In U2′s 2004 song “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own,” which is about Bono‘s late father, he sings, “You’re the reason the opera is in me.” At his Stories of Surrender book tour event in New York City on Saturday night, Bono devoted much of the evening to exploring the truth of that particular line.
“I’m still pretending this is a book tour,” he told the sold-out audience at the Beacon Theater. In truth, it’s more of a one-man show, with Bono recreating the stories from his book on a stage that was bare except for some chairs and tables, used as props to great effect.
Bono punctuated those stories with performances of U2 songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday, “With or Without You” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” with help from producer Jacknife Lee on keyboards and percussion, cellist Kate Ellis and harpist/singer Gemma Doherty. Stripped of U2’s backing, Bono’s singing seemed even more emotional than usual.
But while the rapt audience heard about Bono’s relationship with his band mates and his wife Ali, the show’s main set piece involved Bono acting out the weekly chats he had with his dad, Bob, whose hobby was singing opera, in their local pub.
Bob remained stubbornly unimpressed by his famous son, and in scenes alternately funny and heart-breaking, Bono described his desperate attempts to impress his dad, which mostly involved boasting to him about his friendship and musical collaboration with opera icon Luciano Pavarotti.
Bono’s tales of his father, opera and their all too infrequent moments of connection culminated in the show’s closing number. Bono delivered a stunning, a cappella performance of “Come Back to Sorrento” — one of his father’s favorites — in Italian.
The show continues in New York through May 8.
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