- 22 Nov 17
10 Hot Press writers share their favourite U2 moments as we get set for the release of Songs of Experience on December 1. On our second day, Hot Press stalwart Jackie Hayden takes us back to when U2 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
My favourite U2 moment is when Bruce Springsteen inducted the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in March, 2005 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Quite often these formalities are drenched with insincere platitudes and exaggerated levels of po-faced worship. Thankfully, Bruce took a different tack, introducing a sense of intelligent humour that not only rendered his induction entertaining in itself but was also a plus for the band whom he knew had the confidence to take a joke or two.
This was no bad thing given that the response to U2’s global activities proved that you get little thanks for trying to be a positive force on the planet, and Bono in particular was much in the firing line from the usual horde of begrudgers who crawl out from under their stones whenever there’s a bit of mindless mouthing to be done. So it was time to lighten up, and Bruce was the man to deliver.
It was well into the midnight hour before the deed was complete. Bruce opened with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “uno, dos, tres, catorce” that Bono uses to kick-start ‘Vertigo’. That translates from Spanish as one, two, three, fourteen, and Bruce makes a jokey meal out of the fact that this goes way beyond the vision of most rockers, including himself we presume, who basically only go “one, two, three, four”. QED and cue laughter.
Bruce talked about the first time he’d seen U2 on stage when he went to a show in London with Pete Townshend in the early 80s. It was good to be reminded that even mega-stars go to gigs too. He mocked Bono's infamous ‘80s mullet as well as U2’s iPod commercial.
On a serious level, he described U2 as “a step forward and direct descendants of the great bands who believed that rock music could shake things up in the world. They dared to have faith in their audience. They believed that if they played their best, it would bring out the best in you.”He talked about The Edge as a guitar stylist, and Larry (“the band’s good-looking member”) and the professorial Adam as the “great rhythm section where the band finds its sexuality and its dangerousness.” After praising Bono’s operatic voice “shot through with self-doubt” and movingly talked about how Bono’s “beautiful lyric writing gives the often-celestial music of U2 its fragility and its realness.”
When it was Bono’s turn to speak he thanked the usual suspects and then acknowledged Larry’s “brutal honesty”, the skills and no-nonsense of The Edge, and his friendship and utter trust in Adam.
The Edge, referencing the film Spinal Tap, admitted “how easy it is to parody what we all do. The first time I saw it, I didn’t laugh, I wept, because I recognized so many of those scenes.” Larry said some kind words too, and Adam admitted how being in U2 saved his life.
They then played ‘Until the End of the World’, while Bono did his wandering around the A-list audience party piece, singing to Catherine Zeta-Jones and spraying champagne around the place. ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’ came next, with impromptu lyrics to acknowledge Springsteen. For ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ Bono said, “When I say that America is not just a country but an idea, I’m thinking about people like Bruce Springsteen.” Halfway through, Bruce came on with a Strat in hand and sang the last verse with Bono.
Fittingly, to get us back to where Bruce had started the induction, they ended with ‘Vertigo’ with Bono describing it as a Spanish lesson for Bruce. And that was the end, a night of great emotion, exhilarating music, warm friendships and laugh-out-loud humour. It gets better than that sometimes, but not very often.