"[T]he lyrics aren't literature; they are only part of the story."
Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-753
December 18, 2016
It's the holiday season and, honestly, I wasn't expecting any big news from the U2 world. I was preparing myself to listen to Christmas songs and hoping to see Bono busking again in the streets of Dublin.
Surprisingly, the Brazilian Justice brought U2 news this week. It was about the verdict of an appeal convicting Bono and Larry. All I know is what was published in the press during all those years, so I'll try to summarize the best I can.
PopMart was the first U2 tour to come to Brazil. It was hugely anticipated, not only by the fans but also by the band. They wished so badly to play here that they said they could take less payment for the performance if needed. The first show was in Rio in January 1998 and that was when the problems started. It was set to happen at Maracanã stadium, but a short time before the show, they had to move it to another location due to technical difficulties. If I'm not wrong, it was because the stadium gates were not high enough for the cranes. So, as an emergency, the show was moved to Autódromo Nelson Piquet, which is very far from the city center. Rio -- I mean the police, the traffic agents, all the organizers -- wasn't prepared for it. The venue was very distant and there was not sufficient public transportation for that area. Do you remember the sentence "Rock and Roll stops the traffic"? That was what happened on that day: the biggest traffic jam in the world due to a concert, according to Guinness Book Of World Records. Lots of fans couldn't make it to the show; many left their cars in the road trying to get there by foot. The band delayed the show a little bit, but it was already chaos and no one could solve it.
It was a big disappointment for everyone. First, U2 wanted to play at Maracanã because it's a very traditional stadium, and then it became a nightmare for all the fans who missed the show at the Autódromo. The band felt that they owed something to Brazilian fans. That's why they came back to Brazil for a pocket show, in a TV program, to promote the album All That You Can't Leave Behind. We all know U2 don't do this kind of thing in South America; their promo tours always happen in North America and Europe. So, it was a special event. And during the same time -- in 2000 -- Bono, and especially Larry, talked about money problems involving the promoter Franco Bruni. He decided to sue both U2 members, alleging that he was harmed professionally because, after the interview, he had lost his credibility in the show business.
When U2 came back to the country for the Vertigo tour in 2006, an officer entered the band's plane to warn Bono and Larry about this development. It seems they didn't like how that happened, to be approached at the airport.
Officially, U2 didn't make any statement about it. In 2011, the Brazilian court convicted only Larry and the newspaper O Globo, where the interview was published. Bruni didn't accept it because he wanted Bono to be found guilty, too, and he thought the fine was small ($1 million U.S.).
Finally, last Thursday, the court of justice announced the judge's final decision for that appeal. Bono and Larry were ordered to pay a fine for moral and material damages. The value is $1.5 million Brazilian Real, but since the case has taken this many years to solve, it'll reach approximately $5 million Brazilian Real, which is around $1.5 million U.S. The media company was exempt from any charges; it was claimed they just reported what was said in the interview. The band still has a chance to appeal to the Supreme Federal Court. And I learned yesterday that Bruni is also suing Paul McGuinness and Arthur Fogel (Live Nation) for comments challenging Bruni's competence, but I have no additional information about it.
I'm not here to discuss the verdict. I just wanted to explain a little bit more about this case. I'm aware it's very complicated; like I said before, what I know is what was published by the press. I don't have details and I'm not a lawyer. My intention was to give fans all around the world some background on this situation. I don't know what motivated Larry to speak about it, but we know he's straightforward in a conversation. If there was something off, he wouldn't let it go.
It's not rare to find problems in the organization of shows in Brazil, so as a fan I agree artists should talk about it, and not let it happen again. All I want is to go to a very organized show with all the appropriate security and protection for me and the band. I believe that all the problems in Rio must have influenced Bono and Larry's opinion. I'm not saying they were right -- even Sheila Roche said it was a mistake -- but I completely understand. U2 have a strong connection with their audience and see we're committed. I don't like to report news like this and I'm so sorry that it happened in my country. I didn't expect it to be covered by the international press. I hope U2 still have good memories about Brazil and the passionate fans that are waiting for them to come back as soon as possible.
I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone and a much better new year for all of us. See you in 2017! :)
Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.
(c) @U2, 2016.