Thursday 18 January 2018

Getting to the Point: How U2 and Dublin changed over the last 25 years

Lead singer Bono of U2 performs a concert at the Olympic stadium in Turin
Bono on stage with U2 at The Point, 26/12/89
The Edge
The Point Depot in 1989

So U2 might be playing the 3Arena in December. It’s so long since they last did a gig in this venue that it’s gone through not one, but two name changes in the interim.

And that’s not the only thing to have altered greatly since 1989, U2’s last show there (the famous “dream it all up again” New Year’s gig). Here are 26 differences between 26 years and now – for music, Dublin and U2 themselves…

1. In 1989, unprotected sex with millions of groupies whose first names you didn’t even know was not only totally acceptable, it was also your duty as a man, a musician and a pop-culture god. (Although U2, being famously clean-living, didn’t indulge.)

Bono on stage with U2 at The Point, 26/12/89

Bono on stage in 1989

2. Rock musicians were obliged to smoke lots of cigarettes and drink a pint of Wild Turkey a day. U2, again, were allowed a special dispensation on this one.

3. The LUAS was a mere pipedream in the minds of those visionary geniuses who, one day, saw Dublin well-serviced by a light-rail system that didn’t actually join up in the middle, for some annoying reason.

4. Enormous hairstyles were cool on both men and women.

Fans of U2 at The Point, 26/12/89

Fans at the Point in 1989

5. The Edge was slightly less bald than he is today.

The Edge

6. Bono wore cowboy hats and had a ponytail.

Bono on stage with U2 at The Point, 26/12/89

7. Bono hadn’t had those bloody sunglasses welded to his head yet.

8. The threat of Soviet totalitarianism taking over the entire world was still a very real one. Since then, Russia and its satellites have embraced capitalism so enthusiastically that you can buy Lenin’s embalmed remains on www.ebay.russki

9. Wearing a codpiece on stage was nothing to be ashamed of. Nowadays that’d almost certainly get you arrested and placed on the sex offenders’ register.

10. Dublin was filthy and litter-strewn. Okay, more filthy and litter-strewn.

11. Guitarists were encouraged to embark, mid-song, on twiddly-fingered solos that lasted so long the rest of the band could go for a few brewskis, the audience could stretch their legs and visit the bathroom, and the guitarist’s fingertips would eventually be shredded to a bloody mess by the sheer twiddly magnificence of it all.

12. The country was mired in depression and recession and possibly also deprecession. Only it wasn’t as bad as now, because they’d never had a Celtic Tiger to put the bad times into even sharper relief.

13. Dave Lee Roth of Van Halen was able to do spectacular splits for the chorus of Jump. Today he needs his chiropractor on speed-dial for the duration of each tour.

14. And speaking of those poodle-rock legends, young Wolfgang Van Halen was just a faraway glint in his father Eddie’s eye. In 2015 he’s the group’s bass player. Nepotism is the new rock ‘n’ roll.

15. Fianna Fail was by far the largest political party in Ireland. Shudder.

Charlie Haughey

Charlie Haughey

16. And the Progressive Democrats existed. Shudder.

17. Music piracy wasn’t so much about digital downloads – because the World Wide Web hadn’t been invented yet – as they were about fuzzy re-re-re-recordings of albums and gigs, with badly photocopied inlay cards, sold by dodgy geezers on O’Connell Bridge.

18. Cinema was dominated by barely sentient wardrobes with eyes and a superfluity of nandrolone, otherwise known as “action heroes”. And you know what? They were great.

19. U2 still had the ability to write a decent vocal melody.

20. The social tribe all other social tribes most wanted to beat up were Cureheads. Giant spider-nest hair, enormous sweaters, black lipstick, moany, toting around a well-worn copy of Camus’ The Outsider…you’d wonder why they weren’t more popular.

21. Kidding – Cureheads were sound.

22. All you needed was three chords and the truth. Although cutbacks introduced by the Haughey administration meant this had been slashed to two chords and 55% of the truth.

23. U2 albums weren’t overworked and overproduced to the point of death-by-strangulation. They also didn’t take four or five years to record one collection of 10 or 12 songs. Keep it simple, stupid(s).

24. Dublin was a small city, as opposed to the LA-esque exurban sprawl behemoth it has become.

25. The Point Depot was a much cooler name for a venue.

The Point Depot in 1989

26. The charts were dominated by sappy ballads, cretinous pop and Madonna squawking her little heart out. Whereas in 2015…oh right.

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