U2: London Astoria

Some Irish boy band play a gig to a bunch of no marks...

Were you there? Wasn't it amazing? Won't folks be talking about the gig for years to come?

Anyway, enough about The Strokes at the NME Carling Awards show last week. Some Irish boy band are playing a secret gig at the Astoria, and it's proving to be a pretty popular event. Tickets are selling outside for £1000 and ticket-holding fans are turning down offers of £800 from people desperate to get a glimpse of their favourite band. Some diehard U2 fanatics have travelled inordinate distances to get to the gig: one U2 tribute band, Vorsprung Durch Technik, have driven from Hamburg for 36 hours to see their idols.

Having picked up the Godlike Genius gong at the NME Carling Awards, U2 play to a rammed venue brimming over with a stellar cast of celebrities including Shaznay Lewis from All Saints, Radiohead's Colin Greenwood, Radio One DJ Sara Cox and her DJ boyfriend Jon Carter, actor John Hurt, Kylie Minogue, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Massive Attack, Mick Jagger, media mogul Chris Evans and his popstar girlfriend Billie, Oasis and author Salman Rushdie.

Befitting a band who've been performing together for over 20 years, they're taut and professional, effortlessly tight as they blast through a host of tracks from current album 'All That You Can't Leave Behind', as well as a clutch of their hits.

Bono, in sparkling form, introduces his band as "the family", and laughs: "It's only the second time I've ever done this, introduced the band." He continues: "We're doing this 'cos we're re-applying for the job. There's a lot of people here watching this that could probably say the same thing. The job is the greatest band in the world."

Their first ever single for Island Records, '11 O' Clock Tick Tock', is exhumed, before they kick into a barrage of era-defining classics - 'Mysterious Ways', 'All I Want Is You', 'Desire' and 'One', at the end of which Bono starts singing the lyrics to Craig David's recent hit 'Walking Away'. As Salman Rushdie watches rapt from the VIP balcony, Bono dedicates 'The Ground Beneath Her Feet' to the author, who wrote the lyrics.

They finish with 'Bad' before re-emerging for a one-song encore of 'Forty' from 'War'. Away from the stadiums, the irony, the MTV-vid glitz, they've proved themselves a great fucking rock'n'roll band. Really, after all this time, who would've thought...?

Paul McNamee

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