Live Review: U2, Wembley Stadium, 11th August 1993

Salman Rushdie, under sentence of death by the Ayatollah's of Iran, stands on the stage in front of 72,000 with Bono's Satanic alter ego, MacPhisto.

"Real devils don't wear horns," he tells us as the two showbiz luvvies congratulate themselves on how much they believe in free speech and stuff.

This, along with giant fishtanks, belly dancer, Trabants (Yup, still there!), ironic oversized swastikas, burning crosses, ghosts of Elvis and Lou Reed, punters' video box ("...then she found out I was fucking her husband as well..."), satellite link-up with Sarajevo, etc., etc., is all part of the sensory overload, underscored by The Edge, Adam, and Larry, that allows Bono, at least, to say what he likes as loud and as long as he likes - including quoting a bit out of the latest Fly Column - while at the same time limiting and belittling people's ability to think by jamming their brainwaves with this fame-charged, multi-media cosh. 

Like some giant psychedelic jellyfish, the eclectic, 'interactive' ZOO-TV circus descends on the masses, stinging them into acquiescence with the mainstream, soft globalist sentiments of Zooropa. 

Yes, we're all a little miffed -- but not too much to stop shopping -- that we're living in a mass-consumerist, rolling news, computer-game-style, ad-spammed, comfortably numb dystopia that stops us seeing "the holocausts" on our very doorstep (Bosnia, dudes!) and other end-of-the-millennia "cataclysms".

Yeh, Bono and the gang are very much part of the numbing process that ZOO-TV is supposedly critiquing. MacPhisto, pale and weary after yet another stadium gig too many, cackles a knowing laugh.

When I heard the great U2 songs of the early years -- I Will Follow, Out Of Control, Fire, -- I too wanted to climb stage scaffold and shake the world. But, now, listening to the numbing, anaemic strains of Babyface, Satellite, or the lush, multi-layered textures of Mysterious Ways, or the synthesised soul of One, I just feel like selling my soul for a comfortable MTV cocoon.

Tonight New Year's Day, Bad, and Pride work as much by the memories they revive as by the merits of tonight's performance.

Despite their affected, post-modernist wackiness, I can remember a time when U2 were a truly insane and inspired band, rather than just a bunch of well-heeled eccentrics in funny clothes. U2 are too big to have fans now; they just have consumers.

After the show, outside the stadium, there are big piles of shit, probably left by police horses (Were they actually expecting a riot?). "Watch out!" someone cries. "There's some of Bono's bullshit."

Colin Liddell
Revenge of Riff Raff
25th June, 2012

(Written: August, 1993)

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