Friday, May 29, 2015

The humble pride of U2, and life passing before your eyes

A fascinating article by Steven Hyden, "The Pride of U2."  There are few things he doesn't get, but some great excerpts:

I love that he sees Bono as

  • "The right mix of humanity and showmanship"
  • "part bullfighter and part Pavlovian puppet master"

And this from Adam: 

I pose what seems like an obvious follow-up question: What motivates U2 to keep making records?
“Well, partly the answer is, it’s kind of the only thing that I do,” Clayton says. “I do love playing music. I do love listening to music. I do love making music. That’s not gonna change. If it wasn’t with U2, I don’t know how motivated I’d be, but I still get a buzz out of the way Larry plays drums, the way Edge writes songs, the way Bono sings them. It’s fulfilling and interesting to me. Maybe one day it won’t be. For as long as it’s stimulating, the ambitions for the music might change, but the actual enjoyment of it won’t.”
What do you mean, “the ambitions for the music might change”?
“You can make music for different reasons,” Clayton replies. “Up to now, inclusive of this record, we wanted to make music that could communicate to the most people, that could be played on the radio. We were conscious that we wanted to be relevant to this time. That’s not something that we might always want. We have a very loyal, strong, intelligent audience. We might make music just for them in the future. We might not want to connect with other people.”
This full journalisic confession:

The encore was better — “City of Blinding Lights” into “Beautiful Day” into “Where the Streets Have No Name,” a trilogy of screamingly epic songs that evoke the sort of extraordinary, larger-than-life existence that’s only possible in the space of a U2 tune. The cynical music critic in me is supposed to scoff, but I wouldn’t even like music if I didn’t buy wholeheartedly into songs like this. I’m reminded of something Taylor Hawkins, the surfer-haired classic-rock true believer in the Foo Fighters, told me: “You go see U2 and you will see your life pass before your eyes.”

Raised by Wolves/Throwing the "Last Battle"/Psalm 23

Here's some evolution of this sequence so far.  It will be fascinating to  see how it changes from here.

A few questions:

Note: I also asked the above questions on the atu2 forum here, so you can read/respond here or there.

For those who tend to doubt when Bono is addressing God (see Beth's "It's directed up, folks. Not horizontally. Up. Is this clear enough for you?"), watch Bono in LA 2 at  3:15-3:22!

Related post on the dropping of Bibles and books here.  On the  "Comfort me!  COMFORT ME!!" of LA 2 here

San Jose 2  May 19 (I was there):
Phoenix 1, May 22:
LA 1, May 26:
LA 2,May 27:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Since "there's no end to grief," let's "set endless love to musical performance" so in the ruins we can know that "to know is to mourn"

photo credit

As I have said/confessed/sung/prayed  more than once, "I grieve not grieving."

                   But I finally realized that that  itself is inherently grieving, and thus a good place to start.

May He who began a good work in me be faithful to complete my encounter with grief..

Life is ruthless, indiscriminate....and ultimately supplying us the traumascape and holy ground of grief.

                   But often we need to gather..or enter into... a soundtrack and soundscape to 
                                                                sustain, sanctify and hold our grief-ground.

"Songs to Grieve By" could be a delightful name for a Spotify playlist.  I'll have to claim it.

     Of course the songs that make the cut  don't have to  all be  classically sad songs;
                                             laments, wails 
                                                                         and Pink Floyd downers.

Even though life is often best "tuned to minor chords"..
                    Some  of the songs selected should be uptempo and upbeat, 
and shamelessly embedded with unrepentant joy..

"California" by U2 is an intriguing choice.
The rocker is hardly a dirge; though a quick read at some of the lyrics might cause you to guess that it is.

This section has haunted  (stalked) me for months

I've seen for myself, there's no end to grief/That's how I know

 And why I need to know/That there is no end to love
All I know/And all I need to know is                          There is no end to love


U2 has faced an unimaginable string of losses in recent months:the 
Bono's harrowing accident,
   the death of the band's chaplain, the indefatigable  "north star" Jack Heaslip,
         the death of Larry's father the week of the tour kick-off..

and yesterday , this:

U2's road manager for 33 years, the amazing Dennis Sheehan died suddenly last night here in LA. Dennis was a calm and kind Christian man. The team is heartbroken so Adam, Larry, Edge, and Bono asked me to share some scripture, words of comfort, and pray with them right before they walked on stage tonight. After sharing the ‪#‎ChooseJoy‬story from my son's death, I asked "So how do you go out and do a concert when your heart is hurting?" Bono said "We choose joy!" Right. Pray for Pam who lost the love of her life.  link

That  version of  "choose joy" is not some "name-it, claim it" happy-clappy motto (Denial is not just a river in Egypt),  but  a hardwon  naked trust in the endless love that is know only through the crucible of endless grief.

