Doctor, Doctor

March 31st, 2009

doctor.jpgIt’s Monday morning in Dr. Lisa Libertore’s East Side office.

Four boxes of medium, sterile, powder-free latex exam gloves crowd the Victorian-themed waiting room here on 85th and Lexington. Eight of us wait restlessly, shifting in our chairs, evading eye contact, and tapping at our respective devices.

I fill out a clipboard lousy with forms, scribbling the kind of information only Abbi would know, then wait.

Smooth jazz (CD 101.1FM, I assume) wafts nearly-inaudibly from a stereo behind reception, ironic, I suppose, given that I’m here to test my hearing.

In December, as I lay my head on my pillow in the dead-silent environs of Bray’s Island, South Carolina, I noticed a deafening ringing in my ears.

Given twenty years of rock shows, Walkmen and iPods, that I may be suffering some hearing loss isn’t surprising, but it is scary. I like hearing things, especially music. Mozart may have been able to pull it off, but I won’t.


Dr. Libertore’s examination room is like any other, if a bit more warmly lit. There’s not one piece of equipment in the room that I recognize (except more latex gloves). I hang my jacket on the back of the door, and settle onto the edge of the table.

Dr. Libertore joins me a few minutes later. She’s younger than I expected (but then I’m older than I expected), with short, blonde hair and wide, curious eyes. She dashes through pleasantries and gets right down to business.

“So what seems to be the problem?”

I explain the ringing, when it began, and what it sounds like with a few semi-relevant job and avocationally-oriented sidebars. She quickly dismisses the obvious rock trauma, and begins asking about my physical and mental health. Then she examines my nose (“My wife would not envy you that view”) and ears visually.

“Do you take aspirin for soreness after you run?”

“No, I take Advil. I take Excedrin after I drink beer.”

“Ok,” she grins. “Did anything change in December? Diet? Stress?”

“Well, work turned pretty difficult, yeah.”

“That can do it.”

She fits a pair of earbuds over a hand-held device, the slides it into my right ear.

“You’ll hear some musical tones, but you don’t need to say anything,” she explains (clarifying the difference between this and my fourth grade hearing test).

A few, faint chimes ring in my ear, then ascend in a scale. She repeats the procedure again in my left ear where the tones are noticeably louder. She presses a button, and a narrow ribbon of receipt paper displays the preliminary results.

“That’s some Star Trek shit!” I say.

She shows me the receipt paper. Two sets of bar graphs illustrate my response to various frequencies.

“Yup,” she says, having scarcely pierced her no-nonsense veneer, “You have some hearing loss.”

I sigh.

“There’s a lot we can do with diet and vitamins and even acupuncture, but we need to give you the full exam when our audiologist is in, ok?”

With that, I’m back in the smooth jazz waiting room, back in front of reception. I make an appointment, and step out into the afternoon sun. I slip my iPod into my bag, and walk home to the city’s symphony of sounds.

Someday Soon

March 30th, 2009

rockwood.jpgNot that anyone noticed, but I took Q1 off from rock ‘n roll.

Dateline: December 31, 2008. Between my new job description, marathon training, long-delayed documentary, and never-ending aspirations to rock, I figured something had to give. I’m never gonna’ succeed at anything if I don’t focus up. Something had to give. I chose rock ‘n roll in favor of my day job. There: I said it. I chose middle management over music.

Of course, that decision was probably made long ago. I moved to New York fourteen years ago this month. And while I pledged that I’d pursue music and journalism at the same time, my feet did the real talking. You are what you do, not what you say. I spent forty hours a week typing words into a computer. So here I am.

Which is not to say I’ve given up on rock ‘n roll. I just took a couple of months off. In fact, having endured my self-imposed moratorium, booked a show at the first possible Q2 opportunity; I’m performing with Chris, Tony and Jamie (plus special guest Jamie Leonhart) at Rockwood Music Hall this Thursday night.

