It’s a measure of MTV’s continued influence that they can persuade the biggest band in the world to play a support slot, coming on at 7.15 to give French DJ David Guetta a warm-up.
U2 received the Global Icon award at the following evening’s MTV EMAs at Wembley. They performed just nine songs, including their new single, Get Out of Your Own Way, twice so that they could shoot a video. Fair enough – it’s not often such a giant band appears in such an iconic setting, so their handing out of placards to acknowledge Trafalgar Square’s history of protest looked impressive. However, the song’s ironic megaphone beatifications, including “Blessed are the filty rich,” were a bit rich coming from a singer who last week had to defend himself against new allegations of tax dodging.
Otherwise, Bono has maintained his knack for making a rock concert seem more significant than just a few thousand people tapping their toes. Sunday Bloody Sunday, their early political anthem, opened proceedings, while during Beautiful Day he declared, “When women of the world unite to rewrite history as HERstory, that’s a beautiful day.”
Another new one, You’re the Best Thing About Me, was a lighter love song – less preachy, more poppy. Lovebombing a fanbase that has seemed less enamoured since the giveaway of their sub-par last album, and reaching out to younger fans with this MTV connection, was smart. They’re doing the right things to remain a landmark band.