Thursday, December 15, 2005

it was a cold and wet december day

on the barricades of hope

We got unhooked at the Savvis Center and in St. Louis, an amazing day and night under the Arch.

Having seen three shows this tour, and with the whole third leg winding down, I feel like I can reflect with all the satisfaction, confidence, and sentimental longing this moment brings.

I almost wasn’t a U2 fan again, but this last year has brought the band back into my heart space, and that heart space includes this creative and intelligent and passionate and soulful and critical fandom.

And on this day, my fan experience was madly enhanced by all the dedicated folks forming an ‘unforgettable ring of fire’ (to use Fred Mills’ phrase) around the Savvis Center all day. Got to *love* that tent, the Vertigo tent, with all the stenciled band stuff all over it. Lovely.

Couldn’t resist digging on all the bus stops with giant U2 posters. But the best part of the afternoon was ambling toward a completion of the perimeter and stumbling across the flashing cameras and the beautiful tears and screams of mesmerized fans all surrounding a particularly handsome, short, and stout Irish man with a lovely hat.

So I didn’t get to *meet* him proper, didn’t get anything signed, just called out some admirable words and snapped a quick photo before he waved and disappeared into the back caverns of the Savvis Center. Shout out to the beautiful women from Tennessee and Kentucky I met there (don’t be shy, you can post something!!!).

I hope your concert was as good as mine.I used to find the idea of “Tribute Bands” uncreative and old school. But the Elevation set at the preparty was the perfect warm-up for me.So what about the set? The songs? Even though many of the best bits are scripted and only slightly nuanced for each unveiling, there was an endearing freedom in the way Bono pulled it off, perhaps a little reckless even, but not slapdash or unprofessional.

Finally, I got to hear “Gloria” again live. While many songs tonight had the churchy thing on all cylinders, this was the most majestic cause for chills, moans, and goosepimples in my entire evening. One of my absolute favorite spots comes when Bono introduces the boys, and he totally botched it tonight. At Adam’s baddest bass line, Bono shouts “the Edge.” Then, he calls on Adam, right when Edge takes it to the top with that most magickal riff. Didn’t ruin the song—made it real, a St. Louis special.

Speaking of church, “I Still Haven’t Found . . .” really rang to the rafters tonight, with Bono begging us to be the choir. This almost made up for the people who actually booed Bono’s intro to the song. Glad folks had the basic decency not to boo Kanye West, but for some reason, they felt compelled to boo Bono giving Kanye the “propers” he deserves.

With Edge already tingling us with the opening notes of the song, Bono said he was “humbled and honored” to have Kanye on the bill. Humbled and honored—words to live by, not just at a U2 concert.Without leaving the topic of what an over the top religious experience this all was, and still thinking about Kanye, Bono definitely had to put Kanye in this show somehow. Instead of the dreamed (or dreaded by some of you) duet, we got Bono sampling “Jesus Walks” all over, snippeting it into Beautiful Day and then Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Last item on church proper: “Yahweh” was crazy—ridiculous in the best sense. Fan giving and getting piano lessons, a wild sweet ending, with Bono scolding (just a little), and then loving on the fan bandmember who struggled but still shone like a star. When he left the keyboard, he leapt and danced down the ramp back to his spot in the crowd.

The standard war/peace trilogy and the Africa trilogy were both strong tonight. The troops dedication thing still bugs me, but it’s much better at the end of Bullet the Blue Sky than at the beginning of “Running to Standstill.” LAPOE, SBS, BtBS: The intensity of those three together still rattles me to the core. It’s like Edge is extracting your guts with guitar surgery while Bono shouts in your ear from the barricades of hope. “Love and peace or else” is intensely sincere and ironic at the same time. Perhaps that’s what I like about Atomic Bomb—the songs perhaps combine the best elements of Pop-era with the JT-era in a both serious and playful way. Bono would never have tried LAPOE in the JT era; he can get away with it now.

While I have very mixed feelings about the “obligatory” Classic Rock Song towards the end of the set (what u2 has done from time to time), “Instant Karma” has to be one of the very best choices to fill that niche in a long time. I can recall “People Get Ready” being done, but then overdone. There’s no likelihood “Instant Karma” will stay in the set too long, and I’m thrilled I got to see it.

