Anton Corbijn shot U2’s most famous album cover, The Joshua Tree, so it probably shouldn’t have been shocking to see Bono and the Edge mingling amid maybe 25 other randoms at the opening of the filmmaker’s photo exhibition at Stellan Holm gallery on Friday night. But, come on. It was Bono and the Edge. In a tiny second-floor room on the Upper East Side. It was a little weird.
The only things mitigating the weirdness were the U2 members’ warm joviality and that Corbijn had chosen not to display any of his many U2 photographs, which was probably the right move since none of the subjects of the photographs on display (Richard Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits) were in attendance. Asked if he’s embarrassed by any of the photographs Corbijn has taken of him over the years, Bono replied without hesitation, “All of them! It’s hard to look at yourself.” The Edge agreed: “But we know where he parks his car. And he knows that we know. And he knows that if he produces any of them, he’s a dead man.”
As Bono told another guest, when Corbijn started shooting them in the early days, he won them over by telling jokes and keeping them laughing constantly. Plus he paid for dinner the first night, which, given that the band loves dinner and that they hadn’t yet made a fortune, sealed the deal.
Corbijn, though, was never able to actually get a shot of the band smiling. “I remember our manager came up to us in the eighties, after The Joshua Tree. We always had these stony faces. He said, ‘Just a hint. Don’t look like the band is too stupid to enjoy being at number one,’ ” said Bono. According to the Edge, though, the shot they chose for the album cover was actually the cheeriest of the bunch. “He was telling a lot of jokes, so we look somber, but we didn’t look like we were about to go to the guillotine.” (Huh. Really?) The Edge went on, “Studied intensity. I think that’s how you’d describe our early work with Anton. It was years later that we realized that worked, but it only worked in contrast to shots where you didn’t look so intense, of which there were none early on. We’ve tried to redress the balance more recently and take at least one or two where there’s at least the hint of a smile.”
As for the latest sensation among rock stars, Keith Richards’s autobiography, Life, neither has read it, though the Edge said he’s dying to. “Oh yeah! I just haven’t had time. I can’t believe he remembered.” Remembered what? “Anything! I’m terrible at remembering things, but that he remembered anything at all, it’s miraculous.”