Unknown Caller.

“Restart and reboot yourself .
You’re free to go.
Ho, ho.
Shout for joy if you get the chance.
Password, you, enter here, right now.

Ho, ho.
You know your name, so punch it in.
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak.
Shush now.
Ho, ho.
Then don’t move or say a thing”.

From “Unknown Caller” by U2.


There can’t be much of a bigger contrast between the last two gigs I have seen and, yet, both were brilliant.  Prior to last night, the most recent gig I had been to was Neil Halstead at Captain’s rest in Glasgow.  It was one of those particularly intimate gigs as Neil strummed an acoustic guitar and played his brilliant, stripped back, ballads to a basement full of about 20 people all attentive to his every mumble.

I’ve been to literally hundreds of gigs over the years – a majority of them with my long serving gig-going bro’.  Much as we love live music, I don’t often get all that excited before hand. In fact, the Neil Halstead gig mentioned earlier was one of those few recent gigs where I have genuinely been excited.

In stark contrast we were in a crowd of 59,000 who packed out Hampden last night to witness the latest U2 extravaganza.  Whilst any indie loving tike such as I ought to be referencing bands like The XX or some other noteworthy young upstarts, the truth is U2’s catalogue has been a constant presence in most of my coming of age and growing up. 

Whilst many music critics have been quick to liken this phase of U2’s career to the time of the “Pop” album – a period where their latest release has failed to generate the level of record sales usually associated with the biggest band in the world, last night’s set included recitals from the “War”, “Unforgettable Fire”, “Joshua Tree”, “Achtung Baby”, “All You Can’t Leave Behind”, “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” and “No Line On The Horizon” eras.  Songs transport me to places, remind me of faces and incidents.

The stage structure was phenomenal.  We were about 4 or 5 metres from the walkway surrounding the stage with a perfect view of Edge and the rest of the group. The 360 degree screens gave a brilliant view of the evening’s proceedings.  It was a far cry from having been at the SECC in 1987 at the Joshua Tree tour, before contact lenses, when I barely saw a thing as we were so far from the stage stuck behind a huge abyss of vacant floor space which surrounded the sound desk. 

Last night may have been less spiritual than being feet from the band at the 2001 Elevation Tour in Manchester when the music came back to life after a decade of relying on huge information overload through the likes of Zoo TV and the lemon.  It was a far better experience than Hampden in 2005.

The set opened with “Breathe” and the tracks from the new album actually stood up well live, although finishing with “Moment Of Surrender” seemed a bit of a strange choice.  The stand out track for me from the new material was “Unknown Caller.”  The crowd really seemed to come alive for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Vertigo”, “One” and “With Or Without You”.  “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was still used to relevant political effect to highlight the plight in Tehran.  Sadly, the sound system seemed to die during “Walk On” which was being used to raise awareness of the life and present situation affecting Aung San Suu Kyi – rumours that the Burmese had something to do with sabotaging the sound-desk last night are yet to be confirmed.  Desmond Tutu’s address was riveting.  After all these years, the band are still trying to use their position to expose situations and to try to galvanise change.  Many call it naive, but would I have ever joined the likes of Amnesty or Greenpeace had I not devoured the liner notes of the Joshua Tree 22 years ago?

It may not be cool to like U2, but I can’t ever imagine not turning out for one of their tours and I can’t imagine not being affected by it.


5 Responses to “Unknown Caller.”

  1. 1 Dan G August 19, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Brilliant piece. There’s nothing I can add, really!!

  2. 2 brunettekoala August 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I got the privilege of seeing first hand the difference one of Bono’s HIV charity clinics has had at grassroots level while I was in South Africa earlier in the summer.

    Because of that clinic lots of people in the rural townships in the Durban area are able to get much needed medication so that they can live a full life despite their HIV status.

  3. 3 brunettekoala August 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    PS Lovin the pic of you & the Rev!

  4. 4 calamateur August 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I was there and I keep finding out friends of mine were there too who I didn’t see – and now you’re another one! Glad you enjoyed it – I thought it was amazing.

  5. 5 thestatethatiamin August 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm


    Good to hear from you and glad you had a good night. I believe Fin was meant to be there too. I’m hoping tp go see his piece at the Rough Cut Nation exhibition in Edinburgh over the next couple of days.

    Peace be with you all.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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