Transcript: U2 Dishes to Chris Cuomo

The band members of U2 dish to Chris Cuomo about their music and their causes.

ByABC News via logo
September 14, 2009, 9:53 AM

Sept. 14, 2009 — -- "Good Morning America" news anchor Chris Cuomo sat down with the international superstar band members of U2.

Read the transcript of the interview below. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

CHRIS CUOMO: So last night. Here we are in Chicago. And it is amazing how U2 literally changes this place. ... And it was almost like a cultural festival last night as well. Everybody wanted to be a little Irish last night. Is that a common experience for you all?

LARRY MULLEN JR.: I think, in general, the whole -- whole idea of U2 is to, like, engage with, like, our audience. ... So we had to figure out how to do it and how to really engage with (INAUDIBLE). That's what's special about this show. It's in 360. And the audience is such a big part of what we do. And I think last night, you -- you -- see that. But Italians are welcome. (CHUCKLE).

CUOMO: Thank you. I -- I felt like that, although I was playing a little to the Irish side, according to me... You're trying to find a way to make things more special. Well, the stage alone is just one of the most fascinating things ever to happen. Were you surprised when the concept became the reality, when -- what -- what it actually is?

BONO: Dangerously, being a rockstar bec sometimes people give you what you ask for. (CHUCKLE) And -- it's a (UNINTEL) make the crowd center of the show. By playing -- that's what happened. But how do you do that? How do you lift all that gear up and out of the way of the crowd? That was the engineering trick. Started off at -- the dinner table with forks and knives, you know, tryin' to imagine what this thing looked like that we hang all the gear off(UNINTEL). And it turned into the space junk you see behind you.

CUOMO: (CHUCKLE) No, it's really fascinating. And also, before it could start off here in Chicago -- Adam, when you think about it, you guys were touring here 20 years ago in such a different way. And now to be back in such grand fashion.

ADAM CLAYTON: Well, Chicago has just be -- always been a great music town, hasn't it? You know -- you know, there was always that -- the blues musicians comin' up in the '50s. And there's always something goingoff here. And I think it's very musician-friendly. So it's good to be back. And we've always had great audience and a great reaction. I think on the PopMart tour, we did -- we did three nights here -- which was, like, unusual compared to the rest of them.

CUOMO: People were screaming and loving it. But what is -- what is it like for you. Edge, you know, you did this -- your first show. You know, you're tryin' to get going, get into a rhythm with it. What was it like to have the first show?

THE EDGE: Well -- it was very exciting to bring this (UNINTEL) the show to America. We've been touring in Europe for the last -- month and a half. Those shows were AMAZING. But, we're very proud to bring it here because, you know, we -- we're used to playing indoors in America where in Europe we play outside alot. And on this tour, I think we really worked hard to try and put together a production that made it -- made sense in the stadium ...

You know, we really wanted to make sense of the scale of the stadium venues. And our production, I have to say -- has -- has kind of -- it now looks like a piece of architecture designed to fit into this kind of venue. And weirdly enough, it creates a kind of intimacy which we never could have achieved in a stadium before because we're so kind of in the -- in the middle. We're so exposed. And -- and -- and when the four of us come together, there's this clear view for everybody. They can really see the interaction -- the chemistry.

CUOMO: Let me ask you, on the road, which of you -- what is the consensus? Who's the most fun on the road of you four guys?

THE EDGE: I think we all have our good nights and our -- our bad nights. It -- it changes. You know, the the baton gets passedLarry, I have to say, on this tour is -- is comin' up, comin' through on the fun stakes (UNINTEL). Adam obviously (CHUCKLE) -- Adam obviously was, early on. (CHUCKLE) But Adam's -- Adam's passed on the buck.

CUOMO: It's fun -- now, Larry, you started the band.

You know, there's this obviously famous mythical story, now about you putting up the ad saying, "I want to start a band." Do you ever regret about who you picked? You know, just to lay it out there? (CHUCKLE) You ever think, "Man -- "

MULLEN: No, no, I would -- I would like to say this. No... I didn't choose these guys. It (UNINTEL) turns out they chose me. AAAH.. I -- I -- so I didn't -- I didn't have much say in -- in how -- in how it worked. It's like -- it's like -- it's a little like -- (CHUCKLE)

CUOMO: Do you regret not sticking with the name Larry Mullen Jr. Band?

