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"['Mofo'] . . . became the heaviest song maybe we've ever written. I feel like my whole life is in that one tune."

-- Bono

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The U2 guide to survival

Herald Sun, November 21, 2010
By: Nui Te Koha

 

Real guitar heroes don't play games. Certainly, U2 guitarist The Edge lasted five minutes on the video game Guitar Hero.

"Oh, it was good for a laugh," The Edge -- born Dave Evans -- smiles."The strange realisation, for me is, in the 21st century, Guitar Hero is one of the ways kids discover music. I found music on the radio or went to the record shop for that sacred piece of vinyl. I'm not sure what that says about where we are today. In the end, it's better that kids find out about music, rather than not find out."

The Edge's take on videogame dominance in pop culture doesn't mean U2 is struggling for a place in modern times.

On the contrary. We are backstage at U2-360, the world's biggest rock show and a technological game-changer. The production -- with a 50m-high, bug-like claw as its centrepiece -- takes the rock spectacle as far as it can go. And U2, soon to enter its 35th year, plans to take it further.

"I think it's remarkable that we're creatively relevant and still doing it," Adam Clayton says."Nobody ever says you'll have great creative insight and understanding of your own ability in your 40s and 50s. Maybe it's because, at this point in the career, most 50-year-olds are playing at the Holiday Inn. But you start to value how far you've come. You realise you've come a long way, learned a lot of lessons and done it together. That has real value."

The Edge says U2 has lasted because the personalities are different.

"It's the secret of why this band is what it is," The Edge says. "Our strengths are different and our weaknesses are different. We enhance each others strengths and cover the weaknesses."

Clayton compares U2 with a precious gem.

"Let's say U2 is a diamond," he says. "Bono is at the front, asking questions, pushing buttons, doing things -- sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. The Edge brings technical, intellectual and scientific thinking to what we're doing and where we're going. I bring something emotional and instinctive to the band. And Larry is at the back, making sure nobody sneaks up on us."

Famously, in the only incident to threaten U2, alcoholism crept up on Clayton in 1993. The problem caused him to miss a show at the SCG that year. It is the only time U2 has performed without all four members. Clayton sought treatment and got sober soon after.

"I couldn't remember how I'd got into a situation where I couldn't perform a show. So something had to change," Clayton says. "The world we live in, it's hard not to become addicted to something. And for a long time, I didn't know what it was. But it got in the way of my personal development and my musical and creative life. When it was time to deal with it, I didn't look back.

"I've done everything I wanted. I've done all the drugs and alcohol, I've done all the crazy situations. I'm glad I did it. But I'm glad I don't have to do it anymore."

It's true. U2 have never faked their moves.

"We still have swagger," The Edge says, laughing. "The best of rock and roll is a combination. You need to be a showman with an ability to open up, be soulful and emotionally vulnerable in your work. That's where it can be powerful. People aren't impressed with only showmanship. They are impressed by an artist who is revealing. It requires a split personality. On the one hand, you need a lot of front. And you have to be revealing. That's the trick."

U2 has two new albums in the works: a pop record with producer Danger Mouse and a clubbier effort with Will.I.Am. Bono and The Edge have also written a musical based on the superhero Spider-Man. It opens on Broadway in December, with previews starting next week.

"Broadway is another world," The Edge says. "Most people have been welcoming. There have been a few cynics, too. But you get those everywhere."

The contrasting theatrics of U2-360 and a musical are evident. But The Edge says it comes from the same place.

"We came out of the crowd," he says. "We were kids who went to shows, saw great live acts and decided we wanted to be a band. We've never lost that connection of what it is to be a fan. It's never been, 'Come and see U2 -- the great masters.' There's a certain amount of self indulgence that goes into any creative work. You're an artist. But there is a healthy side of us that never loses sight of what it is to be in the crowd of a U2 show. That memory -- of being a fan -- is hard wired."

 U2, Etihad Stadium, December 1 and 3.

© Herald-Sun, 2010.

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