And so, as I wrote last week, the guitar’s out of its case (in fact, the mahogany top is cracked; but that’s another story for another time). And back in my arms, my Martin DX15E is singing again. Those same chords sound new again. The songs are coming back.

Like “Someday, Baby,” a song I wrote in Vermont last month about becoming a father… someday. And “Waited Up,” a quick, little, old-school pop song I recorded this afternoon. They’re both yours to download below. Have a listen. The band, on the other hand, hasn’t heard either. Still, we’re going to give ’em both a shot on Thursday. Why on earth would you want to miss that? Four men on a wire.

Q2, here we come.

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My Intrepid Nephews

March 29th, 2009

captainssm.jpgCan you imagine New York’s $44M, 66-year-old gray behemoth, USS Intrepid, through my pint-sized, toe-headed nephews’ wide eyes?

This thing’s 900-feet-long and 190-feet-wide and loaded with thirty aircraft, including a Navy F-14 Tomcat (as in, “I feel the need, the need for speed!), Harrier Jump Jet, F-4 Phantom, Israeli Kfir, French Etendard, Russian MiG-15, 17 and 21, “Huey” helicopter (“I spent over 3000 hours in these things,” one elder gentlemen said) plus the freakin’ Concorde. The Intrepid weighs 27,000 tons, and contains 20,000 miles of electrical cables, 10,000 lights, 1500 doors and hatches.

In its heyday, 3,448 crew called the Intrepid home. It carried 1.6M gallons of fuel oil, and 300, 000 gallons of aviation fuel: enough to heat the average American home for over 400 years. The kitchen burned through 130,000 gallons of fresh water, 6000 potatoes, 42,000 eggs, 200 pounds of coffee a day.

One more crazy detail? Intrepid’s steam catapults (the track than launches the planes) could — if pointed vertically — send a 3000 pound automobile 6000 feet in the air.

The Intrepid served in WWII’s Pacific Theater of Operations, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and as the recovery ship for a Mercury and a Gemini space mission. Today, it rests perpendicular to the West Side Highway in the Hudson River.

Little of which, it seemed, was of much interest to Ethan and Edward. They were all about turning every nob, flipping every switch, climbing every ladder and seeking out every hidden compartment. And asking questions. Why are the wheels so big, Daddy? Where is the engine, Daddy? Why do the wings fold, Daddy? Can I have this 1:100 scale replica, Daddy?

“And where are we going to put that nine-foot, plastic Intrepid, Ethan?”

“Um… the bathtub?”

My favorite moment? Holding Edward’s hand as gingerly stepped down the near-vertical stairway. My least favorite? Peeling him off of a 3D flight simulator. “No! No! No!” he screamed, scissor-kicking his legs in the air before breaking free, running away and collapsing on the floor.

“It’s either time for a snack,” I told Chris. “Or time to go.”






Out In The Great Wide Open

March 25th, 2009

field.jpgI think about Johnny Depp a lot these days.

No, it’s not some adolescent crush. It’s everything else.

In the last five years, my life has rapidly evolved into a fairly stable, even boring one. Where an average Tuesday night once found me hailing cabs in remote corners of Brooklyn as the sun rose over Manhattan (damn you, Smith Family!), I am now typically sitting on the couch with Abbi, eating sushi, watching Frontline, and checking Omniture (the “Web Analytics and Online Business Optimization Platform”).

Make no mistake: I am happier than ever. But these are troubled times for a young couple. It’s difficult enough to seek home ownership in a town with the average apartment goes for $1.4M — over $1000 per square foot. It’s even more so with the bottom fallen out of the market. Worse, though, the future of our planet has never felt more uncertain.

This particular Tuesday night found Abbi and I watching Frontline’s “Ten Trillion And Counting,” a balanced, well-reasoned analysis of government spending run amuck — especially in the Bush II Years: Medicaid D and the aging Boomer population, partnered with irresponsible tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have assured our children spending that outpaces income. Even my five-year-old nephew Ethan can do the math on that one.

