U2 Talks To the New York Times About SOI & the Upcoming Tour

For those who missed Sunday’s article or don’t get the New York Times:

Bono on finding an audience for the new album: “The idea that there may be a whole swath of audience out there that don’t yet know they like the band is really turning us on. It makes us want to go out and find them if they’re there. [pause] They may not be there… On May 14 we’re going to find out if the album worked and if the experiment worked. If people know those words and feel those songs, then the experiment was right.”

Adam on fitting into today’s music scene: “We wanted to think that we could make songs that were contemporary to what radio plays now, but in reality we come from a different place. We have to write from the perspective of that journey, that 35-year journey.”
U2, Bono
Edge on fitting into today’s music scene: “Just to puncture public consciousness at this time is really, really hard, so we were trying to think of ways that would get our album through to people. The prospect of putting it out and have it just disappearing down a rabbit hole, which seems to happen to so many albums now — that would be soul-destroying.”

Bono on the reaction to Apple giving the album away: “I think Apple and we got a lot of the backlash that was headed to Big Tech for knowing too much about us. But in fact, Apple is not interested in every search you ever made — it’s only interested in your music, so it’s not fair to tar them with that brush. And as a person who’s been a lifelong member of Amnesty International, of all human-rights crimes I think that this kind of unwanted mail, if it’s at the top of your list or even halfway up it, your life is really fantastic.”

Edge on figuring out the tour & arena set-up: “The songs are the boss. They tell us what to do and they tell everyone in this building what to do. We’ve just got to unlock what the songs are asking and telling us what to do.”

Edge's pedal board.
Edge’s pedal board.

From the New York Times: The initial idea was to work up two entirely different concerts, but U2 worried about leaving out staples or having fans think they’d gotten the second-best show. As of last week, it planned instead to have a relatively fixed first half and a varying second one — separated, for the first time on a U2 tour, by an intermission. The band is also planning to work the entire room. Running nearly the length of the coliseum floor was U2’s triple platform: a large rectangular stage (a strip of which could light up as “I” for Innocence), a smaller round stage (“e” for experience) and, between them, a walkway that’s wide enough to become a third stage, sometimes sandwiched between LED video screens.

The tour’s most striking innovation isn’t immediately obvious. U2 has moved its sound system to arena ceilings: an oval of 12 speaker arrays that sends the music downward evenly everywhere in the arena. When I walked all around the coliseum as the band played, the music was uniformly transparent and strong, the volume constant from front to back. “If you’re trying to blast sound the length of the venue from the stage, the venue sometimes wins and you get mud,” the Edge said. “With this, you don’t have to have it so loud — you’re getting good quality sound from something that’s much closer to you than normal.”

The band calls the walkway the divider stage because that’s what it does midway through the concert — turning into a barrier that separates the audience completely. The division is part of the concert’s underlying narrative, a passage from innocence to experience inflected by Irish memories. “Songs of Innocence” is U2’s most specifically autobiographical album; its titles include “Cedarwood Road,” where Bono grew up, and “Iris,” named after his mother, who died when he was young. At the start of the concert, the band is illuminated by a lone swinging light bulb, as Bono was in the room in 10 Cedarwood Road where he started to play music. There’s another idea as well, Bono explained: “After all the scale and sculpture of ‘360,’ to begin the next tour with only a single light bulb.”

The concert’s bleak midpoint — “the end of the innocence,” Bono calls it — is “Raised by Wolves,” a song from the album about a terrorist car bombing in Dublin that killed 33 people on May 17, 1974.

At the intermission, Bono said, half-seriously, “people will walk out into the aisles not buying T-shirts but having counseling, and wondering, ‘Where did the fun go?’ ” The second half of the concert breaks down the divide and, true to U2’s past, promises healing and love. “When we undo that division, we’ve got to really glue them together,” Bono said.

Gavin Friday on the way they all grew up: “We grew up in a culture where random terrorism was a horror. It’s now part of everyday life worldwide. The way the album was released, Apple overshadowed the whole thing, so the album was never really listened to. I was told to make the song really real.”
Edge on the next album: “At the very end of an album you’re at the height of your powers in terms of writing, arranging and performing. It’s a shame that you have to stop then and start the other phase of what we do, which is playing live. This time we haven’t really stopped. Bono is trying to capitalize on that momentum and that sharpness.”

Bono on the next album: “We’re keeping the discipline on songs and pushing out the parameters of the sound. They’re very basic earthy things, irreverent. They’re not lofty themes. One of the things that experience has taught us is to be fully in the moment. What’s the moment? Pop music.”

Other notable things:

-HBO is shooting a tour documentary.

-The band is working on Songs of Experience in a mobile studio during the tour.

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