‘Stories Of Surrender’ The Book Tour

Apr 29 2023
New York City, NY, US / Beacon Theatre
Show Report
Show report coming soon
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Beacon Theatre, 4/29/23
Bono At The Beacon Theatre, April 29, 2023 I haven't been to a concert in a decade. My wife and I used to go to many concerts, but as we've gotten older, we've both preferred the comforts of home to the crowds of the theatres and stadiums. Growing agoraphobia post-9/11 coupled with the COVID pandemic, and we've pretty much sworn them off. But Bono's doing a string of one-man shows at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan. The Beacon is a small venue, intimate and close even in the back row. Tickets were available, pricey, but... how often do we do these types of things. We don't really travel. And here we are smack between my birthday and our 25th anniversary of being together (15th married). If that ain't cause for a nice upper-west-side date night, I don't know what is. So we made a night of it and reserved an Uber for the trip there and back (no trains, no cabs, no having to park, no having to drive in the hellscape that is Manhattan... perfect). The trip down was lovely. I'm not used to being a passenger very often. It was nice just to sit and relax and watch the trees go by, the rocks along the side of the roadway, and eventually, the misty Hudson River under the GWB. It was rainy and raw, making the door-to-door car service all the more luxurious. We got to the venue and immediately had to lock up our phones and smartwatches in Yondr. Pouches. We knew this was required, so we were prepared. I left my precious phone at home but still had to lock up my smartwatch. Unfortunately, in my fear of needing some sort of fidget tech before the show or while waiting for a car, I packed my Kindle (thinking it wouldn't be an issue since it doesn't record). Nope, they made me check that too. Oh well. Another oversight was the little blue Leatherman Squirt that I keep in my pocket. I couldn't bring it in, and they wouldn't let me check it. I had to throw it out. Ugh. Idiot, I thought. So funny... that little Squirt is less a weapon than the ballpoint pens and keys that they let me keep on my person... but I digress. We made our way to our seats on the balcony, and noticing that the merch line upstairs was MUCH shorter than the merch line downstairs, I purchased some way overpriced swag. Hell, YOLO for Bono, y'know? View from the seats was fantastic. My only wish is that I could see his face a little better, but, as I said earlier, we could've been in the back, and it still would've been close. The show. Let's talk about the show. I'm not even sure how to describe it. But I'd like to while it's not yet 24 hours removed from my memory. While the well-chosen warm-up music played, a single chair stood center stage under a spotlight. Scrims on either side had the name of the show, "Bono: Stories of Surrender," and a doodle of Bono's face (from the book cover). There were other scattered tables and chairs about the stage and a few keyboard stands and chairs for the musicians. I had a small sketch pad in my satchel, so as my wife and I sat waiting, chatting, and enjoying each other's company, I sketched what I saw on stage. I'm so happy I did that. Maybe this locking up electronics (as much of an invasive PITA it is) isn't such a bad idea. The warmup music started to build, get louder, more urgent... the crowd started clapping, the lights went down, and Bono's voice and silhouette proceeded the man himself. He comes out, and the harpist Gemma Doherty, cellist Katie Ellis, and Jacknife Lee lead Bono into a gorgeous version of "City of Blinding Lights." I get chills, goosebumps, vapers, and all the other cliches of being in the presence of greatness.Bono's voice is... crazy good. Like, it shouldn't be this good. Clearly, he's been doing this for a while... lol. The show was a real dramatic one-man show. Bono played the role of storyteller, bandleader, entertainer, singer, comedian, and impressionist while interspersing snippets of songs and weaving them into stories from his memoir. He even moved chairs and props with joyful and easygoing aplomb. 