U2 Joshua Tree Tour 2019
· U2's Mumbai setlist, 15/12/19
· U2's Manila setlist and videos, 11/12/19
· U2's Seoul setlist and videos, 08/12/19
· U2's Tokyo #1 and #2 setlists and videos, 4/12/19 and 5/12/19
· U2's Singapore #2 setlist and videos, 01/12/19
· U2's Singapore #1 setlist and videos, 30/11/19
· U2's Perth setlist, 27/11/19
· U2's Sydney #2 setlist, 23/11/19
· U2's Sydney #1 setlist, 22/11/19
· U2's Adelaide setlist, 19/11/19
Back on song|
Posted on Saturday, October 28 @ 18:39:36 UTC by Macphisto
(Telegraph) -- Bono likes making noise, lots of noise. Whether it`s with U2, at the Vatican, on Capitol Hill or in a transsexual bar, he`s at the heart of the action. But recently this seemed as if it might come to an end when he nearly lost his singing voice. Report by Neil McCormick
YOU`VE got to stay on your toes to keep up with Bono. In an era when fame is often portrayed more as a burden than a privilege, the 40-year-old Irish superstar cuts a refreshingly fearless figure, unwilling to let little things like mobs of hysterical fans, swarms of paparazzi or over-protective bodyguards impinge on his personal freedom. Indeed, you get the impression that for U2`s charismatic frontman, fame is a kind of magic key that can unlock almost any door, from the palace of the Pope to a seedy transsexual dive bar.
The last time we met up was September 1999 in Rome, where Bono led a delegation from the Jubilee 2000 charity to meet Pope John Paul II and help secure Vatican support for a bold initiative to write off Third World debt.
After a long day talking economics and politics with the world`s media, we wound up at a street-side restaurant after midnight, with Bono resisting all attempts to persuade him to get some sleep prior to a 6am flight to Washington. `Sleep is for economists!` he mischievously announced, striding boldly into the middle of the road and holding up a hand to the oncoming cars.
Of course, had it been you or me, we`d have probably just got run over by an irate motorist, but Bono`s fame brought the traffic to a complete standstill. Before his local minders had realised what was going on, we were squeezing into the back of a car full of transsexual clubbers. As Bono says, `I`ve always seen passing cars as opportunity at the wheel.`
Twenty minutes later, we were seated at a small table in a packed nightclub between beautiful people of indeterminate gender, drinking complimentary champagne and vodka while a scantily clad babe tried to attract Bono`s attention by dancing on the table. `Remind me, what`s this rock star thing all about?` Bono mused aloud, puffing on a giant cigar. `Ah yes. Screaming girls. Fashionable clothes. People playing guitars. Got it!`
If only life were that simple. Bono may be determined not to let his conscience get in the way of having a good time, yet one senses that for him and his colleagues in U2, rock stardom is a complicated business in which the freedom that success has brought them is counterbalanced by responsibility.
Their political activism and commitment to good causes (notably Amnesty International and Greenpeace) have been a constant feature of a career spanning the final two turbulent decades of the last century. But while U2`s idealism has never been in doubt, their singer`s consuming involvement with Jubilee 2000 has become an increasingly contentious issue within the band, the demands on Bono`s time effectively delaying the completion of their new album. Originally scheduled for autumn 1999, All That You Can`t Leave Behind is finally released next week.
`It`s only a year late,` shrugs Bono, with a comically sheepish grin. Double parking his vintage Mercedes outside the Clarence hotel in Dublin, he hands the car keys to a doorman and secures us a quiet corner of the bar. `I have some influence here,` he declares. Well, he should. U2 own the hotel. Looking trim, healthy and considerably less weary than when last I saw him, Bono is in ebullient form, clearly relishing his return to the rock frontline. `I feel like I`ve been wearing a bowler hat and carrying a briefcase,` he says. `Now I`ve found my voice again, and it`s an amazing feeling.`
When Bono speaks of finding his voice, he means it both figuratively and literally. For while he was out talking himself hoarse on behalf of the Third World, he was also avoiding confronting his own worst demons in the recording booth. Few outside his closest circle will have been aware, but the man regularly acclaimed as one of the world`s greatest rock singers has been concerned about his voice for several years, beset by constant throat problems and a nagging feeling he could no longer hit the heights of yore. `I`ve never really felt like a singer,` he admits, displaying uncharacteristic vulnerability. `It was always difficult for me to hear my voice on the radio. It felt tight, constricted.
