Saturday 17 November 2018

U2 feared they were finished: the inside story of the night Bono lost his voice

The Edge and Bono on stage at the O2 in London.
The Edge and Bono on stage at the O2 in London.
U2 - Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jnr and Adam Clayton. Portrait by Anton Corbijn
The Edge and Bono are co-owners of the Clarence. Photo: Getty

Brendan O’Connor

U2 believed it might be the end of the band when Bono lost his voice at the beginning of a gig in Berlin in September.

Bono’s voice specialist Steven Zeitels, whom the band rang from under the stage on the night, said at the time there was a 70pc chance that Bono had suffered a serious vocal haemorrhage, which would mean it could be years, if ever, before he was able to sing again.

The gig was halted and the band convened underneath the stage.

It was The Edge who spoke on the phone to Zeitels, who is Professor of Laryngeal Surgery at Harvard Medical School and the Director of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Centre for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation and whose clients include everyone from Adele to Julie Andrews. Zeitels was adamant that the gig could not go ahead.

The band speak in detail about the incident for the first time in an exclusive interview in today’s LIFE magazine in the Sunday Independent.

Bono speaks of feeling embarrassed and emasculated, likening himself to Samson with his hair cut off: “The strong man … with no strength.”

U2 - Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jnr and Adam Clayton. Portrait by Anton Corbijn
U2 - Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jnr and Adam Clayton. Portrait by Anton Corbijn

Bono says he has performed with a sore throat before but this was different. “It moved so quickly from singing well to not being able to sing at all — that was the shock,” he says.

Bono says he could tell that the people around him were contemplating that it was all over for U2. But he says he knew he hadn’t broken anything, he knew he hadn’t felt a pop, and his voice was working. But Zeitels insisted that Bono’s throat needed to be checked.

It is still not known what caused the sudden voice loss. Bono speculates that “it might have been a vocal spasm brought on by an allergic reaction to something. It might have been smoke; it might have been a blockage in the ventilation system”.

Fans attending U2’s run of sold-out Dublin gigs next week will be glad to know that Bono says he is “singing like a bird now”.

Read Brendan O’Connor’s full interview with U2 in LIFE magazine in today’s Sunday Independent

 

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