- 15 Nov 18
At U2’s Berlin gig on Tuesday night, Bono told the audience that U2 were "going away.” At the end of a long and arduous period touring, it is the kind of statement designed to fuel speculation about the band’s future, as fans ask: “is this the end?"
Speculation erupted today that U2 – frequently hailed as the greatest rock ’n‘ roll band in the world – might have played their last gig. At the end of the band’s eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour last night in Berlin, inadvertently or otherwise, Bono fuelled the speculation when he stated that the band were "going away now." Missing was the addendum which had followed that statement in the past, notably at the Point Theatre gig at the end of the Lovetown tour in 1989: “…to dream it all up again.” The phrase “going away now" inevitably felt like a corkscrew to the collective heart of U2 fans who were at the Mercedes-Benz arena to hear it. But what Bono meant by the statement remains to be seen. "We've been on the road for quite some time now – it's going on 40 years,” the frontman confessed, "and these last four years have been really something very special for us. We're going away now." Bono alluded also to the very special relationship the band has enjoyed with its fans, thanking those who had followed them all over the world. "It's astonishing. You're ridiculous people!" he said. But it was said with obvious affection and reverence.
While the apparently elegiac sentiment is not new for Bono, the very difficult circumstances of recent years have clearly put added pressure on U2 – something which collectively they cannot afford to ignore. In particular, the infamous – but as yet still unexplained – “brush with mortality” experienced by Bono himself has inevitably cast a shadow over the band’s potential future plans.
“The truth is that U2 began the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE project more than five years ago,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said, responding to the speculation that this might be the final act from U2. “With the stadium-sized anniversary Joshua Tree tour sandwiched in between, they have been on the road for almost four years consecutively, which is a huge commitment.
“Over the past few years, Bono in particular has been through some deeply traumatic experiences,” he added, “from the crash in Central Park through the brush with immortality to losing his voice onstage in Berlin recently. So there is no doubt right now that he needs to step back and take a rest.
“You have to recognise the epic scale of the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE project. It involved delving back into the band’s earliest days in Dublin, re-examining all of that, and using it as a springboard to interrogate what it is, and what it means, personally, creatively and politically, to be up there amongst the biggest bands ever in the history of rock ’n’ roll.
“U2 did that fearlessly and the albums and the tours were magnificent as a result. But it is the kind of exercise which takes a lot out of you emotionally and artistically. And there is a real question that all four members of the band will ask themselves now, which is: where do we go from here? Poring over the past can be a good and hugely instructive thing to do. But it can also make you more aware of the tensions between what you are – or what you have become – and what you might really want to be.
“As it happens, a lot of people felt that U2’s recent shows were particularly powerful, telling and emotional. They also involved a return to the political values which inspired the band through the 1980s. You could argue: this would be a wonderful note to go out on.
“Instead, however, I would take the view that it was like a reaffirmation of just how potent a force U2 have been for the past 40 years – and were again throughout the recent tour. On eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE, they proved that they have that special magic, which enables them to deliver live in a way that few other bands in the history of rock ’n’ roll could even aspire to. It was the kind of vaulting achievement which made you feel: bring on the next album.
“And so I think it is important not to feel too downhearted. Whatever will be, will be. In fact, I can fully understand why the band might want to call it a day on the live touring front because it is a very tough life and it takes its toll. But if they make another record then they will want to tour it.
"Besides, there is a story, which they had started to piece together on this tour, about the life and career of a 4-piece rock band from the north side of Dublin that might well be turned into a major, world-beating musical, and which – if they were to feature as musicians – could be locked down in New York, London or Dublin for months on end.
"In truth, what is vital – and can be shouted from the rooftops – is that they have fucked the begrudgers, and shown that still have the vision, the restless energy and the rock'n'roll suss to create wonderful new music.
"Bono has already said that he takes nothing for granted, and neither should we. But however U2 decide to proceed, my gut feeling is that further adventures are likely. Until someone says otherwise for sure, then the dream is still alive."