From the very beginning, U2 has always proven unpredictable and entertaining in their live shows. This reputation goes back to the band’s first foray into the major spotlight, back in 1985 at the Live Aid show. At the time, U2 had released a few albums and had a decent fan following, but they were overshadowed by the major star power at the concert, including pop royalty like Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, among others. Live Aid, apart from being something the band believed in very strongly, was an opportunity to introduce themselves to a worldwide audience.
They had 20 minutes.What happened next has become the stuff of rock legend. Rolling Stone actually wrote a moment-by-moment retrospective on it…After a brief intro from Bono, they launch into “Bad.” Out of nowhere, Bono jumps off the stage and into the crowd, which, of course, went wild. On stage, the other three members of the band kept playing… Bono moved through the crowd and the mood went electric. By the time he was back on stage, he was leading a sing-along. Bono, and U2, have been leading the way ever since.
These days, the cutting edge is in technology, specifically Virtual and Augmented Reality. And it’s AR that will mark U2s current Experience + Innocence tour. The AR will elevate Bono, literally, into a massive version of himself, like Giant Man in the Marvel movies. Of course, there’s a catch… and, being as it’s U2, that catch is interactive. Fans must get the U2 Experience app in order to see giant Bono do his thing. Hold the phone up to the LCD screens with the app open, and fans will be treated to all manner of digitally-enhanced entertainment.
So, how does this remotely compare to that early leap into the crowd at Wembley Stadium? Bono himself makes the direct connection, speaking to CNN: “The technology we’re using goes back to the very early stages of U2 when we would stage dive to break the fourth wall, trying to reach our audience and touch them.” So, instead of leaping bodily into the first few rows in the pit down by the stage, Bono is projecting himself in a way that connect with the fans in the cheap seats. Will it have the same inherent, visceral connection it did when Bono dove into the crowd more than three decades ago on live TV?
Hard to say… It would be tougher for U2 to get any bigger than they are right now. But that doesn’t mean they can’t set yet another standard in the music business.
Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive with over 20 years of experience