Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bono adds voice to Irish UN Security Council bid

U2 singer Bono pays tribute to the UN
The Irish government has formally launched the country's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
U2 frontman Bono added his voice to Ireland's bid to secure a two-year term on the council in 2021.
He said "compromise is a word that the Irish people understand very, very well". The band staged a concert for diplomats on Monday night.
Irish PM (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar said Ireland would bring hard-won insights and practical lessons to the table.
He said Ireland understood the need to listen and the importance of respecting differences.

Bono warned that "we live in a time when institutions as vital to human progress as the United Nations are under attack".
He said the UN needed "storytellers" because words mattered and one word mattered in particular.
"The word is compromise because that's how you achieve peace and compromise is a word that the Irish people understand very, very well," he said.
"It is part of our story, our recent story, and we are storytellers.
"So you honourable peace activists, if you need some storytellers to describe what's really important about this place… let us tell the story."
Mr Varadkar said that in the past 60 years, the Irish military, police and civilian personnel had served in dozens of countries around the globe, including Lebanon, Cyprus, the Balkans, East Timor, Liberia and the Congo.
"Since the first Irish troops first were deployed on UN peacekeeping operations in 1958, not a single day has passed without Irish participation in UN peace support operations," he said .

Mr Varadkar lays a wreath

"Over the past sixty years, tens of thousands of Irish women and men have worn the blue helmets on UN peacekeeping operations. We are as proud of the blue helmet as we are of the harp or the shamrock.

"Every village, town and neighbourhood in our small country has sent men and women to serve on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

"Everyone knows someone who has served in the UN, if not several. Peacekeeping has become a part of our national identity.


Friday, June 29, 2018

On the road with U2’s Adam Clayton, staying fit & healthy with world’s biggest band

Adam Clayton sits down  to discuss all things health and fitness in the world’s biggest band. It’s a fascinating interview with insights you rarely hear from within U2 and it was a real pleasure to be able to interview Adam to find out about his health and fitness regime as U2 finish up the North American leg of their eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour.

Speaking about the physical challenges performing to thousands of fans every night, Adam told me what he faces.
“It's a bit of a surprise how something that you never even used to think about, you now have to manage… Now I feel it… Holding an instrument for those 2 ½ hours, I know that my shoulder and back and neck all need work…"

"They get a bit seized up and that's just an occupational hazard to be managed. There is a point where you shouldn't really be able to do this at this level, but with modern medicine and physio techniques, you can really keep on doing it."

It might be a far cry from the rock n roll image, but health – both mental and physical - and fitness is a vital part of Adam’s lifestyle these days, especially when he is on the road with the band.

Once the current tour ends in Dublin in November, there will be time though for reflection for Adam and the band on 2019 and beyond.

“This is the end of a four-year cycle of work and we really have no plans going into next year. We have got to the point where this is a full stop at the end of this project. We're looking at next year as being a year of regrouping.”

You can also contact with any health and fitness questions on realhealth@independent.ie or on Twitter @KarlHenryPT

The Real Health podcast with Karl Henry is in association with Laya Healthcare.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Edge on U2's 'Experience' Tour: 'This Is For Our Committed Fans'

U2 guitarist the Edge breaks down the group's Experience tour and says he's ready for a break when it wraps at the end of the year.MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock

The Edge knows that U2's ongoing Experience + Innocence Tour – where they play nearly all of their new LP Songs of Experience and skip most of their big radio hits – isn't for everyone. "We felt like if you wanted to hear the Joshua Tree songs, there was the Joshua Tree tour last year," he says on the phone from Chicago during an off day from the road. "We knew that were people probably came to the Joshua Tree show that have not come to this knowing it was going to be more weighted towards the new albums, and that's fine. This is for the fans of our more recent work, the more committed fans who really listen to everything and go to everything. We feel OK about that."

At what point in the planning stage for the tour did you decide you weren't going to do any songs off The Joshua Tree?

