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U2 – The Countdown To Glastonbury

Siobhanne Beattie


Friday marks the opening of this year’s Glastonbury festival at Worthy Farm, and revellers are in for a very special treat with iconic band, U2, playing their first ever festival stint.

Following the cancellation of their headline slot last summer, after Bono sustained a spinal injury, the Irish supergroup are set to blow minds at Worthy Farm this weekend.

Formed in 1976 in Dublin, following an ad posted by drummer, Larry Mullen Jr, seeking like-minded musicians to form a band, U2 were originally Feedback, then later, The Hype, and a far-cry from the band we know and love today.  After settling on a name, and winning an Irish Talent Contest in Limerick on St Patrick’s Day in 1978, U2 were eventually signed to Island Records in 1980.

The early 80s saw U2 gather significant momentum with albums, including their debut offering, ‘Boy’, ‘War’, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ and ‘October’.  Their famous stint at 1985’s Live Aid came second only to Queen’s outstanding performance at Wembley Stadium, and boosted their popularity both at home and abroad.

However, it was the release of epic album, ‘The Joshua Tree’, in 1987 that saw U2 go from upcoming band with promise to Stadium Rock Superstars.  The album spawned signature songs, Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and, of course, With Or Without You.

U2 bowed out of the 80s with ‘Rattle And Hum’, with both the album and accompanying film receiving lukewarm reviews, despite spawning their first UK Number 1, Desire. The band announced they were “going away to dream it all up again”, fuelling rumours of an imminent split.

The 90s arrived and a new U2 came with it – the band had completely evolved from their rock/gospel influenced style to experimenting with dance/pop/rock and alter-egos.  Bono became The Fly complete with dark sunglasses – which he hasn’t taken off since!

‘Achtung Baby’ is arguably U2’s second masterpiece and includes, Mysterious Ways, The Fly, Even Better Than The Real Thing, and their stunning power ballad, One.  U2 had undoubtedly been the hottest band of the 80s, and now, in the 90s, they were undeniably the coolest.

ZooTV was the accompanying tour of ‘Achtung Baby’, and saw the band bring a whole new dimension to live performance with a magnitude of multimedia – featuring large TV screens, visual effects, random video clips from pop culture and flashing text phrases.  Bono introduced yet more alter-egos in the form of The Mirror Man and Mr MacPhisto, making it easier for the frontman to poke fun at politicians and express somewhat controversial views on war-torn Sarajevo.

‘Zooropa’ was written, recorded and released  during a brief break in the ZooTV Tour. Originally intended as an EP, it was eventually released as a full-length album.  ‘Zooropa’ was met with confusion from fans and heavy criticism from the media.

U2 closed the 90s with 1997’s effort, ‘Pop’, another departure for the band with hybrid of dance/pop experimentation and included UK Number 1 single, Discotheque.  Both the album and accompanying tour were deemed “flops”.

The dawning of a new Millennium saw U2 return after a four year stint in rock wilderness, and with it, came their hat-trick masterpiece.  ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ was released in late 2000, preceeded by single, Beautiful Day and put U2 back to the top of their game.  The accompanying World Tour, Elevation 2000, sold-out all over the world and included a homecoming gig at Slane Castle in 2001.

‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’ continued this lucky streak in 2004 and spawned crowd-pleaser, Vertigo, with the tour also selling out throughout their legion of fans worldwide.

Latest album, ‘No Line On The Horizon’ from 2009 was U2’s twelfth studio album and failed to supply a hit single.  It endured low sales by U2 standards.  The 360 Tour that accompanied their recent release was plagued by cancelled gigs and rescheduled dates, due to Bono’s spinal injury last year.  However, The 360 Tour, is highest-grossing tour in musical history, surpassing earnings of $558 million, breaking the record previously held by The Rolling Stones.

Since forming 35 years ago, U2 are still one of the biggest and best bands in the world today, and without them, music would be a landscape devoid of versatility, experimentation and unpredictability.  Whether you love or loathe him, Bono is one of the most celebrated, charismatic and talented frontmen of our generation.

And, 35 years on, U2 are still undoubtedly one of the most exciting live bands today.