Now, let me put in my true respect for the mellow parts of the show, a part that some folks have not enjoyed. Sure, you can’t rock out to acoustic hymns the same way you can to Zoo-era on xanax and wine. But hey, “Original of the Species,” “Sometimes,” “Miss Sarajevo,” and “Stuck” were all so spectacular and moving. If a mellow song can take over your whole body and soul the way a wicked rock tune can, it’s a really meaningful and deep piece of sonic science. Those “light rock” moments would kill U2 if they took up an entire album, but in a show like this, they really add to and don’t detract from the pacing like some folks say they do.

Next year, I can imagine not obsessing about U2 the way I have the last 12 months and making time for other bands in my life, other projects and priorities. Not sure I can or would make the shows in other countries.

But U2’s ability to bring together “left and right, heartland and Hollywood” (his words) only testifies to the band’s inclusive and even utopian vision. Where else can you go watch hip-hop and hippie kids party with straight-laced professionals? It’s this vaster and more forgiving sense of tolerance and community that U2 fandom participates in and even makes possible.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bono, Nietzsche, and All of Us

Is Bono "one of us"? Can the anti-war movement make such a claim? Yes and No.

Read the Rolling Stone and other interviews conducted since 2003, and Bono is clearly against the invasion and occupation. But listen to the shows, and Bono clearly "supports the troops."

So perhaps, every single one of us can claim that Bono is one of us. Maybe hat's the whole point. Bono's music is the megalomaniacal and messianic magic that belongs to "all that have ears to hear."

Of course, he's like me when he's against the war, but not when he's praising Condy Rice or Billy Graham--which is enough for "the right" to claim him as theirs.

After Atlanta, I said it this way (see my full review here):

We're all "One," just not the same.

And of course, Bono loves to make the links and loathes the divisions he sees between us—the real and imagined trenches between right and left, fundamentalist and free thinker, soldier and protester, preacher and punk. When Bono introduced "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by saying, "America, this is your song now," I don't think he simply meant to invoke the woeful tragedies of war and hurricanes.

Rather, I think he spoke to the war within, the divisions in our country since the culture war intensified, in our school and church communities, about dogmas and social demons, over drugs and religion, in our blurred and fatigued attitudes towards the war in Iraq, in our treatment of others with whom we disagree, including those we saw in the seats at this very show. With a "tough-guy" preteen onstage with him, Bono in his "coexist" bandanna offered his prayer for the next generation, "That in order to defeat a monster, we don't become a monster."

One more addendum: that last quote seems clearly a paraphrase of another radical thinker: Friedrich Nietzsche.

He said: "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

Of course, I have always tried to remind myself of this in another context: when I rebel against the stagnant status quo, I do not want to become the stagnant status quo. Bono, I think, uses this as challenge for Europeans and Americans in the so-called War on Terror. In both cases, may we not become monsters. And as we intend, may it be so.

Friday, November 18, 2005

We're the same soul: my pre-Atlanta love letter

Imagine a love affair that lasts longer than a marriage—22 years! Since age 16, I’ve been driven by this passion, and even after absences that could last years, I always come back for more.

My magical and mystical object of affection is not a lover at all—but a band. Even though I like to call Bono “my boyfriend,” we’ve only met briefly before and after shows, with me in my fan’s capacity, one of the many.

A child of the first MTV generation, I wore out my dubbed copy of the Red Rocks show. My primal attraction to the white flag of Christian pacifist radicalism matched only by what this man’s voice does to my soul.

Of course, over the years, Bono Hewson would at times confuse the Christ within with his own messianic charisma. But this intense ego and eager magnetism were not the result of his massive fame—but rather the reasons for it.

As an anomaly within the punk-new wave underground, U2 shunned the fashion statements for an even more pretentious anti-fashion statement. On the late spring US leg of the War tour, U2 did gigs on college campuses. When Bono climbed the scaffolding or did a stage dive from the speaker stacks into the balcony, his reckless intensity infected U2’s growing fan base. He played for 200 or 2000 then with the riveting abandon he offers arenas and stadiums today, which of course inspires critics to cheer that he transformed a basketball hall into a basement gig.

