Vertigo Tour review highlights

It seems rather out of place to post about anything but the new U2 tour at the moment, so I thought I'd cite some of my favorite lines from the zillion mainstream media reviews of the San Diego opener. Thanks to a few people who sent me links; Google News pretty much has it all, though.

As Bono knows better than anyone, it's hard to smirk when you're singing at the top of your lungs. --New York Times
Not since the sparse days of The Joshua Tree has spectacle taken such a distant backseat to statements at a U2 concert. ...Heavy-handed? C'mon, this is U2. You must accept a modicum of heavy-handedness to get to the galvanizing strength and cathartic potential of the music. --Orange County Register
After defining U2's identity with a spare stutter, [the Edge] now draws from a staggering range of sonic pigments that evoke passions as mournful, euphoric and furious as anything Bono conjures with language and lungs. --(lost the reference on this one, sorry)
Perhaps there is a room where Americans resent listening to an Irishman lecture them about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ("He wasn't just talking about the American dream," Bono explained. "His dream was even bigger than that.") But this wasn't it. --New York Times
Bono gave the audience another shout-out, changing the lyric "I'm at a place called Vertigo" to "San Diego." (Good luck in East Rutherford.) --MTV

And, just like they did from about '83 to about '89, journalists all have the end of their articles handed to them on a platter again:
"I will sing, sing a new song," Bono chanted. "How long to sing this song?" the crowd chanted back, over and over, until the only sound heard throughout the arena was the forceful thickness of thousands of voices in unison, long after U2 had walked offstage. --Associated Press


I guess in this case being called "pulpit-worthy" by a secular source is good.

I think that this AP review of U2's San Diego concert that opened the Vertigo Tour last night has to take some kind of prize for over-the-top religious language about the band.

Lights go down

Thanks to all the extra folks who stopped by yesterday during what was obviously a global opening-night U2 internet frenzy. If you want to see pictures, read discussions, or debate the setlist of the U2 Vertigo Tour opener in San Diego, there are lots of great sites where you can do that. My three comments: I can't wait to hear "An Cat Dubh-Into the Heart" (not to mention "Electric Co"); I'm sorry to learn so many old reliable chestnuts got reinserted in the show at the last minute (moving from faith back to fear?); and, it'll be very interesting to see the political overtones to "Streets" allowed to resonate a bit more.


Goodbye Heart, hello Egg. Anyone who's going tonight, have a great time.

African Well Fund - Building Hope One Well At A Time

The African Well Fund has just launched their 3rd annual campaign to build wells in Africa for Bono's birthday. From Easter Sunday through the month of April, the African Well Fund invites U2 fans to make a donation in honor of Bono's birthday on May 10th (a date on which U2 will be playing live in Chicago this year). The launch of the campaign, at the Vertigo's Eve party in San Diego last night, started the donation tally at $3500, enough to build at least two wells.

The AWF, founded in 2002, is a 100% volunteer organization of U2 fans who have raised over $70,000 so far to fund water projects in Africa through Africare. Here's where you can donate. This blog recommends participation in this kind of charity campaign, while not forgetting that justice is the longer term answer.


Rock of Ages: The Passion of Judas

Purely in honor of the Triduum, I'm re-linking something from last year, The Passion of Judas, a reflection on "Until the End of the World" by a Catholic priest in Santa Cruz. I see that the blog Stranger in A Strange Land was obviously on the same wavelength yesterday, and has stayed there today as well.


It's about humility; it's about understanding; it's about internal change.

While a tad overwritten for my taste, this review of "How To..." from Zachry O. Kincaid at the Matthew's House Project is worth a look. (The Matthew's House Project is committed to "exploring the Christian story as a means of cultural awareness, re-enchanting the public square with Christian imagination, facilitating the role of the arts in nurturing, nourishing, and evoking experiences of contemporary society, and grounding our participation in culture in our experiences of the local church.") I enjoyed the comparison between U2's album and recent comments by an Amnesty worker: "I've seen amazing things," she says, but "the promise of human rights and the assurance of 'never again' are repeatedly betrayed." The purpose of her actions, she says, resides in the words of Jesus and his call to the least among us. "My motivation is no longer to change the world, but to live out a testimony."


mission of love

Blogger and pastor Terry Timm draws on Mike Kinman's Palm Sunday sermon in our book to create some reflections of his own this Holy Week.

