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.

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