When he boasted in Rolling Stone that U2 would be one the important bands, like the Beatles or the Who, people scoffed. I remember believing Bono, sharing the quote with a friend, and getting laughed at.

The only thing I should laugh at now is my obsession!

At 38, we’re packing the whole family into a car for a rock and roll road trip. I’m talking Mom and Dad (both a young 65), my wife, and my 16-year-old stepson. Because we share a fascination with the convergence of theology, politics, and pop culture charisma, yes. But really, for me, this is an emotional pilgrimage as much as anything.

Because these are songs about the love that hold us together and tear us about. The intimate family and the infinite family.

Bono’s latest love songs are family songs, with a universal specificity and a special universalism that brings tears to a middle-aged man as if he were a teenage girl.

We know Bono wrote this for dad, but it also describes my relationship with my partner of six years (who is also my wife of three).

You don’t have to go it alone

And it’s you when I look in the mirror

And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone

We fight all the time

You and I

That’s alright

We’re the same soul

I don’t need to hear you say

If we weren’t so alike

You’d like me a whole lot more

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this with my family live since I learned of Vertigo 2005. Tonight, at the first of my two “family” shows, I finally will do just that. Atlanta here we come.

Monday, November 14, 2005

This week's vertigo

What a week to indulge my enduring fandom as I wait for my first U2 gig of Vertigo's Third Leg, this Friday at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

My week of U2 geekness began early this morning, making mixes for my family members who will join me for the show.

Now, while working, I'm watching the Slane documentary from 1984, the first year I saw them live.

As one other distraction this morning, I updated my log of the shows I've seen.

This one coming should mark #22. Here are the rest, most of them in 1980s:

1. 12/08/1984 Detroit, Fox Theater
2. 12/09/1984 Cleveland, Music Hall
3. 03/23/1985 Joe Louis Arena - Detroit, Michigan
4. 06/13/1986 Rosemont Horizon - Chicago, Illinois
5. 04/02/1987 Arizona State University Activity Center - Tempe, Arizona
6. 04/04/1987 Arizona State University Activity Center - Tempe, Arizona
7. 04/05/1987 Community Center - Tucson, Arizona
8. 04/12/1987 Thomas And Mack Arena - Las Vegas, Nevada
9. 04/13/1987 San Diego Sports Arena - San Diego, California
10. 04/14/1987 San Diego Sports Arena - San Diego, California
11. 04/17/1987 Sports Arena - Los Angeles, California
12. 04/18/1987 Sports Arena - Los Angeles, California
13. 04/20/1987 Sports Arena - Los Angeles, California
14. 04/21/1987 Sports Arena - Los Angeles, California
15. 04/22/1987 Sports Arena - Los Angeles, California
16. 04/24/1987 Cow Palace - Daly City, California
17. 04/25/1987 Cow Palace - Daly City, California
18. 04/30/1987 Pontiac Silverdome - Detroit, Michigan
19. 03/27/1992 Palace Of Auburn Hills - Detroit, Michigan
20. 05/04/2001 Rupp Arena - Lexington, Kentucky
21. 05/09/05 United Center, Chicago Illinois

Friday, November 04, 2005

God is the Funky One: Going to Church With Bono

(the Rev. Cecil Williams, of Glide Memorial Church)

Bono’s spirituality is no secret among his fans and many of us connect to his songs at the soul level—in our guts, at the root, in the ether, with eyes wet and arms waving.

In late 2004, it was not admiration of pure musicianship or political activism that brought me back into the safe belly of serious U2 fandom after some years of casual listening. In fact, the soulful-emotional pull of Atomic Bomb sucked me back in. Within weeks of the latest album’s release, I was updating my CD collection, learning about the vast U2 bootleg trading community, reading websites, articles, books. This gravity can be felt most especially in new songs like “Miracle Drug,” “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” “Original of the Species,” “Crumbs from Your Table,” and “Yahweh.”

For some U2 fans, one of the band’s concerts is church enough. Fandom itself could be likened to a secular religion. Bono himself has been confused with Priest and Deity. Bono is proud to call himself a “believer”—not in an abstraction but in the God of the Bible. To say it bluntly, Bono’s a bit of Jesus freak.