My other favorite PBS documentary series, Nova, was chronicling the planet in peril. “Extreme Ice” premiered last night, telling the story of acclaimed photographer James Whites’ visual documentation the runaway melting of arctic glaciers.

Which is to say nothing of the global conflict between moderates and extremists, the constant barrage of marketing, or relentless pace of modern life in general.

Cue Johnny Depp. The one-time “A Nightmare on Elm Street” star now draws $20M a film. He is (as every People Magazine reader knows) in a long-time committed relationship with French singer-actress Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children: Lily-Rose Melody and Jack. The couple divide their time between houses in the Hollywood Hills, their farm in the South of France, a house in the Somerset Village Timsbury, and also own apartments in Paris, Manhattan and an island in the Bahamas.

It’s not the couple’s egregious ownership I covet, it’s their ability to live off the grid.

Now, I’m no hippie. Years ago, my dear friends were circulating a hand-made prospectus on an imaginary, Canadian commune they planned to call, Riven. I passed. And when others were hoarding canned goods and flashlight batteries on December 31, 1999, I was playing tennis and sailing in Turk & Caicos.

No, I’m not quite a survivalist, but I do worry about the future. Where do we go from rampant debt, mass foreclosures, government and business corruption, unjust wars, global environmental degradation and advertising on every available surface? Yes, President Obama’s Inauguration Address gave me hope. But is it too little too late?

Maybe all my thinking about Mr. Depp is superfluous. We are biologically hardwired for optimism. We are made to persist, to adapt. And we will.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice to ride out the long, nuclear winter in the South of France?

March (Going On April)

March 23rd, 2009

marchapril.jpgIn February, I traveled to and from California three times in as many weeks (with a break in the middle to run a marathon. At the end of that red eye-inducing run, I decided that I could provide greater value to my colleagues, my wife, and myself right here in New York. So I put the breaks on.

This was the unprecedented third weekend in a row that I’ve spent home with Abbi. And while these otherwise lazy weekends still pass with remarkable speed, they have certainly proven valuable. For starters, my guitar has not only made its way out of its case, but also into my arms. What’s more, I’ve even written a few new songs.

I knew last fall that 2009 was gonna’ be a m*therf*cker — and not just because the banks were all going belly up. My new role at work was going to demand nearly full-time, eight-day-a-week, sunrise-to-sunset attention. And so I asked Abbi for special dispensation on major decisions like babies and moves. I rainchecked gig offers, and generally assumed my social life was on hold at least through Q2. I hunkered down for a tough patch. And it has been tough.

Sure enough, though, the first fiscal quarter of the year approaches, and I’m beginning to feel at least a tiny bit adjusted to the scope of the challenge, weight of the department, and the certainty that every elapsing moment brings uncertainty.

The past two Saturdays have found me greeting the morning with a cup of coffee and my guitar. Yesterday, I taught myself a few new covers (“I Can See Clearly,” “Something So Strong”) in anticipation of my May 2 all-ages show, then started fooling around with a few new chord patterns. Inspired, I repaired to my studio (ahem, closet) and began throwing parts onto tape (er, the drive). Two hours later, at 12:04, my MacBook Pro crashed and I went for a run.

It was the first, full day of spring. The air was cold and damp, and smelled of a thawing soil. I ran north along Riverside Park. The promenade was crowded with walkers, joggers, bikers and bladers. The George Washington Bridge was clear in the distance.

Some thirty-six hours later, now, I’ve mixed what is likely to be simply an instrumental, “March (Going On April).” Like yesterday’s run — my first in two weeks — the song is an exercise. It’s a simple, sonic experiment to get ideas moving, chords changing, and blood flowing.

To me, it sounds like spring, like the smell of thawing soil, or the sight of the sun peeking around a facade. To me, the song sounds like March going on April.

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Exiting The Too Much Information Superhighway

March 19th, 2009

superhighway.jpgI received an interesting email from an Editor at a Major Online Publication last week.

