It is too easy to fall down rabbit holes of old festival sets on YouTube. I’ve revisited the ones I first saw on TV – PJ Harvey in a pink catsuit, singing Down by the Water at Glastonbury, broadcast on Channel 4 in 1995 into my childhood front room, changing my tastes forever – and later, the ones where I can try to see if I was in the crowd, while suspecting it’s probably best to not know.
There is something that almost every one of the shows that took place before, roughly, the mid-00s, has in common: they are strikingly un-produced. Nirvana at Reading festival in 1992 is music history, but watch it again now: it’s three blokes playing their instruments on a vast, open stage. The razzle-dazzle, arena-show-style spectacles we’ve grown used to, the big screens, light shows, costume changes, fireworks that put New Year’s Eve to shame, are relatively new.
I mention all of this because of Bono, who has just admitted to not really liking the name U2, or his own voice on many of his records, or a lot of his lyrics, and to turning “the color of scarlet” if one of U2’s songs come on the radio when he’s in a car. “I’m just embarrassed,” he told the hollywoodreporter‘s Awards Chatter podcast, in an interview to discuss their new song for the animated children’s film song 2.
Generally, I lack patience with artists who criticize their most popular work. It seems rude to the people who love it, have cried to it or walked down the aisle to it (although the latter is unlikely to be a problem for Radiohead’s beef with Creep, for example). But Bono went on to explain that being embarrassing is probably part of what makes U2 so successful. “I do think U2 pushes out the boat on embarrassment quite a lot. And maybe that’s the place to be as an artist.”
U2 are never knowingly understated, not the kind of act who would turn up for a big show with just their instruments. Not many artists at a certain level would do any more. When I did see U2 at Glastonbury, they not only brought the razzle-dazzle of a massive production, despite the rain, but got an astronaut on the International Space Station to beam down to Earth to introduce Beautiful Day. There is a kind of blind sincerity to a gesture as grand as that.
They are an all-or-nothing band and thrive on it, on pushing out the boat on embarrassment. And there are far worse band names than U2.
Vicky McClure doesn’t need a bra to defuse a bomb
During the first lockdown, some began to sound the death knell for the bra. For women who could work at home, an uncomfortable bra seemed increasingly pointless. Who needed the sweet relief of removing one at the end of the day if you didn’t have to put one on in the first place?
According to YouGov, around one-third of women reported wearing a bra less often than usual. But bras did not die. They evolved. In the US, sales increased, thanks to a growing appetite for sports bras and bralettes. The only thing on the way out was the underwire.
It makes perfect sense, then, for Vicky McClure to opt for no makeup and a crop top when playing her latest character, a bomb disposal expert, in the new series trigger point. The trailer has been running since Christmas and it makes a panic attack look like a spa weekend. It’s from the makers of line of duty, who know a thing or two about tension, and with the added pressure of regular explosions, I imagine it won’t be laid back. McClure told the RadioTimes that her choices were to make the character “human”. “I didn’t want the character to make a big deal about the way she looks,” she said.
I tried to imagine the alternative, a woman with a full face of slap and a cleverly enhanced cleavage, rolling around in dust, trying to snip the right wire. It says something that it’s too ridiculous to even conceive of it. the tomb Raider days of action heroines who look as if they’re more likely to totter over than win a fight are long gone – it’s the Ellen Ripley model that has endured.
Zara Rutherford’s glorious trip will inspire girls all over the world
Zara Rutherford landed in Belgium and set a world record, becoming the youngest woman to fly around the world alone, at the age of 19. She flew 32,000 miles in 155 days, including a two-month delay, getting stuck in Russia and Alaska as a result of adverse weather and visa issues. It sounds like a wild and at times perilous adventure. She flew through wildfire smoke in California and -20C air over Siberia. The video of her climbing out of the cockpit at the end of her journey and hugging her family (both parents are pilots) is utterly delightful and lovely.
My favorite novel of last year was Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead, which told the story of a fictional early 20th-century aviator and her struggle to complete her own circumnavigation of the globe. It consumed me. Rutherford wants to use her trip to nudge more girls and young women into science, technology, engineering and maths careers. Certainly, aviation could do with the help: only 5.8% of commercial pilots worldwide are female and 4.7% in the UK. Rutherford’s journey, and Shipstead’s imagination, may begin to sow the seeds of possibility in young women’s minds.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism