Inside The Sound: U2 @ Capitol Records Tower

Capitol Records Tower | Los Angeles, CA | March 9, 2009 |

Did you listen to the broadcast? Did you hear what we heard? Now let’s put the sounds into visual perspective…

The room is prepped

Escorted within the walls of famed Studio A of Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood, California (already the feeling is surreal) my friend and I watched as the sound crew, cameramen, and other tech personnel set the room, tested equipment and made us feel comfortable: it was 5:10 pm. In fifty minutes Studio A would be flush with the luck of the Irish (as well as a lovely Scottish lass) and the fans who love them, lucky souls themselves. Near the top of the hour the room was filled with a tiny fraction of the congregation that forms the church of U2 (radio contest winners, record label/industry folks, and media all assembled to the tune of about 200) and most of us planted ourselves on the floor in front of the five empty stools on the stage before us for a most unique adult show-and-tell session (sitting cross legged sure gets harder as you get older). Shirley Manson (Garbage) strolled in the house to warm applause, looking stunning and not a bit Terminator-like at all. A beauty in the flesh, but my concern was whether or not I would understand a word that she said all eve. She tells us that she’s “terrified” and “shitting herself” but her native tongue is elegant and clear. No translator would be required to decipher her brogue.

The subject of the hour: U2’s new album, No Line On The Horizon.

Larry was a tad under the weather and may or may not join us but we’re hopeful; introductions are unnecessary but made- Adam, Bono and The Edge file out onto the stage all smiles and love; their seats are taken with mugs of tea (or Bushmills, who knows?); we’re coming out of commercial break; broadcasting across the country; Manson is flipping through her notes, legs crossed, calm and ready; countdown…4…3…2…1…

“The U2 Radio Network is on the air!”

The boys

What we were privy to was an intimate discussion on the art of being U2 and what an art it is, but less than five minutes into the event and Bono is kneeling in front of the two of us chatting about…whatever; Adam was no less engaging and winkful. My friend informed Bono that her mom labeled him “the talkative one” and Adam “the elegant one” when they visited her offices in Mexico during the Vertigo Tour. Why did Adam laugh at being called “elegant”? That’s what you get for reeking poshness wherever you go, but in an effort to be “less elegant” he removed his smart jacket and even rolled up his sleeves.

Yum…uhhh, I mean Adam.

So much to talk about, so little time. Manson probed the band on subjects such as the unique experience of collaborating with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno as writers to the metaphysical nature of the album’s title to rock and roll moments to managing rock star egos for 30 years. Those were the bits that floated over the airwaves for the world to consume, but there were the moments of in between – during commercial breaks and when songs from the album were played – that were mini nuggets of charm to the audience. Prior to playing “Magnificent,” Bono was his usual effusive self in praising the “amazing thing” that is and always has been Adam’s contributions on bass. Eventually, this led to us confronting an issue that needed attention. Throughout U2’s video career we’ve seen a few band member-centric videos: “Electric Storm” featured a waterlogged Larry, “Numb” featured The Edge indulging in a little bondage, and Bono…well, every other video is all about him. So when were we going to be graced with an Adam-themed video? Leave it to Mr. Clayton to minimize his place in the grand scheme of things claiming that he prefers to be “behind the camera”, and sure enough his voyeuristic tendencies were showing as he had whipped out his mini-camera to film his mates and the audience. But wait, says I. That incredible Buzzard bass needs to be showcased and “Magnificent” was just the song for it. I see a perfectly Adam-themed video because that bass line kills that song…and damned if Bono didn’t agree and ask us to send our video suggestions.


Now where were we? Bono gave clarity to “Moment of Surrender” as a song from the perspective of a friend being consumed by bad habits and about to fall off of a cliff (the opening verse speaks volumes), where “Unknown Caller” was that same friend facing an instant of temporary insanity as his gadgets talk back to him (BTW, during the shows feel free to sing out those random lyrics/commands on command…”force quit”, “reboot yourself”, “enter here”). The most obvious juncture where the temperature in the room changed markedly was when “Moment of Surrender” was played, loud and acoustically sound within the studio. It was the one time where there was no conversation: The Edge sat resting his chin on his hand holding his mic; Bono leaned forward with arms crossed occasionally mouthing the words; Adam’s face tilted upwards nodding towards the sound. Of the NLOTH tracks, “Moment of Surrender” is something of an emotional opus, so here’s where I gauged the room and what I saw didn’t surprise me one bit: closed eyes, silent singing along, appreciation, immersion, and then the one young lady off to my left wiping her tears through her smiles.

“We’ll go anywhere to be close to The Killers!” pronounced Bono when one audience member offered up Las Vegas as the next place that the band should venture for inspiration. Receiving great compliments for their stint with David Letterman, one gent agreed that all things, do indeed, taste better with cheese and The Edge was called out for his dig at Sting. Squirming a little, The Edge said that bit wasn’t rehearsed; it’s just that “the problem is that Sting’s too cool.” Have lute, will travel. And hot damn but with 15 minutes left into what’s been the shortest hour in history, that drummer guy showed up despite what ailed him to regale us with his agro need to hit things. We thank you Larry for coming, for smiling, and for your violence. Love the shoes!

Why Larry, what big shoes you have!

And then as soon as it began, it was over. Sixty minutes at the mercy of the biggest band in the world; how I suffer for my art. We all stood and encouraged the blood to circulate through our legs (or tried to), Larry made like a ghost and then the room became one big mingle as many surged towards the stage for photos and handshakes and precious exchanges with the men of the hour. For those fans not lucky enough to be inside Capitol Records Tower, Larry, Adam, The Edge and Bono graciously made themselves available across the street at The Avalon where they were having a private party. Before leaving, we asked Larry if he had a message for Zootopia? He smiled and said, “Of course, that’s where we live. See you soon; we’re looking forward to it”.

Yes, folks…he’s smiling!

What were the signs that it would be an enchanted evening? The mild temperatures? No, this is Southern California, it’s supposed to be temperate. The easy going midday traffic? Could be, as an LA commute is normally synonymous with “gridlock.” But after the fact outside of the building, as Adam gracefully folded himself into his car and The Edge paused to chat with friends, I looked up to the sky only to be faced and flooded with a luminous full moon. Perfect. It was good. No, it was great.

Actually, it was magnificent.