Last night, U2 frontman Bono and guitarist The Edge appeared at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan to chat with Jordan Roth, President of Jujamcyn Theaters, for part of his regular Broadway Talks series at the venue. Hundreds of elated fans were present to give them a rousing welcome, including author Salman Rushdie. Roth opened up the talk by stating that the duo had said they knew they wanted to delve into musical theater long before they were offered Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, and he inquired as to what originally attracted them to that art form. The singer’s response touched upon the unstable nature of the music industry and the diminished value of recorded music.
“As a band we found our feet on the live stage,” explained Bono. “We did many concerts before we’d even written the lyrics to our songs. We had this sense that on the stage a lot of things were possible, so when it came to live theater, we recognized the potential for magic to happen. It’s that inexplicable thing when you get a great performer and great material, and it can only happen in a live context. We were intrigued by it, and we’d seen some great shows like Les Miz and some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows. We saw the chance to do something where we could take advantage of what we were playing around with in rock ‘n roll, and if it was the right project, it might be something we’d want to do.”
“There is a thing happening in culture at the moment where the live [experiences] seem more important than the recorded ones,” continued Bono. “People are very excited about seeing our band live, and not as many of them are buying our albums. Something as a transference happens — I’m not sure or expect everyone will agree with me on this — sometimes when things are very easy access, they can lose their value, and there’s that thing where music a little bit has become tap water. And for those of us who are pretentious enough to see music as a sort of sacrament, it’s a strange place to be in, so we’re gravitating towards places where we get that feeling. U2 is always a better band live anyway, and our songs come into focus eventually on a stage more than [when] recorded. We were sensing this, then Edge and I were at a songwriting awards ceremony — and we rarely go to these things — and Andrew Lloyd Webber was making a speech. He had been given a lifetime achievement award or something like that, and he stood up and had this beautiful, plum English baritone and said he particularly wanted to thank the rock people for leaving him be. ‘I’ve kind of had this all to myself,’ he said.”
“We immediately took this as a throwdown,” quipped The Edge.
“We saw him today and told him he was partially responsible for this,” added Bono, “so he’s created a monster.”