The world of rock music is gearing up for U2's world-wide Vertigo tour, scheduled to commence March 28, 2005, in support of U2's latest offering How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, released in November 2004, and already over the 2-million mark in sales. The tour is confidently expected to be one of the highest-grossing of the year, doubling the take on 2001's Elevation tour. The band is nominated for three Grammys, and additionally will appear on the show. All in all, 2005 looks likely to the another banner year for the Irish supergroup, currently celebrating 25 years in the rock spotlight, and showing little signs of tapering off.
Never one to rest on his laurels, charismatic frontman Bono has also been keeping extraordinarily busy putting the faith and social consciousness of his music into action to combat both the AIDS epidemic and economic struggles in Africa, among other worthy causes.
In 1999, he joined the Jubilee 2000 (later called Drop The Debt) movement, dedicated to erasing the public debt of 52 of the world’s poorest countries. In 2002, he founded DATA (Debt, Aid, Trade for Africa), took his case to the people via Oprah, joined Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum and traveled to Africa with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. The musician/ambassador is credited by some with convincing President Bush to provide an additional $5 billion in aid to the beleaguered continent.
While on Oprah, he only briefly mentioned his “day job” of being the lead singer and driving creative force of one of the world’s most acclaimed rock bands.
The band’s story begins humbly in 1976, when drummer Larry Mullen posted a notice at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, seeking to form a band. His respondents—Paul Hewson (aka Bono), Dave Evans (The Edge) and Adam Clayton—first called themselves Feedback, then The Hype before settling on U2.
True to the band’s Irish roots, U2’s first break was winning a St. Paddy’s Day talent contest in Limerick, one of whose judges was Jackie Heyden of CBS Records, who arranged their first demo session. After a few false starts, they signed to CBS Records Ireland and released a successful debut EP, U2:3, in 1979, and a popular follow-up Another Day. While building a reputation in the UK with a series of hit singles, U2 after signing to Island Records also became a popular live attraction both at home and in the U.S. on the strength of Bono’s intense vocals and the band’s rhythmic power.
Their 1981 debut October was driven by a religious fire that approached evangelism, and U2 launched its reputation as a socially conscious unit with their song New Year’s Day, inspired by the Polish Solidarity Movement. The following albums, War (which featured the haunting Sunday Bloody Sunday) and the live Under a Blood Red Sky (which hit #28 on the U.S. charts) were favorites with both fans and critics, and brought them to the brink of superstardom.
Long before 1987’s The Joshua Tree transformed U2 into veritable global superstars (reaching #1 in 22 countries), U2 had been dubbed “The Band of the Eighties” by Rolling Stone based partially on the success of The Unforgettable Fire (1984), their first project produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The band’s memorable participation at Live Aid (where they ran Bad out to 12 minutes!), Ireland’s Self Aid and Amesty International’s Conspiracy of Hope tour were also keys to a growing U2 mania. They became the first rock band since The Who to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
Director Phil Joanou made a documentary of their Joshua Tree tour, which was released in 1988 in both video and CD formats as Rattle and Hum. Despite some critical pans, the album sold some 14 million copies. 1991’s Achtung, Baby (which featured One and the danceable Mysterious Ways) emphasized U2’s standing as an international rock act, and although the critics were less than generous with the experimental follow-up Zooropa and the dance-oriented Pop (1997), the band remained one of the most popular "stadium" attractions in the world during the 90s. That decade also found members of the band working on soundtracks, including Batman Forever, Goldeneye and Mission Impossible.
All That You Can't Leave Behind marked a stylistic return to their basic rock sound, with the chart-topping Beautiful Day winning three Grammys, including Song of the Year. Among the seven Grammys they received over the course of two years were Best Rock Album and Record of the Year (Walk On).