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
Posted on Monday, July 28 @ 12:47:45 UTC by Macphisto
(TheAge.com) -- Why does a rock star think he can save the world? Bono just can't help himself, he tells Aengus Fanning.
Just two hours of sleep, and a frenzied schedule that took him on a flight from San Francisco to an impassioned conference speech in Dublin, have left Bono in ruminative mood.
"Yes," he confides, "I’m afraid I’m a ham." U2’s frontman is musing on the theme of public performance, its inner urging and subconscious drive. It boils down, he tells me, to the symptoms of insecurity.
"It is a terrible affliction," Bono says. "We need to be loved. We feel abandoned by our mothers." The words are stark but there is a lightness in his voice that betrays the normality underpinning his vision of the world, his music and himself.
Superstar or not, Bono has no need of the psychiatrist’s couch. In defiance of the adulation of fans and critics alike, and in utter non-compliance with the more usual traditions of rock’n’roll, he keeps his sanity through the simple therapy of refusing to take himself too seriously.
Insecurity fuels him. In a social situation, he tells me, he even grows edgy if someone leaves the room when he is there.
"If somebody takes a piss I hold it against them. If somebody leaves to go to the bathroom I go, ‘What’s your problem?’ So what would be, and is, an annoying and grating character trait in social circumstances, when you’re on a stage it works for you, and I have to put it to work for me."
At the age of 42, Bono is still in love with performance, with the songs he writes and the possibilities for presenting them to an audience. The band has been part of him for more than half his life. The flame still burns.
"The thing that excites me the most is being in U2," he says. "We are getting closer to making the music we have always wanted to make. There is a difference between the music that you hear in your head and what you put on a CD. Your grasp is sometimes further than your reach, and right now this band is on fire and about to do its best work. That excites me."
If Bono has thought hard about what it is that propels him to perform, he has spent equal energy working out the most effective way to do it. It is this ability to connect, to reach out from the comfort zone of normal performance to spark something unexpected, that he now uses to persuade world leaders to part with vast reserves of government cash to aid the Third World. He is adamant, however, that the act of performing for an audience can never be relegated to second place in his life.
"I have always had this thing about the stage and the audience, principally because we were a band that came out of the audience and onto the stage. The mark of U2 shows, whether it is the giant spectacle of Zoo TV or Pop Mart, or crowd surfing or climbing PA stacks or pushing PA stacks over, the point was always the same, to try to rid ourselves of that division, that convenient division. When I see some performers on film or in theatre or wherever, I need to know that I am watching somebody who might actually get down off that stage and follow me home or get into the car with me and make a nuisance of themselves."
We are talking in the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin, after Bono’s speech to the World Association of Newspapers conference. He has spoken on Africa, and on the injustice of the scourge of AIDS.
"This is where newspapers can play a real role," he says. "Bill Gates uses the example of the neighbourhood; if you saw the kind of despair and want and loss of life in your own neighbourhood, you just wouldn't accept it. You would get to work with your neighbours on fixing their problems. That's what newspapers can do - make a neighbourhood on the other side of the world feel like your own.
"That is one of the benefits of media, that we are able to bring people's lives that we wouldn't normally see into our home, by writing about it and putting flesh on the bones of statistics. Statistics are one of the reasons why people don't respond to what is going on in Africa, it is just too much. Numbers overpower us, but a great journalist makes those statistics live - and they are lives.
"You know, I really wish that I didn't have to do all this stuff," Bono says, "but I'm good at it. It's a bit like the ball arrives at your foot and you see a way around the defence and the goalie and you gotta give it a shot. It's taken an awful lot of my time and it's taken a lot of time away from music and my family. But it is worth it to get the kind of results that we are getting."
Africa, and the continent's overwhelming needs, clearly consume a good part of Bono's energies. What might have exhausted him, though, has instead proved inspirational.
