"Part Ritual and Part Rally"

The Observer has published a really stunning essay by Michael Bracewell from the forthcoming authorized history of U2's tours. It reads like it's the whole piece, but might be an excerpt. In any case, if this is the level of analysis and scholarship we can expect from the book, it's going in my preorder basket soon. An excerpt:
As punk had laid waste to the idea of the big, spectacular rock show having any
relevance to the modern world, so U2 would reinvent the genre as a richly
ironic, politicised statement about the way we live now. Loosely, Zoo TV and
Popmart could be said to articulate statements about the postmodern world -
describing that world back to itself as a perilous pleasuredome of seemingly
infinite images and information, the accelerated accumulation of which might
seem to threaten our perceptions, free will and fundamental human feelings. In
this much, the U2 show is about acting out a passion play of good versus evil in
a very blatant way. Why else might Bono, during Zoo TV, achieve such a bravura
performance as the devil - played, incidentally, not as a swaggeringly Satanic
Mick Jagger, sinewy in black, but rather as a sentimental old impresario,
virtually exhausted by the suffering he has given to the world.

A few other things I just love: the description of the Popmart stage as "a mutated Japanese monster mall," the way the author finds U2's lifelong preoccupations in embryo in his analysis of their early Dandelion Market shows, the image of ZooTV and Popmart as opera while Elevation is chamber music, and the insightful foregrounding of the political messages hidden in U2's aesthetic decisions. I only regret that there wasn't a liturgical scholar around to throw her paticular intellectual categories into the mix. (Say, Baumstark's Law and the coloration/lighting for "Streets"? I'm only half joking.) Or perhaps that's another essay.

The book, officially authorized, is called U2 Show and is by Diana Scrimgeour. It will be out in October.

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