“We’re collecting a number of short pieces written by people that have been written about in the New York Times ‘Modern Love’ series,” it said. “We are basically looking for a response to the original Modern Love piece — either the other side of the story, or simply recalling the experience of seeing your love life detailed in the Sunday Times.”

“From some poking around online,” the email continued, “I’ve discovered that the subject of the November 14, 2004, edition, ‘Traveling the Too-Much-Information Highway’, was you.”

And then, of course, the call to action.

“As a result, I am wondering if you’d be at all interested in penning a piece for the project.”

Yes, I was the subject of “Modern Love” (the object, really, but who’s diagramming sentences). And, in fact, wrote a fair amount about it then. Still, I never “responded” to it per se, and certainly not for a Major Online Publication.

So I left The Editor’s email alone, turning over a pro/con list in my head for a few days.

The only “Pro” I could come up with was “Exposure,” but it didn’t seem like the kind of exposure that was going to fuel a ton of iTunes action and even if it did, probably not enough to warrant the potential cons.

Oddly enough, the primary “Con” I came up with was “Exposure,” too. This time, though, it seemed significant, like picking at scar tissue until the wound reopens and a bunch of amateur doctors with poor hygiene start coughing up a prognosis. What’s more, I wouldn’t just be exposing myself. It’s not about “Me” anymore; it’s about “Us.”

Still, part of my (the 33-year-old, I assume) was shocked to read the following email before clicking, “Send.”

“Thanks for your email,” I wrote. “But I don’t think I’m interested in opening that can of worms in that way.”

I’ll save it for the memoir.


March 18th, 2009

stpaddys.jpgIf I remember correctly (and I have a hunch my mother will correct me if I’m wrong), my Grandma (Mildred Lawrence) Bolster’s lineage traces back to Cork County, Ireland.

My grandfather, William Bolster, named his Waterloo, Iowa-based women’s clothier Sweeny’s after his Irish partner. The store’s logo was a bright-green shamrock.

Aaaaah, Ireland.

Few places capture the imagination of The Bolster/Wagner Clan like The Emerald Isle. My brother’s been there. My Mom’s been there twice. My Dad visits almost annually. And me? Well, yunno, I like U2 (so much so that Abbi and I have discussed travelling to Dublin for this summer’s U2360 Tour).

Still, anyone who lives or works anywhere near New York City will tell you that there are two nights to avoid in The Big Apple: New Year’s Eve, and St. Patrick’s Day; amateur night, both.

I left work around seven o’clock tonight. Already, Times Square was clogged with revelers clad in green-plastic bowlers, suspenders and Celtics t-shirts. Everyone was hammered.

Which was precisely why Abbi wasn’t terribly interested in getting her Guinness on tonight. So I struck out alone, cranking my favorite Dublin quartet on my iPod as I traipsed toward Lansdowne Bar on Tenth Avenue.

The sidewalk was teaming with The Usual Suspects as I approached, smoke pouring from the sidewalk. Inside was an explosion of kelly green: streamers, lasers and lights. It was scarcely ten o’clock, and already the tables were crowded with dancers, that is, the table tops.

Oddly enough, the back bar was only serving Bud and Bud Light. True enough, I aged up the place by at least eight years. And it was amateur night to be sure: slurred speech, spilled pints, random high fives, couples grinding and mashing in plain sight.

But when the DJ spun “Where The Streets Have No Name,” well… that was good enough for me.

I’ll get there… someday.

Meanwhile, U2 on the stereo, a few pints in my gullet, and a splash of vomit on the sidewalk will have to do.

Editor Note: As predicted, my mother chimed in with significant corrections. “Bolster is the line with the Irish heritage. The Lawrences were English through and through. Catherine Whalen married Garfield Sherman Bolster. Catherine’s mother (Mary Holloway) was from County Carlow; her father (James Whalen) was from County Waterford. Those counties are are a little farther south than Cork; closer to Dublin. Dad’s store was named after Nellie Sweeney who gave him a start in the business, and was like a grandmother to me. The shamrock you remember is on a sweatshirt South Bend. Dad would never have had anything as cheeky as a shamrock on the store a a marquis.” My factual errors notwithstanding, I did, in fact, have a great time drinking beer with Chris, Meg, Tony, et all.

