Saturday, September 06, 2014

following "I Will Follow" : backdropped by stalking agape

In a post on the Hurst Review, several U2 fans post on the "Celebrating U2" theme, including this item by Beth Maynard on "I Will Follow."
(related:  see Two posts on Bloody Sunday)_

One of my fantasies for some time has been offering a retreat based around how U2 have worked and reworked “I Will Follow” over their career. Their 29 years of changes to this song track a classic spiritual pilgrimage: from seeking to fervor to sending to struggle to reconciliation.  The constants have been the chorus and verse structure,  Larry’s drums, Edge’s relentless two-string assault, and Bono’s stalker chant: a minor third in the verses and one obsessive note in the chorus. But so much else has morphed from year to year.
The lyrics are an obvious example. As the seasons of U2’s work pass, is it a “mother” or “lover” in verse 2?  “They pulled the four walls down,” or “you tore my four walls down”?  Is the narrator’s predicament being “lost,” “caught at a stoplight,” or “chased by amazing grace”?  And does the story end neatly with him “found,” or is the verdict Popmart’s trapped, angry “you took the soul from me/you put a  
hole in me”? (Or do we even sing the song at all?  Not on ZooTV we don’t.)
Then there’s the mood of the center bridge.  The original on Boy to  
me comes out eerie and maybe even a tad frightening.  (“Your eyes” — they fascinate me, I can’t stay away, but when I do “go in there,” what am I getting myself into? )  In the later 80s it’s a more trusting encounter, and the transition out of it turns exultant.  But the whole section is summarily cut for the Pop era: not quite able to meet those eyes just now?  After 2001, the bridge returns, often with an extended numinous improvisation, band and crowd hovering in the moment as at the Elevation show in Turin: “Let the Spirit descend on this place/let the lines disappear off my face.”
Or finally the ending.  “I Will Follow” concludes with a high-energy drive to the final note, but on the studio version  20-year-old Bono delivers his last word as if sleepwalking, almost as a question: “…follow…?”  However, listen to a live performance just a year or so later, and caution is gone as he’s shouting “I will!” The band rush the tempo.  It’s a vow.  In Popmart, he’s age 37, “I Will Follow” has become a cry of mother-loss paired with “Mofo,” and the end is broken and desperate: “Don’t walk away!” And post-midlife, during the Vertigo tour, sometimes the song actually winds up in Koine Greek: “Agape, agape.”
Stalking agape, or facing the reality that it will never stop stalking you, or renewing your vows to it as in a lifelong marriage – those kinds of relational negotiations backdrop all  the different versions of “I Will Follow.”  If it’s in the setlist for the upcoming tour, I’ll be looking for it to reveal yet another nuance of how four artists are living a life in love with Love.

Re: The quote at Turin mentioned above: variations:

PS an interesting exaltation i noticed during I will follow in the elevation san remo concert..."let the lines disappear on my face, let the spirit descend on this place..our spirits will never grow old..."also..i noticed a different intro than usual on the oakland Nov 15 concert to streets...."Who's gonna fall in front of Thee...Who's gonna fall in front of Thee...You have my heart. You have my heart"  link

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