SAN FRANCISCO—Rock band U2, currently on tour in North America, is well-known for its human-rights advocacy, particularly its ongoing campaign to eradicate poverty in Africa. Less known to fans of the Irish supergroup, however, is that the lion's share of these efforts are made by lead singer Bono. The three other U2 members are perfectly okay with the dismal plight of Africa's poor.
"Yeah, that Africa stuff is Bono's thing," The Edge said. "I don't mind if he pursues other interests, but I really try to focus on the guitar riffs that give U2 its characteristic sound."
Bassist Adam Clayton, while "not opposed" to Bono's tireless efforts to improve the quality of life for impoverished Third World citizens, is apparently too busy to spearhead an anti-poverty initiative of his own.
"I was happy to help out with the Live 8 thing," said Clayton, referring to the July mega-concert benefit. "But ever since I discovered rock 'n' roll in the mid-'70s, music has been my passion, and I'd be lying if I said it was something different, like helping people."
Clayton added: "I don't have a problem with [Bono] trying to save Africa. Who knows, it might inspire some decent songs. But just as long as it doesn't interfere with the band."
In 2002, Bono started an organization called Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa to raise awareness of the deep health and economic crises that cripple much of the continent. His fellow bandmates, however, do not lose any sleep over the debt crisis facing many African nations.
"If I could wave a magic wand and cure Africa's problems, I would do that," drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said. "But someone has to take care of the more practical, day-to-day stuff that Bono doesn't really bother with. Like, for example, how's the next album going to sound? How're we going to keep our live act fresh? I can't tell you how many millions of decisions go into making one Elevation tour."
Mullen added: "You don't win 14 Grammys feeding Africans."
In the rare moment they have free, Clayton, Mullen, and The Edge said they choose to relax and rejuvenate, without letting the plight of Africa's starving and disease-afflicted millions weigh too heavily on their minds.
"I have a garden to tend to when we're not on the road," The Edge said. "There's nothing wrong with taking care of your own little corner of the world. I work very hard in my garden."
When asked their opinion about Bono's prospects of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize within the next year, the music-playing part of U2 could not stifle their groans.
"We had a big scare last year when [Bono's] name was put forward as the new president of the World Bank," Clayton said. "I mean, I have nothing against it, but it would just be more work for us, because we'd be left with the very challenging task of finding a new lead singer."
During live concerts, U2 audiences are treated to a stunning audiovisual experience, with Bono periodically giving his opinion on social and world events between songs. During these interludes, the rest of U2 is often conspicuously silent.
"When Bono starts telling the audience how messed up the world can be and how we should work together to make things better, I usually just zone out," Mullen said.