A little over a year ago, my best friend and I went along to see a tribute band at our local live music venue.
I wasn’t a fan of the band they were paying tribute to, suffice to say I’d liked some songs they’d released over the years and I owned a Greatest Hits CD, gathering dust in my CD rack.
Seeing the U2 tribute band, U2Baby, changed my life. Drastic, eh? I’m using my right to be a drama queen here, but as dramatic as it sounds, it is a true statement, and I’ll explain why.
Never before have I been compelled to write down how a gig has made me feel, turning it into a blog and setting me on the path I’m now on of writing gig reviews. Also never have I gone and actively scoured the internet to hear a song again, after hearing it performed by a tribute band. Not looking for the U2 version, but looking for a U2Baby version, as that’s the version I’d fallen in love with.
Since the Worcester gig, I have kept in touch with a couple of band members and watched their already successful career grow via social media. Unable to drive and a full time job meaning I work weekends, I’ve been unable to see them live again, but they’ve secured gigs at places such as Sporting Club Monaco, and two hugely successful “shows” at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, as well as being regular after show performers in Dublin when the real U2 are touring.
With gigs like that in their back catalogue of events, little old Worcester is honoured that they’ve decided to come back for a second time.
If you missed them last year, you have less than a month to wait to catch them this year, bigger, better and even more polished than before, and I’m giving you the opportunity to learn more about the band themselves with this little interview I’ve done with the guys ahead of their return.
So go grab a drink, put your feet up and let us do the talking.
Let me introduce you to:-
Ric as Budget Bono
Simon as Economy Edge
Jon as Low Cost Larry
Ash as Affordable Adam
Introduce yourselves, who are U2Baby and how did you form?
Ric – We are a tribute band from the West Side of London and we’ve been together in this line up for just over 3 years. The idea was formed over 15 years ago but I failed to get the right musicians together to accurately recreate the U2 experience. My brother Simon, then started playing U2 tunes and absolutely nailed the Edge’s sound. This convinced me to do a duo and well, it worked! However, the duo wasn’t quite the experience we were looking to deliver, so we looked for two more members to join. Jon and Ash fulfil drum and bass respectively and we also now have Matt on sound.
Its been over a year since Worcester have seen you and a lot has happened since then, including a new U2 album. What can the Worcester crowd expect from you this time around?
Ric – I think we’ve got a lot more accurate in our representation of LIVE U2. We’ve attended quite a few gigs since then including The Joshua Tree 2017 tour and that, well, rubs off on you! You want to do better and better and it leads to more research online and I think ultimately a better live show for us. We’ve also learned a shed load of new songs! Since we played last time I think we’ve added about 20! You can expect a few from the new album, and some real old classics and anthems too.
Simon- A lot of new sound work and “science” that happens behind the scenes. Also new clothes to match the current look, and also I have been working on the attitude of Edge’s stage presence.
Ash- Lots of new songs, better costumes and and even more attention to the little things that make up the show.
I’ve followed you since your first visit here and its fair to say you’ve gone from strength to strength with some pretty impressive gigs under your belts. Which have been your favourites individually?
Ric- My favourite has to be Dublin in 2017. We played when U2 were in town and as a result the Church was packed with U2 fans. The pressure was on, as you can imagine. It went well and we’ve been invited back this year to do the pre- and post- U2 show fan parties at the same venue. We were also videoed live for a film called Dream Out Loud documenting U2 fan stories.
Simon- For me my favourites are not the venues, but the audiences, certainly playing to a massive audience in The Church Dublin was (and will no doubt again) my personal highlight… that energy that you receive from the audience as a performer, knowing the great songs beneath you, is an incredible feeling.
Jon- Dublin, Cardiff, Marrs bar, (of course) and my local Norden Farm.. all for different reasons! Like Simon, it is all about the people.. that is the reason I do what I do. Call me an attention seeker but crowd reaction is what I live for! I can name one very specific point from a recent gig in Cardiff.. 1st song, as the first verse kicks in and, over the top of me playing, the band playing and my in-ear monitors, I hear the crowd singing… “I want to run….” I knew it was going to be a fantastic gig.!!
Ash- I have to say the Dublin ones have been my favourite, with The Cavern being a close second!
