Bono performed to a sold out crowd
Bono is fucking brilliant as he tells his life story and U2’s formation in a unique and passionate way. The rock star wrapped the North American run of his Stories of Surrender book tour at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday (Nov 13th) where I was in attendance. This was unlike any ordinary book tour. This was a Broadway-style play.
The night featured a mix of songs and storytelling enhanced with animated visuals and simple set pieces. Two large scrolls draped each side of the theater’s stage where it displayed Bono-drawn vignettes and animated book passages. The set pieces included a table and four chairs mid-stage and two arm chairs and small table at the left of the stage. The latter represented a Dublin pub where Bono — born Paul Hewson — and his father, Bob, would frequent together.
“A lot of you know when U2 goes on tour, it can involve outsized props — gigantic claws, space stations, mirrorball lemons. We were told to cut back tonight,” Bono joked near the top of the performance.
The night included a handful of U2 hits reworked and stripped to their core. The singer was accompanied by former U2 producer Jacknife Lee on programming and percussion, Kate Ellis on cello and Gemma Doherty on harp, keyboards and backing vocals. “Vertigo,” “With Or Without You,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride (In The Name of Love)” were among the dozen U2 hits performed by Bono and his small ensemble. The appearance was bookended by “City of Blinding Lights” which resulted in a singalong to kick off the night and wrap as the encore. Several snippets of other U2 songs were played via the computer, but not performed.
The crowd ate up every second of the nearly two hour performance. Bono told stories as if his band members — The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. — were on stage alongside him. The Edge and his wife were among the countless celebrities watching from the audience as Bono assured he had his bandmates’ blessing to embark on the trek.
Bono’s dad was a focal point of the book and performance. Bono shared how the pair’s combative relationship morphed into the pair reconciling before the elder Hewson’s death in 2001. He acted out dialogue between the two that always began with his dad asking, “Anything strange or startling?”
Bono recounts Bob’s final words — “Fuck off!” — and the belief that his dad was “addressing the monkey that had been on his back for a larger part of his life.”
The rocker opens up about how learning to play guitar helped him cope with his mother’s death at age 14 and he and his father’s relationship. He tells the story of how U2’s first single, “Out of Control,” was also the first song he ever wrote.
He also shares how the band formed and nearly disbanded due to religion after their debut album was released. Ultimately — and thankfully — the group changed their mind after former manager Paul McGuinness reminded them of their legal contract.
Bono hilariously reenacted his time working with Luciano Pavarotti. He shares how he was asked to work on a record with the opera singer and how the band (minus Larry and Adam) were coerced into performing at a Pavaratti benefit concert.
The biggest applause of the night came when Bono sang Pavarotti’s “Torna a Surriento” a capella, proving he can sing anything. His voice was fabulous and nailed it like the pro he is!
The book tour continues heads to Europe this week with shows in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin, Berlin, Paris and Madrid. Most of the shows are sold out with limited capacity. Bono’s memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, the story of the remarkable life he’s lived, the challenges he’s faced, and the friends and family who have shaped and sustained him. The subtitle, 40 Songs, One Story, refers to the book’s 40 chapters, each named after a U2 song. Bono has also created 40 original drawings which will be featured throughout the book.