"I'm not sure you ever get to be an ex-rock star. You can get to be a fading star."
Column: off the record..., vol. 16-731
July 10, 2016
Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference is about to be powered by U2. Fans will recall that 2015’s Innocence + Experience Tour was “Powered By Salesforce.” For those unfamiliar with the history, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is an FOB (Friend Of Bono), and his cloud software company is the backbone of data collection for Live Nation. Benioff is a leading voice on social justice issues, and he donates the use of Salesforce to many nonprofits globally. The ONE Campaign and (RED) are also powered by Salesforce. The 1-1-1 philanthropic business model aligns with the philosophy U2 has shown in giving back to the community.
For me, it wasn’t the fact that U2 would headline the Dreamfest concert that was surprising, given the band’s relationship with Salesforce – rather, it was the timing of the announcement. The rumor mill has been ripe with speculation about when Songs Of Experience would be released, tour announcements and the like. The most recent came from an Instagram post from [at]SelinaRegazzoli who posted a photo of her and Bono and stated that autumn tour dates launching in Miami. Mind you, looking at the photos from Bono’s night in St. Tropez, he wasn’t exactly sober. However, as Selina has since removed that post and set her account as private, I have to wonder if loose lips sink ships. U2 wouldn’t agree to such an event like the Dreamforce conference unless there was something to promote. The timing of the conference is the first week of October. The band’s 40th anniversary of its inception is a week prior (Sept. 25) and the last day for 2017 Grammy Award eligibility is Sept. 30. (Thanks @KevinS2u for the Grammys reminder.)
After many posts of the band appearing to be “working their asses off” in the studio, it appears everyone’s off on their summer holidays – Bono is in St. Tropez, Adam is in South America, Larry has gone back into his underground lair and Edge was seen in Boston. I would expect the band will be performing new material, Salesforce announcing a continued partnership for the next leg of the tour and the album promotion to be in full swing. Seriously, why else would they commit, right?
Also interesting is that the lineup of keynote speakers for Dreamforce includes Melinda Gates and (RED) CEO Deborah Dugan. While Bono is not listed, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops up elsewhere in the conference.
The only way into the Dreamfest show is the $1,799 admission to the Dreamforce conference, making it probably the most expensive face-value ticket to a U2 show if that’s the only reason you’d register for the conference. We are working on coverage from the Dreamforce conference, so stay tuned.
It’s a little early for Bono to be in St. Tropez, so perhaps that’s also a sign that the band’s usual sacrosanct August holiday may be shortened. As with any speculation, your mileage may vary.
It sure was fun kicking off our #U240 coverage on our most recent podcast. We received a great deal of positive feedback from listeners around the globe. In preparing for the episode, I was struck by the parallels between Boy and Songs Of Innocence. From song themes to album art, it’s as if the two albums are having a conversation with each other in a Dorian Gray sort of way.
A few days after the podcast taping, I was treated to another musical conversation with Peter Gabriel and Sting’s Rock Paper Scissors tour in Worcester, Mass. While Gabriel called it “Karaoke night at the DCU Center,” Sting described the evening as a conversation between the two artists. Each traded songs to give the night’s dialogue. I enjoyed being a part of that conversation as I was surprised by how well the set list worked. The order of “Secret World” to “Driven To Tears” to “Fragile” to “Red Rain” was a powerful way to drive home the reality of recent events. While I was surprised not to see representatives at the show from the organizations the two artists support, videos from The Rainforest Fund and Witness were played prior to the concert.
Witness is more important now than ever. The organization strives to inform people of human rights violations through recording and broadcasting them for the world to see. The cellphone video footage from tragic events that unfolded this week in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge are reminders that we all are witnesses. This is why the recent news that Apple has filed a patent to disable the iPhone’s camera is troubling. While the guise is to not have the camera function at concerts to protect artists’ rights, anyone could potentially get the infrared emitter and set it up at protests or elsewhere. The domino effect could be catastrophic to organizations like Witness as the censorship potential is huge. While there is no word from Apple if it will follow through on the implementation, I hope there are serious conversations about the impact such technology could have.
In case you missed it a few weeks ago, the virtual reality firm Vrse recently changed its name to Within and has secured a new round of funding. “Song For Someone” is still available in the Within app.
Interestingly, Vrse/Within isn’t the only virtual reality company that has recorded U2. Fellow U2 fan Justin Kent brought to my attention that VR Live filmed U2’s KROQ show at the Roxy last May. VR Live posted to its Facebook page a video of a fan watching a video from U2’s gig. Justin also pointed out that a video for “California” from the Roxy shows the VR Live camera setup next to the stage. There has been no word from VR Live as to if or when the video will be available. VR Live partners with the Roxy and a handful of other venues around Los Angeles.
Live Nation has partnered with NextVR, so I would expect anything U2 concert-related would be done through them in the future.
And finally … this is my favorite Bono anecdote to date: the time Billy Joel drove Bono back to his hotel in the sidecar of his Vespa.
Have a great week!
Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.