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Friday, October 2, 2009

The Power of "Sunday Bloody Sunday"

I recently went to the U2 concert at FedEx field with my husband and some friends. I almost didn't make it, because with an 8 week old baby and a 2 year old at home, I felt horrible leaving them for that long but in the end, I needed to go see Bono and The Edge and the rest of my boys. I knew that something special was taking place and I would regret missing those MOMENTS that you just know are going to happen at a U2 concert. So I got on the big yellow Keg Bus with my friends and took the trek to Landover, Maryland.

Seeing U2 is not like seeing a regular performance or a show - it's seeing a FORCE OF NATURE. Bono transcends most other artists as we know them and is so much more than a performer. While you do go to a U2 concert to hear the music - you go for that grand experience, those adrenalin fueled finales, to hear the songs that we grew up with and make our hearts break at the height of their crescendos - but mostly you go for those impossibly inspired moments that simply blow you away.


There were a few moments at the show that I think will remain with me forever. I think the first was during "The City of Blinding Lights" when Bono pulled a young boy in from the audience and ran alongside him on the 360 degree stage. Even after having heard this song hundreds of times, hearing the lyrics juxtaposed next to this boy's face flashing across the larger than life screen gave new meaning to the words and took me somewhere else.

"I've seen you walk unafraid. I've seen you in the clothes you made. Can you see the beauty inside of me?"

There was just something so magical about that image. And boy does that kid have something to live up to now. What an incredible life event to have Bono and everyone in FedEx field singing to you.

"Oh you Look so Beautiful Tonight!"

I know I mentioned in previous blogs that I am already in a hormonal state and prone to some tears - but there was something really moving about that, and frankly the tears could not be avoided. While that boy's face was beautiful, there was something deeper in that message - about the beauty inside of all children - and really in all of us. Maybe I am making something bigger than it was - but I don't think so. The poetry of that moment was staggering and if you didn't feel it, you probably had had too many overpriced Miller Lites.


"Sunday Bloody Sunday" began with Bono honoring the people and unsung heroes of Iran. Images of women, children and men being bloodied in the streets of Iran while still fighting for freedom emblazoned the large screens as the strains of one of the most recognizeable songs ever reverbrated through the stadium. While seeing the song used to call out what is happening in Iran today, it makes you realize the universality of the message of that song - which was written sometime in the early 80's by what was then an Irish Boy Band. As these images flashed into focus on the screen, the chaos of the images was breathtaking. But I think what happened next is what really will stay with me forever.

Bono reached into the audience and pulled up a man on stage. An American man. And he gave the man a flag. The American flag. But this American man did not have blonde hair and blue eyes. This American man was wearing a red T-shirt and jeans, and probably had never expected as he was putting on his clothes for the concert that he would be up on that stage. But this American man was not sporting a new and trendy haircut. This American man was Sikh and had a turban and a beard. And he took the American flag in both hands and held it behind his head with pride as the words of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" rocked that stadium. All the while the images of Iran were still fresh in everyone's minds.

That, my friends, is an image I will never forget. It's an image that in many ways was unifying across this stadium of tens of thousands of people, not long after the eight anniversary of 9/11. I am not naive enough to think that everyone in that stadium embraced that image the way I did. But I know in my heart that most, if not all, of that stadium was moved by something very powerful.


Having read many of my friends comments on facebook and hearing some of the opinions about the show, I realize that not everybody was inspired by the messages espoused by the band at that show. I heard some people wished that Bono had held off on his politics and focused more on his singing. I guess my response to that is - this is U2. It's not a Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake concert. U2 has always been focused on causes and freedom and while Bono's voice may have become magnified over the past few decades - his voice hasn't changed - it's just GOTTEN LOUDER.

But where I also disagree is that this isn't about traditional politics. Bono is not the nemesis of Ann Coulter. Not once in his messaging did Bono preach "left" or "right" ideals. He acknowledged both sides of the American government that had helped him gain momentum for his ONE campaign, which is committed to stopping AIDS in Africa. He honored the democratic leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been on house arrest for 20 years and dedicated "Walk On" to her. To me - that's not politics. It's humanity.

However, you say tomato, I say to-mah-to. I see the point, but would counter that if people are just going to a U2 concert just to hear songs, you are better off just listening to the CDs. And expecting Bono to keep what has been his mission for the past few decades on the backburner is just not realistic. It's like going to a Kanye West concert and being disappointed because there are too many curses. It's just not happening.

And in the end, I think that it's that larger than life voice, that incredible life force that is Bono and that amazing commitment to making their music reflect their ideals and belief in humanity that makes a band like U2 universal, transcendent and impossible to capture in words.

So all in all, a humbling experience. And a very human, life affirming one.

1 comment: said...

I'm prone to tears, too. There is no way to make something bigger than it actually was. Beauty (and inpriration) is in the eyes (and soul) of the beholder.


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