At least I always had it live. But I was having a lot of difficulty on the last tour. Everyone was saying it was my lifestyle, on the phone all the time, never going to bed, smoking, drinking too much, so I was making changes but I was just not able to really get there.`
He consulted specialists and even found himself contemplating having to give up the career he loved until his anxieties were assuaged by the discovery that his problems stemmed from allergies. `It was very hard for me to accept,` he admits. `It seemed more of a Woody Allen kind of condition.`
By making dietary changes, cutting down his drinking and giving up smoking (admittedly information he imparts over two pints of Guinness, a shot of Jack Daniel`s and half a cigarette), he has been rewarded with what feels to him like a new lease of life. Indeed, the first thing you notice about U2`s 11th album is that Bono is really singing up a storm. His voice has certainly worn with age but his command of it has never been better. `There are notes I haven`t sung for years and years,` he declares with satisfaction.
The relief he felt manifested itself in other significant ways. `If you think you may not be able to sing again, you`re not going to f*** around. The record was made with a certain kind of boldness,` he insists. Notorious for leaving lyrics to the last minute, a habit that has contributed to U2`s reputation for highly stressful recording sessions, this time he reveals he found it easy to write. `I was looking for intimacies and conversational kind of stuff. I said to myself, "This is no time for poetry, in the arch sense of that word. No time for smart arse. People are busy, the beginning of a new century, it`s like: what`s on your mind, what`s in your heart, and what have you got in your soul that might make a difference in a day?`` `
His fellow band members (guitarist Edge, drummer Larry Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton) appear to have been in equally positive and productive form. All That You Can`t Leave Behind is an album of big songs on which U2 really play to their strengths. Inventive guitars, anthemic choruses, powerhouse rhythms and an abundance of addictive hooks underpin an uplifting collection.
`When we finished the last album, Pop, I remember Larry saying to me, "You know, we actually should make a pop album," ` laughs Bono. `I love experimentation and drifting out into the ether, but it`s when you bring the results back and turn them into a crystal of four minutes, a little gem that`s heard on the radio in Birmingham and Tokyo, that`s the moment for me.`
The subject matter, however, is hardly the usual trivia of the hit parade. Themes such as mortality, suicide, sacrifice, illness, mid-life crisis, terrorism and religious disillusionment are eloquently tackled on an album that counterbalances the music`s inherent joyousness with an undercurrent of righteous anger.
`If you think you could lose it all then colours come into sharp focus for you, people become really important,` according to Bono. `But I am not in any way at peace. I still think the world is a really unfair and often wicked place, and beauty is a consolation prize. And it`s not enough for me. It just isn`t. There`s always been a kind of rage in me and it does still bubble up.`
It is early evening, and Bono stands in Dublin`s wharfside studio complex, head tipped to one side. `Do you hear that?` he asks. From somewhere in the distance, a strange, fluid, electronic wailing rises, dips and curls as Edge continues to explore his lifelong fascination with guitar sounds. `Twenty-five years I`ve had to listen to that, worming its way through my ear and crawling around my brain. Twenty-five years! And one day I`m just going to snap!` Bono stares, bug-eyed, psychotic, then lets out a hearty laugh.
U2 have indeed been together some 25 years, retaining the same core line-up that I first saw playing Bay City Rollers songs in the Mount Temple school gymnasium in 1975. While precious few bands have maintained careers of comparable longevity, the continued allegiance of these four old school friends to one another seems less unusual when viewed in the wider context of their acknowledged leader`s life.
Bono`s closest friendships stem from early childhood (notably an unusual duo known as Gavin Friday and Guggi who first gave the young Paul Hewson his now famous nickname). And Bono is married to his school sweetheart, Ali, a vivacious, strong-willed beauty whom he serenades with all the conviction of an old soul man on the new album`s most sensuous track, In a Little While. The couple have three children, the latest addition being baby Eli, born last year.
But while Bono`s closest confidants remain friends from his youth, there are times when it seems like he knows just about everyone worth knowing on the planet. Over the years he has cropped up in photographic embraces with politicians and pop stars, movie legends and supermodels, and had his praises sung by everyone from Bill Clinton to Tony Blair, Bob Dylan to Salman Rushdie.
`I`m a very loyal and unreliable friend,` Bono laughs. `First off, I`ve got to be there for my family, so I lose people along the way. But I seem to find them again. I`m a stray dog. I`ve always slept on people`s floors and eaten at other people`s tables. So as we wander around the world now I just keep re-meeting old faces.`
I`ve known Bono a long time and people often ask me if he has changed. Well, we have all changed but in essence he remains the same. Always a bit of a star even in the school corridor, he seems to have expanded to fill the larger-than-life dimensions his global fame demands, yet he retains the same appealing and very human mixture of bravado and sensitivity, playfulness and passion.
`You know, when you take people`s photographs,` muses Bono, `even some of the most beautiful faces can turn ugly in front of the camera. People can be ruined by self-consciousness. And I think that`s true in a wider sense. When you`re in the limelight, when people are staring at you, I think maybe you can lose your beauty. Just finding my feet on very unfamiliar territory kind of knocked the fun out of me a little bit, though maybe not as much as it looked like in the photos! But I think in the Nineties I found a kind of mischief that people would associate with me from when I was growing up.`
U2`s crusading idealism saddled them with a somewhat humourless reputation in the Eighties following the release of their 30-million selling album, The Joshua Tree. `Rock stardom was wasted on us,` as Bono jokes. In the Nineties, as the perspective of their lyrics shifted from `throwing stones at the darkness of the world outside` to examining the darkness within the human heart (`There is nothing seamier than your own plans made in the dead of night,` Bono suggests), the group knowingly overhauled their image.
