The Crystal Ball: 2020 and Beyond

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2020-01-08)

For those who have been following us for a while, you know what the Crystal Ball(room) means…we’re looking towards the future with some information that has been shared with us from a variety of sources. We do try to sort through the information sent to us and only present what we believe to actually be happening, but any of this pertaining to currently unannounced projects should be taken as rumour at this stage. As the new year has many of us looking forward we thought we’d collect some of the rumours in one spot, as well as adding some new pieces that have been shared with us.

First up? U2’s last contract was signed in March 2008 and covered a twelve year period. That covered tours, merchandising and the website, and will be expiring in March of this year. We are told that U2 have just signed, or are in the process of signing a new contract that will cover another 10 years of the band’s output. Looks like the band isn’t finished yet and are looking toward the future, just like we all are! If our sources are correct, the new contract will carry the band into 2030. We’ll pass along more information when we have it but expect an announcement from Live Nation when things are complete.

IMAGE: From the show in Japan on December 4, 2019: U2 announce U2X Radio

Part of what is coming next is U2’s own radio channel on Sirius XFM. The channel will be available to subscribers in USA, Canada and Puerto Rico. Some of the exclusive content will also be available to subscribers to Pandora in the USA. The station is being called U2X. The station is expected to launch early in 2020, and will feature music by U2 around the clock, as well as interviews with the band and their collaborators, and maybe some highlights from other artists mixed in. The announcement listed “music from U2’s acclaimed decades-long career; never before heard interviews and live concert recordings; favorites and surprises from the archive; band curated playlists sharing personal influences both new and old; plus content celebrating their Dublin roots and much, much more.” This follows on a two month channel available on Sirius in 2018, which included a special concert at the Apollo Theater in New York, which was broadcast on the station. The 2018 channel was called The U2 Experience, this new channel will see that title shortened to U2X. U2 and collaborators are now working on content for this permanent channel. A launch date has not yet been announced, but we are told it should be in the first half of the year. For more information on the two month long station in 2018 and what was broadcast see our links at the bottom.

IMAGE: Artist rendition of the now approved U2 Exhibition

That may not be the only place that the name U2X is being used. We’re told that the name will also be considered for U2’s exhibition that is being built on the site of their old studio in Dublin. The exhibition will be in a newly constructed building on the location of their old studio at Hanover Quay. The display will be spread over four floors and will feature displays from throughout the bands career. It will be a while before this one opens though, as the last time we were past the site the old building was still standing. For a closer look at the planned exhibition building, see our links at the bottom of this article.

The name U2X may also be used on a box set or a compilation of older material that will be put together in the months to come. The band has released three compilations to date, The Best of 1980 – 1900 focused on singles from the 1980s, The Best of 1990 – 2000 focused on work from the 1990s, and U218 Singles focused on the bands entire career up until its release in 2006. We’ve been told that the next compilation will again focus on the band’s entire career to date, and may be a larger collection than previous sets. A release date has not been set, nor has the final content of such a compilation been settled. So don’t expect this one soon, maybe not even this year, but it appears there is something being developed or considered.

A radio station, an exhibit in Dublin, a possible new compilation, and that’s not all the looking back that will be done in the coming year. Bono is also putting the finishes on his autobiography, which is being published by Penguin. It looks like the book is nearing completion and should be available soon.

The book has been in the works for some time with the deal to write the book being secured in 2017 and offered to a small group of publishers at the time according to reports in the Irish press. Last year it was said that a final manuscript was expected in the middle of 2019 by Penguin. And at that time it was expected that it would take a number of months to finish editing and get it ready to go to press. If it was turned in at the expected mid-year point last year, then it could potentially arrive in 2020. Two well known friends of Bono’s have commented on it in late 2019, with Salman Rushdie telling Brendan O’Connor on RTE, that Bono “is good at everything. Why wouldn’t he be good at this?” and Elton John also claiming that he hasn’t given Bono any writing tips, in an interview shortly after John’s own autobiography was published.

IMAGE: Artwork accompanying U2 eXPERIENCE broadcast

U2 are also wrapping up the most recent era of almost five years of touring with the release of a couple of tour films this upcoming year. The first, “U2 eXPERIENCE: Live in Berlin” is airing now through television. The version that is airing is a 75-minute version of the final home video release. The first act featuring the opening of the show, and the Achtung Baby songs has been cut for the television broadcast, but will be present when this is released on DVD and other home formats. The video has been filmed in 4K, so expect that a 4K disc may be available as well as other previous formats that U2 have used. The film is by Matt Askem of Serpent Productions, and was filmed in Berlin on November 13, 2018. We are told by Universal that the home video versions of this release will be announced in the next three months, and that the release will happen in the first half of the year. U2.Com has said “By the way, while this is the 75 minute cut, early in 2020 we’ll have news on the release of the entire show…” The video will be released through Eagle Rock Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group, purchased in 2014. The release will not be the 75-minute version, but a full 2-hour version with the first act included. [Update, January 22, 2020: A DVD for the fan club, containing the full 2-hour, 22-minute concert will be released in 2020. No commercial versions beyond this have been announced at this time.]

The last home video release was the “Innocence + Experience” video from Paris which was released June 10, 2016, and was officially announced on May 13, 2016. So expect an announcement of the video shortly before the video release itself. That video from the Innocence tour was aired live from Paris on HBO ahead of a home video release, but U2 have also previously shown edited short version of releases for the “Elevation” and “Vertigo” tours on television ahead of a commercial release.

IMAGE: A Still from the Joshua Tree Tour screen footage shot by Anton Corbijn

Another film is in the works as well, this time in the form of a feature film produced by Anton Corbijn, which will focus on The Joshua Tree Tour 2017. Corbijn in 2017 traveled with the band and filmed shows in San Diego, Mexico, and throughout South America. It was also Corbijn who was responsible for the films that played on the screen during The Joshua Tree portion of the concerts. It is the footage filmed live in Mexico City (with some content from San Diego for the opening songs) that will be the focus of the film, which will also feature some non-concert footage. It is Corbijn’s first time helming a concert video for U2 but he has previously worked extensively with Depeche Mode documenting their tours. The Joshua Tree film should debut mid-year in theatres worldwide, and be released to home video formats late in the year. The film was originally rumoured for a late 2018 release, but was finally scheduled for June 2019. When the decision was made to take The Joshua Tree tour on the road again in 2019 it was decided that the film would be held until this year instead. We are told that Steve Lillywhite has mixed the audio for the film, and that his work was complete in mid-2019 before the 2019 tour began. We are crossing our fingers that this one happens soon, and are told that it will likely happen in June or July 2020. Many acts are now releasing films to theatres worldwide before a home pressing, including recent films by Depeche Mode and The Cure.

Both of these films, for the eXPERIENCE tour and The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, will be commercially released on home video. Although it appears that the release dates for both have been a bit of a moving target over the last couple of years, they seem to be still scheduled for release and should be appearing soon.

So what are U2 up to now? Hopefully taking a bit of time to rest following the tour that took them through New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, The Philippines and India. We are told they will take some time off the road at this point and will work on new music before going out on tour again. And that they hope to have a new album done by the next time they tour. Two albums are possibilities at this point, with Bono continuing to talk about Songs of Ascent while the rest of the band seems to be looking towards other possibilities. Although even Bono seems open to doing something new, talking about a rock album recently as well.

One album being discussed would be completing the long delayed Songs of Ascent originally developed as a second half to the songs on No Line on the Horizon and later held back. The album has been mentioned a number of times over the years since, and it has been confirmed that there is still an album there, as recently as Bono’s appearance on Hozier’s “Cry Power” podcast where he said, “We have this beautiful, ecstatic album called Songs of Ascent, I don’t know if we’ll finish it soon or if it will take forever – it’s about forever – that’s its subject – Songs of Ascent are 15 psalms, they’re named after the 15 steps from the women’s chamber up to the Temple of Jerusalem. It’s an old idea. I’m obsessed with David, King David in the bible, who turns out was right bollocks, but he was kind of an interesting figure, he was brutally honest with God at all times, even about himself being a bollocks. I’d love to do that.”

The other would be a rock album, which would not see the band revisit Songs of Ascent at this time. Adam Clayton has said of a new album, “We’ve certainly got lots of leftover pieces, but by the time we come to make another record, I’m sure we’ll start from scratch.” and The Edge has said “There’s lots of ideas for the next records, but I think a bit of time off just to listen to music and to really feed our creative instincts is in order.” As the Experience and Innocence tour drew to a close in 2018 Bono stated that he’d “like to make a balls to the wall rock album.” Bono in the podcast with Hozier in 2019 brought up the rock album as well saying, “I’d also love to do just a straightforward-fuck-off-rock-and-roll album with this band. Because on this last tour, they’ve got to a place, I mean they’ve been there before, I think they’ve always had greatness in them, but we do a lot of very good in between the great. I felt like I just caught up to them on this last tour. And there were moments on the circular stage, the e-stage, on the Experience and Innocence tour, and they hit some powerful stuff. I’d like to find songs that could contain that fire.”

Larry keeps it the simple when talking about the new album, saying “I assume there’ll be another album.”

A few collaborators have also chimed in. Ryan Tedder sounds like he will work with the band on the new album, saying in September 2019, “I spoke to them just last week. We will work together on some new pieces when I am in Los Angeles. I think it’s their intention to make a record completely different from the last two. It will be easier. You know, it’s like a pendulum. When you make a very produced album, with so many instruments in it, the next project you want it to be more sparse, and you wonder, what if the disc had the sound of four musicians playing in a room?” It is likely that the album Tedder references would be the new album leaning towards rock, and not Songs of Ascent. And recently at the U2 Conference in Sydney, Australia, Dallas Schoo mentioned that the band was already working on a new album, and he thought the fans would like it.

Regardless of which album U2 eventually decide to pursue, we don’t don’t expect a new album this year, and expect the album, and the eventual tour, will be a few years off yet. If that changes we will be happy to share any information as we get it.

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