U2, Wembley Stadium, London
N-Dubz, Opera House, Bournemouth

U2's 360 tour flits, meekly, between old hits and tracks from the current, rather lame, album

Is it a crab? Is it a spaceship? Is it a physical representation of the ego of Bono Vox? Whatever it is, it dwarfs the borough of Brent, almost reaching the Wembley arch. Everyone has their own theory on exactly what U2's much-discussed stage set actually resembles. For me, it's one of those claw-like grabbers from a machine in a seaside arcade. The ones that hover tantalisingly over some leftover piece of pop-cultural detritus from the semi-recent past (a Flat Eric, a Teletubby, a Bart Simpson if you're lucky), then deliver nothing.

Yeah yeah, Cheap Metaphors R Us. But if you could drag-and-drop your ideal U2, which would it be? The earnest, scuff-booted youths of Boy? The stetsoned authenticists of Rattle & Hum? The late-comer ironists of Zoo TV? The global statesmen of the past decade? Probably not today's corporate pimps for BlackBerry, whose streetwalkers accost you the length of Bobby Moore Way, but hey.

Personally, I'd take a mischievous Macphisto with a soupçon of "The Unforgettable Fire" sincerity, and it's that song which provides the only real shivers of the night. That was the last time U2 tapped into the dizzy mystery of their one-time peers – Associates, Talk Talk, Blue Nile – and a glimpse of an alternate U2 that could have been, if they'd stayed away from the bloody cacti.

Most of the time, the 360 tour flits between the familiar hits and current album No Line on the Horizon which, once you've stopped sniggering at the drug innuendo of the title, is pretty lame. Bono tries so hard, bless him, in his leather jacket and Gucci shades, desperately trying to match the Dylans and Lou Reeds and Patti Smiths on his shoulder with lines about feeling "like loose electricity while the band in my head plays a striptease", or dropping in ad-libs from Primal Scream's "Movin' On Up", Frankie's "Two Tribes" and The Clash's "London Calling" in an attempt to recoup some cool-by-association. "I think something special could happen tonight," he says optimistically at the scene of his big mulleted Live Aid moment, but it never quite comes.

The stage, at least, is fairly cool. Not quite as sci-fi in the flesh as it looked on Wossy, but the giant mirror-ball effect is quite something, and it's undeniably a step forward from Bowie's Glass Spider, which I saw in the old Wembley two decades ago, whose legs resembled eight scaled-up lengths of mobile disco rope light.

Its sheer scale allows Stumpy Hewson (as you can see, I've remained untouched by the Bono charm offensive which has muddled the judgement of other, usually reliable critics), his garden labourer on guitar and the Other Two to play so far apart they may as well be on separate continents, their wanderings assisted by moving radial walkways. Give it a couple of tours and they'll be Stannah stairlifts.

The "special" moment almost arrives. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" sidesteps Partridge-based hilarity by being updated into a tribute to detained Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi (complete with masks). Then Bono blows it all by leaving us with "Moment of Surrender", which boasts one of the worst lyrics in living memory. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: "I was speeding on the subway through the Stations of the Cross ..."

At first I was afraid, I was petrified. It was 8.30pm, N-Dubz stage time minus one hour, and the street leading to the Opera House is already like a scene from Shaun of the Dead. Booze-battered blokes stagger around paralytically, on a knife edge between picking a fight and wetting themselves. The faint whiff of menace is in the air.

Then it dawns that these zonked-out zombies are merely the background noise of Bournemouth at the height of the holiday season, and N-Dubz's actual crowd is the far younger, more excitable throng outside the doorway, hyped up on alcopops, turning cartwheels and yelling at the stewards. I experience a Burchillian glow at the sight of "my people" enjoying themselves (in the knowledge that, were I the same age, they wouldn't be "my people" at all). What's not to love?

N-Dubz hysteria has spread far beyond the London borough of Camden whose NW1 postcode provided their name, and reached kids with yokel burrs in places like Bournemouth. I use "kids" advisedly: this audience is barely too old for panto. The reason why, with the exception of the self-fulfilling prophecy "Number 1", N-Dubz singles invariably stall outside the Top 20 is because nobody over 20 buys them.

The man fronting their rap-soul fusion, which resides at the far "pop" end of the grime spectrum, is Dappy, aka Dino Contostavlos. He is also the group's prime scream-bait, despite the handicap of that Peruvian hat which makes him look like he's trying to smuggle an Easter egg. His songbird cousin Tulisa and co-rapper Fazer complete the trio.

People of Greek origin making music of black origin? (N-Dubz won a Mobo this year.) It may strike some as a bit Ali G, but having lived in the vicinity of Camden for 20 years, I know it's the most natural thing on earth. The subjects they rhyme about – untimely deaths, untold amounts of weed, shagging – are the authentic chitter-chatter of the N29 night bus.

There's also a little poison – on one song, Dappy disses a "bisexual prick" and blames him for spreading Aids – but a little marketable homophobia never did Eminem any harm. Despite this, it's all strangely family friendly. There's a bit of larking about in boxing robes to the "Eye of the Tiger" riff, and Dappy gets the crowd to chant "Fazer is a plonker". They stop just short of soliciting a "He's behind you!!!".

Whatever your preconceptions, N-Dubz's urban panto is fun for all ages .... Oh yes it is!

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn