Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bono talks Texas, why he's saluting George W. Bush and the foreign aid argument we're missing

Over the last two decades, Bono has become known almost in equal measure as the frontman of U2, one of the most successful rock bands of all time, and for his humanitarian efforts. It’s for the latter that he’s set to receive the George W. Bush Medal For Distinguished Leadership.

Ahead of his trip to Dallas to receive the award, he talked with The Dallas Morning News. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What does good leadership look like to you? What does it mean to be a good leader?

Off the top of my head, I've always thought you're as good as the arguments you get, really. That's probably why I'm in a band and why I'm still married. [Chuckles.] I'm not just in U2. I'm in a lot of band.

I see the One campaign as a band. I see (Red) as a band. I've just started this impact fund called Rise — that's kind of a band with [co-founders Jeff Skoll and Bill McGlashan]. I just always want to be around the right arguments, I suppose, and having people who are smarter than me around. That's just what I've tried to do. And to listen. I'm a talker — sometimes I talk to try and understand subjects, but actually listening. Especially in development work, in any work, but in development work it's critical.

President [Lyndon B.] Johnson was from Texas, right?

Oh yeah, he's a big Texas guy.

Was he the one who said, “If you're talking, you're not learning?”

I'll have to look that up, but it sounds like something he would've said.

Yeah, [imitates Johnson's voice] “You're not learnin' anything if you're talking!”

I was hoping you could talk to me about your approach to activism and humanitarianism and how it's evolved over the years. I'm curious about the differences in strategy between the (Red) campaign and the One campaign.

I always saw (Red) as the sort of gateway drug to the kind of activism that the One campaign does. You know, I think it was [former Senator from Tennessee] Bill Frist ... he's a physician, and he was saying to me, if you want to make this stuff relevant to politicians, then you're going to have to bring it back to the pig roast, bring it back to the people where they live — not just the Capitol. Not just to the media. That was really where (Red) began.

We look at Bank of America and their support of (Red). It's critical in terms of their cash contributions in saving lives, but the amount of neon, of — let's call it, yeah, the neon, the amount of signage in all their branches ... You can't move without seeing the statistics about what America is doing and reminding people that it's a political imperative, using the creativity of corporate America. The creative departments of corporate America — the advertising, the marketing people, we needed particularly in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we needed everybody onboard.

Apple is our most generous contributor. Strange enough, they're most quiet in terms of the neon because they're all very modest. I'm always saying to [Apple CEO Tim Cook], please take a bow here, because we've got to half a billion dollars with (Red) and Apple deserves to take some applause. But also, we need you to make more noise, because as we're discovering, there can be some compassion fatigue.

And we've got budget cuts being pushed by this administration that would decimate not just lives, but all the work we've done. If I can remember it's over 20 million lives would be lost over the next 15 years or so. It's like getting three-quarters of the way to the moon and turning back — it's this great moonshot by America, and it is so close. I think it's the greatest single health intervention in the history of medicine, fighting a single disease and these cuts threaten to destroy it. We need heat to keep the pressure up ...

The government money is obviously doing the heavy lifting. The Global Fund and the stuff that (Red) brings in is really important, but the big numbers [are from government]. That’s why I'm coming to salute President [George W. Bush, whose administration started the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR]. Because in this, the U.S. leads the world, and he brought us there. There were a lot of people encouraging him to do it, I was one of them — it took all kinds of we sort of punk rockers and priests, we of all kinds, gathered in that movement. But he had to show leadership there. And he really did.

With proposed cuts to PEPFAR funding, there's this sense now — and getting back to what you were saying about Bill Frist — how do you bring this back to American taxpayers?  

We're really grateful for the United States for the role that you play in the world, in terms of defense. But if you ask the military men and women, they will tell you that [foreign aid, like PEPFAR] is defense. I went into the Oval office to visit President Bush and I had three pills in my hand and I said, 'Paint them red, white and blue, Mr. President, because these [life-saving medications] are the best advertisements for the United States.' And he laughed.

But actually it's turned out to be true. People love President Bush all over Africa and this is a continent that will be the most powerful player. This demographic bulge will either turn out to be a dividend or a very big problem. For Europe, for the world. I think it's going to be a very great dividend. In fashion, and music and business, I really believe in Africa. But whatever you think about Africa, it is critical that we are with these new African countries that are trying to tackle corruption and put their people first. We need them to succeed.

So, development, alongside diplomacy and defense, I think, was an early Bush doctrine. Whatever you feel about the war in Iraq, [the HIV/AIDs fight] is a monumental achievement by the people of the United States. It is akin, honestly, to the heroism of Omaha Beach or the intervention in the Second World War. I think off the top of my head, it's something like 23 million lives saved through PEPFAR [and the Global Fund] — and think about that!  That is a moonshot, and the only thing I'm sad about is that I don't think Americans know that they've done this. Americans are great at beating yourselves up about stuff, but actually you're really getting this right!

Unless there's a pratfall now, Congress — Republican and Democratic heroes in the House and the Senate — people like [Fort Worth Rep.] Kay Granger, there in Texas, they are not letting this administration screw this up. But I think the best way to ensure that it's not screwed up is if the American people take a bow, and say, wow, we really got this right. That’s why I'm coming to the Bush Center: I feel that I have a duty to report back on what's been achieved, a hell of a lot — a heaven of a lot.

You've obviously done a lot of development work over the last 15, 20 years in Africa and it's not a monolith, obviously, but is there one thing you've learned doing work there that you wish you could go back and tell yourself at the outset, when you were starting out with (Red)?

A Senegalese man in a meeting, he very gently introduced me to a proverb, which was: “If you want to cut a man's hair, be sure he's in the room.” And I felt, you know, gently scolded. We’ve got to watch with this. A messianic complex is a great thing for the lead singer of a rock band, but it doesn't work in development. You have to listen and listen again, you've got to learn from communities what they want.

What year do you think that was?

Probably early — like 2001, 2002, around that time. The One organization has 3 million members in Africa. I think we should've been called a Half, really up until that moment. Though we've had some brutish behavior down there from the leadership that went wrong in the South Africa office, but I'm still sure that we are right to be investing in our African leadership, and I think their voices will drown out ours pretty soon. It's up to 9 million members [total]. Hopefully we can be wind at the back of people who make courageous decisions in Congress, but also we can listen better and learn. We're mostly deployed on the continent of Africa, but I think it's a very exciting place and the best navigation is by Africans. Not by Irish singers.

I wanted to ask you specifically about working with George W. Bush. On its face, that could be an odd pairing, but your goals have sort of aligned over the years. Do you remember the first time you met him and was there anything where you sort of thought, "Huh, really did not see that coming," in interacting with him?

In terms of our bases, our relationship didn't look well on either of us. [Laughs.] I don't think he had much interest in meeting me — and why should he? You know, he'd just taken the Oval Office and he was a busy guy.

The first thing we did together was something that became known as the Millennium Challenge Corp. It was a new approach to development, it was if a country was tackling corruption and could prove the fiduciary quality of a particular investment, whether it be infrastructure, like roads or something, then the United States would invest. And it was a sort of pro-growth strategy and it was — it's not written about a lot. The Millennium Challenge Corp. — it's really innovative, and I think that other leaders are now looking at that in dealing with the problem that we're having now with un-managed migration in Europe. Leaders are seeing the need to invest in African success stories, and so this concept of partnering with people who are ready to be clear and transparent and have a really good plan and strategy, to back that — that was the first thing we did together. It was very practical.

I suppose the thing that surprised me was his sense of humor. It's not new to Texans. I wasn't expecting to belly laugh with this president. I remember riding in his motorcade with him and people were waving, and I said, "Oh, Mr. President, you're very popular, clearly," and he just goes, totally deadpan, "When I first came here, the people used to wave at me with one finger," and that made me laugh. I get it. You know, I might've been one of them.

In my teens even, I'm a protester by nature, and the undoing of my black-and-white view of things as a young man, were things like when people just didn't behave as the caricatures I had been told they were. I just had a lot of surprises. People whom I thought would be total [jerks] turned out to have a humanity and people I thought would be very inspirational let me down.

I started to be suspicious of clear political lines. I came from the left, that's where I grew up on the left, but I would consider myself, I'm interested in the radical center, which is just problem-solving. When it came to working with the world's poorest, the cartooning of people on the right as being totally unconcerned with what the Bible calls the least of these — I think we're misunderstanding the American people and we're misunderstanding conservatives. People laughed openly when we arrived on Capitol Hill to talk about a historic AIDS initiative with a Republican administration. People laughed at us — they really did — they got it wrong. And they underestimated this president.

I think that sort of pragmatism is interesting, especially in the social enterprise space, where you’re saying, hey, this is an opportunity to invest, do some good and if you're investing in infrastructure, make some money — it doesn't have to be either/or all the time.

Well, it's tricky. We’re trying to get rid of what's called tied aid, which is you buy our products and we will help, will feed your starving people. I don't think it should be so binary. I do think it's OK to see Africa — and Africans demand this — as a place to do commerce. And I can tell you that the rise of China did a hell of a lot for Europe and America in buying American products. I remember asking [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, where would the German economy be without the rise of China?

When I'm speaking in the U.K. with people who are suspicious of development assistance and suggesting that we should take these small percentages and keep them for our own problems, I always try to remind them that this is their next door neighbor continent, and their problems will become yours if you're not careful. Also, there's an enormous opportunity here for your financial services, for your engineering, for your manufacturing sector.

We've got to stop seeing this through the old lens, which is very patronizing. You're investing in lives and those lives are important to you. They're important to America, for compassion reasons and also commercial reasons. If I'd heard myself say that in my 20s I might've thrown up, but I'll tell you who wouldn't throw up is my African friends. They see the dignity of trade as a way of making a relationship that was vertical into a horizontal one.

If I could switch it up real quickly, do you have a favorite thing to do in Dallas or in Texas more broadly?

It's funny because for a musician, you think of Austin, Texas, and I think of Willie Nelson. I think of more romantic pursuits like music, but the last time I was out with the Bushes, I went out into the landscape, and I really enjoyed that. I really enjoyed the country life. My missus would slap me around the head for saying that because she's been trying to get me to do more hiking and that kind of thing. But I would like to spend time on trails and I'd like to ride. The Joshua Tree Tour was great, and we played Dallas. That was pretty special.

I enjoyed the president's paintings when I was out there. That made an impression on me, too.

They're something else, huh?

I don't think there could be a more alchemical bond between the subjects and the paint in the hand of this painter. I found some of them quite overwhelming. I loved the attempt to portray these [veterans] as ordinary lives, with the sort of clear fact that they're actually extraordinary lives just under the surface. I liked that. Where do you think I should go? Tell me.

I like Deep Ellum. But that might be crazy on weekend nights. Fort Worth is nice, too. The president probably has better recommendations.

In Fort Worth they have a [painting by Mark] Rothko. And I know that Sean Scully, who's a sort of Anglo Irish giant in painting, I'm pretty sure he's in one of the great museums there. I've got to go to South By Southwest. I've never been, I'm embarrassed.

Jill Cowan,Jill Cowan, Economy Writer


Monday, March 26, 2018

March for Our Lives

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The "March for Our Lives" rallies that took place in cities across the country on Saturday underscored the momentum of a political movement that emerged following a deadly mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month. The marches featured students delivering impassioned calls for Congress to pass stricter gun control measures, and drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of large cities and small towns alike. In Washington, the epicenter of the protests, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the Feb. 14 shooting took place, sought to galvanize support for the movement they started more than a month ago.

Many celebrities and important people were seen in the rally. Paul Mc Cartney, who said he came to the march because he had a dear friend shot (John Lennon, of course), Martin Luther King's 9-year-old granddaughter,George Clooney and singers Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus.

U2 was not present but their presence was felt:

 David Hogg, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and one of the strongest voices demanding change, tweeted,
"This is what happens when I listen to U2 and tweet lol."

That caught the attention of U2, who posted this response on Twitter:

Glad our songs were of some use to you at this time…. love and respect - U2 

Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old elementary school student, also spoke at the event in Washington, D.C. She said,
"I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don't make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don't lead on the evening news ... I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential."

Bono was moved to dedicate lyrics from "13 (There Is A Light)" to her on Instagram:


Friday, March 16, 2018


Someone to look up to
 'Someone To Look Up To'– Copyright Julian Lennon 
Photo used with permission. 

Throughout the years, U2 has collaborated with many fellow artists, from legends they admire to fresh talents emerging on the scene. One such artist is their contemporary — acclaimed musician/photographer/humanitarian Julian Lennon. In addition to photographing the band over the years, Lennon is a backing vocalist on the track “Red Flag Day” from Songs Of Experience. In the following interview, conducted via email, Lennon shares details of their history together as artists and friends, his contribution to their current album, and the thousands of photos he still has of the band, which have yet to be released.

TK: When did you first meet/become friends with U2? 

JL: To be honest, I couldn’t tell you the first time … it could have been at the Formosa Cafe in L.A. about 30 years ago. We kept bumping into each other until eventually they asked me if I’d like to come to one of their shows, and I think the first time I went was because we had a security guard in common, Jerry Mele, who used to work for me, but was now working for them. I recall Oasis were their opening act, it was in the U.S. many, many moons ago … but I have a terrible memory, so can’t be sure. ;)

[Editor’s note: Oasis only opened for U2 twice, so the show Lennon references must have been in Oakland in 1997.]

TK: In an interview a few years back, you mentioned a treasure trove of U2 photos you took that weren't released because they were being saved for possible use on an upcoming U2 album. Since they don't appear on Songs Of Experience, will they be held for a future album or released in a different way? 

JL: Well, I have about 8000+ pictures, not all good by any means, as I was just starting to get into photography then, so a lot of blurry shots! But sometimes that can work too as a medium, as a more artistic slant to the conversation, so to speak. There are a few plans in the works with some of the images, for potential one-offs and limited edition images, but I really do need a month to go through all of them again, as I’ve had so many other projects to deal with in between. I’ll get around to them sooner than later ...

TK: If/when they're released, is there any chance of an exhibit of U2 works, exclusively? Is there any way to purchase any of your U2 prints that have already been displayed?

JL: I’ve already had exclusive U2 exhibitions, one as part of my first-ever exhibition, at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC. I’ve had many since with them in Europe too, in Paris, when they were also performing there. The “Timeless” Collection (U2 inclusive) has been available for sale and to view on my photography website since 2010.

TK: I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Morleigh Steinberg in December, who co-owns the Arcane Space in Venice, California. She spoke of wanting to display a diverse array of artists/photographers. Any chance of exhibiting there (U2 content or not)?

JL: I had the pleasure of dining with The Boys a few nights ago, and Edge mentioned this too … it’s always a possibility.

TK: Fans were delighted to hear your backing vocals on "Red Flag Day.” How did the band approach you to work on that track?

JL: I went to visit U2 whilst they were working on the track, whilst they were still playing with the vocal arrangements, and B just said, “Jules, try this melody, it’s more suited to your tonal range” and that was it, I just sang along. Sometimes with Bono and Edge, sometimes solo, and my voice was blended into their background vocal tracks. I can’t really hear myself in there, but hey … happy to be part of it, regardless … ;)

TK: Throughout your musical career, you've collaborated with several of your contemporaries. What's it like working with U2 compared to others with whom you've recorded? 

JL: Well, I’d hardly say I was working with them, as such, it was more like a little bit of fun for 5 minutes … The Boys are pretty low key when recording, and don’t often like having people around, so it’s always a pleasure to get the odd invite, if we’re in the same city, to hang out, talk about the World, and music, etc. etc.

TK: Any chance of you joining U2 on stage when they (presumably) sing "Red Flag Day" on their upcoming tour?

JL: Ha … Doubtful … If it was a “Proper” Duet as such, maybe there would be, or even an old classic like “Stand By Me,” which Bono and I have sung together now on quite a few occasions, but I think that decision is always last minute with Bono. He, and the rest of the guys, have to be feeling it, so to speak … I think it’s a show-by-show experience and decision.

TK: Would you ever want U2 to contribute to any of your future songs?

