U2 / The Bravery- City Of Manchester Stadium - 14.6.05

When you bring together U2, the biggest band in the world, and the best new band out of New York, The Bravery, you know you're in for an unforgettable show. Alex McCann went along to the City Of Manchester Stadium to see how The Bravery faired in front of 50,000 people and also to see whether Bono's forays into politics had meant the music had taken a downshift in priorities. It turned out to be a show where no one left disappointed.

The Bravery's rise to prominence has seen them battling out of a bedroom studio in the less desirable area of New York and on to the world stage where they can class U2 as fans. After a storming opener with "Dead In The Water", all quirk lo-fi synths and ambitious scope, they hit a brick wall when the PA failed on "Tyrant". A valiant attempt to carry on is thwarted when the bands sound fails again. It's like watching Parisian mime artist work their way through a rock and roll show, pulling all the poses with none of the soundtrack to back them up.

"I'm from nowhere and I represent absolutely nothing. We're all human and we all make mistakes - we f**ked up. I'd like you all welcome back the Bravery!!!" announced an MC before the band walk on with a new found zest for life and a desire to prove themselves yet again in front of 50,000 people. "Swollen Summer" brims full of off-kilter Kraftwerk-esque synths and post-punk guitar riffs, while "Give In" has the bombast of stadium rock. It's the first time tonight that the Bravery show real potential to break out of the club circuit and on to the centre stage. Sam Endicott and co are people who thrive in dark sleazy clubs, with little but mascara-ed eyes to give them away, and tonight is only the second ever show they've played with the sunlight casting shadows across the stage and exposing them bare (their first ever daylight show was supporting Duran Duran a number of weeks ago in Birmingham).

"Stop" turns a soccer field into the Campest display yet with Endicott and bassist Mike Hindert looking like a gay wet dream somewhere between the world of Morrissey and Bel Ami. "Tightrope" swoons with it's own simplicity and is the sort of dark pop melody that Depeche Mode excel in.

Breakthrough single "Honest Mistake" sends the crowd into a frenzy with its pulsating orgasmatron synth and guitar stabs which split like shards of glass. "Unconditional" is a genuinely affecting song that has grown so much since we first heard it slipping through the underground a few short months ago. "Fearless" features the immortal line "I love the way you love me chico" and brings back the sort of long lost phrase we haven't seen since Scissor Sister's brought back the word "Shamone" in the public's consciousness.

The displays of musical dexterity from guitarist Michael Zakarin and keyboard player John Conway show that more often than not the Bravery are holding something back in their desire to create life-affirming pop records. It was touch and go for a while, but against all the odds The Bravery prove that with time they could be the stadium band our generation has been waiting for.



There's a moment in tonight's show during "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" where Bono walks along a pristine red carpet with the reverence of the Pope or Mother Teresa while gyrating with the hips of Elvis. It's a sublime, ridiculous moment that in fairness only Bono could pull off with any degree of respectability and it's these intrinsic contradictions of attempting to end world poverty and engage in world politics while at the same time living the lifestyle of a debonair rock n roll god that make U2 one of the most interesting bands since the Beatles.

In comparison to the Achtung Baby or Popmart tours, the set for the "Vertigo" tour is a sparse backdrop of floodlights with an arced heart curving round the audience encompassing a message of love and peace. Macphisto and The Fly were about Bono creating disturbing characters that summed up the worst elements of rock and roll excess, nowadays with Bono laying his ideas and thoughts on the line it would be crass to have a set which costs more than the living costs of a small African village.

The bombast of "Vertigo" and "Elevation" kick things off and prove why U2 are not only the best band in the world, but also the biggest. It's in stark comparison to the likes of REM that shun the greatest hits set in favour of obscure forays into their back catalogue. U2 have always been about celebrating every single joyous moment of their career and dipping back into "New Years Day" with that undeniable ringing epic sound of the Edge engulfing the stadium and ricocheting off the cavernous walls.

"When I was younger my father Bob Hewson, a working class man from Dublin, used to conduct opera on the radio with a knitting needle" announces Bono before asking the audience to raise their lighters and cell phones in memory of his late father. "The City Of Blinding Lights" is the most beautiful touching moment of the show with the refrain of "Oh you look so beautiful tonight"

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" sees the band drenched in red lighting to emphasise the poignant message. "Jesus Jew Mohammed - all signs of Abraham" shouts Bono in an audience call back before closing with the telling line "Abraham what have you done". Just one look around the stadium and those sat close by and it's plain to see that U2 are one of the few bands that bring together different generations, races and religions by the unification of music. A reading of the Human Rights Bill after "Bullet the Blue Sky" bring a revolutionary moment to what essentially is a rock gig and lists the basic human rights we take for granted, and of which several nations are denied through oppressive foreign policy.

With a set list that reads like the worlds most perfect gig they take us through "Beautiful Day", "Pride (In The Name Of Love)", "One", "Where The Streets Have No Name" and nod to their heroes Joy Division with interpolations of "Transmission" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" during "With Or Without You".

U2 are band that are impossible to separate the politics and personalities from the music, but if you take away the peripheral elements of the band you're still left with songs that enrich the soul. As Bono succinctly says "This is the year, this the moment to Make Poverty History. We need T-Shirts and we need slogans to put an end to the debt and the problems"

After tonight you get the feeling that U2 will be entertaining generation after generation in years to come. It would be easy to say this was the gig of the year, it's more realistic to say this was gig of a lifetime.

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Karen McCann - www.karenmcbride.com

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