I love U2. I have been a fan since Boy. I’ve visited their Windmill Lane recording studio in Dublin, belonged to their fan club, owned all of their records, seen them in concert numerous times, read the books about them, and have a poster from the Unforgettable Fire era hanging in my office. So when a friend suggested we see U2 tribute band Hollywood U2 at SOhO last year, I agreed, but I also didn’t expect much.
Then the familiar notes of “Beautiful Day” rang out and Hollywood Bono bounded onto the stage joining the other three lads-Hollywood Edge, Adam, and Larry. Despite myself I was on my feet in seconds, jumping up and down with delight. The voice, the clothes, the stature, the familiar movements, the wraparound glasses-the impression was dead on.
While all of the musicians in Hollywood U2 are accomplished, much of the reason the band is compelling is because of its lead singer. Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Joe Hier throws himself into the role so completely it’s nearly impossible to not get swept up in the illusion. It doesn’t hurt that Hier has a voice as mesmerizing and soulful as the real Bono’s. Add to that the coincidentally similar looks and Hier’s brilliant acting, and voil -he quickly transforms into the famous frontman.
“People have said, ‘You really have [Bono’s] mannerisms down. You must have practiced his moves.’ I have to be honest and say that I haven’t really put much work into it. I just know what he does because I’m such a fan. When I get into that character it kind of just happens naturally because I love [U2] so much, and the songs; it just takes me over.”
Hier had thought about starting a U2 tribute band for a while, but it wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles six years ago and found carpentry-his career of 20 years-so difficult to break into that he got serious about the gig. “When I came out here and found it was hard to make money in construction, I started to think, ‘Alright, I’m gonna try this out.’ So I did some research online and looked at all the other U2 tributes out there. That’s when I felt I had to do this. I know I can do this better than anybody I see doing it.” So he put an ad out for band members and interviewed until he found the right guys. “Now it’s taking off,” Hier said. “I’ve been doing it for about four years, and every year it’s like three to four times more work, and it all comes through the Web site” (hollywoodU2.com).
It’s a testament to Hier’s talent and sincere performances that Hollywood U2 is such a success. “I’m always reminded every time I do a show that what I’m doing is working [well], and if I find one day that it isn’t anymore, I’m going home,” Hier said. “I’m doing it because I want to make people feel something. : It’s uplifting to see a band perform those songs very well-that’s what I’ve been told. It’s a healing thing, and I take that seriously.”
With a song catalog as full of hits as U2’s, any decent tribute band is pretty much assured that its set will go over well with audiences. Capturing the Irish band’s essence, however, is no easy feat. But that’s exactly what Hollywood U2 does-they take the sound and heart of U2 and duplicate it so precisely that they produce a dynamic, exciting, and amazingly realistic experience that’s on par with seeing the band live.
“It is about delivering it with conviction,” Hier said. “It’s honestly something I’ve never thought about doing, I’ve just always sung with heart. I do feel it’s a combination of loving the band and the material and just being passionate about performing. : I’m kind of a perfectionist.”
With few opportunities to see U2 live, and no real chance of hearing them in an intimate setting, Hollywood U2 fills a niche for hungry fans that is nearly, to quote the song, even better than the real thing.
Just in time for St. Patty’s Day, Hollywood U2 will take to the SOhO (1221 State St.) stage on Friday, March 14, at 9 p.m. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for details and prices.