Even better than the real thing: Six Bonos discuss the art of being Bono
With U2 coming to Raymond James Stadium on Friday, we want to understand Bono, the band's charismatic, egocentric, mad-Irishman singer. Really, we do. But sadly, he turned us down for an interview. (Wanker!) So we turned to the next best thing: His lookalikes. Here, we ask six “Bonos” from U2 tribute bands across the country for insight on what makes Bono ... Bono.
Tony Russo, 48, New Brunswick, N.J.
Band: Unforgettable Fire
On being Bono: It’s all in the voice. “It’s taken me years, decades, to be able to predict what he would do in a certain song, the different nuances and idiosyncracies in his voice. Bono’s singing voice is a little out of my range. But it’s the inflections in his voice; it’s in the way you sing in the live versions of the song. If you’ve got the studio versions stuck in your head, you’re probably not going to sound like him. A lot of the earlier stuff, even Bono can’t listen to, because he thinks he sounds like a girl — and he does. Listen to Out of Control, the live version, and listen to Out of Control, the studio version. It’s difficult to try and master what he’s done in the studio, and then shift that over live, because it doesn’t translate.” (That's Tony above, with the actual Bono. But which one is which?!?)
Patrick Fleming, Austin, Texas
Band: Mysterious Ways
On being Bono: It’s all in the gestures. “He’s a little guy — well, not little; it has nothing to do with his stature. On a stage, you’re a small person. And so he’s trying to exaggerate every movement so that he can be seen — at least, that’s how I’m seeing it. Maybe he does that in his normal life. And somehow, he’s channeling all the meaning of the song into every movement, and sending energy out. But within those grand gestures, there’s still an intimacy, where he seems to invite you in while he’s flailing his arms around.”
Daniel “Danno” Burrow, 42, St. Louis
On being Bono: It’s all in the jacket. “The big project now is trying to capture the jackets he’s wearing during the tour. I’m working on my laser jacket, I’m glad to let you know. We’re looking into little LED battery-powered lights, to see if we can affix them onto a jacket. My wife gets all the credit, because she’s spent hours making herself bloody, sewing leather jackets together, sewing flags in jackets and everything else. You can’t just walk out and buy those things. You’ve gotta make ’em.”
Catch them live: Elevation will play two after parties this weekend at MacDinton’s Irish Pub in South Tampa — one on Friday night, another on Saturday. Click here for details.
Joe Hier, 40, Los Angeles
Band: Hollywood U2
On being Bono: It’s all in the shades. “I’m pretty much me backstage, goofing around, having a Guinness before the show. And then once I put those glasses on, that’s it. I walk out on stage, and it’s like something comes over me. It sounds silly, but it’s true. It’s almost something I can feel, physically, that happens. From the minute I walk out on stage, people just go crazy, as if it’s the real band out there.”
Billy Bunting, 45, Denver
Band: Under a Blood Red Sky
On being Bono: It all depends on the era. “I’ve sunk myself into all stages of their career to try to get a grasp on everything that he evolved into. When I clip on that mullet for the early stages, it’s a rebel-song thing: 'Save the world, stop the war!’ And then on the Zoo TV tour, as the Fly, he’s as Hollywood as you can get. It’s given me liberties to be a lot more extreme when I get into that suit. And people respond that way. It gives me license to be a little more over the top.”
Al Saadi, 38, Allendale, N.J.
Band: U2 Nation
On being Bono: Sorry, imitators. You either got it or you don’t. “In the past, when I did originals, I couldn’t help but sound and move like him, because he was such a big influence on me. Everybody that saw us said, 'You’re great, but you look, sound and move just like Bono.’ Some people just have the exact voice where you can’t tell a difference. It’s not that they’re talented; it’s just that that’s how they’re born. I don’t try to sing like Bono; I just can’t help it. It’s all I have.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo courtesy of Tony Russo.