Whoever said U2 were no longer relevant and popular was wrong. Considering the way this tour has sold faster than any before and that HTDAAB looks set to be one of their best selling albums ever, I'd dare to predict U2 have just as much popularity as during the Joshua Tree/Lovetown/ZooTV glory days.
Note: although a comment relating to the stage of U2's new tour did inspire the following piece of work, there are no spoilers so those of you avoiding them can breathe easily.
U2's Stage Is Bullshit, Really.
From Axver News correspondents in Dublin and San Diego
1 April 2005
Concertgoers attending the opening night of U2's Vertigo World Tour were shocked and flabbergasted by the new stage setup revealed by the band. Gone was the Elevation heart-shaped walkway. In its place was something more outrageous than ZooTV's insane television screens and more tacky than Popmart's arch. Mounds of bullshit on either side of the stage.
The crass and outlandish stage, it appears, has its genesis in a band meeting held late last year in Dublin. Axver News received tapes of this meeting just before the commencement of the second night of the tour, and the telling dialogue comes halfway through a meeting of the band and designers, creating the stage for the tour. Bono can be heard praising an idea of a "bomb shelter", which Edge states will bring "the band closer to the audience than ever before". Over the following ten minutes, the band members can be heard giggling immaturely, and finally, Adam exclaims with a sarcastic tone, "that's bullshit!" It would appear that in sketches being drawn, 'bomb shelter' was abbreviated to 'bs'.
After the opening two songs on the first night of tour, another clue was revealed. As Edge changed guitars and Larry tried to look invisible, Bono announced to the crowd that "there's a message behind the stage", and ever the passionate African awareness spokesman, he went on to state that "we are sending a message, that we are cutting the crap when it comes to Africa, to stupid poverty, to preventable diseases, to bad old debts!" Later in the show, during the band's signature piece, One, Bono went on to explain that he is taking the crap from Africa and "hauling it around the world to confront people and make them deal with it".
Another motivation is given by a second set of cassettes from Dublin, these taken from a business meeting between the band, Paul McGuinness, and record executives early in January this year. Adam can be heard lamenting the people who have falsely accused U2 of selling out when they did not accept a penny for the iTunes commercial, and Edge makes statements about various Internet forums where no matter what U2 do, "someone says it's crap". At this point, someone can be heard crashing around, some scribbling on paper beside the recorder is audible, and then Bono announces that "if people think we're crap, then we're definitely going to bring them crap, we'll show them Africa's crap and see what they think then". There is then screaming by all band members and what sounds like a scuffle, and Axver News believes that it took the band much time and energy to convince Larry that this was not a bad idea.
Since the first two nights of the tour, many in the media have been swift to criticise U2's stage. Every insult in the book has been flung at it. The setup, made by Africans paid fair wages, features a mound of bullshit on each side of the stage, able to accommodate a total of 100 lucky fanatics who are closer to the band than any other setup has permitted. Further connected lumps of bullshit extend out from the centre of the stage into the middle of the audience to a fittingly shitty b-stage. The stage-located fan enclosures have been acknowledged as masterstrokes and the b-stage has been an effective element of U2's stages for over a decade, but despite these positives, the sheer nature of the elements this time around has received criticism so loud and vocal that rumours now abound that U2 have had their alternate plan constructed and a "bomb shelter" stage will be introduced at tonight's concert in Anaheim.
Whether or not the bullshit stays, Bono has successfully achieved his mission of drawing attention to crap. Unfortunately, it may not have been the African crap he intended. One has to give him marks for trying, though.