Last night I went to the Orpheum compliments of my good friend Dan Russell, of New Sound fame (they promote the huge New England Christian Rock Festival – Soulfest) to see Bono on his first solo tour – a jaunt to promote his autobiography “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.” Now, the danger in me posting a quick review of the show is that everyone knows I’ve always been a huge U2 fan and how can I be expected to be impartial. To use the rhetoric of the times, perhaps I should recuse myself. But I’ve suffered through some U2 missteps over the years and was honest about that. For instance, I watched in horror as the band trundled out their giant mirrorball lemon with its pulsating disco lights on the Pop tour, before exiting that overgrown Spinal Tap pod to perform “Stonehenge,” I mean, “Discotheque.”
So, I’ll tell you about Bono’s one-man show with musical accompaniment. I had no idea what to expect since Boston was the second performance, but I have to say I was delighted. No one posted pics or descriptions of the show as it happened because we were required to take our cell phones and insert them in sealed pouches as we entered through the usual metal detector pit stop. I guess the bags block electronic signals; anyway, you couldn’t work the buttons through the heavy fabric. At the end of the night the bags were opened via a magical device wielded by security.
Bono came onstage to the music of “City of Blinding Lights” with three musical accompanists on strings and keyboards reciting powerful and sometimes lengthy texts from the book, all from memory. He added candid and relaxed observations on a variety of subjects from the bandmembers to his family and the musical milestones that defined his career up to and including “Vertigo.” These milestones were concluded with a chamber music treatment of the songs, but on some of them, like “Out of Control” and “Where the Streets Have No Name,” the energy of the performances came close to the power of originals. In any case, it wasn’t supposed to be a rock show, but a show about rock.
The death of Bono’s mother Iris when the young Dublin punk was 14 plus the ongoing lifetime of sparring with his skeptical father formed the framework of much of the evening’s program. Bono always met his dad at the Café Sorrento upon returning from some far-flung adventure, where they would disagree with each other over drinks until many years later when they reached a level of mutual respect, truly beginning to love as father and son. Not long after, Bono’s father developed cancer and would pass away in 2000. This was the tenderest moment of the show and Bono following it with a performance of “Beautiful Day” provided the most powerful. Life is short. People don’t live forever. “Don’t let it get away.”
Other great moments: Luciano Pavarotti stories, Bono’s dad meeting Lady Di, a sketch on the Edge, how the band’s Christian beliefs almost ended U2 in 1981, and the power and wisdom of a woman’s love.
Bono was, perhaps, better in this performance than I have ever seen him, certainly the most transparent. This is a limited tour and it isn’t easy to get tickets, so go check out the book!