It came to us, really, as the show was sort of coming into focus. We were actually on the Joshua Tree tour and I started throwing set list ideas towards Bono and [creative director] Willie [Williams] and they were throwing them back at me and early on it became this thing of "Hey, why don't we just conceive of a show without anything from The Joshua Tree because that's what we're doing right now?" If we can avoid playing any songs from The Joshua Tree it would inevitably clear the set list, which would be quite a change, quite fresh, a new sort of thing. Some of those songs we've played pretty consistently since they first entered a U2 set list. I don't think we haven't played "Where the Streets Have No Name" ... might have been one show, but it's basically been a fixture. We liked the idea that we were forcing ourselves to think in a different way. We felt the result would be something different and fresh.

"Love Is All We Have Left" is a much quieter show-opener than what you've done in the past.

When the album was nearly done we started having conversations with Willie and [stage designer] Es Devlin. We also had done the Innocence + Experience tour with the two of them. We made the decision a while ago that this was a two-album set, so the two tours would relate to one another. We all came to the conclusion that the production setup with the screen down the venue of the middle should be retained for the second tour, that that would be the connective tour for the two shows. Then we were like, "OK, that Innocence + Experience show had a real through line and a clear narrative and a shape where we started off as a punk rock band on the main stage and after 25 minutes of pretty straightforward rock & roll this screen finally arrived out of the ceiling. That was a surprise for a lot of people that hadn't seen photographs of the show. It was like, "Wow." This object arrives.

For this show, we felt the most interesting thing would be that people come in and there is the object. It's there already. It's dividing the venue in two. Rather than starting with a punk rock beginning we were like, "Let's start with the opposite. Something very still, very meditative." "Love Is All We Have Left" presented itself as a great song to use to open this show, though it was definitely in response to the last show, but it also felt like a logical opening for this tour and for this record.

Since I saw you on opening night you've added "Gloria" into the set.

We're trying to juggle a few different things here. For sure, the production has a certain impact on how the show progresses. There was a narrative aspect, but we were also trying to hold onto ... not that we necessarily have to tell a complete story, but the skeleton, the spine of that narrative was something we found quite useful for us to keep us disciplined and keep a certain direction and focus. The final thing, which is probably why we put "Gloria" in, was finding the right combination of songs that start to generate the momentum of a great show because that's what people come to see, a great show, a rock & roll band.
On opening night we were slightly unhappy about the fourth song being "Beautiful Day." It didn't quite land the way we wanted it to, so we thought, it's probably just a little early. It's one of those songs that means so much to people, but probably needs to be given a better setup, so we were looking at also the arc of the show. Part of the thinking was we open at the end of Innocence, "Love Is All We Have Left," "Blackout," "Lights of Home." Those are our three songs that deal with mortality. They are very much songs of experience. Then we felt like, "Great, you open with that. Now you have to go back to the beginning very quickly to start the story from where it really starts, which is the really early days and the Songs of Innocence."

Although "Beautiful Day" is, to us, the pivot moment, we realized that the pivot moment might be to really go back to the beginning with "I Will Follow" and "Gloria." It fulfilled two roles. First of all, it helped with the momentum and made "Beautiful Day" feel like you'd earned it when it had finally arrived. And from the narrative point of view it seemed slightly more logical. In fact early on, "Gloria" had been an idea, but we sort of shied away from it because on the earlier tour we had a whole brace of very early songs in the early part of the show. It felt like, "Oh, are we repeating ourselves too much here? Same beats?" But I think it actually means something different in this context because you have this suite of Experience songs and you've really started the show in a completely different kind of way.

"Until the End of the World" was never a single, but you seem to play it every tour. What about that song makes it work in any context in your live show?

That's a very good question. I think it's an amazing song live because it really showcases everything the band does best. In terms of its visceral energy and impact, it's one of those songs that's hard to beat. In the context of these Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience shows, it fits thematically perfectly. It's got references to mortality, to all the big questions. It's been a bit like "Where the Streets Have No Name" in that it's found its way into most of our shows since it was first played live.

Was "Acrobat" a nod to fan demand?

