U2 recently wrapped up their eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tours – selling out four nights at Dublin’s 3Arena.
But, despite rocking almost fifty thousand fans Irish fans with superb performances, there remains an air of uncertainty surrounding the Dublin band’s relationship with the Irish public.
For a band that causes such an international clamour, why are Bono and Co not adored by the Irish?
Arguably one of the most universally recognised quartets in the world, the band, who originally hail from the northside of the Liffey, have arguably produced wider reaching work than Irish greats such as James Joyce, Phil Lynott, Brendan Behan, and Patrick Kavanagh.
Joyce, Lynott, Behan and Kavanagh all have statues dedicated to their talents, so it is a little more perplexing that there is no tribute to U2 in their home city.
No statue, no mural, nothing.
Even when paying a visit to cult spot Windmill Lane – where the band recorded albums such as Boy, Joshua Tree, and War – there is little to discern that the group has history there.
Instead of any sort of tribute, the lane is filled with derelict buildings and vandalised incomprehensible spray paint.
How can it be that a rags-to-riches band from Dublin can share so little common ground with the general public? Songs such as Bad and Sunday Bloody Sunday about heroin abuse and the Northern Ireland troubles should surely resonate with people more than they do.
Bono has vaguely acknowledged this problem in the past, remarking on the Conan O’Brien show in 2005 that it is part of the Irish mentality to be critical of wealth, remarking that the Irish don’t necessarily like seeing their compatriots being successful.
This would seem like a plausible (Irish) reason to like the band, I myself often search for reasons to dislike Irish celebrities before looking for reasons to like them.
Perhaps this is just something that comes in our DNA, a deep mistrust for people with fabulous wealth and influence. What doesn’t help Bono’s case is that he often cosies up to people in even more powerful positions than him; George Bush, Tony Blair, and Bill Clinton to name but a few.
This kind of guilt by association is more than likely one of the major failings the singer has in the eyes of the public.
From this point of view I can see why people would question his integrity, how can people trust a man who campaigns for the rights of children in the Middle East but also engages with leaders who’ve had such a chequered history in the region.
That’s not to say they don’t have a large enough core group of die-hard Irish followers, but it seems like if you are not part of that group, you probably don’t like them, almost as if there’s no middle ground.
While working at Croke Park for their four performances, I saw this first hand. While there was a lot of overseas visitors at the event, the vast majority were Irish and the large queues at the merchandise stands showed their loyalty to the band.
It is particularly puzzling that a lot of what they do is genuinely helping people in need, yet they are viewed in a predominately negative light. Bono’s charity work with the ‘ONE campaign’ and his help toward charities such as UNICEF and AIDS research firm ‘DATA’ is overshadowed by reports of sophisticated tax strategies, particularly since the ‘Paradise Papers’ were released.
I have always grown up with the belief that they were pretentious and pompous without really knowing why (particularly after that South Park episode). However, even though I still believe there is a high level of pretentiousness about them, I feel it is exaggerated and they should be recognised for the work they’ve done, not only in their musical field but for their humanitarian work also.
Bono recently remarked, “we’re going away for a while” at the final leg of their tour, which was met with little to no reaction by the public or Irish news sites, even though it could well be a strong hint that the band are calling it a day. I found this a little surprising considering the scale of their international success.
Even though there is definitely a level of pompousness about them, their music a lot more (mainly old stuff) has definitely grown on me (I’m willing to forget Get on Your Boots was ever made). A few months ago, I would have turned off a U2 song if I heard it on the radio, but I have a new-found level of respect for their work.
I can also see how the negative side of Bono’s persona can affect the group of relatively grounded individuals in the Edge, Larry Mullen Jr, and Adam Clayton. It will be interesting to see whether Ireland will ever build statues and tributes to the band, like those towering artistic figures who came before them.