- CounterPunch.org - https://www.counterpunch.org -

The Emperors of Bombast

Shuffling out from U2’s Popmart tour — the one with the McDonalds-style Golden Arch — at Lansdowne Road 10 years ago, I chanced on Philip King, singer, songwriter, television producer and music adviser to the Irish Arts Council.

“Whaddya think?”

“Whatever it is,” pronounced the elfin Kerry sage, “it’s a fucking big one of them.”

Which has always been the way with the emperors of bombast. Now they, or at least their stage sets, are bigger than ever. Biggest ever seen, the PR propaganda assures me. As if that were a measure of musical stature.

The tour kicked off in Barcelona on June 30 to gasps of ecstatic approval, most breathlessly from Irish commentators flown out for the occasion, many of whom apparently believe that saying a bad word about Bono might render them liable for prosecution under the Republic’s new Blasphemy Law.

The Belfast Telegraph reported that, according to the environmental monitoring group carbonfootprint.com, the 18-month, 100 gig tour will involve the band travelling 70,000 miles in their private jet, the 390-tonne set following on cargo planes.

The volume of CO2 spewed out in the process would be enough to transport U2 34,125 million miles to Mars and back. (Of course, the damage would be cut by half if they were just flown to Mars and left there.)

This odyssey of environmental obliteration — how many endangered species will have been rendered extinct by the time Bono croons a final chorus? I despair for the panda — follows Bono’s dreamy pronouncement last year that: “My prayer is that we become better in looking after our planet.”

We should be used by now to the clanging contradictions of U2. It’s been noted here before that Bono’s castigation of the Irish Government for directing too small a proportion of its tax receipts to aid for the developing world was swiftly followed by the band transferring its business operation to the Netherlands to avoid paying tax to the Irish Government.

Now Larry Mullen has noticed “a new resentment of rich people in this country … We have experienced [a situation] where coming in and out of the country at certain times is made more difficult than it should be — not only for us, but for a lot of wealthy people … The better-off (are) being sort of humiliated.”

So it isn’t the people writhing on trolleys in hospital corridors because wards have been closed on account of the economy or children learning arithmetic from the relative speed of rats scuttling across the classroom as a result of the education budget being slashed to bail out the bankers who are being humiliated in Ireland but….the better off.

The little drummer boy’s distress at the rich being reduced to tears by hard-faced officialdom was aroused by seeing billionaire tax-exile property developer Dermot Desmond being dissed at Dublin airport. “If this is what (the rich) experience, how can I fly the Irish flag and tell people ‘come to Ireland because it’s great? ’… All those rich guys with all those balls [?], all those women that you see organising this and organising that, without them we’d be in a very, very different state.”

Perhaps Larry was angry that peasants arriving on no-frills airlines hadn’t formed a human carpet on the tarmac for people like himself and Dermot Desmond to walk over.

Larry has been particularly saddened by the plight of his pal Ronan Ryan, whose Dublin nosherie, the Town Bar and Grill, has hit hard times on account of fewer people being able to afford the prices. “He got eaten alive,” mourned Larry. By ravenous hordes of enraged proletarians, possibly.

Another cook, a Jay Bourk, is threatening to shut up shop if the Government doesn’t use tax-payers’ money to subsidise the rent of his Temple Bar eaterie. “It’s my favourite restaurant,” laments Larry. “I’ll be broken-hearted if that goes down.”

Broken-hearted? That’s what you feel when somebody you love leaves you, Larry. Or dies. But I suppose when your bubble-brained tendency towards emotional incontinence is daily indulged by the crass acolytes who surround you, you lose perspective on such matters.

And anyway, if the diner means so much to you, why not give Mr. Bourk the money yourself.

U2? Pat Boone (ask your granny) was more rock and roll.

In a special treat for Irish fans, the band’s Croke Park stint at the end of this month will open with a minute’s hushed silence followed by an inspirational incantation from Bono: “Blessed are the rich, for they shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Followed by, I can exclusively reveal, a guest appearance by Sir Bob Geldof with his new raggle-taggle novelty number: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Yep. More than ever, it’s all arsy-versy with the musical wing of global capitalism these days

U2 now have their heads inserted so far up their anterior orifices it’s doubtful they’ll ever succeed in uncorking themselves. Does it not occur to them that the reason there might be a new resentment of the rich on this island is that we have just seen the mass of the people ripped off, homes lost, jobs destroyed, wages slashed, to save the sin-crinkled skin of the hoodlums who have run the economy into ruin? I suppose not.

Then there’s Geldof. Kruger Crowe Celebrity Management is currently marketing his services as an “inspirational speaker” on poverty in Africa and other topics at $80,000 a gig. This may be a special offer: the south Dublin ego-warrior last year charged $100,000 for a talk on alleviating poverty to an organisation called Diversity@Work in Melbourne. Would it not have been better if he’d sent them a postcard suggesting the money be spent instead on, say, alleviating poverty?

Not better for Bob Geldof, I suppose.

The fee included payment for a bodyguard, luxury hotel suite and first-class travel.

Can anyone think of a single individual on the planet who has benefited more than Sir Geldof from Live Aid?

Come the revolution into rationality, U2 and Geldof will be recognised as national embarrassments.

Not yet, sadly. Many thousands, it seems, fully intend to congregate with trusting innocence at Croke Park later this month. And good luck to them. Each to her own, say I.

But what’s this? Who are these folk assembled outside Cool Discs in Foyle Street where the buses for Croke Park leave, shouldering pitchforks and scythes, muttering?  Whatever can it mean?

EAMONN McCANN is a troublemaker and can be reached at Eamonderry@aol.com