I think we did take a little bit of a nudge from fans of the song and of the band who really thought it would be great to hear live. In planning this tour, we had a smaller pool of songs to draw from since we made the decision to not draw anything off The Joshua Tree. It kind of forced us to start considering deeper cuts and "Acrobat" and "Staring at the Sun." We played "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" as well. That was fun for us. Having never played it live it was, like, a bit of a project to go back and figure out how it worked. Luckily, as with most of my guitar parts, once you figure it out you realize it's kind of simple. [Laughs] So that was a nice realization. We tried that in rehearsal and everyone was like, "This is going to work. This sounds great."

It's challenging from a sonic point of view because Larry is playing on the tom-toms, which in a big venue can become really indistinct. But with Larry and [audio director] Joe [O'Herlihy] and his tech Sam [O'Sullivan] working away they really nailed it. They got a great drum sound for it now, which is really working well in the big venues.

You played "Pride" on the Joshua Tree tour, but it felt very fresh when you paired it with the video of MLK and the peace marches of today. Is that why you wanted to bring it back?

The very first set list didn't have "Pride" in it when we were kicking ideas around six, nine months ago. But as we started to really hone in on the set list we realized that was going to be a crucial moment. "Staring at the Sun" was on the list, but it was really when we started to pair it with the video images that we realized what a pivotal moment it would be, going from it into "Pride." That really happened in Montreal a number of weeks before our opening night. It was not something we had figured out a long time in advance. That's the fun and the jeopardy of the way these shows come together for us – a lot of the most powerful ideas come fairly late in the process when you're starting to piece everything together and you start to see where things are pointing and what the opportunities are.

Obviously, we were going to refer to the politics of the moment. That was an obvious thing for us, but it was a case of how. Without getting into finger-wagging and the stuff that maybe can come over a little trite, we wanted to keep it about issues and make it about the songs finding a new resonance in the times we find ourselves in.

You're playing in some deeply red states when you hit Tulsa and Omaha. You never say "Trump." You show the marchers. It's an effective way to get your message across.

Yeah. I think what's coming through now, even more strongly since the first couple of shows, is this theme of really making it about issues and not tribal politics and that compromise is not a bad word. We've seen it in Ireland. We've seen it up close in the most difficult circumstances, how people with histories that you would assume make them completely incompatible politically have found ways to find common ground over issues and move forward. I think Bono certainly in his own work with the One Campaign has found great success working with people with political beliefs that he just can't agree with. But he can agree on one or two issues and that's enough to move forward. I think we really didn't want to get into a kind of name-calling or finger-wagging. We wanted to get to the important stuff and deal with that. That's the way forward.

The video before "One" with your daughter is a nice way to get into women's rights.

Yeah. Sian is so not a kind of performer by nature or attention-seeker. She is very zen and very still and not self-conscious, not a show-off. That quality in her has made the image very powerful.

Ending on "13 (There Is a Light)" is a quiet, dark way to end the show.

It is very somber, but the whole show is challenging. It was very challenging to fit it together and get it to flow and make sense technically and musically and storytelling-wise. The challenge for us is also not to panic if that the thing that most often happens in a U2 show, which is just the place goes completely nuts ... This is a show where people are watching and thinking as well as dancing around the room. And that's OK. Ending on "13" is really not a U2 thing to do. Traditionally we would end on a kind of big crescendo, a big number and leave everyone exhausted. This is a very contemplative place to bring people.

You've toured a lot in the past few years. Will you take a long break when this one ends?

I think there's been three tours that have been on each other's heels pretty quickly. I would say that we'll probably take a little bit of a break at the end of this tour and regroup. There's lots of ideas for the next records, but I think a bit of time off just to listen to music and to really feed our creative instincts is in order.

I spoke to Adam and he said the Apollo Theater show is going to be very different and full of surprises. Can you say anything about that?

I think the venue and lack of production leads us to think about it as something quite distinct. So, yeah, we haven't figured it out yet. By my instincts say it will be a more raw, lo-fi affair rather than ... We're utilizing technology in a very major way with this show, so I think we'll go the other way for that show.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

U2's Adam Clayton Talks 'Experience' Tour, Possible Plans for 2019

U2 bassist Adam Clayton breaks down band's ongoing 'Experience' tour and reveals their possible plans for next year.

