Where help is needed in times of international crisis, Bono’s your man. At the start of this week, our superhero in the Lucozade coloured glasses winged in to Kyiv for an impromptu concert in a bomb shelter.
The immediate, predictable and not terribly original response on social media: “Hasn’t Ukraine suffered enough?”
First Lady Jill Biden and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, had also dropped into Ukraine on the day. The pair may have been a bit miffed that the U2 frontman and his bandmate had Edged them out of the headlines, but online they got nothing like the same censure for going there.
Bono’s trip was well received in Ukraine itself. President Zelenskyy had personally invited him, he said.
The U2 two sang a few hits, reworked Stand By Me with a Ukrainian singer turned soldier, and Bono then delivered one of his impassioned addresses to the nation.
“They can take your lives but they can never take your pride,” he told them at one particularly Braveheart moment.
Online critics were soon posting pics of the great man rubbing shoulders with various global bigwigs (the inference being that the singer rarely misses an opportunity to be seen with power players).
There he was at the World Economic Forum. Meeting Bill Gates. Hugging George W Bush. And shaking hands with, gulp, Vladimir Putin. Bono has previous form in seeming keen to be seen with headline-makers. Even here. Who can forget that pic of him holding aloft David Trimble and John Hume’s arms at a concert in the Waterfront Hall just before the Agreement referendum?
So was his Kyiv jaunt nothing more than an exercise in self-promotion as some critics argue?
I’m not so sure.
It’s easy being a cynic (which, hands up, I tend to be about everything) but it’s one thing getting your face on the news for showing solidarity with a cause; it’s a very different thing putting yourself at risk in order to do so.
A lot of Bono’s critics are suggesting it’s no big deal going to Kyiv which is currently very much under Ukrainian control.
Even so, dangerous enough. I wouldn’t be volunteering for a train ticket to Kyiv right now.
There has also been considerable scepticism voiced about what his appearance is likely to achieve anyway. A few songs aren’t going to change the course of war.
Maybe not. But the symbolism of standing by Ukraine is a powerful one.
Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast according to the poet William Congreve. Whether it has sufficient charms to influence savage Mr Putin is another matter.
In those old pics of Bono meeting Putin, the Russian hard man is beaming. I wouldn’t go as far as to say starstruck. But for Putin, it did seem to be a little moment of stardust.
And now that same stardust is weighed against him, calling on the Russian people to do the right thing. I don’t think we should be sneery about the impact of that.
Music may not have the power to halt a bloody war. But it can send a pretty definite signal about the barbarity and the futility of war. And whose side who’s on.
Tonight is the final of Eurovision, that annual extravaganza of crazy staging, unhinged presenters, ostrich feathers and glitter, that brings together the nations of Europe. And Australia.
Ukraine will win. The country’s entry is the bookies’ favourite. Other nations will vote for it to signal their solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
True, the result of a song contest is unlikely to set mad Vlad back on his haunches. But it is another message to the population of Russia (particularly the younger section of that population) about how their lunatic leader has turned their nation into an international pariah.
In this 21st century, war is fought on many fronts.
President Zelenskyy with his own background in the entertainment business recognises that and knows that people who might otherwise close their eyes to what’s happening in a conflict can be reached — and influenced — via popular culture. I think Bono and The Edge did achieve something by going to Kyiv. I also think they were brave to do so. And however you may be tempted to sneer about it, tonight’s Eurovision result will send a further message to Russia.
Not long hopefully now, until Mr Putin is finally facing his Waterloo.
Every so often you read a real life story which, you just know, will be turned into a movie. The problem with such a story from this week is that it’s already been the plot of several. In Florida, a man being flown in a small plane suddenly had to assume control when the pilot keeled over. The lone passenger, who had no piloting experience, was eventually talked into land by air traffic control. So these things can actually happen. When watching a disaster movie, pay more attention to what’s what on the flight deck.
A professor from Queen’s has posited that, in the event of Sinn Fein gaining electoral dominance north and south, England could invade Ireland. A bit of free range thinking there. I have a vision of Jacob Rees-Mogg landing in a Viking boat at Dublin harbour holding aloft his trusty sword and rocket launcher. In an opinion piece for RTE, the prof claims that some Tories still believe that Ireland belongs to England. He concedes that invasion is “unlikely”. But, he adds, “stranger things have happened”. Um, when?
Luxury court wear has become a bit of a thing for members of the celebrity community. Navy coloured, officey looking suits are just the ticket with Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and Colleen Rooney and Rebecca Vardy. The Wagatha Christie libel case is the millionaire version of two neighbours fighting over who cut their shared hedge. Every day we get a tabloid summary of who’s wearing what and how much it cost. Colleen, who has a bad foot, wears one Gucci loafer from a £800 pair. But never mind all that. Wayne? Whatever has happened to Wayne? He could pass for Phil Mitchell.