It's safe to say that no one has had a homecoming like U2.
Try naming another music act asked by the government to perform a second concert after the first sold out in a half-hour.
Actually, nothing about last year's hugely profitable Elevation Tour was business as usual for Bono, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton and The Edge. At the end of the European leg, the Grammy-winning supergroup played two dates at their native Ireland's Slane Castle, where they had opened for Thin Lizzy 20 years earlier. The concerts are merged into the new CBS special "U2's Beautiful Day," airing at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29. Selections include "Walk On" and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," from the hit album "All That You Can't Leave Behind," and "One," from the band's just-released "The Best of 1990-2000" CD.
While it was no surprise that homegrown fans grabbed the 80,000 available U2 concert tickets in the relative blink of an eye, not even Bono expected Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern -- then vying for re-election -- to hastily push through a revised permit law so a second concert could be held. "I'm sure that came from hearing from his kids and others that there was trouble brewing," Bono says. "There really was, because people were very angry (over missing out on the initial tickets). Police were called ... I think it's great that he got involved."
Originally, the film of U2's Slane Castle concerts wasn't meant for general viewing. "We did it for posterity," Bono says, "but I, for one, was dead set against it. Our manager, Paul McGuinness, has been very deft but not at all invasive with his guidance over the years. He'll come to us with great ideas like, 'You should own your copyrights.' It isn't very often that he gets excited about something, so I pay attention when he does. He said, 'Slane Castle is a big event, and whether you want it now or not, you should have it filmed for your family or whatever.'
"It's hard enough for me to listen to my own voice," Bono says, "so watching myself perform is (harder still). The relationship between U2 and its Irish audience is very intimate, so I didn't know how it would work in a situation where someone can turn the sound down or change the color or hit 'pause' and go out for a hot dog. It may be megalomaniacal to think like this, but I've always had the instinct that if you're performing live, you're in control. When that's removed, you can lose all the magic."
Bono knows that some aspects of live performance don't translate well to television. "We're the group that would appear as kids on (the British music show) 'Top of the Pops,' then our single would go down the charts. We didn't understand how to be in front of television cameras. Being in a live band is like being a theater actor rather than a film actor; you're throwing not just your voice, but also yourself, to the back of the hall. It can just look very over-the-top (on a screen)."
Bono had more personal concerns during the concerts that comprise "U2's Beautiful Day." He recalls, "My father had just died, so there was a lot going on. Also, Ireland had just qualified for the World Cup, and we had run the game on the screens (at Slane Castle). Soccer is more powerful than the Catholic Church in Ireland, so the country was just on fire. In the end, with the way (the special) was lit and the way it was filmed, it's raw in the right way. We were there with our 'tribe,' because that's where U2 came from. We thought it might be nice to show that to the rest of the world."
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