Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Giving You Something You Can Feel...

11/22/05: A more-or-less stream-of-consciousness series of impressions of U2's Madison Square Garden performance....

In the new Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line, a recurring line has someone asking Cash, "what's with the black? You look like you're goin' to a funeral."

The automatic response?

"Maybe I am."

U2's Bono is the successor to Cash in the black suit/black shades look (and one-time collaborator). But, rather than casually -- almost willingly -- treading that line between sin and redemption, Bono and his mates know what side of the line they choose to tread. (Bono also chose to go with the black top/blue jeans/black shades look tonight.)

Which is why MSG took on the trappings of a secular church Tuesday night, almost from the opening chords. Bono is as much preacher as singer and the audience becomes his choir, joining in on just about every song. This is no funeral -- it's a revival meeting. Corny as it may sound, U2 believes that rock -- "the devil's music", for some -- is a vehicle to drive to a higher plane.

This is the band for an Interactive Age caught between the technological and the spiritual. They have, somehow -- miraculously? -- managed to convince everyone that Bigness doesn't necessarily mean Badness and Coolness is still possible more than 20 years after the Irish Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

Cripes, they're selling 3rd generation Ipods, yet their raw authenticity still comes through ("Sunday Bloody Sunday")!

U2: They exude Corporate Cool -- which, on the surface, should make about as much sense as, um, "compassionate conservatism."

Even the mild anti-war patter concludes on a grace note: This is perhaps the non-country act around to give a shout-out to the "men and women of the U.S. military" (to a roar of resounding cheers!!)


And they get away with it.

Republicans are puzzled.

Halliburton executives fire their PR executives ("big is cool?") -- before throwing themselves out the window.

Selling out? Buying in? Wealth can be utilized in good ways?

Embrace the contradictions just as Bono embraces history: He clutches onto life -- even while aware that life ends. Thus the bows to the memory of martyred civil rights activists, presidents and deceased rock stars --whether by their own hand (Michael Hutchence) or by that of others (John Lennon).

This band taps themes of love, patriotism and God. Even as champagne is served in the lower bleachers, they urge the crowd to consider the less fortunate -- reminding them of the millions of Africans saved thru debt forgiveness and AIDS drugs paid by American generosity!

America is the solution, not the problem? Sure.

Bono: "America isn't just a great country; it's a great idea. Hold it tight."

Democrats fire their consultants and hurl themselves out the windows.


U2 Madison Square Garden Playlist (with offhand, random, notes):

"City of Bright Lights"
"Electric Co."
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
(interpolating what song...?)

"Beautiful Day"
"Original of the Species"
"Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"
"Love & Peace Or Else"
"Sunday Bloody Sunday": (interpolating The Clash's 'Rock The Casbah' -- hardly an accidental choice) -- "co-exist" ("no more" chant) -- (the anti-war part of the show)
"Bullet The Blue Sky" ('dedicated to the brave men and women of the United States military')

"Miss Sarajevo" (followed by a film scrolling the U.N. human. rights declaration)
"Pride (In The Name Of Love)"
"Where The Streets Have No Name" (with flags of the world)
"One" (intro w/ policy address promoing 'ONE' campaign -- only non-conservative line is Bono's exultant boast that ONE now has more members than the NRA.)

"MLK" (dedicated to JFK -- 11/22, appropriate -- even as the day seemed to pass barely mentioned by the media)
"Until The End Of The World"
"Mysterious Ways"
"With Or Without You"

(reminder of INXS' Michael Hutchence dying seven years ago)
"Stuck In A Moment That You Can't Get Out Of"
"Instant Karma" (duet w/Patti Smith) -- STUNNING

My impressions of U2's May concert at the New Jersey Meadowlands Continental Arena can be found here and here. Note the various song-selection differences.

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