Books: Bono - Stories of Surrender, Armadillo, Glasgow

This was a book event with a difference, writes Fiona Shepherd, as Bono gave a theatrical reading of salient passages from his new memoir interspersed with rapturously arranged, slightly truncated versions of beloved U2 songs

Books: Bono – Stories of Surrender, Armadillo, Glasgow

As Bono was quick to affirm, most of the key, enduring relationships in his life – with his wife and his bandmates – were established in the same week at school 46 years ago. It was certainly an unusual thrill to see the U2 frontman on a relatively small stage, solo for once, or at least in different company, for this book event with a difference.

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Along with cellist Kate Ellis, harpist Gemma Doherty and producer Jacknife Lee (dubbed “the three terrors”), he delivered a theatrical performed reading of salient passages from his memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, interspersed with rapturously arranged, slightly truncated versions of beloved U2 songs which showed off his voice in all its diverse tonal glory.

Bono at the Armadillo, Glasgow, 17 November
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If he was intimidated by the intimacy, he didn’t show it. Instead, the man “born with his fists up” was primed “to take the Armadillo on and take the armour off”. There were tales of early rehearsals, the conjuring of classic tracks, with the signature riffs picked out on harp and/or cello to tantalising effect and Bono reining in his emphatic delivery only slightly, plus the benchmark moments such as Live Aid – the one moment in the 100-minute show when the Armadillo stirred like a stadium.

There were encounters with fellow superstars – Pavarotti, with or without Princess Diana – but these were chosen to support the main narrative thread of the show, Bono’s tetchy but tender relationship with his opera-loving widower father Bob, portrayed as a series of beautifully pitched, drily witty encounters in their local pub lounge which would always begin with Bob’s question: “anything strange or startling?” and proceed with his son’s vain attempts to impress. Surely even the obdurate Bob would have been moved by the emotional power of his closing song, Come Back to Sorrento.

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