The Constant Charmer

The inside story of how the world's biggest rock star mastered the political game and persuaded the world's leaders to take on global poverty. And he's not done yet

  • Share
  • Read Later

(9 of 10)

Mostly, he's trying to find a reservoir of energy. "The day after a show, a giant hole opens up," he says between sips of coffee, "and if I'm not careful it swallows me." Outside Parliament, Bono signs autographs and meets briefly with leaders from Canadian NGOs. Then he is led to a lectern and hit with the obvious: How does he feel about Martin's refusal to commit to boosting Canadian aid? Bono riffs a bit, hoping to stumble onto something inspirational. Then he says, "I'm crushed." Flashbulbs pop. "Crushed makes it personal," Drummond whispers in agony. "And it's past tense, like we've failed. It takes the air out of the room." In minutes the quote is on Canadian news websites. On the way out, Bono shakes his head. "Crushed. That was shite." A few days later, Martin says that as soon as he can find a responsible way to get to 0.7%, he will. He says he understands Bono's frustration. "He's doing what he ought to do. He's out there pushing."

At some point--perhaps soon--Bono may have to decide how hard he can keep pushing. Because he's one of the most energetic people on the planet, Bono rarely has a down moment, but on the rare occasions when he removes his sunglasses, thick scrolls of tissue are visible under his eyes. For months his exercise routine has been compromised by a prolapsed disk in his back. "It's annoying to me that I'm overweight now," he says. He speaks to his children every other day while he's on the road, a nontraditional arrangement but one they've known all their lives. Still, he misses his family profoundly. The band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March and once again led the concert industry in gross revenues in 2005, has got used to his being an unpredictable presence. "The good news from our point of view is that he prefers working on music more than anything else," says guitarist the Edge. "And also he's unelectable."

For a man who expresses himself on a grand scale nightly, Bono is surprisingly stunted when it comes to talking about how he deals with the pressure he has brought upon himself. "I don't talk about this stuff to anybody," he says. "Of course, I don't talk about it to the band--it's boring enough for them onstage. When I go home, I don't want to talk about it. When I'm with my mates, I just don't. I think about it, and I allow occasionally enough time to think about it in moments of reflection. It's one of the things that's really unhealthy. It's been a very long year."

It might be possible to imagine Bono shedding his title as the world's greatest activist and reverting to his previous role as its biggest rock star--except that his happiness and peace of mind so obviously depend on being both. After the disappointment in Ottawa, Bono spent four days in Acapulco with absolutely nothing important to do and returned to the road a new man. "I'm like a camel. I store up sleep in my hump," he says. U2's never-ending Vertigo tour has come to Boston, and from his palatial suite he has the panorama of a city blanketed in snow and capped by an endless blue sky. After a quick traipse through Boston Common, it's time to go to work.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10