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"I can't look at the audience as a mass. It disturbs me. I have to look for individuals." — Bono

Column: off the record ... vol. 18-774



For the past couple months, I've been chasing down a tip that came in from a longtime, usually reliable source: U2 recently signed a new 10-year deal with Live Nation. I pestered our contacts with the band's PR team. I pestered Live Nation's PR. I even got some of the @U2 crew to help with pestering other contacts we have that are close to the band, Live Nation and/or Maverick.

None of the people we contacted denied the story, but neither did anyone provide the second confirmation that I'd require in order to report this as a news story on our home page. One person we asked said we were safe to report the story because, in essence, why would U2 shut down anytime soon? The closest thing we got to an official response was a Live Nation PR person saying, "I don't have anything to share on this."

I have no reason to believe the tip is wrong. The source has been reliable with us over the years, and I think if it was inaccurate, someone we asked would've said so. But without that second confirmation, I'm sharing it here via OTR, a column that we launched in 2001 for this exact purpose: "...to share news, rumors, thoughts, comments, and ideas that just don't seem to fit anywhere else" on @U2.

So, officially we'll call it a rumor. But I believe it's true. What's it mean?

1) I didn't get any detail on timing other than "recently," but let's assume the new deal was signed sometime after the end of last year's Joshua Tree tour and before the start of the Experience + Innocence tour. That means the contract would run til sometime around late 2027/early 2028.

2) It seems safe to report that there won't be a U2 farewell tour anytime soon. I'm betting money that the next U2 tour happens in 2021 and is a celebration of Achtung Baby's 30th anniversary. Depending on how long that runs, it could leave U2 enough time for two more tours ... maybe 2024/25 and 2027/28? All of that likely depends on what they do where new albums are concerned.

3) Finally, if it's true and accurate, the band members would be in their late 60s when the contract ends. That seems to this almost-50-year-old fan like a good age to call it a career. But let's not be surprised if they get close to the end of that contract and decide they want to continue for another year or three. Who knows?

In any case, we'll keep working on this story and try to get a second confirmation. Until then, we're operating on the assumption it's true.

What is it about hearing U2 on the radio that seems so ... satisfying?

I've been wondering about that in the seven weeks since SiriusXM launched the U2 Experience on channel 30 -- a round-the-clock station of nothing but U2: album tracks, live cuts, rarities, interview clips and so forth.

When the channel went live on June 1, the U2 fans in my Twitter feed went nuts with joy. I hadn't listened to the station yet and immediately decided these folks were going completely and unnecessarily over-the-top because, let's face it, I can just as easily fire up Spotify and play a random mix of U2 album tracks and rarities. And if I switch to iTunes instead, where I have some old digital bootlegs stored, I can mix in some live tracks to make it even more like the Sirius channel. The only thing missing was the random interview clips; no big deal in my mind. I've heard the band talk more than enough ... especially Bono and especially the last few years.

I finally had a chance to really listen to the U2 Experience on June 4, after an entire weekend of Twitter-ites raving about this channel. My wife and I were driving over to Seattle for a real estate event, and that meant more than three hours of driving through the desert and over the Cascade mountains before reaching our destination. And I couldn't believe my ears, but I really enjoyed it. Even as I was listening and singing/humming along, I kept asking myself ... why is this so enjoyable? It's just like telling Spotify or iTunes to play nothing but U2.

I couldn't figure it out, but I can't deny that it felt different somehow and that I liked it. My son had the same initial feelings as I did, and also came around to like it when he started listening. We were talking about all this later, and he suggested that there's just something different/unique about hearing U2 on the radio -- maybe because it's become somewhat of a novelty in recent years. I think he nailed it.

It's been several weeks since I listened to the U2 Experience, but there's a part of me that wishes it wasn't shutting down at the end of this month. It'd be cool to have that channel there permanently, even if I don't understand why I like it!

U2 apparently has plans for its performance last month at the Apollo Theater. In this interview clip from a couple weeks ago with Dave Fanning talking to Steve Lillywhite, Fanning tells his audience in Dublin that Lillywhite is doing some mixing of the band's performance. Pay attention at the 1:00 mark or so.

And finally, don't miss this great video from U2 fan Paulo Vetri -- it's a live version of "Acrobat" from the first leg of the tour, interspersed with video clips from the Achtung Baby/Zoo TV era. The audio is an IEM (in-ear monitor) feed from the second San Jose show.

Until next time!

(c) @U2, 2018.