimpsed in these odious examples is not the kind of life I want to live. But let us not muck about. U2 performed live for the first time in three years a few minutes ago to 200 people in a carpark in London. And that’s an experience no money can buy.
Hell, if you’d have told me this morning I’d would be watching U2 perform live in the BBC car park, I’d have told you where to go. Vertigo? Oh no. In a city of blinding light, U2 are still fabulous. No doubt next year will see them conquering the universe and curing cancer, but this will have to do for now.
Setlist:- Vertigo/All Because Of You/City of Blinding Light/ Vertigo / All Because Of You / Desire / She’s A Mystery / City Of Blinding Light
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