"In terms of the work that I am doing in politics - and I have no interest in getting into politics, but we can't escape it - it is an exciting thing to be part of a generation that might actually not accept say, for instance, that an accident of latitude and longitude can decide whether your child lives or dies. That an accident of latitude or longitude can mean that AIDS is a death sentence or not. I think there is excitement that people want to wrestle the world away from the sort of foolishness that accepts that."
When asked what is probably the most predictable question of all - would he go into politics - he replies: "No. I wouldn't move to a smaller house.
"I've seen politicians and I've seen how hard they work. That was the thing that surprised me, I was surprised that they worked so hard. And a lot of them are people who could be in business and make a lot of money, and don't."
Asked if he agrees with Bob Geldof's praise for George W. Bush, and his criticism of the EU over AIDS funding for Africa, he replies emphatically: "No." He pauses - "and yes".
"Specifically he was referring to AIDS initiatives. President Bush has put $US15 billion ($A23 billion) in AIDS initiatives over five years on the table. This year, of the $US3 billion, one is conditional on being matched by Europe. To date, they haven't matched that yet. Blair called me and told me he feels sure they will achieve that and he had been speaking to Chirac and they felt that they would achieve that. So Bob is right in that sense.
"But in the sense that Europe is doing less than America in dealing with the developing world, he is wrong and he knows that. That was the impression he gave, but I don't think that is the impression he wants to give. Europe is way ahead.
It is amazing what President Bush has done on AIDS. Those of us who worked on that were very proud when he put that in his State of Union speech this year. To put AIDS third on the bill in a State of the Union speech by a conservative president was unthinkable a few years ago."
Bono believes that he comes "from the other side of the road" to George Bush.
"I've lost my colour in order to do the work that I do.
The people who often pay for one's convictions are other people. But President Bush and the people around him and that I deal with regularly, and Colin Powell, have been true to their word dealing with me on two issues. One was something called the Millennium Challenge Account, into which he put $US10 billion for three years, which was a new way of seeing aid as a sort of fast track to countries that were tackling corruption and had good governments.
"We worked incredibly closely with them on the Millennium Challenge Account. As a result, I appeared in a photograph with President Bush. Now this, of course, set my band on edge, and meeting Jesse Helms and George Bush for someone like the Edge, he just can't get his head around it.
"But I have always said that there are too many lives at stake here to play politics. We have to elevate the debate. We have to, and I have to stay not bi-partisan but actually non-partisan.
"It is very important not to make caricatures of people. One of the caricatures of Bush in Europe is that he is a figurehead and that there are forces around him that are running the show. I am absolutely sure, having been in his company, that he is definitely in charge. That might make people even more nervous, but he has a passion for Africa and the AIDS emergency, and my job is to turn his passion into cash."
As for Bill Clinton, Bono describes him as "a brain on a stick".
"He has humour and he has a great ear for a new idea. Great ideas are like great melody lines. They have a certain inevitability, a certain clarity, a certain instant memorability. The striking thing about Bill Clinton's White House when he first came into office, and I spent some time there, was just how many young people, people younger than me, were in extremely important positions, because he always wanted fresh insights, fresh minds. I think that because he didn't get a majority in Congress, that he needed to get a lot of his ideas through, and because he got distracted with the Monica Lewinsky affair, I think we missed some of the greatness that he had in potential."
Bono believes potential is everywhere, and it is vital not to stereotype, to react to people in conventional ways.
"I don't see people in generational terms. I have met 17-year-olds as reactionary, old-fashioned and conservative in a way that would shock. I have met 70-year-old men who are radical and fresh. So while our audiences are predominantly, I suppose, 18 to 35, I don't feel any necessity to be in touch with the next generation, but I suppose I am through their music.
"From the people I know who are in that age bracket, the Edge's kids and other people who I have come into contact with, I will say this, they are so sensitised from the overload of sex to sell products, newspapers, whatever, that I think they are more, I think, in pursuit of something that you might call authenticity - a real and genuine dialogue seems to me what they want. They are not shocked and they are not easily provoked in terms of controversy. The next generation is interested in ideas, I think. It is inspiring."
