After weeks of punishing heat, choking smoke from wildfires and withering crops, the Russian drought of 2010 ended Wednesday night.

 

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it ended with a monsoon-level rainstorm just as U2 started their first-ever show in Moscow. With Beautiful Day, naturally.

 

That U2 was in Russia in the first place was a miracle. While Western bands playing here is nothing new — if memory serves, The Dirt Band was the first back in about 1977 — a production the size of the 360 Tour required intense negotiations all the way up to the diplomatic level.

 

Hey, you try and get 200 trucks worth of gear into this country, not to mention all the necessary visas and work permits. Suffice to say there were lots of older men in shiny suits in the VIP boxes. One of them happened to be Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

Then there’s the matter of U2’s position on things like universal human rights, political freedoms, freedom of expression and help for AIDS patients — all touchy subjects for their Russian hosts. How would all that go over?


At first, things seemed fine. Before the show, Bono flew to Sochi for tea with President Medvedev. Russian media reported they talked about all those things near and dear to Bono’s heart. Even then, I was surprised to see booths for Amnesty International, Greenpeace and One outside the stadium.


Bold stuff, considering that the police and military presence at the show was large enough to repatriate a breakaway Soviet republic in an afternoon.


Alas, the police soon moved in and shut down all the booths despite previous assurances that they would be undisturbed. “Unlawful pickets,” they said. Two people were apparently arrested. Bono didn’t say anything about this from the stage, although he did stick to his regular political and human rights messages without being censored.


The show itself was a two-hour hit fest and if the rain bothered the crowd, they didn’t show it. I did feel a bit sad for the woman next to me wearing the $900 suede Prada pumps. That’ll learn her.


Read more about U2 in Moscow at exploremusic.com. And if you’re in the Toronto area, I’ll be doing a rare live interview with STP’s Scott Weiland at The Bay at Yonge and Queen this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. as part of an English Laundry apparel event.


The Ongoing History Of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read more
at ongoinghistory.com and exploremusic.com