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'A soft and cuddly U2'

Bono: Singing to the back of the house

His bandmates make him a stronger artist, Bono says
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(CNN) -- They've played giant football stadiums and arenas crowded with frenzied fans. They've rocked the multitudes with shows featuring giant television sets blaring out music and messages. Now the angry, political quartet from Ireland is looking to scale down.

"We're playing a more intimate kind of venue, the 15 to 20 thousand seaters," guitarist The Edge told World Beat. "Last time we were in football stadiums ... as weird as it might sound, the indoor arenas do feel like spaces that we feel comfortable in. The football stadiums are a bit of a challenge for us. They are very big and it's hard to feel the people at the back of the venues."

"A soft and cuddly U2,'' Bono added.

The band is in the middle of its sold-out 2001 Elevation tour, and members are a bit reflective about their continued success and getting closer to their fans.

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World Beat sat down with lead singer Bono following a concert in Atlanta to talk about U2's success.

World Beat: We really enjoyed your show last night. It seems you all are returning to an older U2 style.

Bono: Our thing from the very beginning has always been... to try and break down the distance between the performer and the audience. When we were ... doing the Zoo TV (tour) and we were creating these kind of giant, multimedia shows that reached out to the back of a stadium -- already the idea was about reducing the distance. The emotional proximity is very important. I have seen bands in clubs and felt 100 miles away from the lead singer. So we try to get lost in the songs and that is really where you connect.

Photos courtesy Dan Vanderkooy

World Beat: The point in the show where you dive into the audience must drive the security people crazy.

Bono: Yeah it is just one of those annoying things that a singer will ask of security, but for me to be able to perform like I perform I have to be able to step into the songs, you know. And I try to do what they tell me and the character in that particular song is a little out of control and I think the last verse is "Look, I got to go." There are things there that, if I could, I would like to rearrange, and then he just sort of jumps off into the crowd. But, you know, I've escaped with limbs and minor injuries and so have they (audience), so we are OK.

World Beat: Throughout the show you never want to lose your sense of humor, either.

Bono: Well, humor is a weapon, really, in the right hands. I think comedians are more effective than rock stars, for instance, at getting across political points or describing people where they are and getting away with it. I think in the 60s and the early 70s rock stars used to get away with it. Now, when they see them coming with their placards they roll down the blinds and hold their ears. A comedian can get right in there and make people laugh, and while they're laughing, people are vulnerable. You can tell them the state of their soul a lot easier.

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