MULLEN: I do. As a matter of fact, that is one of my big regrets. I think we could've (UNINTEL) this --

THE EDGE: It would've been more popular -- U2 is such a crap name...

CUOMO:But it is interesting when you study the history, something that's so successful as your collaboration, the early thoughts of, "Oh, you know -- Bono, you know, takin' that name, later. Came in, no, the guitarist maybe, maybe not. Your voice, we'll see. But what charisma." You know, Adam used the right language and the Edge, obviously -- you know, you were taken with him as an addition right away. But do you ever think back on them, those kind of -- assessments?

MULLEN: Yeah -- you -- it is hard to look back and imagine that some kind of, you know, that you sat down with a blueprint and put things in place(UNINTEL). It's so random, in a way, and so extraordinary that randomly four people could have remained -- not only friends, but musical collaborators for such a long period. Now, we can't make that shit up.You know?

BONO: It just (CHUCKLE) -- it -- it's a really -- it's a very difficult thing full stop. -- thing. Business relationships, you know, marriage and lovers, whatever it is, sticking together is almost impossible.

These -- in fact, the odds are against us. And I think that's perhaps when we walk out on stage, what people are feeling, I think, these people come through a lot together. And -- and I've heard people say that even if they don't like the band, that they have an involuntary reaction when the band walks out on stage.

Their hair stands up. What they don't know is -- is -- and it's a strange thing, but, that also happens to us. I don't know what -- what that is. But something about -- I think it's something about that it -- it -- it's against the odds to have to suffer, you know, so -- so -- sublimate your ego, your -- 'cause someone wants to be the boss. And you can't be in this band.

CUOMO: You can't be, 'cause Larry's boss.

THE EDGE: Yeah, that's why its lasted so long 'cause -- 'cause everyone thinks it's their band.

CUOMO: You think you all let -- but it worked. It worked. It worked. And I thought it was interesting last night. Everybody knows that this band distinguishes itself in terms of sense of purpose, a message -- that you try to attach to the music. Some of the choices that you're making on this current tour, "Sunday Bloody Sunday," obviously a very, very famous song. You, the images last night, you were talkin' about the Iran election. You had Arabic up there. You had pictures and scenes from Iran. What's the thinking there? What are you -- what are you tryin' the relay to people?

BONO: That if the songs change their meaning and you get truth you know, they fit different aspects of life -- and it's strange, but the -- the heroes on the streets of Iran, those that are fighting for their freedom at the moment (UNINTEL) non-violently , fighting, a matter of fact, protesting, for their freedom, they chose the color green. So this sort of segue into the Irishness of -- of Sunday Bloody Sunday seems perfect.

I can't quite remember how it happened in our rehearsal, but we started using this beautiful Sufi singer from Iran. And we commissioned an Iranian artist -- who put up the -- put some of her video art. And now I -- I -- I -- I've heard on -- on the radio -- I think it's radio free Asia, They talk about this every day that U2's spending -- I mean, it's tiny things for us in Chicago. But it means a lot to people out on the streets of Iran that there's a sense that the world is watching.

CUOMO: And right now, Adam, what is your take in terms of what people's appetite are with their minds and their hearts for reaching out to other hard situations, to wanting to care what was going on? What do you sense?

CLAYTON: I think it's difficult for people. But fundamentally, people are decent and they have a lot of compassion for -- for what's going on in other parts of the world. And -- and I know, you know, everyone's thoughts are with the troops that are in Afghanistan and what's going on there.

And these moments of -- of -- of freedom that people glimpse at like what's happening in Iran, like what's happening in Burma, for instance Au Sung Su Kyi (UNINTEL), I think -- I think the world does watch. (UNINTEL)

THE EDGE: They really get this stuff. They care deeply about it. So they don't like (UNINTEL) impact in the band because they actually go on. They do it.

CLAYTON: They join Amnesty. So it's really a culture in the sense (UNINTEL) morale up and our views (UNINTEL). We're -- we're kind of the cheerleaders for their activism.

