As Bono continues to recover from his injuries following a bike accident last year, U2 are gearing up for an unique arena tour set to kick off May 14th at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena. The group will be splitting each concert into two sets with an intermission for the first time in their career, according to the New York Times, with the first half featuring a “relatively fixed” set list and the second including a more arbitrary selection.
The band is also experimenting with a new sound system on the tour. Rather than having speakers set up at the stage, the group will suspend speaker arrays from the ceilings of arenas so everyone will be able to hear the music equally. The Times reported that the sound was “uniformly transparent” and the volume was constant throughout the arena.
The staging for the tour will also feature three platforms, an “I”-shaped one for “innocence,” a round one shaped like a lower-case “e” to represent “experience” and a walkway called the divider stage to signify the “passage from innocence to experience.” “Here they are in an arena,” the band’s production designer Es Devlin told the Times, “and we want to land them in the audience’s lap.”
The group currently has a mobile recording studio in Vancouver, where they are working on songs for their follow-up to last year’s Songs of Innocence. Bono has been using his downtime to write songs – in-progress titles include “Red Flag Day,” “Civilization” and “Instrument Flying,” according to the newspaper – with the help from a guitarist who could play the chords Bono can’t since the accident.
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“We’re keeping the discipline on songs and pushing out the parameters of the sound,” the frontman said of the new material. “They’re very basic earthy things, irreverent. They’re not lofty themes. One of the things that experience has taught us is to be fully in the moment. What’s the moment? Pop music.”
Bono also offered up a progress report on his recovery, noting that while he is getting better, his left hand is far from healed. “It feels like I have somebody else’s hand,” the singer said. He likened the feeling to rigor mortis. “They say that nerves heal about a millimeter a week, so in about 13 months I should know if it’s coming back.”
In addition to the hand, the accident had given the singer a fractured eye socket, shoulder and elbow. Bono said that his shoulder and face were feeling better, reporting that his forearm and elbow felt numb and reiterating that he can no longer play guitar. “They don’t seem to mind,” he told the Times “with a half-grin” as he gestured at his bandmates.
Earlier this year, U2 continued to promote their Songs of Innocence album with an intense video for “Every Breaking Wave,” which thematically drew from the religiously charged wave of violence that swept Ireland and Northern Ireland for decades. The group also issued its “last word” on the controversial way the record as pushed out onto Apple devices, telling Rolling Stone they stood by their music. “These songs took a while, but I know they have staying power,” Bono said. “I’m still holding on to some of them quite tightly myself.”