Much media has been made of his preaching to Jesse Helms and Helms’ alleged repentance on the issue of AIDS. (That is, Helms’ condemned the victim before Bono and learned a little compassion after Bono. I don’t think good ol’ Jesse has exactly embraced his inner queer or anything.)

Myself, I’ve feared that Bono’s taken the “love your enemies” stuff so seriously that he might become my enemy. I do not have to hide my righteous rage at the actions of his friends George Bush and Condy Rice. But as my day-job requires me to work with arch-conservative students on a daily basis, I’m trying to take a page from Bono’s playbook and exercise the values of tolerance and compassion I would accuse the far Right of lacking.

Now, if Bono were a collection-plate carrying member of any church, it’s not likely to be one where Helms (or even his pal Bill Clinton) worships. When it comes to an actual church worth attending, Bono is still on the freaky fringes of faith—and apparently proud of it.

Last night, I watched a wildly interesting documentary on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. It’s a serious look at the “revolutionary” mood of the 70s and the specifically hyped actions of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).

Without going into a full review, one fascinating part of the film was the formation of a coalition of activists that tried to act as a liaison between the Hearts and the SLA. During the SLA-mandated distribution of food to urban poor with Hearst money, a preacher began to speak in a rhetoric we know well from the Dr. Kings and Jesse Jacksons of the world. With a full Afro and a multi-colored dashiki, Cecil Williams praised the distribution of food. “Wow, this guy is pretty radical,” I mused. Some could wrongly interpret him in this section as an SLA sympathizer.

Cecil Williams? Glide Memorial Church? Where do I know these names? Hey, that’s Bono’s preacher!! As recently as this past April 10, Bono, Ali, and the kids attended church at Glide. One Bay Area blogger describes sitting in church with the Hewsons and watching Bono join the choir for a song.

In an interview, Bono has said, “But there's one church that if I was living close by I'd definitely be in the congregation. It's in San Francisco—Glide Memorial. Rev. Cecil Williams there looks after the homeless, gays, straights; he marched with Martin Luther King, he's funny as hell—pardon the pun—and you can get an HIV test during the service. Now that's my kind of church.”

With Williams, Glide has deep connections in the left coast counterculture. One brief online biography explains, “He opened the church to jazz music, gays, hippies, addicts, the poor, poets, and anyone else who wanted to come. He hosted political rallies and services, including a Hooker Convention, speeches by Angela Davis, and the Black Panthers.” Williams' own words show that he takes the gospel message of embracing the outcast quite seriously: “The true church stays on the edge of life, where the real moans and groans are. Most church folks settle in, get comfortable and build doctrinal walls.”

And big names in pews notwithstanding, this is not a superstar church like you might find in Los Angeles or Nashville. In “SPIRIT WILLING: Glide Memorial Church,” Don Shewey explains, “But it's worth remembering that the rich and the famous don't just show up at Glide to get VIP treatment and their names in boldface. They come like everyone else, to be ministered to. On the occasion of Cecil's 30th anniversary at Glide, Bono faxed a letter from London saying, ‘I know I only get there a few times a year, but Glide still feels like home to me. It's the one venue I don't mind queueing to get into.’ Acknowledging that the song ‘Love Rescue Me,’ from U2's Rattle and Hum movie soundtrack, was inspired by the Glide Ensemble, Bono wrote, ‘The land of street angels that we call your choir are proof God is the funky one.’”

So Bono’s getting sanctified San Francisco style—in San Jose, he put on lipstick during the “Send in the Clowns” segement of “Electric Co,” the same day he had attended services at Glide. One side effect of this, of course, is severe backlash from the right wing. While “googling” around to uncover more about the connection between Bono and Cecil Williams, I found some hate-filled websites bashing Bono for condoning perversity.

David Cloud—of a group called Fundamental Baptist Information Service—penned an almost 5000 word diatribe against U2. Of course, according to hate-mongers like this, one of Bono’s sins is his support of gay and lesbian people. My parents, devout and active Christians, have made tolerance and inclusion one of their primary witnesses in their own church. Clearly, as this piece shows, honoring our queer sisters and brothers as sisters and brothers is a cause they share with Bono and the boys.

