How will U2’s pro-EU message go down in the UK? ‘It will be interesting’

'Our audience will be split different ways,' Adam Clayton tells the BBC

As U2 prepare to start the UK leg of their Experience + Innocence tour, the band have expressed their concern about Brexit’s effect on the Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

"Since the peace process and that Border evaporating, it's been a very different world for us," Adam Clayton told the BBC. "The closer we got to Europe the more faint that Border became. So we're very concerned about what happens between us and the North."

Clayton and Bono were speaking as time appeared to be running out for the UK to agree terms for leaving the European Union, as its government was paralysed by infighting and ignorance.

It's a beautiful, romantic concept, Europe, but it's ended up as a cold concept for a lot of people. You just think about the bureaucracy in Brussels, which is why I guess a lot of people in the UK wanted to leave

U2’s concert at Manchester Arena tonight is the first of four in Britain over the next six days, followed by two in Belfast and, in early November, two in Dublin. The band have revamped the tour for its European leg, so it now opens with images of the continent in ruins after the second World War and ends with the group playing in front of the EU flag, making a plea for tolerance and unity.


“Starting the show after the second World War, in that devastation, in that awfulness, was a bit scary for us,” Bono said. “We opened the tour in Berlin, and it was just silence, for very understandable reasons. But out of the rubble came this idea of Europe and that maybe, even though we speak different tongues, we could somehow use the same voice.

“I think it’s a beautiful, romantic concept, Europe, but it’s ended up as a cold concept for a lot of people. You just think about the bureaucracy in Brussels, which is why I guess a lot of people in the UK wanted to leave.”

It is a challenging message to bring to a country whose identity is divided and whose future is uncertain. The BBC asked Bono and Clayton how they thought their pro-EU message would go down in the UK. "It's certainly going to be an interesting reception," Clayton said. "I think our audience is probably going to be split several different ways, and I guess what we want to see is what comes out of it."

In their gigs they remind audiences they were recording Achtung Baby in Berlin when the wall came down, although the band members were going through difficulties, and erecting walls of their own. Bono said: “It was important to tell people it has not always been rosy in the garden, as my dad would say. Achtung Baby was a very difficult time for our band. We nearly broke up before we got that song One. So there are stresses and strains in trying to do your best work, as we still do.”

Bono was about to go to Brussels to rattle some cages, as the BBC put it; it added that the band don’t pretend to have solutions but that the theme of their show is that love can be a force for change, redemption and resistance. “I think part of the feeling in a U2 show is that the four of us stuck together,” Bono said.

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times