Review: U2’s Bono humbles himself in new memoir ‘Surrender’

On the Shelf

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story

By Bono
Knopf: 576 pages, $34

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Like a terrific many well-known individuals who go by only one title, Bono isn’t actually identified for subtlety. Because the lead singer and public face of U2, the most important rock band on the planet throughout a lot of their existence, he fills phases and information with a largeness of self. He’s by no means been shy about wanting to alter the world (not that there’s something mistaken with that). He has a lot juice that he satisfied Apple to flood each iTunes consumer with the 2014 U2 album “Songs of Innocence.” He’s type of a giant deal.

So it’s a pleasing shock to find that his first ebook, the musical memoir “Surrender: 40 songs, One Story,” is outlined largely by humility. That is an introspective story written by a person whose spirit isn’t far faraway from the unhappiness and grief of his childhood; the starvation, literal and figurative, of a teen wannabe rocker; and the gratitude of 1 who labored his butt off and made it to the highest. Some have speculated {that a} ghostwriter is answerable for these pages. His publishers say no, and I consider them. The tone feels too sincere and direct, the small print and recollections too sharp. And he apologizes for that entire iTunes factor.

Right here is Bono on that all-important transporter of bands the world over: “The van is a time machine, the perfect size for the fledgling rock ‘n’ roll community: some musicians, a tour manager, a roadie or two, sometimes a manager. Later it may grow wings and become a private plane, but it will always feel roughly the same size as the van.”

“Surrender” is extra a van of a ebook than a personal aircraft. It shrinks extra ego than it inflates. Bono makes no bones about his outsized ambitions, however there’s all the time a fallible human being behind the large plans after which the superstardom. Generally he even sounds a wee bit embarrassed about his fame and fortune. He comes by his well-chronicled activism and philanthropy by what you might be compelled to conclude is a tough core of sincerity.

Born Paul David Hewson in 1960 — his pal, the artist and musician Guggi, first known as him Bono Vox, after the hearing-aid store Bonavox, earlier than shortening the nickname — Bono grew up center class in a Dublin suburb, the son of a Catholic father and Protestant mom. He had a little bit of a mood, which flared extra typically after his mom died of a cerebral aneurysm when he was 14. He describes a family of three males — himself, his father and his older brother, Norman — incessantly yelling at one another as a result of that’s all they knew tips on how to do: “Three men dealing with their grief by never talking about it.” However he discovered to put in writing songs about it, from “Iris (Hold Me Close)” to the auspicious first music to make its means onto a U2 album, “I Will Follow.”

Nonetheless you are feeling concerning the bombastic stadium mild reveals of the later years, it’s a kick to image the members of U2 making grilled cheese sandwiches on a transportable heater and taking part in gigs to audiences of zero. At one sparsely attended present Bono heckled some sharp-dressed patrons from the stage, not figuring out they have been trade varieties who needed to take a look at this buzzy new band.

“Surrender” reminds us that lots of U2’s heroes have been punk, and that earlier than they grew to become pop stars they have been very a lot a post-punk act — though, for Bono, the band’s roots lay in altogether completely different soil. “U2’s music was never really rock ‘n’ roll,” he writes. “Under its contemporary skin it’s opera — a big music, big emotions unlocked in the pop music of the day.” Anybody who has thrilled to the emotional spectrum of “Where the Streets Have No Name” would discover it laborious to disagree.

“Surrender,” nevertheless, is under no circumstances operatic. There’s an off-the-cuff appeal to the memoir, a sense of being led by caverns of story by a information with some issues to get off his chest. Whereas describing the manufacturing of the band’s breakthrough third album, “War,” as an illustration, our narrator interjects that he’s not all the time wild about being within the studio: “This is not an environment conducive to art. The room feels more like an operating theater than a stage, surgeons conferring on how best to fix the limp in question.” That is the uncommon rock star memoir written by a rock star who, you get the impression, may have been a author — or no less than might need needed to.

Bono, 2017

Bono married his highschool sweetheart, Alison Stewart, and so they had 4 children; there’s one thing of the common dude about him, aside from the hobnobbing with presidents and receiving invites from Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky and that type of factor. Bono has by no means been a favourite of the “Shut up and play” crowd, however there may be nothing in U2’s music that means innocently standing by. For each love ballad there’s a “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” a mournful yawp on the Irish Troubles that was really written by U2 guitarist the Edge. In different phrases, name him what you need — he’s by no means inconsistent.

U2 fanatics would possibly already know a lot of the fabric in “Surrender.” For the remainder of us, there’s one thing to find in each chapter. Bono has a present for making even the unattainable appear relatable. He’s been accused of getting a messiah advanced; a number of the ebook’s most arresting sections cope with his lifelong dedication to Christianity. However the believer who emerges from these pages springs from tenets of his religion briefly provide immediately. He’s humble, even self-effacing. He is likely to be enjoyable to have a beer with. He’s very a lot of this Earth, even when now and again he may appear to drift above the water.

Vognar is a contract author primarily based in Houston.