JL: I play them the odd song, here and there, listen to what they have to say … I think we’re both quite particular in our approach to songwriting, but never say never … who knows?

TK: As a fan, do you have any favorite U2 songs or albums?

JL: Of course … too many to mention … “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “One,” “Vertigo,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” … the list goes on. It’s more a case of which few I don’t like ... that would be easier! ;)

TK: In addition to musical gifts, you also share a common spirit with U2 in the humanitarian sense. Your White Feather Foundation does everything from bringing clean water to African communities to preserving indigenous people's territories in Australia. Tell us more about your foundation and how our readers can help if they'd like to get involved.

JL: In all honesty, the easiest way to know what we do, and to learn the story behind The White Feather Foundation is to go to our website, and read up on our projects … otherwise I’d be writing a few pages out for an answer.

TK: Your new children's book, Heal The Earth, was just released. Tell us about it.

JL: Well, it’s part of a trilogy to help children understand, in story form, the problems we face as a society, on a humanitarian and environmental level, and what we can do about those problems … but it’s more about starting a conversation with the next generation, at an early age, so they understand what’s happening to the world that they are going to inherit, and that there are possibilities for change, for the betterment of all life.

TK: Heal The Earth is the second in a trilogy. When can we expect the third book to arrive?

JL: Same time around, in the 3rd year … ;)

TK: At one point it was mentioned you may be writing an autobiography ... is that in the works? You seem to always have a lot on your plate.

JL: I’m never not busy, one way or another. If I don’t have a project, or 2, or 3 on the go, at any given point in time, I start to worry that I’m not doing enough, for Myself, for My art, for the World. The autobiography is still a consideration, but I’ve just [got] too much going on to consider that as an option right now.

TK: Fans of your Instagram feed (myself included) have really enjoyed your stunning photos from Cuba. Will those also become an exhibit? 

JL: Most of the Instagram shots that were seen were shot with an iPhone, so not really the quality that’s needed to put a show together, but I did take along a new camera that I recently purchased, the Sony AR7 III. Though the pictures won’t be identical to the iPhone pics, there are many that are very similar, so yes, there’s every chance they may become an exhibition at some point, but I’ve just finished editing all of my Cuba/Havana images, which will become a “Collection” on my photography website very soon ...

TK: What's the one question that journalists never ask you that you wish they'd ask?

JL: Am I happy? :)

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2018.

 Lennon’s new book, “Heal The Earth,” will be released on April 3 and is available now for pre-order on Amazon. The third book in the trilogy will be released on or around Earth Day, 2019. A direct link to his U2 photography is here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

U2's Bono apologises over charity's alleged bullying and abuse culture

Bono has apologised after claims were made that workers at a charity he co-founded were subjected to a culture of bullying and abuse.   CREDIT: PETE MAROVICH

Bono has apologised after claims were made that workers at a charity he co-founded were subjected to a culture of bullying and abuse.

The U2 singer, 57, said he was left "furious" after the allegations surfaced in November last year.

He admitted the ONE organisation failed to protect some employees at its Johannesburg office and said: "I need to take some responsibility for that."

His comments came as the Mail on Sunday detailed a string of incidents, including allegations from a woman who says she was demoted after refusing to have sex with a Tanzanian MP.

"We are all deeply sorry. I hate bullying, can't stand it," he told the paper.

"The poorest people in the poorest places being bullied by their circumstance is the reason we set up ONE.

"So to discover last November that there were serious and multiple allegations of bullying in our office in Johannesburg left me and the ONE board reeling and furious."

Some former employees have launched legal action against the charity, which aims to tackle poverty and disease, particularly in Africa.

Gayle Smith, ONE's chief executive officer since March last year, said an investigation found evidence of "unprofessional conduct" as well as "bullying and belittling of staff" between late 2011 and 2015.

"Staff were called names, and some said their manager put them to work on domestic tasks in her home," she said in a statement.

"The investigation also found the situation was not adequately addressed nor resolved by executive management at the time, and that ONE's board was not, in my view, properly or fully informed."

She also acknowledged an allegation that a woman was "demoted because she did not become intimate" with an official from another country, but added: "We have not been able to corroborate these appalling claims."

