Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Bono

Bono at The Beacon Theatre / April 17, 2023

As the singer in U2 since the rock quartet formed in 1976 in Dublin, Ireland, Bono worked his way from singing in small clubs to headlining many of the world’s largest stadiums. He has many stories to tell, and they are not all music related. In a daring solo stage production, the 62-year-old rockstar-turned-activist-turned-author reaches far back to when he was known by his birth name, Paul Hewson, and invites the ticket-buying public to bear witness to his journey.

Bono shed numerous recollections for the first time across 576 pages in his memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, published in October 2021. For the book, Bono structured his reflections across 40 chapters, each named for a U2 song. In 2022, Bono embarked on a 14-date book tour across North America and Europe called Stories of Surrender to promote his memoir. Perhaps following the example of Springsteen on Broadway, Bono prepared a carefully-scripted and choreographed program for live audiences that featured readings from his book, live music, and visual aids.

In March, U2 released a companion album, Songs of Surrender, which featured 40 reworked songs from the band’s catalog. In conjunction with this release, rather than touring with U2, Bono restaged his Songs of Surrender live show, returning it to the Beacon Theatre for an 11-show run that began on April 16 and will conclude on May 8. In Songs of Surrender, Bono presents passages from his memoir interlaced with re-framed versions of many of U2’s most-loved songs. 

Radically contrasting the spectacle of a U2 stage, the Beacon Theatre stage is sparsely occupied by tables and chairs, props that Bono uses as he intersperses his stories with stripped-down versions of U2’s stadium rockers. Wearing a black suit, pinstriped vest, and shaded eyeglasses, Bono strolls casually across the stage or sits in a chair as he relays his personal reflections and transforms them into scenes.

Photo by Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Bono

Bono draws arcs in the pacing of his recollections – conversations with his dad at the Sorrento Pub in Dublin, his emergency aortic valve surgery in 2016, how he met and developed relations with his U2 bandmates and his wife (Allison Stewart, who was reportedly in the audience at least the first two nights of Bono’s residency), along with other recurring themes. His simple, monochromatic line drawings illuminate the screens behind him.

Most of Bono’s tales are everyman ordinary. Except for a humorous story about his father meeting Princess Diana, Bono barely touches on the uniqueness of his rock star journey. As such, the content of the stories he selects to share publicly are not as captivating as the climactic manner in which he conveys them. Like his music, his stories often build to a dramatic crescendo.

Songs of Surrender is more soliloquy than concert, yet the music fans that form the largest base of his audience do get a whopping serving of what they crave most. Inevitably the stories lead to a creative rearrangement of a popular U2 song, familiar yet lacking U2’s signature guitar, bass, and drums. Backed by musicians Gemma Doherty (harp, keyboard, vocals), Kate Ellis (cello, keyboard, vocals), and producer Jacknife Lee (musical director, electronic percussion), U2’s love letter to New York, “City of Blinding Lights,” opens the show and lifts an adoring audience to its feet for the first of several times. While the stories are heartwarming, it is live music that rouses the audience.

How impressive the show is depends on how much one cares to know about Bono – or Paul Hewson. Bono has made a career of baring his soul in his music, but much of that is cryptic and even apocryphal. Here, in this intimate setting, Bono unveils his vulnerability in a far more truthful and candid setting. No matter the degree to which his music fans are intrigued about his personal life before they enter the Beacon Theatre, he proves to be a convincing actor as he turns his stories into compelling vignettes.

(Note that per the artist’s request, ticket holders must lock cell phones, cameras, tablets, and laptops into pouches upon entry. The theater staff unlocks the pouches at the exits.)

Photo by Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Bono


  1. City of Blinding Lights (U2 song)
  2. Vertigo (U2 song)
  3. With or Without You (U2 song)
  4. Into the Heart (U2 song)
  5. Out of Control (U2 song)
  6. Stories for Boys (U2 song)
  7. I Will Follow (U2 song)
  8. Iris (Hold Me Close) (U2 song)
  9. Gloria (U2 song)
  10. October (U2 song)
  11. Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2 song)
  12. Miss Sarajevo (Passengers song)
  13. Pride (In the Name of Love) (U2 song)
  14. Where the Streets Have No Name (U2 song)
  15. Desire (U2 song)
  16. Beautiful Day (U2 song)
  17. Torna a Surriento (Ernesto De Curtis cover)