Months before they went into rehearsals for their 2018 Experience + Innocence Tour, U2 made a bold decision: Their new show wouldn’t feature a single song from The Joshua Tree, the 1987 classic that has been backbone of their live show for three decades. The band had spent the previous year playing the album – which includes "Where the Streets Have No Name and" "I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For" – straight through in stadiums. "We drew a line in the sand," says bassist Adam Clayton. "If you really wanted those songs, we did it. It's done. We’re moving on here."

During a day off before beginning a two-night run at Chicago's United Center, Clayton called up Rolling Stone to explain the band's thought process behind the new set list, the possibility of the tour continuing into next year and what fans can expect from their SiriusXM show at New York's Apollo Theater.

What were the challenges you faced when putting together this new tour?

I think what was challenging for us was that the Innocence tour had been such an extraordinary success in terms of how it connected with people and how it changed the environment. The sound was really great, that screen was a real innovation and the stage running the length of the arena was an innovation. There were so many things that showed people there was a different way of doing things that all added up and reinforced the emotion of the journey. I think the audience had a very personalized, emotional response to it. It was a bit of a challenge figuring how where this one was going to land. We're in a very different era now and people are looking at the jeopardy and the risk in a different way.

You always planned this as a sequel to the Innocence tour, but when you didn't realize there would be a Joshua Tree tour when this all started. How did that tour change how you approach this one?

We knew we were going to leave those [Joshua Tree] songs to rest for a while. We're pretty much going to hold that line. We might waiver at some point if we feel that we're missing a color in the show, but at the moment we're holding the line. It's part of the difficulty with what this show is sort of becoming. We're 10 dates into it and we're trying to include as many as possible from the new record. There's still a couple of them we haven't really dug into, but we'd like to perform. "The Showman" is something we rehearsed up early on. We just managed to get "Red Flag Day" in, but we'd like to get "Landlady" in too. There's some other colors that we'd like to add, but we aren't there yet.
The show is kind of telling us what the resolve is and the resolve in many ways is that for us Experience is quite a simple thing and it's about acceptance of who you are and what you are and your strengths and your weaknesses. It's an internal discussion and an internal resolve, where Innocence is an exterior resolve in some ways.

That "line in the sand" about not doing Joshua Tree songs. Was that unanimous or was there debate about that?

I think we were all excited about the idea of not delving back to Joshua Tree. That's because Joshua Tree has cast such a big shadow over everything we've done. We felt that by doing that tour that we, to an extent, had laid that to rest for the moment. There will be another time to come back to that material, but I think we had always said when were doing those shows, "This material seems relevant to the time we are living in now. We're prepared to re-present it in a similar fashion, but with some production and let those songs speak and let the intent behind some of those songs play out."
I just don't know if you can do "Bullet the Blue Sky" in this new show. I think that ground is kind of already covered. I'm not sure about "With or Without You." You're the Best Thing About Me" is the current version of that sentiment.

I've heard Bono say a lot that he knows if a show isn't going well, "Where the Streets Have No Name" will always elevate the whole show. What's it like to walk onstage and know you don't have that big moment to fall back on?

You have to look at your strengths and your weaknesses. "Streets" is an amazing song to have in the canon, but if you threw that into this context I think the narrative would shift. Again, I think it would be such a big statement that it would reduce everything else. What we're doing in this show is we're trying to end on "City of Blinding Lights" and to make that a finale because that feels like a wholesome sentiment in this context. It's a song of innocence, to an extent. Bono always says, "That started out as an innocence song, but it has some gravitas." There's almost in terms of narrative within the song; there's a contemporary sort of "My Way" thread within that.

Talk about the decision to finally play "Acrobat." Did you do that in response to the fans that have been asking for so long?

