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.