Agnes Nyamayarwo of TASO

Get Up Off Your Knees benefits The AIDS Support Organization in Uganda, and Agnes Nyamayarwo, a volunteer nurse there, has become well known for helping audiences worldwide understand the realities faced by HIV+ Africans. The U2 fansite Interference interviews her. Excerpt: "During some of the hardest and darkest periods of my life, I would sit in my bedroom and ask God, 'Where do I begin?'... Some people had already started distancing themselves from us. It was indeed a terrifying experience trying to imagine how my children and I would continue living [with] this stigma around us. I used to read books looking for answers. Some of the answers to my problems came to me while reading the Bible late at night and I was inspired to continue struggling with my life for the sake of my children."

You can donate to TASO here, but as Agnes makes clear in the interview, private charity can never be sufficient in this situation: please also visit the ONE Campaign or its equivalent in your country to encourage your government to participate at its promised share in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth reviews U2 Show.


The Politics of God

A recent quote by Bono about "the distance grace covered on the Cross" is making its way around the weblogging community. If you've seen it without attribution, it's from the jacket of Jim Wallis' God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.

Don't read this if you don't want tour spoilers.

The @U2 blog was posting updates on what U2 was rehearsing in Vancouver this past week, and if you don't want to know one of the songs that is something of a surprise, you should not read the rest of this post.
Stop now.

Still reading? So someone heard, and I've seen this elsewhere, "An Cat Dubh-Into the Heart." It was widely predicted that there would be Boy material on the tour, but of all the songs on that album I am maybe most delighted to see this pair as a real possibility. Even before news started coming out of the rehearsals, I thought it would be the perfect Boy setlist addition to mesh with the themes of HTDAAB. Why? Because...

1) "An Cat Dubh-Into the Heart" was U2's very first foray into leading listeners musically through an experience of sin and redemption. This experience is a U2 trademark, often done these days live by another kind of pairing: first a song that sets forth evil/sin clearly ("Bad," "Please," "Running to Stand Still") and leaves the audience asking a question ("What hope is there? How do we get out of this?"), and then the overwhelming answer and redemption with "Streets." Since the transmutation of evil into redemption is directly depicted in the HTDAAB book, and since U2 have talked about HTDAAB as "a journey from fear to faith," I'm looking for them to pick that process up with a special vividness live this tour. "An Cat Dubh-Into the Heart" would not suprise me at all as a way to do so.
2) The sin portion of the pair, "An Cat Dubh," has an attractiveness-of-evil theme that fits with "Vertigo." Plus the interest it shows in creating a sort of evil "sound" fits with "Love and Peace or Else" -- for that reason, btw, I also wouldn't be suprised if "Exit" made the setlist. (Hey, when you start taking on evil at the scale they've evidently decided to take it on, you want to pull out all your "evil song" stops for drama. I hear "Exit" as carrying its own redemption inside it, but most people disagree with me.)
3) The redemptive portion of the pair, "Into the Heart," is about rebirth, about becoming an innocent child again. HTDAAB: "I'm at the door of the place I started out from and I want back inside." Enough said.

Of course, a song getting rehearsed is no guarantee it will appear. But we'll know beginning Easter Monday (or Easter Eve if you won tickets to the Great Vigil in LA). That's one heck of a cheeky time for a band boasting, as the Boss put it recently, "one of the greatest and most endearingly naked messianic complexes in rock and roll" to start a tour. Thank God they didn't arrange for exactly fifty days of shows.


Wrathall redux

Here's a much longer story on the U2 and Philosophy book I posted on last week. It includes some helpful expansions on the material cited in the 2 other articles, and information on some of the essays that will be included. They also have a working link to the original Salt Lake Tribune article, the one that initially wasn't available online.

