U2 are a rock band from Dublin, Ireland. The group consists of Bono (vocals and rhythm guitar), The Edge (guitar, keyboards, and vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen, Jr. (drums and percussion). U2 have released 12 studio albums and are among the most critically and commercially successful groups in popular music. They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band, and they have sold more than 145 million records. In 2005, the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone magazine listed U2 at #22 in 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 philanthropic causes, including Amnesty International, the ONE Campaign, Product Red, and Bono's DATA campaign.
U2 band formed at secondary school in 1976 when the members were teenagers with limited musical proficiency. Within four years, they signed to Island Records and released their debut album Boy. By the mid-1980s, they had become a top international act. They were more successful as a live act than they were at selling records, until their 1987 album The Joshua Tree, which, according to Rolling Stone, elevated the band’s stature “from heroes to superstars”. Their 1991 album Achtung Baby and the accompanying Zoo TV Tour were a musical and thematic reinvention for the band. Reacting to their own sense of musical stagnation and a late-1980s critical backlash, U2 incorporated dance music and alternative rock into their sound and performances, replacing their earnest image with a more ironic tone. Similar experimentation continued for the remainder of the 1990s. Since 2000, U2 have pursued a more conventional sound, while maintaining influences from their previous musical explorations.
Since their inception, U2 have developed and maintained a distinctly recognisable sound, with emphasis on melodic instrumentals and expressive, larger-than-life vocals. This approach is rooted partly in the early influence of record producer Steve Lillywhite at a time when the band was not known for musical proficiency. The Edge has consistently used a rhythmic echo and a signature delay to craft his guitar work, coupled with an Irish-influenced drone played against his syncopated melodies that ultimately yields a well-defined ambient, chiming sound. Bono has nurtured his falsetto operatic voice and has exhibited a notable lyrical bent towards social, political, and personal subject matter while maintaining a grandiose scale in his songwriting. In addition, The Edge has described U2 as a fundamentally live band.
Social and political commentary, often embellished with Christian religious and spiritual imagery, are a major aspect of U2’s lyrical content. Songs such as “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “Silver and Gold”, and “Mothers of the Disappeared” were motivated by current events of the time. The former was written about the troubles in Northern Ireland, while the latter concerns the struggle of mothers whose children were kidnapped and killed under Argentina’s military dictatorship that began in 1976.
The U2 360° Tour began on 30 June 2009 and featured European and North American stadium dates in 2009, with additional shows in 2010. The shows feature a 360-degree staging/audience configuration, in which the fans surround the stage from all sides. On 25 June 2010 the band will headline the Glastonbury Festival.
In 2009, Rolling Stone named U2 one of eight “Artists of the Decade”. The group’s tours ranked them second in total concert grosses for the decade, after The Rolling Stones.