U2 goes back to its ’70s roots for in­spi­ra­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Elysa Gard­ner

The man born Paul David Hew­son, who is now 53 and lost his dad 13 years ago, reached back a lot in work­ing on U2’s up­com­ing al­bum — which still doesn’t have a re­lease date. “We’ve been at it for a while now,” Bono ad­mits, his tone be­com­ing lighter again and self-ef­fac­ing. “In this band, a song isn’t fin­ished un­til it’s be­ing sold on­line, or in the shops. And even then, Edge might try to remix it.” It has been nearly five years since Bono, the Edge and band­mates Adam Clay­ton and Larry Mullen, Jr. re­leased their last studio al­bum, 2009’s No Line on the Horizon, and they know fans are get­ting itchy. A U2 song, Or­di­nary Love, was fea­tured on the sound­track to last year’s biopic Man­dela: Long Walk to Free­dom; it won a Golden Globe Award for best orig­i­nal song ear­lier this month, and is up for an Os­car in the same cat­e­gory. Bono says Or­di­nary Love was in­spired by late South African pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela’s love let­ters to his for­mer wife, Win­nie. “They’re re­ally worth read­ing, with this very quaint, al­most ar­chaic lan­guage that’s ten­der and beau­ti­ful.” The ac­tivist-turned-po­lit­i­cal leader had Shake­speare’s works smug­gled to him while in prison, Bono notes. The songs be­ing read­ied for U2’s new al­bum draw in­spi­ra­tion from the T’S a rainy Dublin day — what’s new?” Bono jokes, call­ing from home. A mo­ment later, though, shar­ing lyrics from a new U2 song called In­vis­i­ble, the band’s front­man turns re­flec­tive. “It opens with, ‘It’s like the room just cleared of smoke/I didn’t even want the heart you broke/It’s yours to keep/You just might need one,’” he says. “Then it goes, ‘I fi­nally found my real name/I won’t be me when you see me again/No, I won’t be my father’s son.’” Bono pauses. “That’s a heavy thing, I re­al­ize, as a father my­self — to not take your fam­ily name, you know? I’m known as Bono. And I re­al­ize now that all the angst and rage I had at that time,” dur­ing his youth, “must have re­ally hurt (my father). I thought my fam­ily was the prob­lem, but I was the prob­lem. A typ­i­cal thing.” more re­cent past. “We went back to the rea­son we wanted to be a band in the first place. We started lis­ten­ing to mu­sic from the late ’70s, re­mem­ber­ing our early trips to Lon­don,” he says. “I re­mem­ber be­ing with Ali, my girl­friend at the time — now my wife — feel­ing in­cred­i­bly un­cool in the mid­dle of this punkrock ex­plo­sion.” Not that the al­bum will be a nos­tal­gia trip. “There are some very dif­fer­ent moods, and some ex­tra­or­di­nary gui­tar stuff out of Edge,” with mod­ern­rock and R&B sa­vant Dan­ger Mouse pro­duc­ing most of the al­bum — though the group “might ex­per­i­ment with some new peo­ple” in the fi­nal stages, Bono says. “As a band, we never think about the past,” Bono says. “But go­ing back to the ’70s as a start­ing point brought up so much, just to re­turn to that mo­ment when you’re formed. I started dat­ing Ali the week I joined U2, I think — a good week.” That pe­riod marked a po­lit­i­cal com­ing of age for Bono as well. He cites Man­dela and Bishop Des­mond Tutu as key fig­ures in his be­com­ing an ac­tivist, “anti-apartheid and anti-poverty. These two men turned our lives up­side down — or right-side up, more ac­cu­rately.... Man­dela gave this beau­ti­ful speech in (Lon­don’s) Trafal­gar Square in 2005, where he said that poverty is not a nat­u­ral con­di­tion. It is man-made; it can be over­come by the ac­tion of hu­man be­ings.” That phi­los­o­phy got Bono in­volved with the cause of in­ter­na­tional debt re­lief 15 years ago, and con­tin­ues to pro­pel his ad­vo­cacy against ex­treme poverty. He has “made some un­likely bed­fel­lows” in the process, court­ing con­ser­va­tive politi­cians whom many pop stars would shrink from, “but as un­com­fort­able as I’ve some­times felt, I get over it quickly when I think about the lives we are try­ing to save and im­prove.” Oc­ca­sion­ally, Bono says, U2’s other mem­bers “will fret... when I get lost in the devel­op­ment of some­thing. But I al­ways come back, en­er­gized by it all.” De­spite the band’s rep­u­ta­tion for co­he­sion, the mu­si­cians have had “big fights” in their more than 35 years to­gether, Bono in­sists. “We’ve very Ir­ish. It’s a noisy, messy fam­ily busi­ness, but there’s deep love and re­spect be­tween us at the same time.” U2 will likely tour af­ter its new al­bum is re­leased. The group emerged en­er­gized af­ter a re­cent sur­prise per­for­mance at Bev­erly Hills’ Mon­tage Ho­tel, at the third an­nual ben­e­fit for Help Haiti Home, thrown by Bono’s buddy Sean Penn. “We played in this lit­tle ball­room — we hadn’t played a ball­room in a long time,” Bono notes. “I re­al­ized there’s some­thing very fresh about just gui­tar, bass, drums and a voice. The way mu­sic is pro­cessed at the mo­ment, when you hear that you go, ‘Wow!’ Though it’s ob­vi­ously been around for a while.” You’ll likely be able to catch U2 at big­ger venues, though not nec­es­sar­ily sta­di­ums. “I’d like to play in­doors again. Some of the best nights of my life have been at (New York’s) Madi­son Square Gar­den. Venues that size are in a lot of cities. I think it might be nice.” Bono quips, “I al­ways know that we’re get­ting close to tour­ing time when the mis­sus asks me when we’re go­ing out again. I think, should I read some­thing from this ques­tion? ‘No, not at all — you’re great at home.’” And the glo­be­trot­ting rock star/phi­lan­thropist en­joys be­ing there. “As they say in Dublin, we’ve a lot of weather. But it can be beau­ti­ful, the morn­ings here, and I’m just on the edge of the city, so I get to walk in the hills and down by the sea and all that kind of stuff. I’m away more than most, but I al­ways look for­ward to com­ing home.”

MICHEL EULER / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U2 front­man Bono says the band’s yet-to-be-re­leased new al­bum isn’t a nos­tal­gia trip, though the quar­tet did re­visit its early days in Lon­don.

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