Frankly, I must confess I enjoyed this piece immensely for its detailed documentation of U2’s celebration of the bacchanalian aspect of all authentic spirituality, especially against the backdrop of prudish piety still parading itself as pure. It’s amazing how this writer blasts Bono for being “of the world” when the writer defends the rigid line that the current religious society promotes in the realm of mainstream politics.

Another website encourages Christians to withhold money from groups like DATA, as a sort of protest against Bono’s tolerance, or as they put it, “The reality is Bono accepts, condones, and welcomes immorality including homosexuality—one of the core issues of the problem he claims to be aiding; therefore, he adds to the problem of AIDS, and his fundraiser is in vain.”

I don’t attend church as a matter of principle but do seasonal rituals with my collective; my church is the one tree hill at back meadow on our communal land and the valley that leads to it, the cathedral of creation, a canyon of peace. But the next time I’m in the Bay Area, I sure want to attend Glide, where God gets the funk on, and the Dionysian Christ dances arm-in-arm with the old testament War God. That could describe a U2 concert.

As much of this blog is about my love/hate affair with Bono, his activism, spirituality, and politics, he seems to return to humor and humility in perfect counterpoint to his vigorous vanity. Or as the screen flashed during ZooTV: “Contradiction is balance.” So, like Whitman, Bono contains a multitude.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Falling into Fall

Ever notice how the theme of falling dominates the lyrics on the highly spiritual and kinetically charged October album?

How does this theme of falling connect with Fall? With letting go of attachments in life to let the light of redemption take hold? Bono's lyrical progression returns to this place on the opening and closing of the current disc.

Both "Vertigo" and "Yahweh" deal with the extremes of falling, spinning, mind-tingling surrender. On the opener, it's a hedonistic hyperreality that recalls the postmodern theology of Pop and Zooropa. In closing, Bono returns to some of his most explicit and exquisite psalmistry, recalling "Tomorrow," "40," "Rejoice," and other rock n roll prayers of his early works.

From "Lord, loosen my lips" to "Your love is just a drop in the ocean," these tunes are electric tributes to the Great Spirit, the Force, God, just name your higher power. Bono sure does.

Monday, October 24, 2005

On the cover of Rolling Stone

With considerable effort, I picked up the new Rolling Stone today. After a long detour and a delayed arrival at work, I have it to study and examine. The first store I visited still had the Paul McCartney cover. They had a different magazine called Ode with Bono on the cover, but the interview was only an excerpt from the Michka Assayas In Conversation book.

Although I've only begun to read, chewing on a section like a sweet I want to linger, Bono has soothed some of my political cynicism, showing his heart where I'd hoped it would be, streetwise and sensitive and sensibly self-aware.

And the Bono I feared had begun an inside associate of BushCo. seems missing when the Bono I thought I knew begins to speak: "But some people don't want America World Police. By the way, it might be cheaper to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend against them later."

I just ripped out the obnoxious car centerfold, and now Bono has the centerfold. Bono is "sick of Bono." Bono doesn't travel with security. Bono has Ali, and they both have my heart with the picture on page 67.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Battling the Anti-Bono Within

For a moment, this might appear to be more of an anti-U2 blog. Perhaps it will transform itself into part fan site, part watchdog of Bono's blunders. My objection is neither spiritual nor musical but rather political.

Lately, it's been like . . . Bono's Politics: How to suck-up to the Right and expect the Left to get over it. After receiving one of his many awards, Bono remarked: "We should start with the projectile vomit factor and how to prevent it. Is that possible? I expect that cynicism to be thrown at me. I'm always available for mud pies, rocks and small assault weapons."

I found the quote in a much longer interview, and I was relived: he at leasts welcomes the feedback.

He was anwering the question: "Are you concerned about the cynics who cast a jaded eye at superstar do-gooders?"

Expect me to keep it real--yet balance the critique with some of the more enamored reflecting and reviewing I've been doing for the past 11 months, some of the most veriginously intense months of my 22 years of U2 fandom.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Government Approved Rock and Roll

Is this what U2 has become?

With the loserly likes of John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Jesse Helms, Rick Santorum, Condy Rice, and Bill Frist in the U2 fan club, I am confronted with the frightening fact that I am in love with a band that is what my prophet Bill Hicks warned against.

