Saturday 24 February 2018

Comeback king Bono's glorious return helps U2 nail Italian job

Spectacular Turin show blew away any doubts about band's continued relevance, says Barry Egan

IT was an hour before U2 took the stage in front of 70,000 people in the Stadio Olimpico, Turin for the re-start of the start of their 360ò World Tour.

It was supposed to have started in North America in June -- but Bono had to undergo emergency surgery on his back after injuring himself while rehearsing for the tour.

The cancelled North American tour reportedly cost the London insurance market $17m due to contingency cover purchased by the band and its promoters Live Nation and by specialist entertainment broker Robertson Taylor, according to respected insurance periodical, The Insurance Insider.

But no one cared about that. Instead, Italy went into a frenzy of Bonomania. The buzz among the crowd was tangible on Friday night. The girls from Rome who came south for the show were practically speaking in tongues they were so excited. Under the Turin sky, everything seemed U2-related, surreally so. Just before U2 took the stage, I ended up having a suitably surreal conversation with Bono's best friend Gavin Friday, who is working as an artistic director of sorts on this tour.

Was Bono nervous? How was his back?

"No," he replied. "His spine is the bassline."

How much of Bono onstage circa 2010 was Gavin ? "To be honest," Gavin laughed, "I'm not sure where I end and Bono begins and vice versa."

"We've only just begun, as Karen Carpenter once sang," Gavin said. "So Achtung Baby!"

Francis Bacon said that he had to change the reality in his paintings each time he painted to keep it relevant.

Was it like that for Bono playing the same songs night after night that the world expected him to sing?

"Unlike a painting, performing a song is different every time," Gavin said, "certainly with a singer like Bono."

Was the rumour true that U2 will be playing Croke Park in Dublin in a few months?

"Barry, I never take rumours or gossip seriously," Gavin laughed. "It's bad for your health."

With the band about to take the stage in front of 70,000 people, Gavo from Ballymun had to dash. The singer was, he said, "mad busy". He added: "I'm working like a dog. A boxer's dog. We're flying straight to Nice after the show."

He was a gentleman and a charmer. I asked him a cheeky question. What made U2 still relevant?

"U2 will always be relevant," he replied.

But how were they still relevant?

"Tonight's show," Gavin said, "will say it all."

Twenty minutes later, it was showtime. The roar from the crowd could be heard across Italy. There were thousands of people outside in the street who couldn't get tickets. They danced to the music coming out over the walls of the football stadium, home to Juventus, as U2 stormed into She Moves in Mysterious Ways and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.

There was a party atmosphere in Turin overall on Friday night. The crowd inside the stadium went mental to The End of The World. Prior to this song, phrases flashed on the huge screen overhead to convey subliminal messages.

"Creation or evolution?"; "Where will it end?"; and "Do you have a place to crash tonight?" Bono said all his children were in the crowd for the show. He said it was the Edge's birthday today and got fans to sing Happy Birthday. He then talked about the nature of the family in Italy and introduced U2 as a family too. Adam Clayton, he said, was "the black sheep"; Larry Mullen was "the baby". Perhaps typically, Bono described himself as "the prodigal son." He then thanked the crowd for "your letters of support over the last few months and for your patience". Ah, here, Bono. Jaysus.

The roar from the crowd at Bono's every utterance was deafening. Bono, like some Roman emperor, took the applause as his due. Like he was born to public displays of devotion and adoration.

The doubts were there that U2 would play one world tour too many, release one 'edgy' album too many, make too many noises about their tax situation in Holland, as Bono hung out with Bill Clinton and Bill Gates that one too many time, and as Bono made one too many attempts to save the world.

I hope the day will never come when U2, starting to lose dignity, make one too many attempts to remain 'cool' and 'vibrant'. I can't see Bono allowing this is happen, because he is a well-read guy.

Certainly, to the 70,000 people who came to see him, to garland and applaud and celebrate him from far and wide on Friday night in Turin, Bono was the greatest artist in the world.

Sunday Independent

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