Mere weeks ago, U2 was in Paris to record an HBO concert special called “Innocence + Experience,” while Eagles of Death Metal were also in the city to play a show at the historic Bataclan theater. What followed was a horrific terror attack that left 130 dead, 350 injured — and the City of Lights forever linked to the bands in tragedy.
Now, on the verge of the two bands returning to Paris to create what he calls “defiant joy,” Bono and bandmate the Edge are appearing on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” to discuss ISIS, their newfound bond with EoDM, and the lessons of peace they’ve learned from their Irish upbringing.
The full interview airs Sunday (Dec. 6) at 10 a.m. ET/PT on CNN. That evening, U2 and Eagles of Death Metal will play Paris’ AccorHotels Arena, a concert that will be recorded and broadcast as the re-scheduled “U2: Innocence + Experience: Live in Paris” special on Monday (Dec. 7) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
“It was obviously awful and chaotic, and you immediately think of who you know — your crew, who’s out in the city, that kind of mentality,” Bono remembers of those chaotic moments after the attacks. “And then, of course, we thought about our fellow troubadours, the Eagles of Death Metal, and what was happening there, because they were still locked in at that time.”
Eventually, EoDM were able to escape the hostage situation at the Bataclan (their merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, was killed), and U2 was there to assist their fellow musicians. But as it turns out, the most useful thing the band could provide was something most people take for granted: Cell phones.
“We tried to help them the next day with various things. We tried to find a plane for them to get out and things like that,” Bono tells Zakaria. “It turns out, the best way we could help them was finding them phones, because their phones had been left in the venue and the venue had been sealed off — they were at the police station and back in the hotel rooms without communication … the most useful thing that we did was find them some phones.”
Being in a rock band that has sought to entertain since they formed in 1976, the Edge says the Paris attacks struck at the very core of what music represents. “It seemed like the target was culture, and every kind of expression of the best of humanity — great music, restaurants, French food, everything that we hold dear seemed to be the target,” explains the legendary guitarist. “France is also the birth of the Enlightenment movement, which gave birth to America. It’s the place where the modern Western world was born … That’s why we’re so determined to get back to Paris as soon as we can.”
Adds Bono: “We were very determined to get back there as quickly as we can. Paris is a very romantic city — and the essence of romance is defiance. And defiant joy, we think, is the mark of our band and rock n’ roll.”
The phrase “Innocence + Experience” was always meant to reference U2’s youth in an Ireland filled with political violence, terrorism and sectarian religious struggle. Of course, after the events of Nov. 13, that title has unfortunately taken on a newly-contemporary parallel — but the band says Ireland’s slow evolution towards peace offers hope.
“People were saying oh, are you rewriting the show for Paris?” Bono explains. “And we thought, actually, it wouldn’t change that much. It almost looks like it was written for Paris post the attacks — because it’s about the loss of innocence through violence.”
“There’s a song called ‘Raised by Wolves,’ which is halfway through the concert, which documents a coordinated bomb attack,” the U2 frontman cites as an example. “Three bombs went off in Dublin, 33 people killed.”
Following the Paris attacks, U2’s upcoming dates on the tour just happened to include a visit to their once-tumultuous homeland — and a reminder of what can be achieved. “We came to the peace and quiet of Belfast,” Bono marvels. “There is a lesson in peace making. People think that peace comes from holding hands and wishful thinking. But actually, peace is a dream you have while you’re awake.”
“A lot of compromise was taken to get peace in Ireland,” he adds. “[That Belfast show] gave me real encouragement for other so-called intractable conflicts.”