Five years after the release of How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, in March 2009 the band released No Line on the Horizon. Their 12th studio album was written and recorded in in Fez, Morocco, Dublin, Ireland, New York and Olympic Studios in London. The album calls on the production talents of long-time collaborators Brian Eno and Danny Lanois, with additional production by Steve Lillywhite.
In July 2011, two years after opening up in Barcelona, the band played the final show of U2360°. Over 26 months it became the most succesful concert tour of all time, with 110 shows to 7.1million fans in 30 countries on 5 continents.
A revolutionary production, U2360° caught the imagination of its audience, who nicknamed U2's circular stage the Claw, the Spaceship and - in Houston - the Space Station. USA Today described it as 'a four-pronged UFO anchored by a glowing 164-foot pylon and cylindrical LED screens.' But whatever it was called, for the Chicago Tribune, 'The lights, the songs, the audience all synced up. Sometimes size matters.'
Just a few weeks from the end of the tour, the band flew out of the US, back across the Atlantic and landed on a farm in the heart of rural Somerset. After all these years it was time to headline the Glastonbury Festival. OK, it rained, but that didn't stop the band setting the Festival alight - 19 songs from eight albums in an electrifying set over an hour and three quarters. Here's what they played - and what people said about a night to remember.
Just a few weeks later the tour came to a close and ahead of the closing night in Moncton, Canada, Ray Waddell of Billboard summed it all up, 'With tonight's final show, U2's 360° tour will go down as the biggest tour ever reported both in terms of box office gross and attendance. This tour is a remarkable feat on a global scale, from its staging and production, to its video elements, all the way to the scaling of the house, routing and execution. Most importantly, U2 rocked mightily all over the world.'
Some other U2360° facts: 10 million watched a live stream of U2360° at the RoseBowl on YouTube; 320,000 Fans saw 360° in Mexico City ; 7,100 miles - approximate distance travelled by space station while talking with U2; 5,200 Years - collective touring experience of U2 tour personnel ; 400 tons - weight of the fully loaded claw; 134 Crew Members ; 126 Truck Drivers; 53 gigs attended by a single fan; 33 Flemish Speaking Crew members; 11 Babies Born To Crew ; 7 Astronauts Attended; 4 Appreciative Irishmen; 1 Singer in Surgery; 1 World Leader Released From House Arrest During Tour.
In October 2013, the band revealed they'd written a new song, 'Ordinary Love', for the biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris. Produced by Danger Mouse, the song was released in a 10-inch vinyl pressing to mark Record Store Day on November 29th and the single sleeve featured a painting of Nelson Mandela by Irish artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers. Oliver, along with Mac Premo, directed a lyric video for Ordinary Love.
'We thought it should be a love song, a very human song. ' Edge explained, when asked about how the band approached the request by movie producer Harvey Weinstein to write a song for the movie. 'Not epic, not earnest in dealing with world-changing political shifts but personal in two people trying to hold on to one another in the face of dreadful mistreatment and heartbreak.' The song went on to win the golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in January 2014 and was nominated for an Oscar at the ceremony in February, where the band performed it live.
In February 2014, the band released another single, 'Invisible'. Produced by Danger Mouse and mixed by Tom Elmhirst, Invisible marked the launch of a partnership with (RED) and Bank Of America in the campaign to create an AIDS free generation. For 36 hours, every time the track was downloaded from iTunes, the Bank made a donation of $1 to (RED) for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. More than $3m was raised and when the track went on sale, all proceeds from 'Invisible' on iTunes continued to go to (RED) for the Global Fund.
'The early lyrics were set on a train coming into London for the first time.' said Bono. ' I remember sleeping in Euston station, being broke... coming out of the subway into the spring of 1979, being 18 years old, it was punk rock in London.'
The video for 'Invisible', directed by Mark Romanek, was shot in black and white, in a Santa Monica airport hangar, over three days in January. With a cast of 1200. And flashlights. A sixty second clip premiered on February 2nd during the Super Bowl, to launch the partnership with (RED).
Out of the blue, on September 9th 2014, the band turned up at the Cupertino launch of the new iPhone and Apple Watch. Apple head Tim Cook explained that a decade previously 'we began a deep collaboration with one of the best bands of all time - and that band is U2.' Taking the stage, the band performed a brand new song, 'The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)' - after which Bono spoke with Cook and revealed some news. The song was the lead single from a new album called 'Songs Of Innocence' and the eleven tracks, finished less than a week ago, were now ready for release. Literally now. As he spoke, iTunes were putting the album automatically into the music libraries of 500million customers in 119 countries around the world. It would, said Cook, be 'the largest album release of all time.'
Bono described how it all came together. 'Remember us? Pleased to announce myself, Edge, Adam and Larry have finally given birth to our new baby... Songs of Innocence. It's been a while. We wanted to get it right for you/us. We just finished it last week and thanks to Apple and iTunes it's with you today. That's already amazing to me as it normally takes a few months to turn this stuff around.'
Hailed by critics as a great work of art, Songs Of Innocence was attacked by some for the means of distribution.The band faced critics down: 'It's the job of art to be divisive.' They talked about the groundbreaking release in a video on Facebook.
A month later, Songs Of Innocence was released on CD & Vinyl, the striking cover art featuring Larry Mullen Jr protecting his 18 year old son. The image resonated with the band's iconic 1980 debut album Boy and, three years later, the War album. Both featured the face of a child, Peter Rowen, the younger brother of Guggi, Bono's childhood friend growing up on Cedarwood Road.
The eleven tracks on Songs Of Innocence, a kind of musical autobiography, chart U2's earliest influences from 70s rock and punk to early 80s electronica and soul... and reveal how music changed everything. As Bono sings in 'The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)', 'I woke up when the miracle occurred/ Heard a song that made some sense out of the world...' Exploring themes of home and family, relationships and discovery, detailed liner notes fill out the picture with resonant stories, like one of the first gigs the teenage band got into. 'The 4 members of U2 went to see the Ramones playing in the state cinema in Dublin without thinking about how we were going to get in. we had no tickets and no money. My best friend Guggi had a ticket and he snuck us through a side exit he pried open. The world stopped long enough for us to get on it. Even though we only saw half the show, it became one of the great nights of our life....'