Our Facebook group was formed to promote live music in our hometown, as more and more venues close around the country. As a touring tribute band, can you give us a little insight into what you put into a gig away from your hometown? (With regards to rehearsal time, travel arrangements, what gear you bring etc)
Ric – Well we are all rehearsing continually in our own domains. I have a singing setup at home that allows me to play back our last gig and sing over the live band, as it were. Travel can be anything from a short drive to hours and hours (our record was an 11 hour drive to Switzerland for a 40 minute show!). In terms of gear its a couple of van loads if we are providing the PA system, but generally most venues supply that. We have really invested in top quality kit and use the same FX systems that U2 use on stage (albeit scaled down a little!). The sound is really important to us.
Simon- the whole process starts with identifying the specific version of a song we would like to perform, I then go through and produce our “production” materials, which include clicks and cues, and any backing material (incidental music parts) or like now, working on full orchestra for Lights of Home… after that we separately learn our parts, I build my “tone” for that song, and the “scenes” within each like chorus, verse tones etc… and then we come together to rehearse. Only when we are really happy with all of that can a song go on the setlist! So many, many hours work.
Jon – I turn up at the time they tell me to! For gear, I have everything in the correct place/bag. Has to be the same everytime, for consistency.
Ash- We like to travel with all the gear, we have two vans (which we usually fill to the brim!) as for practice, we all do our own separately and then come together when we’ve learned all the new material and then work on it as a whole and get the performance right.
Is there a collective favourite song you love performing?
Ric- I think we are enjoying the new songs because none of us have any preconceptions…. They are all hitting us at the same time
Simon – I think Streets is an awesome collective piece. It brings together strong backing track content, massive drums, great guitar riff and bass parts including classic Moog Taurus. Not to mention the lyrical content.
Jon- I think drummers just like playing! There are some stand out songs for me. The intro to Streets is just so powerful, I love it. I like the heavy, full on tunes like Until the end of the world/The fly, of course, but I really like the dynamics of Iris, Invisible and the middle – 8 sections where everything drops before we go off again.. I love the dynamic journey.
Ash- We all have our favourites, I think as a band we like playing the ones that get the crowd going the most.
And on the flip side, each U2 song showcases talents of different band members, which are your individual favourites to perform and why?
Ric- I like the big ballads…. One, With or Without You and even the newer one’s like The Little Things That Give You Away. Intensely personal songs, like Kite and Iris, are also favourites as they tap into my emotions and deliver a highly connected experience to the audience.
Simon- Until the End of the World (because of the great solo).
Jon- I love all the classics. Larry has many signature rhythms, so for me to try to emulate any of those is fantastic, (not that I aways get them right!) I love 40, especially the end.. basically all of them!
Ash- My personal favourite is The Streets, as I get to play my Taurus (a kind of piano you play with your feet) and its such a big sounding song and always gets the crowd going.
How often do you get together to rehearse?
Ric- We get together every two weeks for about 5-6 hours solid – we come prepared so that we can just rattle through the older songs and spend more time on new things.
Simon – Quite a lot… usually tuesdays. We are very lucky with the rehearsal space we are allowed to use.
Ash-We usually rehearse more when we have gigs coming up or like at the moment, as we are adding lots of new songs from the new album.
How long does it take you to learn a new song to add into your repertoire?
Ric- It can really vary from a single run through together and its nailed, through to weeks of rehearsing them to get them bedded in. There’s no real average as it depends on the song complexity.
Simon – Depends on the song… Lights of Home is already several weeks into the development process and we haven’t played a single note together on it yet!
Jon- Completely depends on the song.. but for some reason I need to play it at rehearsal, record it and listen back before I can get under the skin of it.
Ash- Not too long, we are all experienced musicians and have had lots of practice in learning material.
How far do you go to achieve an authentic U2 experience? (For example, most expensive piece of kit purchased, or replica outfit etc)
Ric- Ha ha ha – don’t go there! The last leather jacket I bought was about £1500. I think that’s close to the price of some of the items of equipment. Put it this way the band has made a major investment in authentic equipment including signature guitars, AXE FX guitar systems, Manley vocal processing…. If he changes his sunglasses again I will go spare….
Simon – Its a scary thing to look at what we have spent to produce this show. My guitar rig (whilst smaller!) is practically identical to the real thing.
Jon- no-where near the level of the others!
Ash – Well!!!! I’ve had my Adam jackets custom made, I used to work for a costume department and I sew, so I make some of the shirts etc. All the equipment I use is as close to what Adam uses as I can afford! I now have 3 of his basses, one I made and I bought the others, the most expensive being the new purple sparkly Fender Precision which actually melted my credit card!!!