CUOMO: It's -- it is a good way to put it because there is an atypical approach. You do not lament things that are wrong with the world. Like, last night, you had Desmond Tutu come on. He didn't talk about any negative instruction. He's all about the power of the positive and what we can do through loving one another and being considerate in situation. Is that intentional, Larry? Anybody can say, "Things are bad out there." But you, more, are tryin' to raise awareness through saying how much better it can be.

MULLEN: I think that's part of it. I mean, you just -- you -- you don't -- you don't wanna get into a situation where it becomes one big hug and love fest. it's a rock and roll band. We come from a place where, you know, political activism, you know, it's part of the D.N.A. of great rock and roll.

Clash, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, I mean -- the list goes on. So, it's part of who we are. And, you know, Desmond Tutu, and what he does and how he speaks -- and the fact that, you know, he -- you know, in charge of the truth and reconciliation -- court -- do they call it court? Yeah, in -- in -- in South Africa. Yeah, that's a huge political statement.

BONO: So, it's (UNINTEL) people -- they -- if people owned up to their crime, South African apartheid, they were -- they were set free. But one -- it -- honesty was -- the crux of it. The absolutely revolutionary radical thought --

MULLEN: I mean, so having him there, there's a lot of resonance there. It's not just about him talking about, you know, being positive about South Africa. He stands for something incredibly powerful.

THE EDGE: I think we've always believed (UNINTEL). I think our approach and, you know, early day punk rock's so moany. It's like everyone's writin' just phony lyrics about -- about -- we -- we were more like Bob Marley. We kinda, you know, knew there was bad shit goin' on. But we were -- we wanted to try and find some kind of hopeful angle to it all.

BONO: We always thought Ireland is kinda like a Jamaica type of situation. It's true, actually. Our music's (UNINTEL) community, family. It's a little rascaly actually.

CUOMO: They're actually parallel. It was interesting last night. I didn't hear any Obama talk. You guys performed at the inauguration.

BONO: Well, we mentioned the inauguration. We mentioned the inauguration and -- (UNINTEL) rights and -- and -- and what I said it was such an honor to serve the President on that occasion. But, you know, we didn't wanna get -- dragged into -- to any divisive stuff. See, the most incredible thing was around that election, you know, for those of us in Europe and people who love the United States were watchin'.

You look so close as a country. And politics are the -- you know, the way John McCain behaved with such dignity. Obama was amazing. They never, you know, they -- it was -- it was really something to see. And now, America seems so divided again.

And it's gettin' really messy out there. And -- and I -- I would say that that is the biggest casualty is that the biggest casualty of that is America itself, because the world needs America right now. Doesn't need this fractious... And whatever you think about somebody's politics -- you know, it's just very important not to demonize either on the left or on the right.

BONO: And there's a little bit of that creepin' back in. So we want our -- we're here to bring -- peace.

What we're sayin' is, "Let them Irish fight in the stadium. Everybody gonna be in (UNINTEL)." (CHUCKLE) Here, no problem, you can buy it. You can sell it. Whatever you (UNINTEL).

CUOMO: Have you -- is it -- encouraging to you that the tour has been as successful from the ticket sales, respective -- given the environment in the world right now, you know, with the recessionary -- year?

THE EDGE: We were blown away. I mean, you know, once -- like you say, we -- we weren't certain how the -- how the tickets would sell. But, it's been amazing. I mean, it's pretty much all sold out.

CUOMO: I mean, from -- everybody's havin' to adjust. You -- you hear about the big sports teams are pulling back. Big events are pulling back. There was speculation about the sales.

THE EDGE: But, so -- but I think 'cause we kept the ticket price low, which is one of the -- the other benefits of playing outdoors is because you're meeting demand, you don't get that awful scalping, secondary ticket market thing that happens when -- when you play in small venues. Here, the -- you know, what it says on the ticket's pretty much what you buy the ticket for. So, our younger fans have access prob'ly for the first time a few tourists took to these shows(UNINTEL), so it's really a thrill.

BONO: Yeah, and -- and they know that at the very -- the seat at the backand i've sat in about every one. And, you know, and -- yeah, I mean (UNINTEL) or even if they're playing, someone will be -- while -- while they're playing, I've gotten, you know, walked around and passing out -- and it is even better (CHUCKLE) right at the back. I mean, it's part rave, part, you know, I don't know what -- it's part political rally, part, you know, people can lose it -- down the front. But actually, up at the back, it's (UNINTEL). And it's a very, I think, very good -- value in that sense.

