It’s easy to mock Bono. Everybody’s at it. Whether it’s his hat’s journey by jet engine, his pious preaching at Labour party functions, his forcing African kids to sing With Or Without you in a PR piece to promote his band or just outright laughter at the lyrics to his latest single, Get On Your Boots – only the creepiest U2 obsessive could really object.
This very defensive interview piece was fully aware of the public profile of the band’s frontman and seemed, from the start, to be an attempt to redress the balance. A good angle to come from, but royally ballsed up by Bono himself in protracted, oblique soundbites that did little to dispel how much of an oaf the man is.
Geldof didn’t help. He opened proceedings by insisting that ‘they’re not wankers’ – which, coming from a wanker as monumentally self-pleasuring as Bob, didn’t really help the cause. Later, when talking about how prolific U2 are, he said that those outside the industry might not realise that ‘great bands have to work at it’ which carried the implication that he’d ever been in a great band. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ was alright, but don’t overdo it, Bob.
After an amusing clip of the fledgling band mucking about on Irish telly in the late 70s or early 80s, a parade of talking heads talked the band up, one of them asserting that ‘every band wants to be U2’. This statement is incorrect.
I’ve no problem with U2 the band – I like bits of Achtung Baby, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But when Bono ever appears outside of his day job it’s impossible not to wince at the man’s nerve. One man’s arrogance is another man’s genius, but for me his pomp and self-belief reek of smugness. He’s unbearable when he starts talking and by the time he’s finished you’re surprised nobody’s ever set fire to him.
He was sitting next to Adam Clayton in his set of interviews, whilst Larry and The Edge were cross-examined separately. It’s easy to imagine that Adam’s the only one who can actually bear the frontman, what with him having had the mental strength to cope with being around Naomi Campbell. The man must be coated with asbestos when it comes to fiery egos. Where Bono dealt in pseudo-enigmatic rhetoric when answering questions, Clayton was gnomic and as bland as skimmed milk.
Bono’s interviewee style was to patronise Laverne whenever she asked a question. ‘You’re right to ask that’, he assured her. ‘Geez, this girl is good’ he proclaimed, as though she landed the job based on blackmail. He was remarkably restrained but still indulged himself in that special line of bollocks he specialises in – the self-aggrandizing statement disguised as humility. One choice anecdote concerned a non-fan of the band who happened to attend a gig saying that the hairs stood up on the back of his neck when they played. Bono, keen to ground himself whilst simultaneously and paradoxically raising himself to Christ level, replied: ‘you know what? That happens to us too’. Because he’s merely a prophet, see? And the music is the message. Man.
Later on, he said they continue doing what they’re doing because their job is to ‘derail the rock n’ roll mythology’ – referring to his belief that U2 are put on this planet to prove great artists don’t have to kill themselves and leave a romantic myth to truly be great. Considering the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Christ – even Paul McCartney have already sorted that one out, the statement falls redundant to the stadium floor.
To finish, Geldof explained to us thickies that people are wrong to think of Bono as cliched in his political dabblings. He said ‘expressions only become cliches because you have to repeat them again and again’. He’s right – but only if the expressions are valid in the first place. If they’re trite and simplistic then they’re cliches from the start. Real insight only needs mentioning once, and can be revealed at any time – even when a new release isn’t scheduled for months.
Get on your boots, indeed.