Shooting U2

March 15th, 2009

u2basement.jpgFrankly, my mind had been blown nearly half a dozen times already, and that was before I waltzed past the well-guarded barricades outside the Somerville Theater and bumped into U2 sound checking “Magnificent” just a few feet in front of me.

First, there was getting tapped for the trip to begin with. It happened like this: Sway interviewed the band after its Fordham University gig (with a fair dose of prep from your truly). The band called that same day to request that Sway host one of its three forthcoming Q&A sessions. I have a long-standing policy on not going where I don’t provide value, but finally asserted myself into the equation as a shooter/producer/reporter. Which is how I found myself on the Delta Shuttle with Sway Wednesday afternoon.

Then there was meeting the band’s legendary manager, Paul McGuinness, at lunch. We’d been at the hotel less than an hour. The place was abuzz with the band. The curb was lined with black Escalades, paparazzi and fans. My boss was telling me about the time Kurt interviewed the band on its Zoo TV Tour when he popped out of his chair, greeted Paul, and introduced me. He was wearing black sneakers, black trousers, a black polo short and (you guessed it) a black sportcoat. I stood quietly nodding and smiling as they discussed the band’s chart position (#1 in 30 countries, as it ends up) thinking, “Holy shit, he’s U2’s manager!”

Then there was my sickening race across town (albeit in the back of a Towncar) for HDCam tape stock with just thirty minutes to spare before Boston Camera Rental closed left MTV’s air Bono-less. (I got the tape with time to spare and passed Juliana Hatfield’s old apartment on the way.)

I was dropped off in front of the Somerville Theater around 6:15, which was when mind-blowers number four and five occurred. I was dropped off in front of a Dollar Store Smokey Junglefrog bassist Paul Perreault used to frequent (I purchased a plastic, Jesus-shaped night light there). See, a bunch of my pals — Paul, his brothers Pete and Rob, my friends Christian (“Z”) and Eric — all used to live in Somerville. We recorded Out of Your Head there. So there I was just across the street from the CVS when my life-saving steroids had been ordered on the occasion of The Great Hallucinogenic-Mushroom Bee Sting Incident of 1996 (the day before I met the guy who hired me at MTV, natch). Which is kitty-corner from the Store 24 where we’d pick up munchies on the way back from the T. Except (mind-blower number five) the place was absolutely swarming with well-armed and well-barricaded police, passers-by, satellite trucks and news vans.

Which is when I breezed past the barricades, met my contact, and walked through the front door to see Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry sound checking just a few dozen feet away.

Rehearsal (as I wrote on MTV’s Newsroom Blog) was fairly unbelievable, but also unbelievably normal. The band ran “Maginificent” four times, each time gaining muscle and momentum. Bono refined his gestures, practiced his blocking, tweaked his vocal affectations (landing on a more Middle Eastern-inspired vowel sound), and tossed off a few comedic quips (“I was born… to not smoke”) in the silence between songs (crew, apparently, don’t clap during rehearsal). At one point, Edge even blew the start to “Get On Your Boots.” Later, the track crapped out and stopped the band cold. The guys were workman-like, though, pacing, conferring, blocking and pausing only long enough to take a shared cell phone call.

In the narrow window of time between rehearsal and the actual performance (the audience began filing in the instant the band left the stage), we pulled together Sway’s plan for the global radio broadcast. Most shows take hours of scripting and pre-planning. This one came together in a few minutes on the back of blank note cards. I never saw Sway sweat once.

I shot virtually everything, including exteriors (where Sway and one of Boston’s finest joked about “shooting” U2), crowd b-roll, plus Sway’s stand-up in front of the theater (during which a highly-intoxicated woman tried to weep her way into free tickets), backstage and on-stage tour. When the band finally stormed the tiny stage, I was at the stage door.