That doesn't preclude anger..even yelling at life, grief, the grieved...and God.

Last night, at the end of "Raised by Wolves," itself a stunning public griefsong, Bono snippeted Psalm 23 in the outro (as usual), this time followed by "Comfort me.  COMFORT ME, COMFORT ME!"  (see video below).  Psalm 22 and 23 are two sides of the same whole and holistic grieflove lamentjoyprayer (see"The Lord Be With You...Even When He’s Not!")

Even St Paul unapologetically confessed, "I had no peace of mind."
                 And as another singer has added/midrashed "Peace of heart is better than piece of mind."

Peace of heart...finding love limitless in the midst of limanality and limitless grief is the only ways and means of knowing anything.  Not to mention are only lens for  knowing as we are known. ( By the way, we can know the Unknown Calle)r.

Note the last line  of that excerpt of "California"-- "there is no end to love" ---is itself a clear nod to Paul's 1 Corinthian's 13 insistence that "love never ends."
But do check well  the line before that, which has baffled me: "There's no end to grief.  That's how I know there is no end to love."
This  apparent nonsequitur and profound truth   is also thoroughly  Pauline.  NT Wright has detected in Scripture, notably in Paul, an "epistemology of love."
He even suggests that it must inevitably worked out in art; specifically music...even more specifically "musical performance":

....Is this then a reinforcement, from a musical point of view, for Dorothy L. Sayers’ thesis in The Mind of the Maker, to which I referred earlier?  Is there then indeed a Trinitarian pattern to the work of the artist or writer which, reflected back, provides some kind of evidence of who God may be?  I am not sure that this thesis can be sustained by itself, or that a natural theology built up by that means without help from elsewhere would arrive at anything approximating to the God and Father of Jesus, the giver of the Spirit.  But when the creative and aesthetic project meets the scriptural revelation — mediated, of course, through the thinking of the household of faith — then the two can perhaps at least be complementary.  I have explored elsewhere what I have called ‘an epistemology of love’, in which the sterile opposition between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ reductions of ‘knowing’ are transcended.   I think, and hope, that what Paul Spicer and I discovered in our work on the Oratorio was something like that: a love for the subject-matter, a love worked out in art and scholarship, through which we both learned and grew and grasped afresh some of the central matters of Christian faith. And if this is true it may be a pointer to something else - something which the whole Theology Through the Arts project is all about: the non-reducible, and not merely decorative, function of imagination within historical work (as Collingwood insisted) and also theological endeavour, as well as in musical composition and performance.

I realize that I have thus arrived, as a non-specialist, at more or less what Aquinas says in his famous formulation: ‘As grace does not destroy but perfects nature, it is right that natural reason should serve faith just as the natural loving tendency of the will serves charity.’  There is of course a dangerous circularity about reaching that conclusion about method precisely by engaging in what, I hope, might be an instance of it happening in practice.  But I think I have said enough to show that this is a fruitful area for further enquiry and experiment, especially if — though this would be a matter for specialists to enlighten me further — what Aquinas meant by ‘natural reason’ is a large enough category to embrace aesthetic and artistic integrity, the composer’s and conductor’s sense of ‘what works’.  Certainly in this case the composer’s — and conductor’s — aesthetic and artistic integrity ‘served faith’ in a way that makes the ordinary jobbing theologian and preacher jealous.  If all theology, all sermons, had to be set to music, our teaching and preaching would not only be more mellifluous; it might also approximate more closely to God’s truth, the truth revealed in and as the Word made flesh, crucified and risen. 
 NT Wright, link

Is this how the band got through the concert last night?
Is this how they get through every night?

I too have felt (well, maybe not; which is itself the problem) the deaths of a series of loved ones:
a cousin who was like a brother, dear friends from church...
and I have grieved not grieving.
And even though I have been weaning myself from the evangelical idol of certainty  in recent years (and that is a grieving indeed)..
   in recent weeks, thanks to U2's "California," and their healthy navigation of their own grieving, I have been learning and leaning into all that I need to know.

Steven Garber writes of Walker Percy (whom I am pretty sure is a U2 influence):

One of his best stories is Love in the Ruins. It is the first of two novels featuring the character Tom More, a fictional descendent of Sir Thomas More, “the man for all seasons” who, in the 16th century, was the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Chancellor of England – and who refused to go along with Henry VIII’s desire for a divorce, so lost his head and his life. Percy’s More is a bad Catholic, a wandering husband who drinks too much, and a brilliant doctor. Written with a finger to the wind to the social turmoil of the 1960s, Percy wrote of Southern life embodied in the institutional frailties of the Love Clinic, a place where physicians and patients are thrown together in their hopes, longing to belong to someone somewhere.
Literally and metaphorically staggering his way through the story, More develops a machine that promises to save the day for the Love Clinic; he calls it “the qualitative/quantitative ontological lapsometer.” For anyone with ears to hear, attentive to the Enlightenment Project of the last few hundred years, Percy here captured the fundamental flaws of the modern world, fictional as they were in imagination and conception. When More is asked about the nature of a lapsometer, he replies – innocent as a dove, wise as a serpent – “It measures lapses – in the human soul.”
The dreams and debates of modernity, cascading as they are into postmodernity, are always at the heart of the human condition. It cannot be otherwise, as we are never more and never less than sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. So we take our place as folks who long to love and to be loved. Percy understood that with an unusual eye: historically, philosophically, psychologically, politically, and, yes, theologically, seeing the complexity for Everyman and Everywoman. We want love, yet we also know how hard it is to love and to be loved.
There’s the rub. To know and to love; to love and to know. Can both happen at the same time? Can we do both? Can we have both?
Most of the time it seems impossible. For reasons beyond the scope of this short essay, I would argue that human beings more often than not choose cynicism or stoicism as alternative accounts of life and of love. Rather than an epistemology of love, a way of knowing that is manifest in loving, we choose to protect our hearts, “knowing” with the poet Byron that “he who knows the most mourns the deepest.” To know is to despair. To know is to flounder. To know is to mourn.  link


Friday, May 22, 2015

"Drawing Our Fish in the Sand: Secret Biblical Allusions in the Music of U2"

"Drawing Our Fish in the Sand: Secret Biblical Allusions in the Music of U2" by Deanne Galbraith in   Biblical Interpretation 19 (2011) 181-222


Confronted with a popular music subculture which is predominantly antipathetic to Christianity, the charismatic-evangelical members of rock band U2 double code their lyrics in such a manner that Christian references are hidden from mainstream listenersa nd media while being readily recognizable to their Christian fans. The device of allusion is especially amenable to this end, as the meaning of an allusion can only be considered by a reader or listener who possesses the requisite competency in respect of the evoked text(s). Through  their  utilization of biblical allusions, U2 therefore construct two dierent, perhaps even irreconcilable, groups of listeners—a knowledgeable Christian in-group and an unknowledgeable non-Christian out-group. With detailed reference to U2’s songs, this paper examines the covert tendencies of allusion and the manner by which it is able to engage the listener’s intertextual imagination. The paper also distinguishes a secret or hidden allusion from a generic allusion on pragmatic and socio-cultural grounds, and demonstrates the potential of secret allusions to increase semantic indeterminacy. Lastly, the paper examines some examples of the reception of the U2 song ‘Magnificent’ which demonstrate the eectiveness of U2’s secret biblical allusions in creating two largely discrete groups of listeners.

Paper  is here

"We've found different ways of expressing it, and recognized the power of the media to manipulate such signs. Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It's there for people who are interested. It shouldn't be there for people who aren't." -- Bono on faith, quoted in U2 at the End of the World 

Colbert gives comencement speech; Chi-Rho and Alpha-Omega patches on his robe

HT to Matt Schneider at Mockingbird for noticing this about Colbert's comemencement address at Wake Forest:

              "Note the
         Chi-Rho and Alpha-Omega
             patches on his robe!"
   (link:"Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015..So Far")

                     In character? and/or Drawing his fish in the sand/wearing his faith on his sleeve? 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

5 apocalyptic horseriders (and horse shift) for hard ceilings in liquid modernity

Ian Morris, in his  big “big book" talks about
 "hard ceilings"

 in times of  axial/historical shift
(They are often accompanied by  the "Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse": climate change, migration, famine, epidemic and state failure).

I love that we have 
hard ceilings 
in  "this weird moment in history " that is 

liminal and "liquid  (post)modernity."

(Aqua Church, punctuated equilibrium, etc)

Maybe the horseriders (and their horseshift) are asking us to
open up the sky...

An "exotic and exquisite" worship service: "I feel like a fraud, but I know that I'm not" . I'm actually just looking for my "inner human condition" and the God Particle in the City of Blinding Colliders

photo credit, Shawn Farmer

Here are some of my thoughts, pics and videos  (some by others) of  U2's " Innocence and Experience" tour  5/19/15 San Jose (second night) stop.

It's only four nights into the tour, and as Gavin Friday quipped, "It usually takes six nights for the Baby to become Achtung."

