Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

U2 isn’t exactly practicing what it preaches


First published on The Punch on 2nd December, 2010

U2’s 360 degrees tour has touched down in Australia and is in full swing. Much like the main feature of the tour, stories have been coming from every direction on how extravagant the concert is. How the big scale, big vision, and big cost have lead to the biggest concert event ever.

You have to admit, the numbers are pretty impressive.

U2’s two year world tour has run up an $850,000 dollars daily running cost, and last year took $123 million as the highest grossing tour of 2009. ‘The claw’ stage that dominates the band as they play towers at an impressive height of 164 feet. It is so large that it took six 747 jets to get it to Australia.

It’s supported by a crew of 130 people, and relies on 55 trucks to get around the country. ‘The claw’ is such a massive structure that the car park under Etihad Stadium in Melbourne required reinforcement, and the roof couldn’t close either.

While in some ways it makes for an impressive production, it’s a bit strange that a band that is so involved in activism and an open supporter of Greenpeace touts excessive displays as this as something to be celebrated. has crunched the numbers as up to 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, or enough to fly the four band members to Mars – and back. To offset their two year tour of excess (and they have claimed that they will) U2 would have to plant more than 20,000 trees per year.

For a band that has been more than a bit heavy handed preaching about limiting excess and supporting charity, that’s got to sound pretty hypocritical and empty from two years beneath a giant claw on the biggest stage show ever. Offsetting that kind of wastage, while admirable, is completely different from never being wasteful in the first place.

On cost alone, it’s being touted as the end game of stadium rock. But is spending that much money really worth it? Does the fact that U2 can cram 60,000 people into standing-only venue make for a better show? How many jets does it take for us to be impressed by the number? Is it six, or will four do? Is the dollar figure really something that we will remember in later years as making the show more memorable?

There’s no doubt that U2 can still bring out a number 1 album (perhaps more of force of habit rather than anything else) but it’s pretty much a given that the 60,000 strong audience will be clambering more for their work from The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby rather than anything from their most recent releases.

As someone who was raised on a steady, consistent diet of U2’s musical offerings, I struggle to name a single song past their 1993 ‘hit single’ Lemon.

If U2 really wanted to practice what they preached, it would maybe be more impressive if they had a minimalist show on a stage in the middle of a large crowd. If people are going to see U2, they’ll see them whether there’s a stadium spectacular, or four guys on a stage in the middle of a stadium, still essentially delivering the same 360 degrees experience.

I’m sure there’s no one out there who felt more inclined to buy tickets to a U2 concert simply based on the impressive nature of the stage the band are playing on. Dare I say it… isn’t it the music that should matter?


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This entry was posted on December 31, 2010 by in celebrity, environment, music and tagged , , , .
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