I scurried to the back of the house to take in the guy’s brief, blistering set, at one point updating my Facebook status thusly: Benjamin is fucking “Magnificent!” The band performed “Get On Your Boots,” “Magnificent,” “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” “Breathe” and and “Vertigo” (read my complete report on U2’s surprise show here), before re-setting the stage for Sway’s Q&A.

Afterwards, I shot the band walking off-stage, then followed them downstairs to the dressing room. We afforded them a few minutes to themselves, then walked inside. Larry (who’d recently injured his neck and was hopped up on pain killers) extinguished a Marlboro Light. Bono applauded Sway and hip-hop hugged him. All four band mates moved in on him as I hovered with my DV cam checking and re-checking that the Record light was illuminated.

“It was an unwieldy event,” Bono told Sway. “But that’s the way we like ’em.”

Once or twice, I peered over the viewfinder to relish the fact that I was just a few inches from Bono, Edge and the guys. Mostly, though, I was pre-occupied with not bumping into any of the guys, and getting the shot. It was oddly out-of-body, as if I wasn’t really there. Moreover, the camera made me invisible. Worse, my duties were relentless. As soon as the interview rapped, I had to run upstairs to grab a dub (remember that HDCam tape?) from the production truck. I never so much as greeted the guys, let alone grabbed a snapshot (you can see a screen shot of the interview below, though; I’m the pixelated guy way in the back wearing a gray skullcap).

By the time I’d snagged my four clips (which you can watch below), the band was shaking hands and signing autographs behind the theater. I strode straight into the fracas on U2’s side of the barricade and shot the guys from just a few feet away. Kids and adults alike were screaming and crying. Bono and Edge rain the entire gauntlet, then stepped into their waiting Esacalde. (In fact, Bono began taping this video seconds later.) To my surprise, Sway and I climbed in the Escalade just behind, and joined the band’s police-escorted caravan all the way to the Cambridge after party.

It wasn’t until nearly an hour into the soiree that I realized that Bono, Edge, Larry, Adam, one-hundred lucky radio programmers and I were gathered just a few feet from Harvard’s WHRB where, five short years ago, I was hyping my new record, “Love & Other Indoor Games.”

I was back to my hotel room by one a.m. I hit the minibar for a bag of pretzels and a beer, and got down to work, filing two more blog posts and an article plus transferring five digital video clips before packing everything up and heading to the airport.

It was obviously thrilling to have been there, and to have been so close to my favorite band. And I acknowledge how cool it is to be able to walk anywhere at a super-secret, super-intimate U2 show. But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you it wasn’t a little bit heartbreaking to feel so close, yet so far away.

The sixteen-year-old in me, though, couldn’t believe a second of it.

U2 @ The Sommerville Theater

U2 @ The Sommerville Theater

U2 @ The Sommerville Theater

U2 @ The Sommerville Theater


The Proust Questionnaire

March 14th, 2009

bwackproust.jpgThe Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust (1871–1922), the French essayist and novelist who believed that in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.

Since July 1993, Vanity Fair has devoted the back page of its magazine to the Proust Questionnaire, in which noteworthy persons such as Katie Couric, Ron Howard and Margaret Atwood answer a series of personal questions. Here, a non-noteworthy person (your truly) takes a pass.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Sitting on a Caribbean beach with Abbi, a guitar, an ice-cold beer, and a circulatory system full of residual nitrogen.

What is your greatest fear? A fiery plunge from 30,000 feet.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Anxiety.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? Vacuousness.

Which living person do you most admire? Bono.

What is your greatest extravagance? Beer. Or cabs.

What is your current state of mind? Flux.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Severitas.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? My bald head.

What is the quality you most like in a man? The strength to be vulnerable.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? The strength to be vulnerable.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Esoteric,” “Shit yo, wiggie wack whoa,” “Fuck!”

