Shawn Brady formed Elevation hoping it would strike a chord with Toronto’s U2 fans.
The group is now going into its fifteenth year; the longest-running tribute show of the popular Irish rock band to date.
“We originally envisioned the band playing around Toronto in Irish pubs or smaller venues and, within a year, we were headlining St Patrick’s Day festivals in Las Vegas,” Mr Brady said.
“The demand really picked up and the rest is history.”
Elevation will perform on Front Street on Friday as part of the island’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
The four-piece band has played in 14 countries since it started in 2002, travelling to Japan, Malta, Italy and Trinidad from their native Canada.
This will be their sixth time performing here. The first was in June 2007.
“We owe a lot for this event to our late friend Paul Sofianos who was a stalwart of live music in Bermuda,” said Andrew Holmes whose company 441 Productions is behind the concert. “He was the first to suggest bringing in Shawn and Elevation after seeing him on The Morning Show in Toronto.”
He admitted that he laughed about the idea “for a few days” when it was initially proposed.
“Then it dawned that it indeed was a great idea,” he said. “I get stopped in the street all the time asking when we are going to bring them back.”
That first show at Barr’s Bay Park was a sell-out, with more than 1,200 in the audience.
“It was a fantastic and memorable show for us, as are all of the shows that we’ve done in Bermuda,” Mr Brady said. “There’s always a great reception.
“Because we had never been there before there was a lot of mystery and scepticism: ‘Who are these guys and can they do U2 justice?’
“To actually win over the crowd, and the feeling after that show, was remarkable.
“It’s really great and reassuring when there are shows like that where we connect with the audience and they feel like they’re at a U2 show. That’s what we really want people at the end of the night feeling like. We’ve always had really exciting shows on St Patrick’s Day, but certainly Bermuda is up there with the most memorable.”
The Canadian, who is of Irish descent, performs as U2’s lead vocalist Bono.
“We try to be as authentic as possible in both sight and sound, but we don’t want to go to the extreme where people get the impression that we think we are U2,” he said.
“We bring our own energy and personality to the stage as well.”
Mr Sofianos, who was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2004, died in 2010 aged 43. The group will play his favourite U2 song in his honour, When Love Comes to Town.
“Paul always love the song and we never performed it for him. That’s one regret we have,” Mr Brady said. “So in tribute to his memory and all of the great things he did for us, we’re going to be performing it for the first time in Bermuda.
“He was always a larger-than-life character; extremely generous and kind and welcoming of bands that had performed over the years.
“And because of him, and [441 Productions], bands really have a fantastic experience and that enables the audience to have a fantastic experience as well.”
Mr Brady formed Elevation with drummer John Johnstone when U2 was riding high on the hit, Beautiful Day.
“They were the biggest band in the world,” he said. “I grew up a massive U2 fan and I thought a U2 tribute would really enable people who might not be able to see U2 or who might want to get their U2 fix more regularly than every three or four years when they tour.
“In the early days we played to a lot of empty rooms. There were struggles in achieving the sound and the look; it took several years to really perfect. Because they have so many anthems and there’s so much nostalgia, they often say that the fifth member of U2 is the audience. If we’re having fun, they’re going to have fun.”
• Shamrock and Roll starts at 4pm at #5 Car Park (across from Flanagan’s). The Craggy Island Duo, Mike Hind, Chris Finsness and DJ Felix Tod will also perform. Tickets $30, available at ptix.bm or Flanagan’s.
• video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQBuOTztROg&t=65s