"But what's most important is that I must feel that I could carry the project, above and beyond being 'Bono's wife.'"
-- Ali, on her charity work
Encore! U2 LIVE Update Captures All of U2 Live
November 21, 2003
You've just seen U2 live. The show is over. You're walking out of the arena with friends, and...you...can't...say...a...word. You're speechless. You're drunk with enthusiasm. You just look at your friends, grinning knowingly because right now you don't need words to describe what your eyes just saw and your ears just heard. Such is the power that even the most ordinary of U2 concerts has over most ordinary U2 fans.
But time is a buzzkill and at some point words and pictures will be required to keep that feeling and those memories alive. Enter U2 LIVE - A Concert Documentary, a chronicle of every known concert U2's ever played that can walk U2 fans down concert memory lane -- maybe not all the way to the post-show drunken euphoria, but certainly as far back as the day after's hangover.
The third edition of U2 LIVE is out now, though some retailers have yet to get their stock. Like the first two editions, the book's foundation is the efforts of U2 fans around the world who attended, recorded and/or listened to shows, transcribed Bono's speeches and song introductions, and offered recaps of the extraordinary moments that distinguished each concert. Unlike the first two editions, the new U2 LIVE is authored by Caroline van Oosten de Boer, whose speed-typing skills were tested by having to write about 206 shows in just three months.
"I was given five-and-a-half months to complete the manuscript," she says in a recent email conversation. That amount of time, she remembers, seemed adequate because she wasn't working. But the time crunch began when she landed a full-time job, and was made worse when she ran into problems getting audio copies of the PopMart and Elevation tours. "I didn't get audio until December 31st , which meant I had only three months to write it and write it well." And, now that she was gainfully employed, to write it in her spare time. Enough pressure? "There's no other way I could have done it," she says. "I need that level of stress to deliver."
U2 LIVE still bears the name of Pimm Jal de la Parra on its front cover. He wrote the first two editions of the book; van Oosten de Boer helped translate the text into English. When de la Parra died in April 2002, plans to update the book were in place, but very little work on the project had started. De la Parra's family asked Caroline to pick up where he had left off.
"I followed [his] lead," she says, "but I am my own person, so I expect there's a difference in perspective between his text and mine. We all have our own qualities and interests. One of mine is languages, so you'll probably find a bit more emphasis on all the different languages Bono spoke on stage. I got a big kick out of deciphering Bono's pronunciation and then transcribing and translating it. 'PJ' was a facts and figures man. I'm more interested in the psychology of performance, cultural references and influences. I'm not even sure if all of that is obvious from the text. That's up to the reader to decide."
Perhaps the biggest difference between van Oosten de Boer's research and de la Parra's was the use of a computer and an Internet connection. For the first edition of U2 LIVE, correspondence between author and contributors was largely done the old-fashioned way -- with envelopes and stamps. Van Oosten de Boer, who oversees the popular U2log.com web site, used web sites, mailing lists, and email to solicit help from fans...with varying degrees of success. "I think my instructions were flawed, because people's work differed a lot," she says. "Some could practically be printed verbatim, others not so much. Some were very accurate, some weren't. I still checked and double checked just about everything."
Even the most diligent editing won't eliminate mistakes in the book; part of van Oosten de Boer's job was to separate fact from fiction when fans shared conflicting accounts of a certain concert. "These kinds of conflicts can be solved by asking the opinion of people who go to more than one concert," she says. "They have a far more objective view of what happens during a concert than a person who has only seen the band once on the tour and know far better whether something is out of the ordinary or not." This update of U2 LIVE ends with an appendix that lists corrections and additional information about shows covered in the book's original release. Future book updates ("I would say every two tours, but it's up to the publisher," van Oosten de Boer says.) will be written the same way. Van Oosten de Boer says it isn't financially feasible to go back into the text of the original U2 LIVE and make the corrections there. (Fans who wish to contribute updates or corrections to U2 LIVE can do so by visiting the book's web site, U2book.com.)
When she wasn't writing, van Oosten de Boer also took on the role of initial photo editor, going through hundreds of photos from amateur (read: fans) and professional photographers. "I looked for pictures that were different," she says. "Not the usual shots you see in the press. I went for fan shots mostly. But I handed in the photos I'd picked and final decision-making was up to someone else." This update adds 16 new pages of color photographs, all from the PopMart and Elevation tours.
U2 LIVE is the only book of its kind, an archive of U2's entire touring history written by fans for fans. If you followed the PopMart or Elevation tours online via mailing lists, newsgroups, or similar fan communities, you're sure to recognize many of the stories and events told in U2 LIVE. But there is the slightest hint of something "official" in this edition of the book: Willie Williams, U2's longtime tour designer and lighting director, helped with fact-checking and offered corrections to the pre-PopMart material. He also agreed to write the Foreword, and in it he admits to carrying the book around with him, and reveals that the crew uses the book to settle arguments about past concert dates and locations. Williams also lets readers know that his reaction to seeing U2 LIVE is no different than our reaction to seeing U2 live. "Sometime after the Zoo TV tour," he writes, "the book U2 Live: A Concert Documentary dropped into my lap and left me speechless." He...couldn't...say...a...word. We know the feeling.
© @U2/McGee, 2003.