There are a lot of disadvantages to living in the New York City area, but sometimes a special event occurs which makes me very happy and grateful that I do. One that comes to mind was attending Gavin Friday’s 50th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall where part of the Virgin Prunes reunited and U2 performed.
Last Sunday, thanks to social networking (tweet, tweet!) and a good friend, I found out tickets were going on sale that very day for a conversation with Bono and the Edge at the 92nd Street Y. The event would take place on the eve of the opening of Spider-Man on Broadway. I immediately got tickets and thank goodness I did. It sold out shortly after as the venue is a small but beautiful one at the Y called the Kaufmann Concert Hall. It was part of a Broadway series that would be moderated by Jujamcyn Theater President, Jordan Roth. I knew this discussion would be primarily about Spider-Man due to the timing and the nature of the series. This was something that interested me as I have been a supporter of this project from the beginning. Unlike many of my fellow U2 fans, I don’t feel upset in the least that this project has gotten in the way of releasing a new album. I think outside projects that collaborate with others challenge an artist and only makes them better when they return to their own work. The fact that Bono and Edge were actually taking on doing the music for a Broadway show was even better as I am a big fan of Broadway. Perhaps that is because I grew up seeing these productions. I truly know how talented these performers are. Bono acknowledged that last night at the Y. The amount of shows U2 has done in 3 years , these performers do in a summer.
It was nice to hear what they had to say about Spider-Man in their own words and to be asked questions by someone who works on Broadway. The first question asked was why do this at all ? Bono said he and Edge always like to take on something they know nothing about. They wanted the challenge. He did go on to say the real reason that made them say yes was a result of something Broadway legend Andrew Lloyd Weber once said at an awards ceremony that honored his work. Andrew thanked the rock people for leaving him alone! That sparked Bono to take on this challenge of the rock stars invading Broadway so to speak. Andrew is actually going to be a guest of Bono and Edge at this evening’s opening performance.
Mr. Roth also made mention of a metaphor Bono used about their journey – a spaceship. He said he and Edge picked the planet they wanted to travel to (this musical). Julie Taymor was the astronaut that took them there. Tony Adams ( who started this project with them) was the NASA control center. When Tony suffered a stroke and passed away, it was as if NASA went up in flames. In sticking with this metaphor, they needed to rebuild NASA. There is no doubt in my mind that Bono and Edge adore Julie Taymor and miss her. In fact, they said they owed it to her to make this succeed. She would always be a big part of this show, but as we have already heard, just “got too close and couldn’t see the changes that were needed.” Bono stressed that along with all the flying and action, in the end you have to feel for the characters in your heart. With two villains (Green Goblin and Julie’s Arachne from Greek mythology) , that was not happening. They now believe you do feel for the main characters of Peter/Spider-Man and his love Mary Jane. Edge made a point of saying how difficult it was to change the show and some of the music. It is certainly not as easy as changing a song in their set list on the 360 Tour!
A very touching moment for me was when Jordan asked Bono if he related to Peter Parker with the loss of his mother at a young age. This was about the same age Peter loses his uncle. Peter is also an orphan. Bono acknowledged that the abandonment issue was a common bond with him and the character. He made note that in hip hop it is the absence of the father that is dealt with often but in rock and roll it is the absence of the mother. Bono made us laugh at times, but I know this question touched him deeply as it did me. He went off the Spider-Man topic for a bit here when he told us that the only time his mother ever saw him perform was in his school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. He told us she was amused but didn’t think he should really pursue singing! This was a very lovely moment in the conversation.
Audience members got questions in as well. When asked what song they wished they had written, Bono immediately answered “Amazing Grace” and “Help Me Make It Through The Night” by Kris Kristofferson. When Bono was asked what part of the world the next Ghandi would come from, he answered Africa and praised Desmond Tutu.
Edge called himself the side man to Bono’s front man. He feels his job in U2 is to inspire Bono. He also cautions his friend to stick to his art and not get overly wrapped up in the politics of things. That is where he feels Bono can make the biggest difference in this world.
They spoke a bit about their families. Edge explained how difficult it is to be the wife of a rock star. Bono talked about reliving his childhood through each of his children, especially his boys. It was quite nice to hear Bono and the Edge speak about other things in their life beside their music with U2.
Bono gave a shout out to Salman Rushdie who was in the audience.
So as I write this it is just a few hours from the official opening night of Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark. I saw a preview in January and enjoyed it very much. I am looking forward to seeing the new version again soon. I think Bono and Edge wrote a wonderful score. They should be very proud of their accomplishment as writing for the Broadway stage is no easy feat. I wish each and everyone associated with this production much success. I happen to be in your corner rooting for you as many in the Broadway community are according to Bono. The only thing I won’t say is….break a leg!
I’d like to give my shout out to the 92nd Street Y who always has wonderful events like this one. Jordan Roth did a first rate job with this discussion. He is doing so much innovative work on Broadway. Bono made sure to acknowledge that with an applause.
The conversation with Bono and the Edge was interesting, intelligent, very funny, and most of all from the heart. To see them and hear them in their own words in such a small setting was a treat for this U2 fan!