For those who have ears to hear

I received a private email from Gospel and pop culture quiz writer Sol O. Mann, whose 2001 U2 quiz is here, letting me know he's got a new one ready for publication. Our book is in it! While we're waiting for the link, he was kind enough to let me give you a preview. So try your hand at these:
--While in New York City, U2 visited Harlem and sang "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a church choir. Name the choir.
--This U2 tour programme contains an image of an angel holding a sign on which Psalm 34:7 is printed:"THE ANGEL OF THE LORD ENCAMPETH AROUND ABOUT THEM THAT FEAR HIM AND DELIVERETH THEM." What tour was the programme from?
--BBC host Chris Evans once asked Bono what he'd sing if it was the last song of the last show. What song did Bono pick?


Upcoming event

If you're near Hoboken, NJ, young, Roman Catholic, and not doing anything on this Monday March 21st, you might want to drop by the RENEW International Theology on Tap presentation "U2's legacy of Faith, Justice, and Rock and Roll" by Father Kent Weidie ST (scroll down a bit).


What can I give back to God?

Someone got here recently by searching on "Bono stewardship quotes" (odd time of the year to be looking for that...), and I decided to see what else they might have found. That search turned up this sermon from the National Presbyterian Church, where some over-attentive U2 Sermons readers might possibly remember I spoke at a U2 class in October, shortly before the actual sermon was given, in fact. Preacher Eunice T. McGarrahan deals with Psalm 116 as a great statement of the best motivation for stewardship, situates the text within the classical order of Mass, and ends by explaining the Streets Prayer from the Elevation Tour.


Quotes from Bruce Springsteen during his RNRHOF induction of U2

"This was a band that wanted to lay claim to this world and the next one, too."

"It is (in) the constant questioning in Bono's voice where the band stakes its claim to humanity. Bono's voice often sounds like it's shouting, not from over the band, but from deep within it: 'Here we are, Lord.' "

Spiritual windows

You readers may think I'm putting in too many plugs for Cathleen Falsani, but here she is with something else that comes close enough to the general topic of this blog that I feel I need to post it: her take on the new, Eastern-religion-tinged spirituality spots on MTV.


"BYU prof says U2 more than musicians, they're philosophers"

I'm hearing that there are some books in the works on U2 and Chistian theology, but here's a new twist: though I can't find it on the Salt Lake Tribune's site, the @U2 mailing list sent out an article they published recently about a new book called U2 and Philosophy. It's coming out in 2006 from Open Court, a publishing house that's also done books on the philosophy of pop culture phenomenons like the Matrix movies and Harry Potter. (In fact, I own their The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer.)

The editor is Brigham Young University professor Mark Wrathall, who makes some interesting comments in the Salt Lake article: "Achtung Baby" through 1997's "Pop" found the band flirting with existential despair; 'Last Night On Earth' is Nietzschean; even the most abstract philosophy can be seen every day in pop culture. So far so good.

However, if the Salt Lake reporter's paraphrases are accurate on Wrathall's comments about U2's theology, I suspect some of the analyses there may be wider of the mark ('Vertigo' "celebrates earthly love as a form of spiritual fulfilment"? The band's early work "reflected traditional Christian pessimism"? 'Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' is about "whether religious faith alone could fulfill a person"?)

Later, the Deseret News published another, different article on the same topic, which explains that there are several professors of philosophy submitting essays. (It also says that U2's Christian material is the topic of Wrathall's.) Fortunately, the Deseret reporter doesn't include as many dodgy comments. Whatever you think of the hints at how U2 will be read in either the Deseret article (online) or the Salt Lake article (on the @U2 list), it'll probably be an interesting collection.
[NB: This post has been edited for clarity, thanks to a commenter voicing confusion about the quotes.]


What's a sermon worth?

A clever piece by Cathleen Falsani winds together two upcoming Chicago events with outrageous scalped ticket prices. You know from the author that one of them will be U2's "Vertigo Tour," but the other may surprise you, and she treats the topic well.


