- 17 Apr 81
Charlie McNally sees U2 launch their U.S. Invasion.
U-2 at the most prestigious venue in Los Angeles were only dynamite - I can put it no more succinctly than that. For the past ten days I've been listening to KROQ 106.7 FM (Dave Fanning beware!) which, incidentally, is the new wave station of Southern California, and they've been paving the way for the assault on LA by those new darlings of the British rock press. U-2.
Island-Warners seems to be throwing some weight and a few bucks behind the whole thing - the approach to the tour positively bristles with activity, organisation promotion and all the other on-the-road related jive. e.g. a SPACE BUS which sleeps most everyone. I mean, you can piss and shower in it, keep the champagne cold, watch TV and the sound system within is astounding - all this is in the capable hands of a certain Mr. Joe O'Herlihy from Cork.
Promoting concerts in Los Angeles is a tough ol' business but The Country Club has quickly become a top live music, liggin' joint, concert club in LA, featuring a great variety of music from new wave to country. Record execs abound, hand out their cards, tellin' you who they are and what they do and talking million dollar deals. The sunny, tanned women (oh those California girls) wear designer jeans and almost up-to-date hairstyles. As Vidal Sassoon says on the radio: "If you don't look good, we don't look good". He charges forty bucks.
The metropolis of Los Angeles is the melting pot of the world - it's all things to all people. Hollywood, the tinsel-town, attracts many of the most talented people in search of success in movies, music or fashion, which are very much interrelated industries. Some make money in such quantities it's hard to comprehend, others fulfil their dreams, out many leave disappointed and disillusioned. Life is lived in the fast lane - and I mean on the right hand side of the road but in the left hand lane, in fifth gear at whatever speed outruns the cops, ha! People work hard but play hard too.
Well, out came the Qualudes, the Cocaine and the best California Pot you ever did see, as the elite new wave rich kids and the record execs I mentioned earlier, welcomed, politely at first, U2 in the debut appearance on the West Coast, US of A.
The Country Club was warm but not too hot; the day had been in the low 70's - a nice climate., pleasant on the mind 'n' senses. The boys had a swim in the Marquis pool and a dip in the jacuzzi - a great way to start the day, but there was a gig to get together, so John Kennedy. Tim Nicholson, Joe O'Herlihy and Paul arrived at the venue at 2 pm. as arranged, only to find the place closed and gig people unavailable (they were all down at the Long Beach Grand Prix, 40 miles away). So the pressure was on and the pace began to heat up as sound cheek and AOK were necessary before 7 pm - but like any good road crew that knows its shit, these guys were ready.
Now, the Country Club is the showcase gig in LA of everyone from local hot shots Naughty Sweeties to Ry Cooder - but U2 took the place by storm. There was a sense of anticipation in the room, which holds about 1000 people, prior to the show, reflecting the fact that many had advance knowledge of this "young band" from Dublin.
The set opened slowly and tentatively as the band settled in and checked out the audience who, by the way, had come to watch and listen not to spit, fight or pogo. I immediately realised that this was a new band, one that had been knocked into shape by many long days on the road - a far cry from the day that young Paul Hewson (Bono to you) asked me on College Green if his band could play support "for nothin'" on the Greedies' gig at the Stardust in Artane. Little did I think that only two years later I'd witness that same band playin' their asses off in Sunny California.
Most of the material was plucked from their debut "Boy" album which originally entered the US charts at 98 with a double bullet and has continued to rise since. Gems like "Out Of Control", "Stories For Boys", "Day Without Me", and "Boy Girl", were the high points in a very professional, almost polished, stage show probably not as flashy as Hollywood would want, but excellent in an earthy Irish way which, of course, was well received.
I'm not going to criticise the set in the manner of yer average rock journalist - tight sound, stupendous lighting etc. yawn! turn to p. 94. Suffice to say the final twenty minutes were exceptional in that U2 actually managed to rouse those bored Los Anglicans who sat up and took notice - they even called for two encores. Mr. Edge played some inspired guitar and Adam decked in headband "fer de swea", pumped out a wild bass. Bono moved and pranced around stage (who's his choreographer?) with great ease and confidence - too much echo on his vocals but the skins were just perfect. There is a discipline and maturity about U2 hithertofore unseen in Irish bands and I hope, indeed believe, that this band is going all the way to the top of the international ladder.
The after-gig lig was as expected - an efficiently organised affair in the reception room, short and sweet so that such 'n' such could meet such 'n' such and exchange cards and numbers and gossip: "I met someone who went out with Warren Beatty, you know", or as this German starlet beside me says "Ve shaal all go back to my hows an'/ze jacuzzi sheal give much pleasure, JA?" Much imbibing took place.
Anyhow, Bono and the boys saw pretty quickly what was goin' down, put in a quiet and restrained appearance, answered a few questions and soon headed back to LA's rock 'n' roll hotel the Sunset Marquis, which is situated near Barney's Beanery, a Pool 'n' Food 'n' Beer joint of repute, frequented by many a transient rock 'n' roller. Then, of course, there's the glitter of the Rainbow just up on Sunset Strip where all drinks are two bucks fifty and the girls are just beootiful. Sunset is renowned as the best hooker street, but Santa Monica Blvd., running parallel is great for little boys! Wealth and decadence are inseparable. Anyone who saw TV in the late fifties might remember the Vegas-type of detective series called "77 Sunset Strip", - well, it still exists but is now a striptease joint with a huge overhead sign saying "Guaranteed totally nude or double your money back". It sums up the way this town ticks, i.e. money screams, guarantees are necessary, efficiency and The Ultimate are the goal. That mood didn't phase U2 ...
Tonight I had the pleasure of observing a tiny paragraph in Irish rock music history - U-2's debut in LA – so I thought I'd send you these few words for the record. "Keeping the world (Ireland) safe for Rock 'n' Roll" etc ...
Vol 5 No. 7 April 17th, 1981