2500 people in the venue, and we all felt like he was talking only to us. So much of his story revolved around the people closest to him in his life. He consciously told a story of his growth as a human through those he loves and those who love him. A recurring moment was these little talks he would have with an empty chair at the "Sorrento Lounge" with his "Da." He often talked heart-wrenchingly about the loss of his mother, Iris... but when things got really heavy, he'd give a nice wink, nod, and sprinkle in that lovingly Irish humor. He gave a monologue on the harrowing open-heart surgery he experienced on Christmas Day, 2016, standing upon a table discussing how he left his body and saw himself being worked on by a master surgeon. He open-heartedly discussed his cracked-open heart, a heart that stayed open for the 2-hour show and managed to crack open the hearts of the audience who hung on his every word (mostly... more on that later...) The music was gorgeous. Cellist, Harpist, and jack of all trades Jacknife Lee filled in the soundscapes we're used to Edge, Larry, and Adam creating. It's a testament to how beautiful the music of U2 is when you hear it coming to life on these "classical" instruments. While banging away at sequencers, keyboards, etc., Lee was also providing tympanic percussion (on a real tympany) that seemed to vibrate in time with my heart. The cello swelling Edge's sublime guitar crescendos from "Where The Streets Have No Name" while bombastic orchestral drums and the pizzicato of the harp blurred all lines between oxygen and ambiance was more beautiful than anything I can capture in phonetic characters. Even though The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr weren't there, it felt like they were. He addressed them during certain monologues, speaking to their empty chairs and reenacting formative moments. He described his wife in ways that made me feel like he was talking about my wife and me... so many connective moments. I guess that's why he's always been a major role model of mine. I saw so much of my life in his. Sure, he's a rock star from Dublin, and I'm a teacher from New York... but his drive, creativity, love, sense of justice, ego, even... so many commonalities in his story. Hell, when I'm having a good class teaching, I almost feel like him holding an audience in the palm of his hand. Moments of transcendence come now and then, and in those moments, I feel the swelling U2 song in my heart... because how many bands can capture that level of soul-aching emotional beauty the way they can? A handful, if that. He's one of the few "celebrities" with whom I would love to have dinner. Just time to talk over a cup of coffee. There's a magnetic charism, there's bluster, pomp, and circumstance, megalomania even, but a clear bright soul in a sleeveless heart. You realize there's not much up that sleeve but "a red guitar, three chords, and the truth," to quote the man himself. At the end, he told us that when a loved one dies, they bequeath something to us. He told us his mother gave him us, his life, his art, his band, his fans. He said his father's death turned him into a true tenor. He then blasted out a portion of "Torna a Surriento" in Pavarati-esque tenor that elevated every heart, every lung, every tear, and every spirit in the house. Clearly, this man has been working on his voice. Always a strong instrument, it has become otherworldly with age and experience. Sartre said, "hell is other people," and while he may have been a little hyperbolic in his assessment, I can't help but think of the cheerfully existential Frenchman's take when I attend a public event such as this. This was a relatively pricey event, on Broadway, on Manhattan's Upper Westside. The Beacon was dripping with middle-aged white privilege, and it was a little much... also harrowing realizing that while rubbing elbows with these neo-yuppies, I was part of their caste. But I've never been one for that crowd. It's why I felt alienated in my hometown growing up in a homogeneously privileged suburban New York town. I've rebelled against the silver spoon as soon as I saw it for what it was, and I ain't stopping now. Since a lot of the vapid class was present, the clueless late-comers were milling about, and the drunk hedge-fund managers were staggering during poignant moments to get a drink or take a leak. Ah... takes all kinds. Tolerance is a difficult mindset, especially when it's toleration of "the man" in an unfair postcapitalist hellscape. But when I woke up this morning after... it was the music, the joy, the creation, the love, the inspiration that resonated. Bono self-consciously and self-deprecatingly acknowledges the privilege his life and fans have allowed him. But it seems he's always striven to use that gift for good. He talks about his young self trying to reconcile his Christianity with stardom... he realized he would change more lives by sharing the love that transcends religion through the music he and his brothers create. He couldn't have been more right.
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