"We do not discount any allegation - we investigate them and will continue to do so should others arise."

Bono said that although the allegations focus on one individual, "the head office failed to protect those employees and I need to take some responsibility for that."

He added: "In fact, if they would agree, I would like to meet them and apologise in person."


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Ali at the annual fundraiser in aid of Chernobyl Children International

Ryan Tubridy and Ali Hewson. Photo: Brian McEvoy
Ryan Tubridy and Ali Hewson. Photo: Brian McEvoy

It won't be long before U2 kick off the first leg of their Experience + Innocence tour in May - and Bono's better half Ali Hewson said she imagines they could take a leaf out of the Rolling Stones' book and continue touring well into their 70s.

"I really don't know - I hope so. Why not?," she told the Herald.

Despite being part of one of Ireland's best-known celebrity couples, it seems the mum-of-four's household is subject to the same pressures as any other.

Asked if she would be in Tulsa for their opening gig on May 2, she said: "I will be there at some point but I'm not sure when.

"We've got all sorts of exams in our house at the moment so I'll be there for some of it. I will catch it."

She was one of the guests at the InterContinental Hotel for the annual fundraiser in aid of Adi Roche's Chernobyl Children International (CCI).

Hosted by ex-TD Liz O'Donnell and agent Noel Kelly, the bash is one of the organisation's biggest yearly fundraisers.

Although it's coming up to the 32nd anniversary of the nuclear accident next month, Ali said it was just as important to keep the charity in people's minds.

"Year after year we come across the most awful disasters," she said. "But this is something that the CCI is committed to staying with and are seeing these kids through."

More than 250 guests turned up at the lunch to show their support, including Ali's godchild Anna Gabriel (25), who was rescued from an orphanage in Belarus at the age of four and adopted by a West Cork family. She was born with serious problems, including being completely deaf. Her legs were also deformed and she had an extra finger on both hands.

She said she was "plucked out of misery just in time" and has thrived thanks to the care of her adoptive family.

At the end of her speech, she received a standing ovation from the crowd, which included RTE's Ryan Tubridy, Joe Duffy, Claire Byrne and Dave Fanning.

Tribute was also paid to the late Dolores Riordan, who wrote and recorded a 2002 single Time Is Ticking Out in aid of the charity.

Anticipating Adam Clayton's Big Day: Bassists Are The Most Important Member Of A Band—According To Science

Don't we all_U2 fans_ know it??? 

In what will come as no surprise to anyone who loves rock n’ roll or the blues, researchers have now determined that the bass is the backbone of any song. Turns out our brains can find the rhythm more easily when it is played in a lower tone. In other words, bassists are far more important to a song’s structure that previously thought. Take THAT, lead singers and drummers!
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencespeople are more perceptive of the changes in the lower-pitched notes of a bass guitar than the higher-pitched notes of other instruments.
A team of researchers led by psychologist Laurel Trainor of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, found that our brains are better at catching mistakes in lower notes.
The team used EEG (otherwise known as electroencephalography) to see how our brains react to react to various notes. They found that participants were better at detecting whether the music was off when listening to low-pitched notes versus high-pitched notes. People also were much better at tapping their fingers along with the songs in lower tones.

So, it’s official—we all need to give more props to bassists. The bass holds down a song, filling it with depth and gravitas.
Like a taco with no shell. Or a pizza with no dough. Sure, the fillings and toppings may get all the attention, but without a shell or a crust you would just have a pile of ingredients sitting around with nothing to hold them together. Without them, in other words, music would be pretty boring and lacking in structure.
Another study from Northwestern University found that music with prominent bass makes us feel like we can take on the world.
When we’re listening to songs with heavy bass, we feel more powerful and confident—like we can tackle that major presentation at work or do an extra set of crunches at the gym. Remember that next time you need a little extra motivation!
The bassists of the world may not nab as many of the babes or accolades. There are no flashy solos or shredding, but bassists provide the backbone of any song. Think of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” without the wizardry of John Paul Jones. Or Biggie’s “Hypnotize” without the sweet bass line holding it down.
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Adam Clayton playing "Mysterious ways"