I have, it is safe to say, never been the biggest fan of U2. I hate their sanctimonious politics, I’m angered by their massively hypocritical ‘tax efficient’ schemes that operate while they simultaneously encourage Western nations to ‘Drop The Debt’. It pisses me off that their singer got so cosy with Bush and Blair, who are in many people’s eyes war criminals.
It even annoys me that least one (maybe two) of the band doggedly refuse to just accept that they are bald. And that’s before we even get to the music, most of which just sounds like pompous bluster to me. So how come I’m actually looking forward to seeing them finally headline Glastonbury?
I know I’m not the only person who is feeling these strangely conflicted thoughts about their forthcoming Worthy Farm performance. But if I was going to see U2 play a one-off show anywhere, it would be on the Pyramid Stage.
Why? I’ve pondered this for weeks now. It’s because when you are watching an act in that arena you can switch off from all the stuff that generally annoys you, a bit like suspending your disbelief when you watch a film with a silly premise.
What matters most is the communal feeling, and that’s something that U2 are very good at creating. They have the kind of anthems that are capable of generating an amazing atmosphere on that Friday night – songs that the surely massive crowd will be able to sing along to, in a way that they weren’t able to do when Gorillaz filled in for the injury-stricken Irishmen last year and played loads of songs off an album most people hadn’t really had a chance to savour properly yet.
It’s fine to be challenged musically, but a headline slot on the big stage at Glastonbury isn’t the place for it. Most people who have gone there for entertainment are well-oiled, in a great mood and want an uncomplicated hour-an-a-half that makes them feel titanic.
Like R.E.M. in 1999, Bowie in 2000, Macca in 2004 and Blur in 2009 – they all got it absolutely spot on. And there’s no doubt U2 have that in their locker.
They have the tools to succeed – a massive back catalogue with tons of hits, and the experience and instinct to know which of their songs will work on the night (why do you think The Edge made the trip to Glasto last year? It wasn’t just to help out Muse).
But with so many tunes, you can’t be exactly sure what you’re in for. So as well as being reassuringly familiar, there will also be an element of unpredictability, unlike someone like The Killers in 2007, who had at that point only released two albums. It wasn’t difficult to work out what would feature in the setlist.
Anyway, you would expect that they will definitely play all the big ones from ‘The Joshua Tree’ and ‘Achtung Baby’, as well as ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘Vertigo’. There’s a strong possibility they’ll also perform ‘The Flowering Rose Of Glastonbury’, the song Bono wrote in 2010 for a festival he hasn’t even been to.
But like I say, I have a funny feeling that it will be a massive triumph for U2. They are clearly desperate to do it, and they will pull out all the stops. They will make it work, even without that stupid claw of theirs, which would have just been a distraction anyway. And I can’t deny that it will be exciting seeing them trying to pull it off.