"It's the most un-rock 'n' roll thing you could do, so I never ever talked about it, but that was actually my obsession before rock-and-roll."
-- Bono, on playing chess
Column: off the record..., vol. 11-450
February 20, 2011
"I've gone a little native" is how Bono described his experience in South Africa to Redi Tlabi during his interview on Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702. I believe we all have gone native after Friday’s Cape Town concert. So, in honor of the native theme, I encourage you to put on Passengers' "Theme From Let's Go Native" as we explore the week that was U2.
On behalf of the staff here at @U2, we would like to thank everyone involved in making the U2.com subscriber's special audio feed of Cape Town happen. As I listened to Archbishop Tutu's "Because your voices were heard" bit, I couldn't help but feel like to an extent, our voices were heard about what the official fan club's potential is. Friday's show proved that the technology fueling U2.com is capable of handling something like this for its subscribers. #U2360SA trended on Twitter, and conveniently the same hashtag can be used for South America when the tour resumes next month.
It was telling to see who was following Cover It Live on U2.com. Over 50 percent of fans were from Europe, more than 30 percent were from North America and 16 percent were from South America. I believe the time zone difference made it hard for the Aussies and Kiwis who were just waking up at the start of the show, but they were represented too with 1 percent. While many in Africa were able to listen live on the radio, and were well represented at the concert itself, 1 percent of the fans were on U2.com. "Elsewhere" brought in 4 percent. I know it's impossible to bring the claw to all the continents, but it's nice to know that this tour has been shared with the researchers on Antarctica.
After the show, I asked my Twitter followers if they would pay extra to U2.com for the ability to share in the live streams on a more regular basis. I found there were three main responses. There were many like @Montego335xi who said, "Nope ... I expect at least this kind of stuff for the money we pay every year already." There were several like @srj68 who wrote, "Yes. For streams of this quality, definitely.” There were fans like @skid63 who tweeted, "I would actually subscribe again if they did it for every show."
I understand the complexities and the challenges to this process. Willie Williams wrote in his Johannesburg diary entry on Feb. 13, "This worked well except for the Achilles heel of the 'broadband' speed at the stadium. The Internet's been pretty crap all week, it's fair to say. It's marginally better at the hotel than it is at the stadium but, once we got into show day, the demand on the single stadium Internet source ramped up almost to the point of complete stasis." So, for a show that needs to be streamed online, the Internet connection capability is paramount. The irony is that people were commenting on how good the telephone reception was for that show and how many tweets were being sent successfully from Soccer City.
So, all-in-all, Friday's experience was a step in the right direction. Personally, the most joyful part of the show was being able to share it with my kids, who are far too young to go to a concert. I couldn't help but tweet that my son turned to me during "Moment of Surrender" and said, "I like this song. I like U2, Mom. This is fun." For a little boy going on 4 next month, the circle of life continues and I'm doing my part to instill in my next generation the power of the music and the message. This tour truly is 360.
Thanks again to all at U2.com who made it possible.
Bono shared different lyrics to "Breathe" at the end of Redi Tlabi's interview. He said that during the recording sessions for No Line On The Horizon, he was inspired by Nelson Mandela and wrote from his perspective:
(1st verse) 18th of July on the banks of a not well-known river, I started a journey to where I am now. Troublesome, troublemaker, guided by the drums of my creator towards a rhythm, a rhyme, a melody line of a song called freedom, which once heard will never leave your head. Rolihlahla, on a day like this, it's love that gives us courage to resist.
(chorus) Agape love forged like steel in the fire. Agape love like a whisper that calls us to walk out into the street with your arms out and the people you meet are neither down nor out, hey there is nothing you have that I need. I can breathe. I can breathe.
(2nd verse) All those who stand together, fist in air, now know this -- that real division is not a scar on the land, but in the hearts of every man who began as a kiss not to resist, and not a fist. Now an open hand, an open face, an open page where history might rewrite its rage.
(chorus) Agape love forged like steel in the fire. Agape love whispering to us to walk out into the street, sing your hearts out to the people you meet, neither down nor out, hey there is nothing you have that I need. I can breathe, I can breathe.
Tlabi was able to get Bono to open up a little about his family as well. When talking about the secret behind the longevity of his marriage with Ali he said, "A very patient missus. Ali is an incredible person. I would, as a character, naturally I think wherever I lay my hat, that's my home kind of a person. But because I met her, she introduced me to the concept of home and I didn't really feel that strongly as a kid growing up, so I owe her that sense of belonging and I couldn't live without it. I think she could live much easier without it, probably. So I hold onto her very tightly indeed."
When asked how being a father has shaped him, Bono replied, "Those kids are amazing. The two girls have turned out incredible. Both in college in New York. They moved there. So I noticed their mother is spending a lot of time in New York, which is funny, chasing them. Evie's got a movie coming out where she acts opposite Sean Penn coming out this summer in Cannes. Jo Jo's a bit of an activist, that Jordan. Then there's the two boys, Eli and John. They're just comedians. I love being around them. On a deeper level, does it make you take a look at what the world that they're inheriting is going to look like? You bet it does."
I have a couple favorite quotes from the interview. On the topic of Egypt and Tunisia he said, "The revolution will not be televised. It will be tweeted." He also publicly admitted that "I'm kind of musically an idiot" as he was explaining that he has four chords and he somewhat knows how to use them. I was glad to see that over the course of 20 years he's found another chord. For the longest time, he only had "three chords and the truth."
Steve Lillywhite shared his career-defining albums with MusicRadar.com. It shouldn't be a surprise that Boy came in at No. 6, War at No. 9, and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was No. 16. He is candid about his thoughts on his role in these albums. He said, "I've had different jobs with U2 since the first three albums. I remember on The Joshua Tree, they were 18 months into making that record when Paul McGuinness, their manager, finally said to them, 'When you recorded with Steve, you'd do a record in six weeks. Let's get him in here and finish this thing.' "
For the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb sessions he said, "During much of this time they were working with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but on 'Atomic Bomb' they started the sessions with another producer. Eighteen months into it, they decided they had to fire the producer and start all over. The band was feeling pretty down about things. I came in and listened to what they had done. They played me a song called 'Native Son.' I liked it, but I said it wasn't right, it hadn't been recorded correctly. So I set the band up in a whole different way, they started playing, and halfway into it Bono said, 'I can't sing this song. The words aren't good enough.' And I said, 'Well, the music's pretty good.' So he went off, wrote different lyrics, and the song became 'Vertigo.' At that point, after we had Vertigo, we took our feet off the brakes and the album progressed at a nice pace."
I'm noticing a trend here of 18 months into projects that he's brought in. It's no wonder he’s been tapped for the Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark cast recording.
Speaking of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, I am hoping that the script changes made by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will make their way in time for the show to still open on March 15. I was surprised to find out that the production has enlisted the help of focus groups. You'd think with all of the feedback they're receiving from the social media outlets, the Broadway community, and the theater critics that they'd have more than enough to go on. I'm wondering how quickly Bono and Edge will be returning to the Foxwoods Theatre to continue their work there.
Have a great week!