THE EDGE: Yeah, that's where the value of the (UNINTEL) really pays off.

BONO: I can't believe I just said the word value. But --

We -- all those times doin' the shows, I've done it all my life. You can't hear anything or see anything. It's like, you know, okay I'm tall so I can see. But, you know, all the people around me all the small people.

CUOMO: Gives you guys a real chance to exercise yourselves up on the stage. When I was watching yesterday, you were runnin' around. You had the bongo drum. You literally were havin' to, like, sprint over across the bridge you go. We were talkin' last night, Adam, 'bout the challenge of being on the moving bridge. How are you -- how are you adjusting to all this?

CLAYTON: A bit wobbly on the moving bridge... I don't like it.

CUOMO:So, you started here. You're heading up to Canada. When you start off on a tour like this, you have all these dates in front of you, who knows how far they'll extend, what kind of goal do you give yourself? Or where do you put your mind in terms of what you want to come out of this? Or do you not at all? Do you not even think of it that way?

THE THE EDGE: Oh, you know, the real challenge is to keep the show alive, so -- so that takes up a lot of time. But we're already working on the next album. I mean, you know, we're already talking about the new sounds.

CUOMO: Now, is there any chance the next album will actually be from the Larry Mullen band? (chuckle) is there any … 'cause I've heard that.

MULLEN:No. (chuckle)

CUOMO:'Cause there is -- there's speculation.

BONO: I have to confess that Larry -- Larry put out that speculation.

MULLEN:I'm working' on my solo record

CUOMO: So, when you're taking this all in, right, this screen is a phenomenal dynamic that you have for being connected. Even though we've seen big screens, right… what do you think this does in terms of the dynamic that it's creating? 360 aside, like, just what it gives you in terms of presentation value?


Well, it makes (unintel). Terrible thing about most screens, you're -- you're looking' off -- off to the left or the right. You -- you can't get a sense of the performance and -- and -- and see it. So with this screen, it's right over. So the -- it's -- it's really it -- keep looking' at us and get a sense of what's happening on the screen.

CUOMO:Any funny stuff happened up on there, yet?

BONO:No, no -- nothing -- too comic, yet. But I will say the -- there's been a little bit -- of -- of magic. The magic act is that, you know, with all the trucks and all the engineers building this Spaceship, for me, there's a moment in the show when it just disappears. It just -- it seems to go away. And you're just playing a song with your audience and you're completely intimate, is the word. And that's the magic act of this show, because if people go away with just that, I -- I think we'd be disappointed. As sad as we are to be art objects.


I guess the statement, too, was the power of the Music, in itself, right, is that you could have something as gigantic as This and it winds up becoming secondary in terms of people's experience.

THE EDGE: yup. Well, the thing about this during the day is so impressive looking at night is (unintel) light. The lesson is what you light is what you see. And -- a lot of the show is dark. All you're seeing is the band performing.


It was phenomenal last night. It's a real kind of statement up how things have changed or how they stay the same. Last night you said, "We'll make a U2 milky way, here. Everybody hold up their cell phones, which is such a new thing. You know, you'd see obviously, lighters, right? But, I took a picture of that and I showed it to you last night. It really does look like -- just a complete celestial sea of cell (chuckle) phones. You don't see any of this. You just see all the people and what they've kind of made as a community around you.

BONO: Tonight, we're trying a piece for a song we've never played before from an obscure album called the (unintel). And it's where we connect with the people in the international space station.


BONO:So we've been having this ongoing relationship with the astronauts and cosmonauts that they take two and half hours to -- to orbit the earth. And we have one of the astronauts performing a lyric. And he -- he recites a lyric at the end of the song. So, Tonight's the first time trying it.

CUOMO:Real time?


It is -- no, he's being recorded doing it.

CUOMO: It was a real pleasure to see the first show. I know it's very important to you, certainly Important to everybody. I wish you continued luck.

BONO:Thank you, chris. And we wish you safety and in Afghanistan and for Diane. Also, we treasure your reporting, your, and -- your courage, and your pursuit of the truth

CUOMO:Thank you. You give us reason to do it because You keep people's awareness up.

BONO:Thank you.

CUOMO:Thank you.

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