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Review: Bono gets raw and real as he brings his book tour to Dublin’s 3Olympia

Bono on stage in Dublin's 3Olympia. Picture: Ross Stewart

Bono on stage in Dublin's 3Olympia. Picture: Ross Stewart

Bono onstage at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 21st Nov 2022 to mark the release of Bono_s memoIr SURRENDER, out now. Photo_ROSS ANDREW STEWART_1Y1A5799


Just when we thought we had seen him in all his guises, Bono took to the stage at the 3Olympia on Monday and proved he really is the master of reinvention.

This time around, there were no high-tech props, there was no grandstanding to thousands of fans in an international stadium and not a guitar in sight.

Instead, the 62-year-old served up one of his most intimate, raw and emotionally-searing shows as he invited attendees to take a journey into the inner workings of a pop-star's mind.

Like being a fly-on-the-wall at a therapy session for Bono, his show based around his memoir Stories of Surrender delved into his inner struggles and formative years.

The lengthy book is broken into 40 chapters, each one named after a U2 song. But this time around, there was context and meaning behind them as he performed some of them live.

The show started with tales of his ‘eccentric heart’, requiring life-saving surgery in New York in 2014, and moved onto his early years in Mount Temple Comprehensive school.

He spoke movingly about the sudden death of his mother Iris when he was just 14, after she had an aneurism at her own father’s funeral. Like in the book, he ponders the effects of losing her at such a young age as he struggled to find his place in the world.

Life got infinitely better for young Bono, aka Paul Hewson, in 1976, given that he met his future wife Ali in the same week that he joined the band – two unions that have served him well.

Stripped back and at times singing wholly unaccompanied, the man described by his late father Bob as the “tenor who thought he was a baritone” offered up some unique insights as to what made him tick.

Proving that his voice has got better with age, he opened with City of Blinding Lights before going on to Vertigo, Pride and I Will Follow.

Humorous and self-deprecating, this was a Bono that we have never before seen as he spoke about the tour being a “whole other level of navel-gazing”.

Bono on stage in Dublin's 3Olympia. Picture: Ross Stewart

He said he was a “quarter of a man band” and said that it felt “slightly transgressive to meet up without my bandmates”.

But they were definitely there in spirit – if not in person – as he spoke about those early days of the band, which started from humble beginnings and went on to prove all their detractors wrong.

Bono got particularly emotional when he performedSunday Bloody Sunday, under the watchful gaze of President Michael D Higgins, before going on to Where the Streets Have No Name.

With just over 1,000 attendees at the 3Olympia, the unique gig felt even more absorbing due to people having to surrender their phones beforehand.

Like his many on-stage alter-egos, his show delved into many different tropes of his life, from his campaigning work to his love for the woman he credits with “saving him”.

And there was a lovely recollection of some good times with his late ‘Da’ in Finnegan’s pub in Dalkey. It was the same place that he first learned of his father’s advanced cancer ahead of his death in 2001.

It seemed fitting that the show ended with an emotional rendition of Torna a Surriento, the song recorded by the legendary tenor Pavorotti, who was also a hero of his late father.

Fittingly, he got a standing ovation from attendees, which included Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, broadcasters Charlie Bird, Joe Duffy, Pat Kenny and Dave Fanning, promoter Harry Crosbie and Riverdance founder John Colgan. Also there were members of his immediate family and his ever-loyal inner circle of pals including Guggi and Gavin Friday.

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