When 'the world's greatest band and the world's next best band' - Noel Gallagher's words - met up in San Francisco a couple of years back, Neil McCormick was there to capture the fireworks for U2's own magazine Propaganda.
'It is a night neither I, nor any of the participants, will forget in a hurry. U2 had just played the first of two dates in Oakland Coliseum and a small group of diehards, fired up on alcohol and adrenaline, were still toasting the success of the Irish superstars' PopMart show. At four AM in the almost deserted Tosca Café, while an ancient jukebox cranked out Caruso, Bono clambered on to the bar and delivered a magnificent, drunken rendition of 'O Sole Mio'. Oasis singer Liam Gallagher perched precariously on a barstool beneath him, a grin of disbelief pasted across his face. His brother, Noel Gallagher, leaned against a wall, bottle of beer in hand, eyes half-closed, smiling with the satisfaction of the cat who got the cream. "You know what POP stands for?" he joked, later. "Paddy's on the Piss!"
There are those in the British press who would probably suggest other acronyms for the word Pop, like Pretentious Overblown Pastiche or Posers Out to Pasture. Elements of the British media -- along with a majority of British rock bands -- have long displayed a sneering and supercilious attitude to the Irish group. During the course of the PopMart tour, newspapers have seized on reports of cancelled shows with undisguised glee -- backed by the kind of research that gives journalism a bad name. Conveniently glossing over legitimate reasons for the cancellation of two U2 dates, ignoring the addition of extra shows due to increased demand and finding no room in their stories for the fact that receipts of $130 million have already made this U2's most successful tour ever, The Guardian, Independent, Daily Star, Daily Express and Observer have (mis)informed their readers PopMart is becoming FlopMart. "If Hubris has a sound" scoffed the Observer, "it is the hiss of air leaking out of the giant inflatable olive that is key prop on the world's most expensive rock tour." "U2 are feeling the cool wind of rejection for the first time", gloated the Guardian.
Finding these apparent underachievers playing to 50,000 admirers with Oasis as their support band, it seems safe to conclude reports of the demise of U2 have been greatly exaggerated. Surveying the elegant circular stadium from a glass walled office high behind the stage, U2's manager Paul McGuinness is in bullish form. "We're two months into a world tour and we've already sold two million tickets," he declares. "And I confidently expect to sell over five million before we finish next year." Dressed in a white boxing robe, like a fighter preparing to defend his title, Bono wanders agitatedly around the dressing room before the show. "I just wonder why they don't want us to win?" he says of his critics in the British media. "I feel it's an old public school thing." We're the outsiders being dragged through the bushes. We're the ruddy Irish boys getting a kicking."
Read the rest of this Propaganda interview with U2 and Oasis on the road during POPMART at
(The article can be found in the 'past issues' section - issue 27.)
Propaganda is the official magazine of U2 and its extensive editorial archive is gradually being put online at www.u2propaganda.com