I gave Bono my heart in 1999, I was 13. I have willed away many working hours daydreaming about having a pint with this man, and picking the brain that is responsible for some of my favourite songs, songs that have literally changed my life.

Taking to Glasgow’s Armadillo stage on Thursday night as part of his autobiography tour, “Surrender : 40 Songs, One Story”, Bono cut a relaxed, cool figure, perfectly at home alone, although the omission of his usual back up was a little jarring at first for his audience. Plugging “me book, what me wrote meself”, he was quick to disclose that he had his bandmates’ “permission” to be out on the road without them, and he poked fun at long-time U2 stage designer / director, Willie Williams who was encouraged, apparently, to “think smaller”; the stage was decorated with just a table and chairs, a far cry from his previous track record of multiple TV screens, life size lemons and a claw.

It is well known that the Irish have the “gift of the gab”, and anyone who is even vaguely familiar with Bono will know that the man can TALK! And, talk he did; he took us through the tumultuous journey of his life. Kicking off with a harrowing, frantic account of his heart surgery in New York in 2016 where he hovered dangerously close to death, the heart-breaking grief of losing his Mother, aged 14, after she collapsed with an aneurysm at her own father’s funeral, the isolation of growing up in all male household who never addressed her death, or their grief, meeting the love of his life, raging along with The Ramones, the first kitchen rehearsal of amateur, like minded musicians who would later become U2 and his complex relationship with his father, Bob.

Of course, there are no stories with Bono without the songs, and a mixed bag of U2’s soundtrack intertwined each individual tale, stripped back with a little help from the cello, the harp and the talents of producer, Jacknife Lee. Bono’s narratives where punctuated with, “City Of Blinding Lights”, “With Or Without You”, “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, “Out Of Control”, “Desire”, “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “Vertigo”; these well known and much loved tracks were heard in a way they’ve never been before, largely thanks to the change up from rock to classical. Some of this setlist was MEANT to be heard this way, and there was a real sense in the air that we were seeing something very special and we felt luckier for it.

I had got my wish; I felt like I was sitting opposite Bono in a pub with a pint, and he was regaling me with his stories of young love, teenage rebellion, social conscience, finding God, changing the world and seeking parental approval. It was a packed house, but for 2 hours, it was just me and him; he told sad stories, funny stories, tragic stories, important stories with a mesmerising air of humour, poise, honesty and vulnerability. He made me laugh and cry in equal measure, laying himself bare in a way he never has in any stadium or arena in the last 40 years.

Bono’s complex relationship with his late father, Brendan Robert Hewson was unsurprisingly, the backbone of his life’s journey. Affectionately dubbed “The Da”, Bono’s tales of their relationship proved the undisputed highlights of the show; from their awkward drinks together in The Sorrento Lounge, to their frequent arguments about Luciano Pavarotti (“Why would a true Tenor be calling you?!”) and, of course, Hewson Senior’s meeting with Lady Di.

U2 aside, Bono is probably best known for his philanthropy. A subject he can undoubtedly talk about at great length, he kept it brief tonight and to the vital points; he highlighted what the success of campaigns, Drop The Debt, ONE and (RED) meant for Third World Countries and reminded punters, “That was because of YOUR money, not mine”. Bono poked fun at himself and his role in such campaigns in hip hop speak, depicting himself merely as “the get the cheque guy”.

This slot at The Armadillo is merely a snapshot of “Surrender”, a over 500 page memoir bursting with life experience, it was difficult to anticipate what he would leave us with. In short, NO-ONE was prepared for the finale; Bono sang, “Come Back To Sorrento” in Italian with a vulnerability and a passion that caught every person in the room completely off-guard, as a tribute to his father, the Tenor and Opera lover, who “conducted Beethoven on the radio with my Mother’s knitting needles”. It was a spectacularly surprising moment that brought the house down and got the audience to their feet.

It was hard to know what to expect from such a show, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for what we got; one of music’s most renowned frontmen baring his soul with stories, songs and surprises reminding us all why we love him in the first place.

It’s 2022, I’m 36 and Bono still has my heart.

Review by Siobhanne Beattie

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