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife and my music.

When and where were you happiest? Anytime I’m with Abbi.

Which talent would you most like to have? I’d like to play guitar as well as Edge.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I’d be fearless.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My life today: my marriage, family, friends, job, athletic and creative pursuits.

Where would you most like to live? Somewhere warm, quiet, and spacious.

What is your most treasured possession? My Martin DX-15 and/or Cannondale M900.

What is your favorite occupation? Rock star.

What is your most marked characteristic? Optimism.

What do you most value in your friends? Substance.

Who are your favorite writers? Tobias Wolff, Nick Hornby, Chuck Klosterman.

Who is your hero of fiction? Holden Caulfield.

Who are your heroes in real life? Fred Rogers, Paul Hewson, Cameron Crowe.

What is it that you most dislike? Snobbery, arrogance, hubris.

What is your greatest regret? That I’ve wasted so much time, and made so many mistakes.

How would you like to die? Sitting on the couch next to Abbi, and surrounded by a gaggle of children and grandchildren.

What is your motto? “We are made to persist, to finish the tour; that’s how we find out who we are.”

U2 Treat Boston Fans To Surprise Show

March 12th, 2009

u2live_sm.jpgBOSTON — “It was an unwieldy event,” Bono told MTV News’ Sway Calloway just seconds after stepping off the tiny club stage at Wednesday’s surprise performance. “But that’s the way we like ’em.”

No strangers to spectacle, U2 wrapped up their 10-day, four-city campaign for Biggest Band in the World — and celebrated No Line on the Horizon’s #1 status in 30 countries — with the global broadcast of a jet-fueled performance and Q&A from Boston’s Somerville Theatre.

And what a spectacle.

Bono and Co. played the intimate, one-time vaudeville theater like it was an arena, tearing through five incendiary tunes in just 20 minutes. Backlit by strands of bright white lightbulbs against a naked brick wall, Bono stomped and strutted during “Get on Your Boots,” tossing dual, syncopated peace signs to the crowd.

And when he crooned, “I was born to sing for you,” in “Magnificent,” and the 900-strong audience of radio contest winners and über-fans cheered wildly, it was clear that Bono’s lyrics and The Edge’s shimmering arpeggiation are writ large for a reason. Likewise, on “Breathe” and “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” the audience fed the frontman his every word.

Still, even as bassist Adam Clayton leaned into the crowd with a smile, the band’s rapture wasn’t enough for Bono. He lunged and leapt at the opening strains of “Vertigo,” pumping his fists like a boxer, muttering, “C’mon!” under his breath while taunting the fans to get out of their heads.

“Gimme what I want,” he sang, “and no one gets hurt!”

After a quick break, the band returned to the stage for a lively, mostly hilarious Q&A moderated by Sway. Of their David Letterman-inspired beef with Sting, The Edge said, “I love Sting; he’s everything anyone wants to be in a band. He’s good-looking. And he plays really complicated bass parts while singing. Sting’s only problem is he’s too cool to be cool.”

When asked when he lost his virginity, Bono answered slyly, “Times like this, I’m inclined to think of Madonna and tell you that I feel like a virgin touched for the very first time.”

And when asked how the band knows when an album is done, The Edge joked, “They’re never done, they’re just released.”

“We treat every album like it’s our first one,” Bono told Sway afterward. “So getting to meet our people again is a real thrill — just to find out they’re still there!”

Even the typically reserved Larry Mullen Jr. was giddy as he eyed his salutary Guinness.

“In the early days [of] playing clubs, we always wanted to move onto the next place because we thought that the music should be in bigger,” he said. “But it’s just that we weren’t very good back then. We really enjoyed tonight’s show ’cause we were rehearsed! So we may go back to the clubs permanently.”

“Though it’s nice not to have to,” Bono cracked.

The Irish quartet kicks off its U2 360 tour at the 99,000 seat Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain on June 30.

This article first appeared on