Expressive Music

U2 is one of those bands that defies definition or explanation. During more than 40 years of history together, these Irish lads have accomplished more than many of their musical counterparts around the world put together. For one thing, they’re still together and still a musical force to be reckoned with. Consisting of their iconic figure head, Bono (lead singer and rhythm guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards and backing vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar) and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion), these rockers from Dublin took their post-punk roots on a trip through a variety of musical directions, evolution, discovery and constant change. Through it all they maintained a career of music that became anthems, a sound that revolved around Bono’s expressive vocals and the Edge’s effects-based guitar textures. Their lyrics are often embellished with spiritual imagery, focusing on personal and sociopolitical themes — they are Irish after all, and political turmoil is pretty much a part of their DNA.
U2 is one of the world’s best-selling bands in history, having sold more than 170 million records worldwide. They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band, and in 2005, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone ranked U2 at No. 22 on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” Throughout their career, as a band and as individuals, they have campaigned for human rights and social justice causes.
They are particularly known for their amplified and elaborate tours throughout their career, some of these tours not only becoming the top grossing tours of the year, but the top grossing tours by any artist, ever.
From that small group of inexperienced teenagers who decided in 1976 to put a band together, U2 recorded some of the most memorable albums and songs such as Boy (1980), War (1983), The Joshua Tree (1987) and so many more, along with singles “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride (In the Name of Love),” establishing them as a politically and socially conscious group as well as global superstars. Topping music charts around the world were their singles, “With or Without You,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
So recreating all of that to put together a tribute act is a tall and ambitious order, but Rattle and Hum — The Premier U2 Tribute is up to the challenge. The guys all have music in common and had been playing for years, but it wasn’t until they met on tours performing for American troops overseas that the idea of a U2 tribute was kicked around, coming to fruition in 2011. Since then, the L.A. based band has made several trips to Vegas and other venues.
The group includes Tony Oros as Bono; Cameron Curtis (drums), Fab Rodig (bass); and Phil Wormdahl (guitar).
We talked with Rattle and Hum frontman and show producer, Tony Oros, about the music, and the show they’re bringing to the Riverside Resort. Here’s his take…

Talk a little bit about your background.
Most of our players have toured extensively with Armed Forces Entertainment, USO and an area of the Department of Defense called Morale, Welfare, Recreation and Family. We went to Iraq in March of 2011, and we were one of the last Armed Forces Entertainment bands to perform in Iraq before we pulled out our troops. That’s how the bass player and I met in Los Angeles about 20 years ago. The bass player Fab and myself have toured over three dozen countries for the Department of Defense and we started doing tribute shows over 20 years ago. Then my drummer Cameron and myself started Mountain West Entertainment. We also manage other bands. We’ve got disco bands, and a couple ’80s bands, Southern rock, stuff like that. We’ve got our fingers in a lot of different pies. And we’re enjoying all of it. We love doing the U2 show especially, and St. Patrick’s week is always like our New Year’s Eve for an Irish band.
We’ve played in Vegas every other year or so, at places like New York, New York, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, a lot of the Station Casinos, but this is gonna be our first time playing in Laughlin. We keep seeing great stuff about the Riverside Resort and we’re real excited to do this.

Why U2? Bono is known for his stage antics like climbing scaffolding, their catalogue is extensive and their tours have been the top grossing tours of the year and then some. That is a lot of pressure.
We have huge, huge Irish boots to fill. This is one of my favorite bands of all time, and I’ve loved them since probably the War album in 1983, when I was 13 years old. As far as doing Bono, I also do some acting, so when I get on stage, when I put on the Bono clothing and the shades, and I’m warming up, listening to the tunes, I really get myself in the head space of Bono as a performer on stage. Between songs, I don’t do an Irish accent, we don’t pretend to be U2, but we keep it light between songs and talk to the audience and tell some stories here and there. During the songs, it is a full recreation of what I think is some of the most epic and majestic rock music made in the last 40 years.

