Arguably no book release of the year was more eagerly awaited by music journalists than Bono’s memoir, Surrender. In fact, many reviews of the U2 singer’s autobiography read as if the colleagues were so excited that they drafted parts of their reviews before there was even a single line of the book cover to read. The first reviews read about the “mullet man with the messiah complex” and even, harder still, about the “politician mascot”. The phrase “Pop and politics don’t belong together” is particularly nice – which of course isn’t true. Pop and politics belong together, because it is pop singers who reach masses of young people and, through their lyrics, their melodies and their appearance – which reflect their own lives and their identity – shape the lives of these people, who themselves become people with certain attitudes to life . That’s why Harry Styles, Lizzo, Lady Gaga, Sam Smith and King Princess are so successful.

    The cover of the autobiography “Surrender – 40 songs, one story” by Bono, U2 singer and activist. The book was published by Verlag Droemer Knaur

    Of course, Bono is a bit out of character in this list, he’s a white straight man in his 60s. But the fact that he’s conferred with politicians more than any other rock star – apart from Bob Geldof – in the past 40 years may also be due to the fact that he has more influence than other artists of his generation. Not everyone knows that Bono always knew how to take his aura with humor. During his performance at Berlin’s Admiralspalast on Wednesday (November 23) he celebrates the self-mockery, but also the honest self-pity that characterizes his wonderful “Surrender” book. And what is that performance? An Orpheus story, a concert, a lecture, a revue, a cabaret. no reading Good this way.

    Paul Hewson, as Bono Vox, long just Bono, really is called, tells of his childhood, the first steps with Edge, Larry and Adam, of whom Luciano Pavarotti always thought his name was James. The first successes with U2, the death of his mother when he was 14 and the father who met the loss of his wife with icy grief. Behind Bono is a screen with digital projections of his stylistically reduced and pointed portrait line drawings of the most important people in his life.

    Bono is accompanied at the DJ desk by his longtime companion and compatriot, the producer Jacknife Lee, a cellist and a singing harpist. Basically, with this line-up, Bono offers the most intimate U2 concert in Germany for decades. Opening with 2004’s “City of Blinding Lights,” her latest hit if we’re honest, moving on to “Vertigo” and “With or Without You,” then presenting classics in chronological order. He foregoes the Berlin and Las Vegas periods (and the not-so-good stuff from the 1990s onwards).

    It’s hard to say which is better this evening: the live performances or the narration

    Dramaturgically, however, some things do not fit together. In “Where The Streets Have No Name” Panama is not faded in, but the African continent; Strictly speaking, however, the process of creating this freedom anthem is associated with the USA. When Bono talks about “Live Aid”, he immediately moves on to “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”. It was the song that drew Geldof’s attention to U2, but the band didn’t play it at the charity concert because they didn’t have the time – their singer was flirting with a woman in the audience – IN the audience – for too long.

    It’s hard to say which is better this evening: the live performances or the narration. When Bono sings, you look forward to the next anecdote. When he talks about his life, one wonders what song he will sing next. His vocals are reminiscent of the crooner he was in the million dollar hotel band at the beginning of the millennium, even “Stories for Boys” sounds like it’s from a nightclub. However, one does not have to have read the memoirs to follow Bono’s story. A teleprompter is at least apparently not to be seen, the 62-year-old seems to speak freely for the whole two hours. He quotes half of the first chapter of his book almost word for word.

    Would Paul Hewson have made a good actor? This is now considered fairly certain. He speaks and acts in five different roles for this performance. He speaks himself, he speaks Adam Clayton, manager Paul McGuinness, Luciano Pavarotti and his father Bob Hewson. He even manages to make Pavarotti, Bob Hewson and himself interact. Even with closed eyes you can clearly hear who is performing. Although sometimes he doesn’t even know who he is – which ends in a grandiose exclamation: “Hey! It’s me! BONO! Paul!” The only thing missing is McPhisto, the persona from the 1993 “Zooropa” tour, with which he first revealed his talent for acting, and who suffered from delusional ideas about world domination.

    Bono’s storyline is of course similar to his band U2’s 2015 Innocence + Experience tour, in which he reported on his first steps towards autonomy. It is the coming-of-age story of the silent despair after the death of Iris Hewson, the story of the Ramones’ music that he heard in the nursery, to which he danced awkwardly, and which became his outlet. He tells of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. From Sunday Bloody Sunday.

    And of course he also praises himself. “We can end poverty!” he shouts into the hall. “Red”, “One” – he fades in the names of the charities he has donated. 35 million children, says Bono, could have gone to school thanks to the work of his NGOs. “We fuckin’ love you, Germany!” he says, because the Merkel government was willing to accept his suggestions and would have given a lot of money. Anyone can laugh at all of this. Is it there again, the “messiah complex”? Bono, the “mascot” of politicians? The only question is whether it would have been better if Bono had never made anything of his position politically instead.

    The most touching chapter of “Surrender” is right at the beginning. It’s about shame. Bono wonders how it is possible that he sings lamentably about the death of his mother, who died 40 years ago, on the “Innocence” tour in front of 18,000 people and in his mid-50s. Isn’t that ridiculous? Whether something was not worked out. His mother’s grave is now displayed on the screen. The tombstone reads: “Iris”. Then another grave appears next to it. The tombstone reads “Paul”. Which rock star dares to make this commitment to remain a son forever? Until death. Lennon maybe, but he died too soon.

    The father once conducted “La Traviata” in front of the stereo with knitting needles. The son watched in admiration. Bono says Bob Hewson was never interested in his son’s mega career. But he thought a lot of tenors – which is why he couldn’t believe that Pavarotti of all people was interested in Paul Hewson. “Surrender” could have been a story about inheritance, but it became a story about emancipation from parents, but also about the recognition of boundaries that cannot be crossed in the process. Somehow you always remain a son or daughter.

    Much has been said about Bono’s voice over the past decade, and rightly so. Even a short audio sample of the past U2 tour bootlegs, whether via the soundboard or the radio tap from Bonos In-Ears, revealed some serious vocal problems. There is no sign of these problems tonight. “When someone important dies,” says Bono, “something transfers from them to you. For me, it was the voice that changed after my father died.”

    And then Bono does the tenor. For his father. He sings a song, not a U2 hit, but “Torna a Surriento”. Like Pavarotti sang it? No, not with the same quality. But as it does him justice when a rock singer tries it. And that’s quite a lot.

    After the last tones from a swollen chest, Bono leaves the stage. There is no encore. The story is told. You can show your wounds openly and still walk away victorious.

    — picture alliance/dpa/Verlag Droemer Knaur

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