U2’s relationship with former President Bill Clinton goes back to 1992 when U2 were in the midst of the ZOO TV tour supporting Achtung Baby. Every night on the tour, Bono, dressed as his alter ego, the devilish “MacPhisto” would call the White House from the stage and ask to speak to then President George H.W. Bush. AP PHOTOS
Bono’s conversation with the White House receptionist would be played over the sound system so the entire audience could hear and before too long the White House receptionist would come to expect a phone call from Bono, er MacPhisto.
After receiving his party’s nomination for the Presidency, a perceptive and politically brilliant Bill Clinton capitalized on Bush’s refusal to speak with Bono, to the ears of the 20,000-80,000 people who attended the ZOO TV shows, by calling in the radio show RockLine when U2 were hosting and a friendship was formed.
At one of Clinton’s Inauguration balls in January 1993 which was televised on MTV, the other half of U2, Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton joined Michael Stipe and Mike Mills from R.E.M to form a band called “Automatic Baby” (at the time R.E.M had released “Automatic for the People” and U2 had “Achtung Baby”) where they played the U2 song “One”.
As an aside for real music fans, Michael Stipe also joined the 10,000 Maniacs for a rousing version of Lulu’s “To Sir With Love”.
Over the last 19 years Clinton has attended a number of U2 shows and visited with them when possible. In November 2004 Bono and Edge also played the opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas so it came as no surprise when they again appeared to support former President Clinton for his 65th birthday.
Bono and Edge closed the show with a seven-song setlist: "Desire," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "A Man And A Woman," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Staring At The Sun," "One," and "Miss Sarajevo."
A string section was brought to the stage for the last three songs in the set. The set list was much to be expected of an acoustic set with one exception, the song “A Man and A Woman” off 2004’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” was played for the first time live.
This was an interesting and daring choice considering that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and their well publicized marital problems were sitting in the first row. The song is about how painful relationships are and how there is often hurt and pain, but that true love will endure with the chorus discussing “the mysterious distance between a Man and a Woman .”
And while all of this is good and nice and probably true, and they probably performed it in attempt to illustrate that despite their rocky relationship, Bill and Hillary’s true love has endured, I thought it was a strange selection and instead put a spotlight on the infidelity their marriage has suffered.
Bono also pointed out that President Clinton was probably the most loved American President in Bono’s country of Ireland, other than JFK. He also acknowledged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her efforts overseas. The other songs were well rehearsed and performed as can be seen on You Tube.