Bono's great political hero is Nelson Mandela.
"His ability to forget and forgive is really remarkable. It is unfathomable. And staying in South Africa, Archbishop Tutu is a mind blower. I remember meeting him - it was very funny, they call him the Arch, we were introducing the Arch to the Edge."
In music, he says, there are no greater heroes than the Beatles. "The most important influence for me personally would be the Beatles, finally, with John Lennon's ability to stick his head over the parapet and take the custard pies for his convictions. I love that.
"I have a kind of sense that an artist is the kind of person who will break the bone in their chest and pull open the ribcage and be raw and be vulnerable even if that means you make a complete prick out of yourself. You may have spotted and followed that one! That map I found as a fan of John Lennon.
"But going further back, the spectrum of the Beatles' music is so wide. Most artists only have a couple of colours or sounds that you associate with them - the Beatles seemed to be so many colours.
"You have a kind of metallic dirge of Helter Skelter, you have the lyrical side of McCartney's lyric writing, 'Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these sunken eyes and learn to see', the dizzy psychedelic Across the Universe, the pure blast of their early rock'n'roll, hamburger-inspired years.
"Just a song like She's Leaving Home, harmonically, it's so sophisticated - and my favourite song, which turns out to be Kurt Cobain's favourite song also, In My Life."
Here, Bono sings a few bars of the song: "There are places I'll remember all my life, though some have changed . . . ", ending the verse with a few "da dee da dums".
Finished with the tune, he looks out over Ballsbridge and, with a kind of understated nostalgia in his voice, says: "So the Beatles are large but then so are Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye. Bob Dylan is like the Picasso of rock music, as far as I am concerned, and we all just carry his luggage."
U2 fans might even sense, in the band's love of the grand gesture, that opera was also an insidious influence on Bono.
"I grew up with opera," he says. "My old man was a really good tenor and he conducted the stereo with knitting needles. We listened to a lot of opera, and at the time I remember thinking he should turn it down a lot, but it sort of crept into my life. I think there is a sort of opera in our music, looking for those big melodies and the sort of tragic scenarios, and yet the joy of it, the passion, all of that. I like religious music too, but not the contemporary stuff. Even medieval music. I kind of like that."
When I tell him that my 17-year-old son is in a rock band and seems to have a remarkable confidence about the sounds he wants, Bono reflects: "Fearlessness, this is a powerful thing in a 17-year-old, and not necessarily to know the obstacles you are up against, and I think to have a passion for something. It's numbness that is the enemy, when you don't have strong feelings for anything."
There is no danger of numbness setting in, it appears, as Bono shares his vision of the next few years. Rather, the same passion lingers, the need for spectacle, for performance. He agrees that in many ways his career is only beginning.
"You're absolutely right, and that sounds to some fatuous, when I talk about it like that, but I know it. I know it as a singer, I can get to a place I couldn't have got to before, as a writer the same. This band, as dysfunctional as we all are, there is a certain chemistry between us that every year makes more, and that's really it.
"I believe that if you were a poet, a painter, a novelist, this is the age that you would just be getting going. I suppose that rock'n'roll music has a big burn-out factor and most of the great rock'n'roll bands were kind of shooting stars. They burned brightly but quickly and burnt out. I hope that is never going to happen to us."
Bono tells of a recent visit to a exhibition of photographs taken by Anton Corbijn, who has worked with the band on most of U2's album covers. As he toured the show, one portrait caught his eye.
"I saw a picture of myself," he says. "I guess I would have been 21, just about to make one of our first videos, and there was a look in the eye that was really striking, and I think it was naivete.
"And somebody, a journalist standing by, asked me, 'What would you say to that person - like your son - who is starting out on his journey?'
"And I said: 'You're right.' And there was no arrogance in that remark because I was right in a way then more than I am now.
"Because you learn fear. You learn to walk your step. You sacrifice your innocence for experience. You think that that is what will make you a better writer. You think that, but you're wrong. Clarity is what makes you a better writer, clear thinking. You have all that, in your first face."