U2 Tribute band, Elevation, tells us what it’s like to step into the shoes of one of the era’s biggest musical acts
Being part of a tribute band is not merely about the music, but about capturing the very essence and mood of the band. And when it’s a band as big as U2, it’s that much more work. “That’s why we call it the U2 experience,” says Stuart who fills the shoes, or rather, sunglasses of Bono in Elevation, the Liverpool-based U2 tribute band that was in the city for a performance organised by Seagram’s 100 Pipers. “We’re giving people a flavour of U2’s live performance, but in a smaller place, with a smaller audience. We’ve played to crowds of 200 as well as 40,000,” says Mark, who takes on Larry Mullen Jr.’s role on the drums. “And even 40,000 is a small crowd for U2!”
The band came together in 2002 when Mark, Alan who takes The Edge’s spot playing lead guitar and Tony who channels Adam Clayton on bass guitar were looking for something new to do. “We’d been performing original music for over 20-25 years then. We came up with the idea for a tribute band over drinks and went through several bands and when someone suggested U2 we all stopped and looked at each other and decided it would be perfect,” recalls Mark.
And why U2? “We wanted to do something fun so we looked at Glam Rock bands like ‘Slade’ but we decided we wanted something more serious and U2 was perfect. It suited our individual styles of playing, our age and, of course, U2 is arguably one of the biggest bands today,” says Mark. “And that we love their music is a big help.”
“It’s lucky that when I put the glasses on I can get away with looking a bit like Bono,” says Stuart who was in a band with Alan’s brother before being introduced to the group. “I don’t try to copy how he sings, but we happen to have similar styles and that’s what these guys had been told,” he reveals. “Musically, the three of us were really tight, and Stuart was the icing on the cake,” adds Mark. “So U2 seemed natural, it was common sense, it would have been foolish not to do it” That U2 is a wildly popular band across the globe also helps a great deal. But why shift to making someone else’s music after decades of making your own? “We’ve done all that. We were all in bands and it was lovely,” says Tony. “But that chapter closed,” adds Stuart. “As you get older you still want to be involved in music and you are less precious, your ego isn’t so big and you don’t think ‘It’s got to be my own music!’ This keeps us involved, keeps us creative.”
“At first it’s a bit strange,” says Alan about playing like The Edge. “But I soon got over it because the challenge to meet the way he plays and discover how he does it was very appealing to me.” Stuart reveals that it was really funny when they first put on their ‘costumes’. “We were laughing as none of us had done anything like it before. That is why we call in an act. But even then, I am still being myself, portraying Bono not entirely copying him,”
For the band, picking a favourite among U2’s many evolutionary stages is like picking a favourite child. When it comes to performing on stage, the favourites seem to be ‘Bullet the blue sky’, ‘Faulty’ and ‘Desire’. “The first is very dynamic and ‘Desire’ offers a lot of space for our creativity. But ‘Faulty’ is always our final song because it’s very anthemic and it gets the audience involved,” says Mark. However, they all seem to have noticed that ‘With or without you’ is the hot favourite in all the Indian shows they’ve done.