Everything about U2 in the Eighties was unfashionable. They wore work clothes and, some of them, hats. They played instruments, not synthesisers. They didn't dance. They appeared intelligent, unspoilt, interested, scruffy and made music with an intensity unequalled in the pop business.

Without a cursory glance in the direction of style, they became the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world. Their secret was honesty and their power truth. It's different now. Bono's cut his hair and makes portentous statements about the problems of the world. Their stage act matches The Stones in extravagance. They have embraced the whore fame.

Then they could do on stage, even in huge stadiums, something so rare. They held the moment like a breath and squeezed it dry and let it go and it was twice as rich. Bono had the look of a preacher and the body of a street fighter. His strength was his conviction.

This is a concert film, covering their American tour after The Joshua Tree album, with inserts from Harlem, Dublin and Memphis, where they visited Sun Studios and Gracelands. Larry Mullen was allowed to sit on Elvis's Harley. "I wish he hadn't been buried in the back garden," he said.

The majority is shot in black-and-white, strangely lit. The roughness feels good. The sense of figures in mist, as the high lamps, like moonbeams in a cathedral, arc through darkness to the stage, is accentuated by the camera's willingness to take risks.

In Harlem, in an empty church, sat the gospel choir, with Bono on a stool before them and Mullen tapping an African drum. Bono started to sing unaccompanied, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. The choir followed, tentative, bolder, stretching, pushing, until the rhythms broke like waves.

In Fort Worth, Texas, they wrote a song for BB King, this big black man with a new tweed cap. BB said, "I'm horrible with chords. Can you get someone to do these?" Bono said, "There aren't that many. There's only two."

Politics was there, with reference to Martin Luther King and Northern Ireland. On the day after the Enniskillen bombings Bono sang Sunday Bloody Sunday with such anguish and rage, there was little doubting his passion for peace.

And so it went. Stronger emotions, deeper feelings. Music like anthems. Men at the height of their creative power. Moving through America.

Reviewed on: 19 Aug 2001
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U2: Rattle And Hum packshot
On the road with U2 in America, with rehearsal times in Dublin.
Amazon link

Director: Phil Joanou

Starring: Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr, Adam Clayton, BB King

Year: 1988

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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