So U2 will be playing the 40th anniversary Glastonbury festival, on Friday, June 25. We shouldn’t be too surprised. Michael Eavis promised a huge name. It was hardly going to be Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong.
The only weird thing is that it’s taken them this long to do it. Few artists crave the giant spectacle more than Bono – and Glastonbury, these days, is about the biggest spectacle there is. Already, the NME office is resounding to cynical carping: it’ll be too slick, too earnest. Bono will treat the Pyramid as his own personal pulpit. And so on.
But cynicism doesn’t belong at Glastonbury. Here’s why I reckon it’ll be a spectacular show (and bear in mind Eavis has an even bigger act lined up for Saturday night…)
1. It’s a good fit
The bands that work best at Glastonbury are those with some kind of social conscience. Springsteen ticked that box last year, with his liberal-friendly anthems-to-the-common-man (even if, you know, he didn’t actually play many of those anthems). In the same way, U2 will instil that same vague sense – no matter how illusory – that Glastonbury is more than just a festival: it stands for something. And I don’t mean the chance to get monged out of your gourd for five days straight.
2. They’ll do the hits
Springsteen last year was great in many ways, but his setlist was misjudged. It’s safe to say a cover of 19th century folk song, ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’ was not exactly what the cider-addled Saturday night crowd had ordered. It’s hard to imagine U2 making the same mistake. So we’re bound to get this, for a start:
3. U2 actually sound better on a big stage
Some bands – Arctic Monkeys, say – seem to shrink when they play arenas or festivals. With U2 it’s the opposite. They love giant spaces, the better to let The Edge’s delay-drenched notes chime more expansively. They even recorded one of their best songs, ‘Bad’, in an empty stadium (at least the good version, the one on ‘Wide Awake In America’):
4. Everyone knows the songs
Much as chin-stroking rock hacks might pretend otherwise, the key to a legendary festival performance is having a fund of songs that drunk people can bellow along to, even if they don’t know all the words. For that reason, the likes of ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ and ‘Mysterious Ways’ are bound to sound immense.
5. You can always go to the bar for ‘Get On Your Boots’
It’s not one of their best, is it?