There's this really annoying journalist who works at Rolling Stone ... [laughs] He's been saying "you've got to play 'Acrobat'" for years now. [Editor's note: Whoever might that be?] [laughs] "Acrobat" is a song that over the years felt somewhat midtempo in a show and we never really felt it was going to fit into any of the other contexts of shows that we've done. It was always the odd one out. This time around, it felt like a rarity and there has been a movement within the hardcore fan club for it. We've never shied away from doing particular songs unless it doesn't particularly contextualize what we're trying to do. I guess it has an emotional resonance to it and it has a lyrical through-line that works as well. I'm very happy to perform it. It's actually great fun. I would never have guessed that the right way to perform that is in a kind of dressed-down situation on the E stage.
On the Innocence tour, we had a very simple drum setup on the second stage. This time around, we have a full Larry drum kit, so we're able to perform to a different level of quality. "Acrobat" really fits into that. It's like being at a club gig.

It's in a strange time signature. Is it a difficult song to play?

It is a difficult song to play. It's an even more difficult song to move to. I think it's a 6/8 time. There's a couple of different options for how you count it. I think that sort of, intuitively, we've switched between those time signatures a bit, but because we're not schooled musicians we manage to get away with that. It is unusual, but it really, really works and there's some great guitar playing by Edge.

What drew you back to "Staring at the Sun?"

"Staring at the Sun" was always a bit of a personal favorite. It fits into this somewhat dark cloud that is sitting over the world at the moment. Again, in that context it's less of a hopeful pop song and more of a commentary on where we are.

When you show the KKK marching, it really reflects on this moment in time.

Yeah. I sort of think it's a little "Lord of the Rings" in Middle Earth. The forces of darkness are gathering around that. Staring at the sun and not waning to be involved and not wanting to take a position doesn't seem like a good option.

Then you go into "Pride" and show the footage of MLK and it's a more more hopeful moment.

I think that's around the corner. There's always an equal and opposite swing in any political time. How that will manifest itself is hard to see or predict at this point, but I think it will. The children's movement against the gun lobby and against these extraordinarily harmful school shootings that just seem insane, and yet the powers that be and the political will and the lobbyists seem to keep saying that the solution is more guns. In any situation, that's just not plausible. That movement at the moment seems hugely radical and fragile. Perhaps it'll play out over the next five or 10 years into something that really has some teeth and changes things.

Did you feel any anxiety before opening night because a certain percent of the audience might walk out upset they didn't hear their favorite hit?

I think if we hadn't done Joshua Tree we'd have felt like we needed to observe that for people, but I think having played Joshua Tree so successfully across the country our attitude was quite hard-lined. We would like people to pay attention to the last couple of albums because we feel they are very eloquent. We worked really hard for those songs. Bono's lyrics are, I think, among the best he's ever done. The melodies are really worked on. We put a lot of effort into those records and we think people should focus on them.

Will the tour keep going into 2019?

It's really hard to call that at this moment in time. It's always nice to have a successful tour and keep it going until you feel like you've gotten to everyone that wants to see it. I think nowadays with everything so compartmentalized it feels like we've got to get to our people. But I don't know. It is a short tour. We made that decision because we've done a lot of shows over the last four years in total. There are parts of the world we just haven't been to in the past for years as well. We haven't been to Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia. We really haven't spent that long in Europe, so perhaps we'll lengthen the tour, but in reality maybe we need to find a way of being in bigger places again. If there was a way of taking the essence of this period and being in stadiums, maybe that's worth thinking about. But I don't know. I'm just speculating here with you.

How is the app working from your perspective?

I'm kind of happy to say that actually people, although they're doing it, I think they're losing interest in it. Rather than having an experience through a phone, people are willing to be part of the real-world experience that's happening there and now. That's a good sign. I think what's really challenging is that you know in the past you knew when you were losing the audience because there would be a shift. Now you know you're losing the audience if people are checking their emails. It's really hard to compete with digital culture.

At my show, most people seemed to put their phones away after the first song.

That's really what you want. Going to a concert has to be an immersive experience. If you're in it for a couple of songs and then something happens and you go off and check your emails and you hear the babysitter has a problem or whatever, you're not in that "we're switching off, we're going to a concert" mood.

