Me and The Wife took a trip to Dublin back in February. Since we’re both U2 fans, we were keen to have a tour of some of the U2- related sites. On day one, I walked into a local tourist office outside of Temple Bar and asked if I could have a map of all the U2 places we could visit.
He looked at me as if I was some weird shade of purple. “Why would you want to do that?” He was genuinely puzzled.
When I told this story to The Edge earlier this year, he just shrugged. “Sometimes its hard to be taken seriously in your home town. Dublin has always had this love-hate thing with U2.” That reminded me of a Bono quote we saw on the wall of the tiny, tiny privately-operated U2 museum off Grafton Street. It read “In America, when you see mansion on a hill you think to yourself ‘That’s going to be me one day.’ When you see the same thing in Ireland, you think “Some day I’m gonna get that bastard.”
We ended up renting a car and conducting our own tour, which included driving up to Bono’s houses, the one on Cedarwood Road and the place he currently occupies. That was fun, but I would have much rather have had a guided tour by Bono himself–like this one from the Irish Times.
Late at night, in a fast car on the motorway between Turin and Milan, en route to meet the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, Bono goes quiet before saying: “The greatest line ever said about me and also the most accurate line ever said about me was most definitely by my father. He said, ‘You, Bono, are a baritone who thinks he’s a tenor.’ And that is the story of my life right there.”
He has sung about his father in the past; he is now singing about his mother. When he performs Iris live earlier tonight, he sinks to his knees, weeps and then makes the sign of the cross.
“It’s hard, of course it’s hard singing that song,” he says. “But I’ve always had this big thing which is: What is the point of being in U2 if we can’t take on subject matter that others would find uncool?” He raises his voice. “I mean, what is the point?”
We pull into a lay-by so he can play tracks from the next album,Songs of Experience. His voice comes through his phone singing about “the dying of the light”. He harmonises with himself as the album continues and gives every song an introduction: “On this one we were going after a broken cassette recorder type of sound”; “This has got a really crunchy beat”; “You have to hear Edge’s guitar work on this”; “Just wait until you hear the drum break on this one.” He’s lost in his music, staring out the window as he sings along.
The Italian prime minister is waiting but it seems that cat can chill. Bono keeps scrolling and playing. “We’re going to get this album out next year; unusually for us, a lot of the songs are done already,” he says. (I’ve heard that before.)