I think this time the Mojo is  already in the house, as is the Baby.
Premature, but healthy.

Also...Second nights (or third, fourth...of fifth)  by U2 in the same city are often characterized as "walking all over the first night."  (see "U2 is good, not great in San Jose"night 1) .  Thi sometimes reminds me of what Mark DeRaud used to call the fourth (of our four Sunday church  services (they went from very traditional to traditional to contemporary to...uh, very contemporary): "the exotic service."   For U2, it's a bit looser (as far as nerves),  tighter (as far as music) , and sometimes that results in  more  Spiritaneous setlist moments.  Tonight was, as Tim Neufeld tweeted me below, exquisite.

Tim N  also catches  a  liturgical phenomenon that can happen with the night one vs night two: "Where the first night in Vancouver reminded me of the fallenness of our humanity, the second restored a sense of hope. "   Bono once told Rolling Stone, "They call it the rhema. It’s a hard word to translate from Greek, but it sort of means it changes in the moment you’re in. It seems to do that for me."
Edge:It's funny how you take an old song, but it in a different part of the set, and it suddenly has a new meaning."

Sitting next to me was another Tim,  my son --a Periscope  broadcasting star who had  hundreds of viewers from all over the world!  (Check to see if his video is still viewable).

It's impossible..and should be illegal.. to unpack a concert by U2.
(I still haven't come home from my first!)
I won't even try.
Just a few highlights this time..

I won't even go in chronological/liturgical order..

But I know which song to start with:


...but where to start in commenting on this Bad 6.0 version.
(Note that in The Matrix,  Neo was the sixth..and final.. iteration in a series of candidates to be "The One")

As Tim Neufeld noted:

Bad, which the other night (Second night, Vancouver) had the amazing addiction-recovery altar call (see this), tonight's version (unplanned, as you can tell by the first moments..) had  this tearful "Into The Mystic" intro followed by the "This is a song of surrender..Whatever it is you want to let go of tonight, let it go free! are being freed. ...Our music, God gave us it.."   invitation/prelude,,   (Not sure what he says at 27-30 sec mark. Anybody? "it's just dissonance"?):

A vintage interview:

 Do you occasionally lose control when you’re singing? Not get out of control, but you just get so transported into the song.

 That’s when it’s good. When it’s good you don’t know it’s happening. It really is an extraordinary thing because it seems to require no effort. And of course the other side of it is you can bump into some aspects of your character that you’d rather not have bumped into.

 What are you trying to do with the audience?

 To lose my own sense of self, self-consciousness – and theirs. It’s an amazing thing. We’re not really a rock & roll band. We’re pretending to be a rock & roll band, and sometimes we get away with it.
Sometimes a song like “Desire” or “Vertigo” will arrive, and you go, Whoa! That’s rock & roll! But what we actually do is something completely different. Our set list is designed in a kind of three-act structure, to get people out of themselves and to get ourselves out of ourselves. And to get to that place where everything feels possible and you want to call your mother, leave your wife, start a revolution or crack open the piggy bank and go on holiday for a year. link

Hmm..Second night; fourth service; third act..
or as Edge just said:
"There's really four different phases within the show of quite different feelings. Then we're tying it together. Making the emotional arc of it work is the real challenge."

At one point, it sounds like they were plotting a lot more moments  (technological and lyrical) throughout the songs and show  where the older Bono(or band) would talk to their younger selves, and vice versa) . Even though Bono  obviously "talked" to his younger self at one point "Song for Someone" (which took the song to a whole new level (of many) meanings,  some of the moments would be harder to these new lyrics in the "Bullet" rant:

So this boy comes up to me,
His face red like a rose on a thorn bush,
A young man with a young man's blush,
Young boy looked a lot like me.

And he's pulling the dollar bills outta my hand,
Patting me down, patting me down,
Says you have more than you need!
You got 100, you got 200, 300

And I can see those private planes,
I can see those private planes,
And you're in one of those private planes aren't you?
And he's right.

And I'm off a flight in Davos, Switzerland,
I'm in the lobby of the Belvedere Hotel,
Where a jazz-man breathes into his saxophone,
While everybody stares at their cell phone,
And in my ear the young boy groans,

Outside it's America!
Outside it's America!


