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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005
    Now that's what I call intimacy
     
    The days were, in U2 soundchecks, Bono would greet his mate and mine, Stan, by name. Stan, whose rattling old 2CV was my daily transport to work down the dock road, and at weekends would take him around the country following a band who got to know him well. Long ago. On the current tour, according to a story in August's Wired, Bono's soundcheck shout is "William Gibson is in the house!"

    Some might celebrate the band's elevation from their loyal local fan-base to the global celebrity-circuit, but it gives me a feeling of vertigo. That's one reason why I didn't feel keen to see this present tour. The other being unease at the prospect of buying-into the bloated (financially, politically and environmentally costly) stadium rock experience at the very same time as we were meant to be acting to make poverty history.

    Still, some interesting stuff in Gibson's only-slightly fawning privileged-fan's-eye-view of the show's staging. Essentially, the observation that U2 gigs continue to '[provide] huge audiences with a powerful yet intricately managed sense of intimacy.' He shows how it is the camera technology which enables this to happen - the big-screen on-stage close-ups of the singer and the fan-plucked-from-the-audience providing moments of 'brilliant balance', where everything is held 'in a sphere of almost tangible emotion - powerfully facilitated by this massive construct of highly specialised equipment.'

    Gibson notices the self-referential nature of the set, the way the whole performance records and replays itself, and wonders whether 'the ... Vertigo node [is] acquiring a memory of sorts'. Well, he would, wouldn't he, this futurist writer? He wonders if we will see a time when there will be 'a set in some quiet corner of a theme-parked future Dublin, that effortlessly summons up the spectacle of any given evening of a tour?'

    You never know. Though it begs the question, if the gig could run itself then where would the band be? Perhaps kicking around dusty old Liverpool haunts, catching up with Stan and the others who got this whole thing started in the first place. Now that's what I'd call intimacy.