What other elements of their elaborate shows do you incorporate into your shows?
We do have a couple of props. If you remember the Rattle and Hum movie, there is a thing where they’re doing “Bullet the Blue Sky” and Bono’s following Edge around with a follow spotlight, so we’ll usually do that when we play that song. As far as the set list, since there’s so many hits to choose from and we have 80 minutes for five nights in a row, what we’re doing is, we’re doing the hits every night, and then each night we’re mixing in a couple different album tracks and guilty pleasure songs that the really die-hard U2 fans are gonna be surprised to hear while we’re also doing all the hits everybody just respects and remembers.
That’s the thing about their career, half of our set, we see people turn to each other and say, “Oh, I remember this song,” or “I love this song.” We have so much great stuff to choose from. They really make our job difficult musically, but easy as far as pleasing an audience.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much music you put in a show, someone isn’t going to hear their favorite song.
It’s par for the course as far as being an entertainer. You’re never gonna please all the people all the time. But it’s certainly fun to try and then, of course, we have to have fun doing it, too. So when we’re picking out which “non-hits” or other alternative songs we’re putting in the set, we go back and forth with emails and at rehearsal and talk about them. Someone will say, “Well, I love ‘Bullet the Blue Sky,'” and we’ll do that one, or I really love ‘Crumbs from Your Table,'” or something more obscure, but they’re all things the really die-hard U2 fan is gonna know.

U2 is also known for their sociopolitical views in their songs. Do you get into that in the show?
U2 is one of those bands that you really love them or you don’t like politics in music and you don’t like outspoken musicians. I think if you have a platform like that — my favorite band on the planet will always be the Beatles and my favorite Beatle was always John because he took the platform he was given by the chance and DNA that he was able to be a musician at a certain point in time and he did things that he hoped would change the planet for the better. And I look at people like Bono and Sting and Peter Gabriel in the same light. This isn’t like getting up and putting on a wig and doing Bon Jovi songs, these are songs with meaning and depth, and I take that very seriously.
We do talk a little about the band, but we don’t make it heavy. A lot of the topics do get heavy, I mean, “Pride in the Name of Love” is about Martin Luther King being assassinated and it’s still a rock concert and it’s still fun. People can still dance in the aisles, but yes, we do certainly keep that in mind with song selection, with the way we address the crowds, all the above. It’s one of the multi-faced things about U2 that we enjoy.

What was the biggest challenge with this tribute show?
Honestly, it was half a dozen emails back and forth with the band and interestingly with another buddy in another U2 tribute that’s playing up in Vegas that week. The biggest discussion was what recent songs do we add to the show because rock and roll is general — the attention and the popularity has waned over the last 10 years or so and U2 is no different. And so, their recent hits are nowhere near the status of their hits from 20 or 30 years ago. We’ve had a lot of back and forths about what new songs we are doing off the last two or three albums. We did pick three that we are going to be rotating in. I believe we’re doing a new song every night, but I don’t think there’s a night where we do all three newer songs.
Heck, U2 just did a stadium tour of only doing songs from The Joshua Tree for the anniversary of that show. So we’re gonna stay pretty nostalgic, but we’re gonna throw some of the new stuff in.

What do you think it is that sets your show apart?
All my guys, all the musicians I work with are study dogs. There is so much nuance that goes into the U2 show that you really have to study. For me, Bono’s lyrics are voluminous and it takes a lot of study for the guitar player to get all of Edge’s tone. So we pride ourselves on our accuracy, but also the showmanship. Even if you’re not a huge U2 fan — a lot of people come to casino shows and tribute shows just for a night of good music and fun, and we bring that as well. We bring the showmanship, which balances out for those people that aren’t necessarily huge U2 fans.

What is the crowd favorite no matter where you play?
There’s some you always have to play, but of those, “Streets Have No Name” hits people in a certain way and so does “One,” especially if you’re out on a date night, people especially love “One,” and they love “With or Without You.”
But then, we’ll always be approached by people after the show and they say, “Hey, man, I loved the fact that you did ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.'” (He laughs). But again, 40 years of great, great songs to choose from, that part or our job is easy. You know we take it seriously, but at some point, it’s only rock and roll. You know, I’ve heard Bono mess up his own lyrics, so I’ll be okay.


Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside

Wednesday-Sunday, March 14-18 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for tickets