Thursday, December 10, 2009

beyond charisma:" Magnificent" and what made this reporter "a believer"

Remember when Letterman was convicted...first by Leigh Nash ("Letterman Lusts; Thinks Gospel is 'Beautiful'").. and then by U2's "Magnificent'?

On that same page...

Thanks so much to Andy Rogers for letting me know about this new response to U2 on the Hall of Fame broadcast, from the Lefsetz Letter.

Several things stand out. The second sentence, for example! (Dear God, Why does this keep happening to such a gifted band?) The last sentence, for example (Thank God this keeps happening, too!) And this language about being lifted up over Manhattan reminds of how he lifted up Chicago here (3:33ff) But mostly the overall take on Rev. Bono doing his thing:

..Then came U2. "Vertigo" was botched so badly at first I wasn’t even sure what song it was.

But one thing was clear. In this context, where you could see him, it was indisputable that Bono was a phenomenal front man. The moves, the words, they were beyond charisma. Charisma is what an actor has, something surface, something vapid. Whereas we want to get inside our rock stars, we want to see what makes them tick.

And when the number ended, Bono started to rap [as he began "Magnificent"]. About going to Yonkers, to Queens. But then he and his band took us higher than that, lifted us up over Madison Square Garden to the point we were hovering over the entire isle of Manhattan.

This was the treated guitar intro introduced on "Achtung Baby". The dark sound that dared us to come inside, to join the experience. And then the twiddling lead, like a blinking star in the sky inviting our attention. Then the rat-a-tat-tat of Larry Mullen, Jr.’s drums. Eventually I saw Vinnie Colaiuta pound the skins behind Jeff Beck, but I enjoyed Mr. Mullen more. Because just like Ringo, he perfectly complemented his band’s sound. This was an attack, Larry was pounding bullets, imploring us, driving us forward.

And then Bono starts to sing like he means it. They’re his words, not the rhymes of some hack in a back room. He was feeling it, and as a result we felt it too.

Everything I thought I knew was wrong. Not only soft music could work on TV, U2 was killing it! Unlike what had come before, this was not nostalgia, but alive and kicking. This was rock and roll!

Bono wasn’t playing to the back row of a stadium, seeming miles away.

He wasn’t playing for the YouTube audience.

He was playing just for us.

But it was better than that. He wasn’t trying to convince the audience, he was showing the audience. That’s what the Who specialized in, a veritable assault. You didn’t nod your head and smile, singing along, your hair was blown back, you couldn’t believe what you were seeing.

This number was brand new. But it fit perfectly in U2’s canon, with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Until The End Of The World".

Mick Jagger took the stage and one could see the lineage, of someone who took over and demanded your attention, Bono was in a long line…well, maybe a short line of commanding performers. And Fergie was better than could be imagined, but "Gimmie Shelter" never gelled, because unlike "Magnificent", it was never haunting, it lacked the ethereal quality of the original.

And Bono’s duet with Mick fell flat too, the song just wasn’t good enough.

But "Magnificent" was.
I couldn’t  speak.
My eyes were glued to the tube.
I remembered what made me a believer.

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