A 2 month hiatus from gigs, ended by U2's massive "Zoo TV" tour; talk about getting into it again in a big way! Got there at 4, and joined the milling throng to get into the Welsh National Stadium, a 55,000 capacity 3/4 bowl 2-tier amphitheatre, smack in the middle of Cardiff, and an ideal venue for this show. Took a viewing position in the seats by the halfway line, upper tier, getting a bloody good view of proceedings!
After a no doubt incredibly symbolic but totally baffling papier mache costume mime show on the stage, we finally had some music! Utah Saints took the stage at 6 and united the crowd with a superb set of their techno-punk meets rave dance music, showing excellent taste in samples (early Human League, Simple Minds et al) in the process. A corker of an opening set. The Stereo MC's, next up, kept the crowd's momentum going with their yo-dance funk chants, but I'm afraid they left me cold. The scrawny, ugly little vocalist irritated me no end with his antics, and the notion of a Mancunian scally not only pretending to talk like a Rastafarian, but also patronisingly chanting "Cymru Am Blith" left a bad taste and was treated with the contempt it deserved. Better was to come, though...
8.45; I'd just missed the spectacle of 4 figures with papier mache cartoon U2 heads jumping out of laundry baskets wheeled onstage, but then the lights were off and massive banks of TVs and white light heralded the triumphant entrance of U2. Nice to see that despite all the overblown stage show hype, they're still the same old band ("this is an away game for us, but it always seems like home here," said Bono to a predictable ovation), and the opening foray, drawn from the disappointing recent "Achtung Baby" LP, made best use of the massive stage set-up. Particularly entertaining, although somewhat at the expense of the songs, were various slogans flashed up on the huge TV screens during "The Fly", such as "Evolution Is Over!", "What Did The First Punk Rock Girl Wear To Your School?", "Call Your Mother", and the much heralded "Everything You Know is Wrong".
For me, however, the gig only really took flight during the opening bars of "New Year's Day". This was the point when it stopped being a media event and became a rock concert. At last. From then on, the technology thankfully took second place to the music, which included excellent renditions of "Bad", a sinewy "Bullet The Blue Sky", and my favourite of the set, "Where The Streets Have No Name", the intro as haunting and majestic as ever.
The encore, led by Bono's new "persona", Mr. MacPhisto, was again a little contrived and silly, especially the phone call to Margaret Thatcher, but overall, the gimmicks and huge stage sets were ultimately dwarfed by the music. Which is how it should be; take note, please, boys. So overall, despite some pre-gig trepidation, I'm glad I went; but not so happy with the 2 hours it took to get from the centre of Cardiff to the Severn Bridge. Still, it could have been worse; my brother took 4 1/2 hours to get home. Ouch!