Seeking domination of the Northeastern United States, Unforgettable Fire is building a reputation as being one of the most ambitious tribute bands around. Tony Russo (Bono), Joe Shugrue (The Edge), George Levesanos (Larry Mullen, Jr.), and Craig Kiell (Adam Clayton) are all dedicated to being faithful to their source of inspiration.
Interference caught up with Joe after UF recreated U2’s legendary Red Rocks performance and lit up the stage in New York City.
Q: What can fans expect at an Unforgettable Fire show?
A: Any fan that comes to a UF show can expect nothing less than a complete live performance of a U2 show from a particular tour that they have done in the past, whether it's the Red Rocks concert, the Joshua Tree/Rattle & Hum period, ZooTV, PopMart, or the most recent Elevation tour. All of those little things you see in the concert videos, whether it’s the wardrobe of the era, the sounds, the lights, or something Bono said or did on stage means so much to us in our shows. You'll always find us at our gigs early trying to come up with more things that we can add to our show. Believe me, if we had the financing and the room to put plasma screens on stage we would do it. We're always trying to out-do the shows we've done in the past, and our crowd knows this and appreciates it.
Q: During your concerts, does Tony recreate the various characters that Bono
has gone through, like the Fly and BonoMan?
A: Absolutely! I don't think there could be a better Bono in a U2 tribute band than our front man, Tony. He really knows how to step into his character. It's really quite amazing to watch him go from the Elevation Bono and turn into The Fly between sets. He goes as far as changing his earrings between sets to make sure he is in full and complete character. He even has his own road case for all of his sunglasses. This means so much to all of us. No matter what era we're in, all of the band members make sure we're in the correct costume for the concert we're emulating. There's still nothing better than seeing Tony come out as The Fly with the cigar in his mouth, opening up during "Zoo Station." It's really worth the price of admission to just see that. It still gives me the chills.
Q: What are your current tour plans? What's been your most extensive tour
A: Well, our current plan is to just be the dominant U2 tribute band in the Northeast of the U.S. We're kind of working a radius from Philadelphia up to Boston and have had really great success. In our earlier days, we were such a traveling band. We used to go all up and down the East Coast and have even done tours in Canada and South America. We found that constant touring all over the map was getting a bit frustrating with all of the logistics involved. This is not to say we won't go back on the long road trips again, but we feel right now we want to keep building a strong following right in our backyard.
Q: How did you get started as a band? And why U2?
A: I started this band with our drummer, George, in the Fall of 1994. It got started mostly out of frustration with the New York cover and original band scene. I really wanted to try something different and something that hadn't really been explored that much. The time was right for a U2 tribute band. I was always a huge U2 fan, and I also knew what a great live show they were. At the time we were really into Rattle & Hum, and the recent ZooTV shows. We really wanted to recreate that whole spectacle.
Q: How did you guys decide upon Unforgettable Fire for your band's name?
A: That's a good question. We really thought hard about the name when we were putting the whole thing together. We were playing around with a few different names. I was really against names like "The Joshua Tree" or "Achtung Baby," because it always gave me the impression of a greatest hits tribute band rather than a band put together by fans of the music. I actually toyed around with the name "Rattle & Hum," because I really liked the movie and the power of the live performances. We shot this down because there was another U2 tribute band in the New York area using that name. I was glad we didn't use this name because it really represented a short period of time for U2 that in retrospect they weren't very fond of. We finally came up with "Unforgettable Fire." We knew we loved it as soon as it was thrown on the table. It really represents a great transitional phase for U2. It was the beginning of the Eno, Lanois era, and the band really expanded its ability. It also makes for a really cool band logo.
Q: What is your favorite U2 song?
A: Wow. That's a really loaded question. A lot of fans will ask me that at our shows. I'm such a big fan of U2, so it really makes that difficult to narrow down. I guess if I was to narrow it down to a couple I would have to say "Wire" for starters. Being such a big fan of The Edge, I can't think of a more innovative sound. It's just so raw and powerful and really grabs me every time I hear it. There's no other song quite like it. Another would probably be "Ultraviolet." Again, another song that really grabs me. Achtung Baby is also my favorite album. I can never get tired of it. I still find it so amazing that a band get change its direction so much and still be so innovative and have all of those great songs.
Q: Have you ever met the real U2?
A: I never had the pleasure. It almost happened back in 2001. We were doing a show in Albany the night before the Elevation show. Bono and the Edge were doing the town and accidentally walked into our gig. They found out we were there and quickly bolted out of there. I guess they figured they were gonna get mobbed and wanted no part of that. A lot of the road crew was at the gig too, they were loving it and thanked us. They were cool, and gave us a bunch of Edge and Adam guitar picks. The funnier part was they were actually staying in the hotel room above me and George. We tried a bunch of times to get up there but the security wasn't having it. Tony has met Bono twice. He has a cool picture of it on our web site. We all had to make a few double takes to figure out who was who.
• For updates on their current tour schedule, check out Unforgettable Fire’s Web site, www.UF2.com.
• Originally published at Interference.com on 08-13-2003 at 06:58 AM
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