As I step outside, snow is falling like a curtain of silence
I'm on the other side of the barricade now,
I'm on the other side of the barricade to myself, aged 19, n-n-n-n-nineteen

And I try to tell the young man,
that ideas deserve a plan,
And to build a better world,
It's gonna take every woman and man

It's gonna take you, me,
The reds and the greens,
The nows and forevers and the yet-to-bes
The "where ya going?"
The "where ya been?"
The living and the dead, and the unseen
The somebodies,
The nobodies,
The who's who,
The Gentile and the Jew,
The gays and the straights,
The sevens and the eights,
The nines and the tens,
The Dollars and the Yens,

And I feel like a fraud, but I know that I'm not,

I try to do my very

with everything I've got, which is not a lot,
to not get caught,
with my pants down,
 my hands up, my hands up

Any second now,
Things are going to get rough,
So I run, I run, I run,
Into the arms, of America  link

Sherry said:

Bono’s channeling his inner hypocrite, changing the lyrics from “fighter planes” to “private planes,” shifting the focus from military interest to the Occupy Wall Street movement. “You’ve got more than you need” is part of Bono’s rap. It’s a conversation he’s having with his 19-year-old self who would see him now and condemn him, and his 55-year-old self is explaining the purpose behind it all. He’s trying to reconcile that he’s become the thing he protested all those decades ago. The reinvention of this song is outstanding. - See more at:


The core idea behind the Innocence + Experience tour is this movement from "them and us" to "there is no them, only us."
When we were younger our enemies were clearly drawn, very visible to us. They were very real, they weren't imagined. And we organized against them, whether that's with Amnesty International or anti-apartheid groups. As you get older, you start to discover that the greatest enemy you will encounter in your life is often yourself. You are the biggest obstacle in your own way. Suddenly then the landscape changes. I don't know who wrote the line, "I have met my enemy and it's partly right," but it's a great line. It's a book title. When there's no clearly defined "us" and "them," the world changes shape. It's harder to negotiate. It's really your own hypocrisy in the crosshairs. We started that journey with Achtung Baby and Zoo TV. It continues today, but what's happened recently is that I've personally been revisiting the black-and-white monochrome days, because I miss that person.

I'll give you a lyric from [the upcoming U2 album] Songs of Experience. "I was living a lie. I was calling it a compromise. I was making bad deals in front of everyone's eyes. Deals now everyone denies. I was giving evidence in the court of the hearts desire, falsifying documents, virtue thrown in the fire. Sometimes I wish that I was stupid and you were not so smart. Overcome the head will always overcome the heart." The chorus goes, "Lead me in the way I should go. I'm running out of chances to blow. That's what you told me and you should know. Lead me in the way I should be. Unravel the mystery of the heart and its defense. The morning after innocence." The song is called "The Morning After Innocence."
Then it goes, "Is that your fountain pen? Navy with a nib of gold. Could you write your name again and do anything you were told in 10 Cedarwood Road. I'm your older self, the song of experience. I've come to ask for help from your song of innocence. Lead me in the way I should go. I'm running out of chances to blow. That's what you told me and you should know."
So, the older self is coming and asking the younger one for hope. It's interesting. It's a reverse. That happens in this show. What happens in this show is the younger self harangues, harasses, the older self. That's what we were just practicing out there trying to figure out in "Bullet the Blue Sky." The guy who used to be on the barricades in black and white comes up to the guy who is on the other side of the barricades and says, "What are you doing here?" He says, "It takes everybody. It takes the blues, the greens, the me's, the you." He goes into this rant. That's the dialectic at the heart of the tour from a lyrical perspective.

Read more: 


In  a delightful, cross-framed moment during "City Of Blinding Lights,"the boy  ("innocence" incarnate) Bono brought up on stage (as promised  earlier in the day, see video here.. start at 2 min mark), teased Bono about one of his trademarked and "experienced" grownup bad self poses.>> 

Sherry caught this:
video footage from the Higgs Boson Collider appeared to be used for “City Of Blinding Lights,” a song with overtones about heaven, with visuals of a collider trying to find the God particle - See more at:
Photo: Tim N

Tell me about it.  To me, the film on the screen   during "Streets" showed creation/our current city-creation..including the Joshua Tree... with a  collider/transmitter/transporter to  New Creation/heaven/heavens..

..or something like that. (:
photo Tim N

Someone captured this, see 3:37ff...and the rock(Rock)/mountain (Mountain) at 5:32ff? Love it:

Some of my brief clips:

Posted by Dave Wainscott on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

U2 "End of the World"
San Jose 5/19/15..a new twist on the Jesus and Judas scene
Posted by Dave Wainscott on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

U2 "Where the Streets Have No Name" intro
Posted by Dave Wainscott on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Posted by Dave Wainscott on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

U2 Cedarwood Road
Bono inside the screen, walking the road he grew up on. "Come with me, see the road I should've grown up on.."
Posted by Dave Wainscott on Wednesday, May 20, 2015