Is it possible to overturn the money-changers' tables when your rock and roll temple has been soiled by a Rick Santorum fundraiser?

God, please give me back the ranting ballsy Bono of the 80s and 90s over this pious priestlike person doing penance for his past pomposity!!!

The great comedian Bill Hicks suggested that there is really nothing worse than government-approved rock. It is akin, to, well, in his words, sucking off Satan.

So please, to save Bono's soul from Satan, read on and pray that he will renounce his evil ways. Instead of sucking up to senators, why not a PsyOp with vigorous versions of the Rattle and Hum-era Bullet the Blue Sky piping through the halls of Congress!

Here is a commentary about Bill Hicks from Will Kaufman in a scholarly book on comedy :

(with more available here)

Hicks found it easy to segue from the War on Drugs into a critique of artistic prostitution and dishonesty. After invoking Hendrix, the Beatles, Keith Richards, Janis Joplin, and other musicians for whom drug experimentation proved a litmus test for the creative pursuit of an alternative viewpoint -- an "altered state" -- he would "extend the theory to our generation now, so it's more applicable" (RC). His conclusion was merciless: "These other musicians today who don't do drugs, and in fact speak out against them: boy, do they suck. What a coincidence. Ball-less, soul-less, spiritless, corporate little bitches, suckers of Satan's cock, each and every one of them." Signing up to the War on Drugs was tantamount to masquerading as a rock star: "'We're Rock Stars Against Drugs because that's what the President wants!' Aw, suck Satan's cock. That's what we want, isn't it? Government-approved rock and roll" (REV). The same rock stars fighting the War on Drugs were just as likely to be selling Pepsi-Cola and Taco Bell products: there was a connection. Certainly, a review of the eighties' and nineties' most prominent rock stars suggests an advertising chumminess inconceivable in the sixties and seventies, when the music was synonymous with nonconformity: Michael Jackson pushing Pepsi; Phil Collins and Eric Clapton pushing Michelob; George Michael pushing Diet Coke ("Diet Coke? Even Madonna fuckin' hawked real Coke"); M.C. Hammer pushing Kentucky Fried Chicken; Barry Manilow pushing McDonald's; Genesis pushing Volkswagens; Pink Floyd pushing Volkswagens. (Heaven alone knows how Hicks would have handled the news that, less than two years after his death, even Keith Richards would be pushing Volkswagens.) "Everyone is hawking products. That's the highest thing you can achieve now, isn't it -- become some barker?... I'm waiting to see, 'It's Jesus, for Miller! I was crucified, dead for three days, resurrected, and I've waited two thousand years to return to Earth -- it's Miller Time!'" (D).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Dangerous little devices

Bono has a love hate relationship with the cell phone. On the one hand, it's the dangerous little device that can end global poverty. On the other hand, if you appear to be calling a friend at a U2 concert on one, Bono might publicly humiliate you! Read more about that controversy!

I know the thing about a Blog is that it's meant to be "blogged" on. This being the one month of the year that my beloved band devoted an entire album to, this being the heart of the third leg of the Vertigo tour, I am going to try to post more often!Meanwhile, what do you think a real U2 blog might look like? Go here and there.

Personally, while I am not a "Christian" in the sense that I think Bono and Beth Maynard are, it's the kind of in-depth articles--pepperred with theological, political, and philosophical discussions--that she links to on her blog that in part motivated me to create this one.

But the setlist blogs are kind of special, too, in archive-geek kind of fashion. I have followed the Vertigo Tour like a dedicated fan might follow a sports team. I check the setlists like the boxscore. When I finally see them again, I will know what to expect, but I want that sense of what the ritual will taste like to the soul of my ears when the pop shaman shouts his hymns of hope and praise, a kind of sacred hedonism few can muster.

(According to Bono at a recent weekday show in Boston, the concert would become a combination of "Saturday night" and "Sunday morning.")

Thursday, September 29, 2005


As the days get shorter and longer, I decided it was time to listen to October again.

("kingdoms rise & kingdoms fall, but you go on . . .") Indeed.

I can't believe how stagnant this blog has become, but I hope to revive it periodically throughout the Third Leg of the Vertigo tour.