Dismantling death again

Just a quick welcome to all the folks visiting from U2.com's forums to take a look at my post on the deluxe HTDAAB book. Hope you'll stay awhile. [By the way, I just edited that original post slightly, thanks to a commenter who informed me that in the plate with the symbols of the monotheistic religions surrounding a globe, the symbols are arranged to spell out COEXIST.]


Popmart and prophecy

I've been studying Isaiah recently, whom I am currently recommending for "Most U2ey Biblical author" because of the way he juxtaposes glorious Day-of-the-Lord, ultimate-redemption passages with the most nitty-gritty technical political critique/lament. (And in fact, right now I've actually got it all straight in my head about Pekah and Rezin and Sennacherib and all those guys - a state of affairs that will probably last no more than two weeks!) Anyway, Isaiah is magnificent, but what I want to post about is the famous song of the vineyard in chapter 5. Its climax in verse 7 ("[God] looked for justice, but found bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard a cry") contains two well-known puns: "He looked for mishpat, but found mispat; for tsedaqua, but heard tseaqua."

As I sat there thinking about that poetic device, the opening sound effects of the live versions of "Last Night on Earth" unexpectedly sounded in my head, and then I realized why: "I went looking for spirit, but found alcohol/ I went looking for soul, and I bought some style/ I wanted to meet God, but you sold me religion."


"I reckon he'd be wearing a track suit, in Africa, working with AIDS patients."

Loosely U2-related in the "Friends and Collaborators" category: The RTE show "Rattlebag" recently presented the debut episode of "The Last Friday", for which Gavin Friday (the Irish love those puns, don't they?) put together a "sound collage" show on representations of Christ. Our host won me over instantly by beginning with Patti Smith's "Gloria," but he makes a lot of interesting comments about his own Catholic upbringing (since "the Bible didn't really come into it," he ended up "hanging around with Protestants and Plymouth Brethren"), includes three readings from "The Message" ("a language that you could, like, talk on the telephone... no sort of airy-fairyness, no filigree"), and mixes clips from everyone from U2 to Billy Graham to Nick Cave to Sinead O'Connor. Gavin gives the last word, incidentally, to "Jesus' blood never failed me yet." You can listen to the show via RealAudio.


"I got the money, all kinds of drugs of choice, everything, but this is my life now."

I suppose, as a Christian blog in the general field of spirituality and culture, we ought to give a little nod to the big Korn and Jesus story.

By the way, on an unrelated topic, since today's public internet sale was even worse than the last one for this venue, I'm looking for two seated tickets to the Paris Stade de France U2 concert on either July 9 or 10. I promise not to whine too much about this here.

Disarming Words

A senior writer and editor at Bread for the World in Washington, D.C. appears in
"Sojourners" to review U2's latest album. Again, as I said of another recent review, little new insight here but I'm linking it because of the well-known religious media source.


"The message is the same: to surrender - whether it is your possessions or your heart."

Caroline Puntis of Damaris' Culture Watch has put up a Christian discussion guide to How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which also uses a number of well-chosen quotes from interviews. Hat tip to Fresno Dave. If you missed their guide to "All That You Can't Leave Behind," by the same author, it's here.



Thanks to the folks at Theofilter: Theology on Tap ("a place to read what people are writing about God, alongside Music, Life, Art and whatever else comes to mind")for adding U2 Sermons to their list of sources.

"community is a two way street"

Continuing on thematically a bit from yesterday's post... U2 performed "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" at the Grammys, sparking this reflection on mutual support, Christian community, and Acts 2:41-47 from Terry's Thoughts. Sounds like a good sermon topic.


How to dismantle the atomic Bob

Mind and Soul does a nice piece of work on "father issues" in HTDAAB. Excerpt: Being able to be ourselves and to have 'left home' psychologically is a key part of maturity. 'Father' becomes 'Friend'.... I wonder if we have a particular responsibility to work things out with our fathers so that we are not transferring onto God things that are actually of our father. God is his own person.