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The Sebastian Guinness Gallery on Burlington Road (just round the corner from Mespil Road’s eponymous hotel) is currently playing host to a short and typically saccharine-sweet exhibition of David LaChapelle photography. Well known for his gaudy, hypersurreal celebrity portraits, ad campaigns and fashion editorials, the majority of LaChapelle’s work drips off the screen in vivid hues and varying amounts of raunch, kitsch, campery and bling – in some instances, all at once.

Would-Be Martyr And 72 Virgins

“American Jesus” appears to be a compilation of existing work with only a handful of new pieces, but it’s worth a trip to see LaChapelle’s full technicolour brilliance blown up large and more in your face than ever. As the title attests, religious-themed work of all creeds dominates. There’s a full replication of his 2003 “Jesus Is My Homeboy” editorial for i-D Magazine, depicting Christ as
a latter-day dude with a coterie of leisurewear- and tat-sporting apostles;
his “Archangel Michael” tribute to Jacko; the Gulliveresque “Would-Be Martyr” surrounded by 72 Bratzy virgins; and the “Candy Mosque”, looking good enough to eat (which would surely be a sacrilege upon a sacrilege).

Last Supper

There’s a nod to Michelangelo’s “La Pieta” (taken from his 2005 “Heaven To Hell” collection) with Courtney Love cradling a suspiciously Kurty Jesus.
And there are the fabulous ensemble works “Deluge” and “Cathedral”, which draw inspiration from the Great Flood, with the former in particular depicting a drowing society brought down by consumerism – ironic indeed from the man with the most excessive eye in the genre.

Cathedral

Speaking of consumerism, the first of two distinctly untypical subsets of LaChapelle’s work on display, “Negative Currency”, presumably took its place as a commentary on the greatest Western religion of them all – the almighty dollar – while the second, a selection of the eerily serene underwater portraits which made up his 2007 “Awakened” collection (are they going towards the surface,
or going towards the light?), is possibly LaChapelle at his most minimal and sombre. A watermelon sorbet amongst the knickerbocker glory of everything else on show, it’s not what you’d expect, and all the more outstanding for it.

Job Awakened

“American Jesus” is open Tuesdays-Saturdays 11-6 until 31st October, and is well worth a look on your lunch break – just don’t have dessert before you go.

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Walking up the North Circular Road on Saturday evening, it was pretty apparent that, for the second night of three, love had come to town in droves. U2 gigs in Dublin’s fair city are always meant to be something else, the only shows on tour that fans will stream to from all over the world, vying for tickets with the homegrown masses whose pride for the Feckin’ Fab Four has never dwindled, and it would have been interesting to see what the home/away ratio was
in a packed-out Croke Park across the three nights. But when you’re on that perpetual job audition treadmill for best band in the world, it always stands to reason that a U2 Dublin show is both an international event and a homecoming celebration. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way I lost my party hat.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like U2. I do. I like them a lot. But, I don’t love them. Can’t say I ever have. And for a non-committed partner like me, Saturday night’s gig at Croke Park was a show that only a U2 lover – or maybe first-timer – could love: good in spots but an overall disappointment.

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Perhaps it’s the law of diminishing returns; this has been the 4th time I’ve seen them live, albeit over a period of 16 years, and I’ve gotta say that while
their massive “Claw” stage set is monstrously impressive, I just felt a lack of engagement throughout, both in sound and vision. Of course, that’s always
a risk when you’re sitting in the back end of the Davin Upper, but ever since
Zoo TV I’ve always come away from their shows sated by good showmanship,
good music, and a wonderful sideshow of visual spectacle to go with it all;
a dazzling, cutting-edge multimedia accompaniment to keep even those in
Row ZZZ enthralled. Occasional moments aside, the 360 Tour visuals didn’t really do it for me, and as for the band themselves? Well…

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No Line On The Horizon isn’t a bad album, but in the pantheon of U2’s output, it’s by no means a great one; I’d wager that only Moment Of Surrender and perhaps Magnificent will truly stand the test of time. To therefore open with four songs in a row from NLOTH (the forgettable duo of Breathe and the title track, the ludicrous Get On Your Boots and the aforementioned Magnificent) was therefore, as Bobby Womack once said, a helluva tester. For sure they were just warming up – and Bono’s vocals on Breathe were initially extremely muddy – but it certainly failed to rouse anyone outside the fabled Red Zone, and it was only Beautiful Day (a song forever ruined for me by its association with ITV’s woeful early-Noughties Premiership coverage) that really kicked things off.

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A decent Mysterious Ways kept the pot boiling, complete with a Dancing-In-
The-Dark-style fan grab from the front row for an equally self-conscious and delighted Chilean girl who managed the rare feat of rendering Bono temporarily tongue-tied with a request to come to his house. Then things picked up nicely with that stadium staple, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. By this stage, the signs were promising: Bono, The Edge and Adam all looked to be enjoying themselves, and Larry – finally starting to show some long-delayed signs of ageing – was keeping it all tight at the back.

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Then, somewhat of a lull: despite being generally well received, Angel Of Harlem came across as anodyne to me and was followed by the midtempo pairing of
In A Little While and Unknown Caller, another so-so NLOTH offering. When you feel the need to display the lyrics to a new song up on screen, karaoke-style,
it’s hardly the most ringing endorsement of your faith in its right to be on the setlist. It felt like the early momentum which had built so belatedly had dissipated and we were right back at square one. Thankfully, dusk had
given way to night by now, and the tapered cylindrical screen which loomed above the band, having so far only shown closeups of the guys on stage,
really started kicking into life, extending downwards and shimmering
with kaleidoscopic colours as the Edge teased out an extended intro to
The Unforgettable Fire. However, even this U2 classic seemed to ring flat, floating away on the air like gossamer.

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Things got back on track somewhat with a punchy City of Blinding Lights and Vertigo, and an entertaining video sequence of the band’s disembodied heads and hands clapping out an ‘avin it laaaaarge intro to I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (yet another newie). Its uptempo, tribal rhythm lifted it a notch above the blandness of its album incarnation and paved the way for the triple whammy of Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride and MLK – all admittedly brilliant.
Due to their heart-on-sleeve support of Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi during Walk On, it felt more like a statement than a song, and the bleedin’ literal gesture of getting 40 or so people to – yep – walk on stage holding masks of her face was somewhat undermined by the occasional goon grinning out at the crowd from behind theirs.

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The international incidents keep coming with a Desmond Tutu interlude,
which seems to hint at a neat segue to One, but instead the Edge suckerpunches the crowd with the choppy intro to a somewhat constricted Where The Streets Have No Name, before they do play One, rounding the set off in an 80,000-strong mass singalong.

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Encore time brought a quick wardrobe and mic change for Bono –
an LED-studded leather jacket and “steering wheel” mic on a pole suspended from the Claw which he took great delight from swinging and hanging out of – and they were both to the fore during Ultraviolet, heralded by a bizarre
robotic vocal intro. This was followed by another congregational hymnal of
With Or Without You, and the last song of the night – the beautiful, stately, heartrending Moment Of Surrender. A cracking song, and a cracking rendition, but perhaps a strangely downbeat note on which to finish.

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So on this evidence, are they still the biggest band in the world? Undoubtedly. It felt like a mass religious gathering at times, with zealous fans in regular states of rapture, and even if close scrutiny shows that Bono can’t belt out
the choruses anymore, he’s got plenty of people on hand to do it for him.
On previous visits to the temple I’ve been caught up myself, but on Saturday night I have to say I walked home agnostic.

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