The great Bono’s usual swagger was momentarily gone — a rare occurrence, unless he’s in the company of, say, Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela. At the Tony Awards this summer, the rock icon-cum-humanitarian was facing all the stars and powers-that-be on Broadway, with his U2 colleague the Edge.

“We used to be famous for being in U2,” Bono said, referring to the duo’s involvement in composing the long-delayed, accident-prone, most expensive Broadway musical ever, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” “When I saw the Tony Awards on our schedule, I just kind of assumed that we’d been nominated.”

The Edge interjected: “It appears that we missed the deadline.”

Bono: “A few of them.”

The usually eloquent and verbose U2 singer said he was humbled by how hard Broadway’s creative community works.

“This humble thing really works for you, man,” observed the Edge, U2’s guitarist.

The past year has been humbling — and painful — for Bono. Ever since he had emergency back surgery on May 21, 2010, forcing the postponement of part of U2’s 360u02DA Tour (and the Twin Cities’ first major outdoor concert in three decades), Bono and the Edge have had a run of bad luck.

The unexpected two-month hiatus for the biggest, most expensive concert tour of all time was just the beginning. “Spider-Man” had myriad unforeseen problems, putting off the official opening for an unimaginable six months. That unplanned delay, in turn, prevented Bono and the Edge from finishing U2’s new album, originally promised for May 2011. And the Edge had his application to build several luxury homes in Malibu rejected by the California Coastal Commission.

It all sounds more traumatic than forcing the Edge to remove his stocking cap in public.

Here are the details.

Back injury

After playing 44 shows in the 360u02DA Tour in 2009, Bono hurt his back while rehearsing for U2’s return to the road in May 2010. He required emergency surgery in Munich, causing the band to postpone its summer U.S. concerts (including a June 27 gig in Minneapolis). At age 50, Bono discovered that he’s not as nimble as sixty-something Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger.

In a video of him recuperating in the hospital, the humbled Irishman said: “This is not very rock ’n’ roll — this is a very different kind of rehab. ... [They’ve] explained to me I’m not indestructible.”

But costly. The postponement of rock’s most lucrative tour set U2 back about $15 million (half of which was covered by insurance). However, Bono bounced back faster than Joe Mauer, returning to the road in August 2010.


Two Irish musicians walk into a New York bar and meet a woman holding a puppet of a lion. She asks them to write songs for a musical about a comic-book superhero. Have you heard this one before?

Certainly, you’ve heard about what happened to that musical, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” Actors were injured doing stunts, previews continued for a Broadway record 182 performances, critics savaged the show before it opened, director Julie Taymor was fired, the musical was reshaped with Bono and the Edge adding music, the opening was postponed several times over the course of six months, and a staggering $75 million was spent creating the show (doubling the previous Broadway record).

“Spider-Man” officially opened June 14, with its humbled composers in attendance and the critics ripping the musical once again.

The lost album

Always willing to experiment, U2 started recording in 2010 with a few new producers, including Grammy-winning Danger Mouse (Beck, Black Keys, Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley). “We have about 12 songs with him,” Bono told Australia’s The Age in October. “At the moment that looks like the album we will put out next because it’s just happening so easily.”

Bono added that another, more club-sounding album was in the works, as well, with French producer David Guetta, Lady Gaga collaborator RedOne and Black Eyed Peas frontman

In December,, who has produced John Legend, Usher and Britney Spears to name a few, boasted to the British newspaper the Sun: “I went to Bono’s house for lunch and George Clooney and Cindy Crawford were there. I played some of the songs we’d been working on together and everyone was blown away.”

Apparently, no one else will get to hear those songs anytime soon. Neither the club-aimed project nor the Danger Mouse disc has a release date. Instead, the closest that fans will get to a U2 album in 2011 is the soundtrack titled “Music From Spider-Man,” which features Bono and the Edge on only four of the 14 tracks they wrote. (U2’s rhythm section of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen did not participate.) Not only is the album — produced by longtime U2 associate Steve Lillywhite — not worth owning for a U2 fan, it’s not really worth hearing.

Malibu rejection

The ever-visible, you-can’t-shut-him-up do-gooder Bono is usually the target of U2 barbs. But, for a change, the Edge took some jabs this year. It was he (not Bono) who invested an unspecified sum in “Spider-Man.” (The musical costs about $1 million per week to stage and has been averaging about $1.2 million in ticket sales, according to the New York Times. At that rate, “Spidey” will have to play for more than seven years to break even.)

The Edge had a more personal setback over a proposal to build five mansions for himself, relatives and friends on ridge-line property he’d purchased in Malibu six years ago. After one committee had argued against his plans this winter, the guitarist donated $1 million to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and promised to dedicate 100 acres to open space with public-access hiking trails. Last month, the California Coastal Commission spurned the Edge’s pitch.

After the vote, the agency’s executive director, Peter Douglas, said: “In 38 years of this commission’s existence, this is one of the three worst projects that I’ve seen in terms of environmental devastation. It’s a contradiction in terms — you can’t be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location.”