`We got quite good at being rock stars even if it was only play-acting. But, you know, the leather pants stuck and it was hard to get those goggles off because I found there was a certain freedom in getting rid of all that moral baggage. I think that we successfully chopped down the Joshua Tree.`
Yet, despite appearing in Vogue with naked supermodels, touring the world on a set dominated by a giant lemon and posing for photos as a kind of post-modern caricature rock band, I would venture that there remains a lingering perception of U2 as a bunch of idealistic goodie-goodies.
`I wonder if that`s a compliment?` Bono speculates. `I`d love to think that there was a nagging element to the music. Because all that other stuff is pure packaging. People talk about irony, but that was an amazing piece of disinformation. We were putting on a show. It was fun, but there isn`t a shred of irony on any of those records. We`ve always meant it.`
Bono`s mother died when he was 14 years old, something which he has long recognised as a defining moment in his life. It had the effect of pushing him in two directions at once: towards the emotional exorcism offered by rock music and the spiritual solace to be found in Christianity. In some ways, his whole career might be viewed as an ongoing attempt to reconcile the conflicting demands of his faith and his vocation.
Although he will ruminate intensely on religious subjects in private, he has always been reluctant to say too much in interviews, lest he be perceived as some kind of evangelist. `The belief that there is love and logic at the heart of the universe is a big influence on me,` he admits. `It`s a big subject. If there is no God, it`s serious. If there is a God, it`s even more serious!`
It is this profound commitment to Christian ideals (which he shares with U2 members Mullen and Edge) that fuels his political activism. `You`re not allowed to write off the rest of the world, you just can`t,` he declares with genuine conviction. `And I can say that when I`m walking around Capitol Hill or Westminster. I can say if 19,000 children were dying every day in New York or Washington or London you`d call it a holocaust, but because it`s Chad and Tanzania and Mozambique you don`t even call it a crisis. I can really f****** arm wrestle these people on that one, but I also have to arm wrestle myself.`
Although Bono promised his band mates that he would curtail his commitments to Jubilee 2000, less than a month before the new album`s release he was still making trips to Washington to bend the ears of congressmen blocking debt relief.
`In between the building of hospitals and schools and the commitment to cancel a hundred billion dollars in debt there is a lot of red tape and bureaucracy,` Bono explains. `It`s of Kafka-like proportions, everyone passing the buck and people hiding in the small print. And we`re going after each one of them.`
Bono`s growing frustration with his role, however, is all too apparent. `There must be people more qualified to do this than me,` he insists. `It is absurd if not obscene that celebrity is a door that such serious issues need to pass through before politicians take note. But there it is. Jubilee can`t get into some of these offices and I can. But the idea has a kind of force of its own. I`m just making it louder. And, you know, making noise is a job description really for a rock star.`
Bono insists that he doesn`t really want to be known as the man who saved the world. He would much rather be someone who serenades it. `I think pop music is the greatest. It`s the most extraordinary thing. You read a book or see a film once, maybe twice, but you can keep coming back to songs for ever. They`re like pieces out of people`s lives. When people are screaming in some stadium or arena, they`re not screaming at you, they`re screaming at themselves and the moment that song represents.`
I am reminded of a moment when I witnessed the astonishing power of song to unite people. It was after a U2 concert outside San Francisco in 1997, when Noel and Liam Gallagher shared a minibus back to the city with Bono and Edge. Noel was pressed next to Bono, clutching the singer`s knee, enthusing about U2 songs he admired when, with startling synchronicity, the minibus radio began to play U2`s hit, One.
`This is the greatest song ever written!` yelled Noel. And he and Liam commenced to sing it at the top of their voices. Swept away by the brothers` exuberance, Bono and Edge joined in. And as we rolled down a San Francisco highway, long after midnight, I was treated to four of the world`s greatest rock stars raising their voices in an impassioned, impromptu rendition of a song of unity and brotherly love. `We are one,` they sang, `but we`re not the same, we`ve got to carry each other, carry each other...`
As I recall, we wound up in some drinking establishment owned by one of Bono`s many friends, with the U2 singer clambering on to the bar to deliver an operatic aria. Some hours later, he rounded up the stragglers to go and watch the sun rise over the Golden Gate bridge.
`I`m having the best time of anyone I know,` says Bono, chuckling at the memory. `The only thing I can put up my hand and say is "At least I didn`t miss it"... I think that`s probably my special talent. If it`s going, I`m on that train.`