So far, I have plans to see the band in St. Louis at the Savvis Center with my brother and sister in December.

Friday, April 08, 2005

This is Anu

"Where the Streets Have No Name": Bono, Blake, and biblical utopianism

"An interesting story that someone told me once is that in Belfast, by what street someone lives on, you can tell not only their religion but tell how much money they’re making -- literally by which side of the road they live on, because the further up the hill, the more expensive the houses become. You can almost tell what the people are earning by the name of the street they live on and what side of that street they live on. That said something to me, and so I started writing about a place where the streets have no name...." -Bono

“Where the Streets Have No Name” is a rock hymn that suggests an imagined city. Originally conceived in contrast to what Bono knew of the brutal economic boundaries of an embattled Belfast and like the placeless place in John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Bono’s new world is beyond the borders of politics and imagination.

Bono’s words summon visions of desert and barrio, shantytown and wilderness sunrise. This imagined universe is both city of blinding lights and abandoned vista, a new Jerusalem and a rural jubilee, a radical Rivendell and a river rolling down a mountain, a liberated Los Angeles without ghetto or greed and a protected valley without the poison of pollution.

Based on what I call Blake’s “biblical utopianism,” a notion that echoes “thy kingdom come on earth as it is heaven, ” I believe “Streets” is a call, ultimately, for a classless and borderless transcendence of race, class, and gender divisions. As in other songs, Bono reiterates his recurring theme for economic revolution, egalitarian revival, and ecumenical revelation.

Like William Blake before him, Bono believes in a lyrical cosmos where all things are always already simultaneously spiritual and political. So, the nameless streets signify inner and outer liberation. Thus, what Christopher Hobson asserts about Blake’s visionary poetry applies here: “If there is continual forgiveness of sin, the ideological justification for a hierarchy of social guardians vanishes, a crucial step in convincing people to abolish the hierarchies in reality.”

Clearly, on the current Vertigo tour, Bono brings this aspect of the “Streets” idea to center stage as a rhetorical device advocating the eradication of poverty and the invocation of equality. During what’s come to be known as the “Africa Section” of the show, Bono preaches in an inspired oration that echoes Dr. King, “From the swamplands of Louisiana to the mouth of the Nile, from the bridge at Selma to the high hills of Kilimanjaro, the journey of equality takes another step. . . .”

This sense of universal humanity in the likeness of the creator comes cloaked in rock and roll idioms and traverses to a mountaintop beyond ideology. And in its universalist wisdom, this place is every place the listener pictures it to be, whether a biblical Eden/Heaven/New Jerusalem or a secular someplace of economic equality.

While I want to run, I’m no longer willing to hide. Breaking down all borders and walls inside, this hunger for justice is something to shout about. I want the dust cloud of domination to disappear without a trace.

I want to touch this flame in our lifetime, even with those listeners who have commented that this song is singularly about heaven, about the Christian idea of an afterlife. Because like Blake, Bono’s is an “ethical, common-people’s Christianity of tolerance and forgiveness,” we need not wait for the great beyond to become agents of solidarity and justice, hospitality and humility, mercy and meaning.

What would that world look like if we lived where the streets have no name? For the present of Bono’s post-political humanitarianism, it looks like King’s notion of a beloved community beyond the excesses of neoconservative capitalism and the human rights’ errors of old school state communism. For me, it’s clearly a cooperative and antiauthoritarian world based not just on my reading of Blake, Bono, and the bible—but on all this and so much more. Beaten and blown by the winds of cynicism, we can still burn down the old world of narrow-minded oligarchies and build the new one based on love.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

We're all in a place called vertigo

Hello, hello. Welcome fellow travelers from the caravan of fans traveling this year to see U2.

I'm creating this blog for dedicated listeners and learners with a penchant for delving deeply into discussions, diatribes, and devotions about the spiritual and political side of the band's work. Let's see if I can keep this blog active, at least for the duration of the tour year.

Love, Anu

My first official article on Interference can be found here.

This is my Palm Sunday/Spring Equinox smile. Since spring always makes me feel like listening to U2 as I hike to One Tree Hill, I decided this photo would be best to welcome folks to my new U2topian blog. Posted by Hello