Seeing the real U2 perform must be a surreal experience for you. Do you find yourselves taking mental notes of things or are you able to switch off the “personas” and enjoy the show?
Ric- Switch off completely when at a live show. That’s what YouTube is there for. When I’m there my phone is tucked away in my pocket and I just live for the moment.
Simon – When I saw them at the O2 in London during I+e tour, I really studied, but I could… I was about 5 feet from The Edge…. bass was intense. But at Twickenham on the Joshua Tree Tour 2017, I was a little further back, and really enjoyed the audience experience.
Jon – I can’t fully enjoy any gig as I just want to be up on stage.
Ash – Unfortunately I never switch off, I take seeing them as a way to improve my performance.
Music is pure emotion, and some songs have personal meanings to me, do you have songs that relate to times in your lives that you find harder to perform, or maybe even a joy to perform as it reminds you of good times?
Ric – Yes – Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own and Kite almost make me cry when singing. They take me to some very personal memories. That’s all I’m saying!
Simon- All of these songs have a lot of interwoven meanings and special aspects for me. I am regularly floored by the emotion in some!
Jon – my main memory is my girlfriend at the time playing me Under a blood red sky sometime in about 1984, then the iconic performance of Bad at Live aid the year after.
Ash- City Of Blinding lights is the one for me, has great memories
Do you get nerves before a show?
Ric – Good nerves yes. Really just want to deliver the best show we can as people have paid good money to see it. It’s not nerves over the quality of what we do but just nerves that drive us forward really.
Simon- I don’t think I’ve ever got “nerves” before… excitement yes, but not nerves…
Jon – I get apprehensive, usually during the day. sometime more about forgetting something.. I have a recurring dream about rushing to get something from the dressing room and trying to get back in time for the first song!! that’s been going on for years!
Ash- Not really
Every band has a diva, who is yours and why?
Simon- Guess… LOL. I think its Jon, closely followed by Ric. But he has to..
Ric -I agree with Simon… My diva’ness comes out of my persona… whereas Jon is a true Diva.
Jon – Very funny EDGE!! I can read you know!!
Ash- Being diplomatic, I think we are all a bit, It’s just the nature of the job!
Onstage, do you tend to stick to your U2 alter egos, or will we see a little glimpse of the guys behind the band?
Ric – We’re just us playing the music of U2. Sure we try to copy the visual elements of movement and so forth. But we don’t try to copy accents and stuff… so you are really seeing us recreating iconic U2 moments.
Simon- Unless something goes wrong, I try to stay in character… but usually by the end of a gig, people are just enjoying the music so much, we can relax a little.
Jon – I can only look miserable for a few minutes!! (that’s a joke, of course). I struggle to do much other than play in time and play the right bit of the song! I spend most of the gig with my eyes closed listening to the ‘Click’, trying to concentrate, so in that regard, I am not like Larry at all.
Ash – Hopefully not, otherwise I’m not doing my job!!! We are a U2 show not a bunch of guys playing U2 songs. I like to think we are more of a replica than a tribute.
The Marrs Bar is a fairly intimate venue, and you have also played at some big festivals. Do you have a preference between big festivals or up close and personal gigs?
Ric – They are both brilliant. I don’t mind either way. It can be great playing to a small group of 50 or to a massive crowd of 1000s…. We’d put on the same show regardless.
Simon – Like I said earlier, it’s not so much the venue, but the audience. I like to play to an excited audience. If we get to do that… it’s all good. “wherever”
Jon – I prefer the intimate where I can see people are enjoying it, even better if can hear them singing.. 🙂
Ash – I love both, you get something different from every venue and audience.
Worcester, we are in for a real treat. Whether you are a U2 fan or not, this will be a show worth seeing, because it is a “show”. A performance of epic proportions that any live music lover will appreciate. Also, you’ll be supporting a live music venue in our hometown that I have grown to love since starting on this new venture of reviewing gigs. The sound, the buzz, the atmosphere when the venue is full. I’d be lost without it.
I’ve been counting down the days to see U2Baby again, and I hope you’ll a join me on the ride. I’ll be there, With or without you, but I’m hoping it’ll be with you.
Saturday 5th May, it’s a date, see you there 😉
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Behind the scenes and other photography from the last Worcester gig courtesy of Lissywitch Photos.
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