What's the Apollo Theater show going to be like?

That's going to be real old school. We're trying to look at songs we can do in a stripped-down production and musical setting. I think that'll be a real proper old-school theater show and I'm looking forward to it.

So the set list will be very different than what you're doing now?

Edge has got some radical ideas. We haven't resolved all of them, but yeah it will be. It'll be a different set.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why U2, Four Irishmen, Might Be America's Greatest Band Ever

Image may contain: 2 people, crowd and concert
15 May - Los Angeles, CA, USA / The Forum

The choice for best British band ever is pretty easy. Most will go with the Beatles. A few will argue for Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones, but the Beatles are the consensus choice. However, best American band is a much harder debate. There are arguments for Aerosmith, Beach Boys, Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground (probably the most influential), the Ramones or some might make a case for Nirvana or Pearl Jam.

Here’s a thought, what if America’s greatest band of all time isn’t actually from America? What if it is four Irish guys who fell in love with America and have celebrated that ardor through songs for nearly four decades?

Watching U2’s masterful, nearly flawless two and a half hour performance at the first of two sold-out nights at Los Angeles’ Forum Tuesday, May 15 -- where they again paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, as has been the case for 34 years, during the spine-tingling, goose bump-inducing “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” where they invoked the spirit of L.A. icon Jim Morrison, throwing in a snippet of “Alabama Song (Last Whisky Bar)” during a dazzling “Until The End Of The World” -- one thing that came through repeatedly throughout the night is their passion and belief in America still burns as deeply as their fervor for music, both awe-inspiring after nearly 40 years.

Certainly you’d be hard pressed to find any band that has championed or believes in the spirit and culture of America more than U2. Their most successful album, The Joshua Tree, is named after a desert in California, they reference jazz giant John Coltrane in “Angel Of Harlem,” a song named after the New York city, they have a song called “Elvis Presley And America,” they were nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for the 2003 song “The Hands That Built America,” from Martin Scorese’s Gangs Of New York.

In the song, Bono sings, “Oh my love/It’s a long way we’ve come/From the freckled hills/To the steel and glass canyons/...These are the hands that built America.”

What is clear from their music and their show at the Forum, where Bono repeatedly reminded fans, “This is America,” they fell in love with the American dream as Irish kids and still, even in these times where many born here are jaded and divided, they feel it is true. At one point, he powerfully spoke of how it is easier to be divided than united while encouraging us to have open eyes and open minds, “even if not open arms,” to those that stand in our way.

Of course without the songs to backup their ideals it means nothing. And this tour finds U2 at their musical best, exploring deeper cuts like “Until The End Of The World,” a stunning rendition of “Acrobat,” and a sublime acoustic “Staring At The Sun,” from what Bono called “The band’s psychedelic phase in the ‘90s.” What was also remarkable was how vital and potent early, early U2 songs “I Will Follow” and “Gloria” were. “Gloria” was a definite high point on a night filled with many of them.

Of the more recent songs, 2014’s “Iris (Hold Me Close),” a song Bono detailed being about his mother, was especially poignant. And Songs Of Experience’s lead single, “You’re The Best Thing About Me” was gorgeous and sweet done acoustically. Other standouts included a spectacular “One,” which began with Bono encouraging “Women Of The World To Take Over,” via a snippet of the Jim O’Rourke song, “Cedarwood Road” and “Love Is All We Have Left.”

Also particularly powerful in the new songs was “American Soul,” in which Bono declares, “It’s not a place to me/This country is, to me, a thought/That offers grace/For every welcome that is sought.” That U2 still feel that is possible and believe that in their musical soul 40 years after they first came here is why U2 could easily be America’s greatest band ever.

In U2’s America, the America we should all still believe in, the one that is open and welcoming, an America built on immigrants, there is not a damn reason in the world why four Irishmen who came here and love this country and believe in it couldn't be the best band we have to offer. It makes perfect sense in their America.

Steve Baltin