10.10.2009

Footnote

Just a more experiential footnote to my post yesterday about how I didn't see this tour as engendering leitourgia as successfully as previous tours. I got a U2.com mail Friday whose purported link to Willie Williams' recent diaries from the 360 tour actually led to an entry from back in 2000. Typical U2.com, but the piece was one I had never read, a very arresting journal entry reacting to the concert U2 played at the Man Ray in Paris upon the release of ATYCLB.

The reviews of the 360 concerts are very, very good, because U2 put on a very, very good show and are very, very skilled at what they do. Very, very good is an admirable thing to be. But wanna read what somebody sounds like who has just experienced U2 leitourgia in full flight? Here.

11 comments:

Equality 7-2521 said...

This is what I posted last Sunday night after the show in Raleigh. I took me twenty four hours to process what I experienced that night. I might be missing your message?, but the lack of overt religiosity (nothing else comes to mind) struck me like this.


I have struggled since it ended with what I would write post concert... This is where I am. I do not expect all of you to appreciate this, but last night I witnessed (from the inner circle I might add) why U2 is one of the most important things in ...my life, they are the genuine article. They believe what they believe and present it in song. They ARE rock stars, and last night I saw rock stars, including the biggest one on the planet, humbled by a crowd of close to 60,000. They understand that this is a relationship (U2 and their fans) built on reciprocity. Love, hope, joy, pain, anger and above ALL else belief in the fact that people are ONE and for the time it takes to listen to ONE song, see ONE concert, accomplish ONE thing regardless of significance these are the things that draw us and me to them. Their stage is not a claw or a spaceship...it IS a cathedral. A church where ALL are preacher and congregation. A church where ALL hearts beat as ONE and all souls leave fuller than when they arrived. Last night I saw that on the faces of four men from Dublin. Last night words and music came together for the betterment of all of us...as ONE.

U2 Sermons said...

Thanks, Equality, for your heartfelt remarks on the genuineness of the band, the collaborative way they approach live performance, and some of the ideas they present. As a side note a "lack of overt religiosity" isn't a topic we've been discussing here (as I said below, a focus on looking for overt religiosity actually undermines the aspect of U2's work I presented on at the conference). It's always nice to read people's reactions to shows.

Derek said...

Hi Beth
Some random thoughts...
I note that "Equality" viewed the show from the inner circle and do wonder if that is the place where U2 work best on this tour.
Certainly the indoor gigs I have seen have always had something more, despite the stuff that's written about "intimate stadiums" and all that.
As a priest myself, I know that the stuff you did at the conference is so true, but works best in our little church more than in a cathedral.
Which is why the DVDs work well too- you get to be intimate with them even though it's not live. You see Bono's "worship" and the community in the band better than from the back of a stadium.
Grace & Peace
Derek

U2 Sermons said...

That's interesting, Derek -- Equality isn't really trying to assess whether the show s/he saw was leitourgia, of course. But if we're going to talk in those terms (as opposed to just did I enjoy the show more, were people around me more into it), being in the inner circle actually wasn't any different from seats for me this tour. Three concerts: inner circle, cheap seats, very good seats -- all great shows, all wonderful experiences, but from my perspective none succeeded well at what I'm talking about.

(However, there was something about the dynamic in Raleigh that made it cross my mind to wonder if U2 had actually started just playing to the pit, and letting the rest of us watch! Not sure why.)

The size question is a good one. From my perception, a couple of the European Vertigo stadium concerts I went to (Glasgow in particular) were stronger in terms of leitourgia than a couple of the Boston US Vertigo arena shows. So I'm not sure I would quite agree that a smaller space always works best for these purposes. Although yeah, surely it's harder to unite a crowd in a stadium, and maybe exacerbated by coming up against highly non-participatory, non-singing US culture and several thousand people who don't know many of your songs....

Your comment about the community in the band is worth more thought, too. How much of a difference does it make in our sense of connection whether we are seeing community modeled for us onstage? great question.

Nathan said...

Beth,

I do find it interesting that Equality didn't use the terms you set up as a framework for this discussion, but seems to be talking about the same thing?

I myself could read all 5 of your criteria and say that I experienced--at Giants Stadium, in the inner circle--all of them in spades. I might change #3 to be more of a "transcendence" or experience of otherworldly journeying, but everything else seems pretty "bang on"!

It seemed to be that the set, setlist, and spoken words were all designed to take the audience to that other place for a real encounter with the Divine, and for a outer space perspective of the "world in green and blue." From the "ground control" announcement at the beginning, to the "turn this place into the Milky Way" at the end, I felt transported from Giants Stadium to the throne room of God. What is liturgy if not a public, deliberate arrangement for meeting with God?

I'm not trying to argue against your point, for certainly you are making it from your own personal experiences and therefore are speaking subjectively. I'm not trying to state my point objectively about the tour in general, I'm just saying that for me, the arrangements all added up to true worship that night, not just very very deep appreciation for the show.

I've only seen 2 other tours, Popmart and Vertigo (twice), but I'd even say that those shows seemed less cohesively liturgical for me than this one.

Maybe you can just take my comments as an encouragement that, at least for some (one?), your excellently stated categories of leitourgia are still descriptive of the U2 concert experience.

:)

U2 Sermons said...

Hey Nathan. Well, I don't see Equality's comment (or yours) as describing what I did my paper on, actually. I certainly understand your experience; as I've said many times, U2 are still trying hard (maybe too hard!) to include all 5 of those aspects (which I can't claim; they are all borrowed from much greater theologians than I) in the 360 shows. But both you and Equality are working with worship, church, "sacred" language, which is a thought category I asked my audience up front to try and deliberately rule out before we even began.

Filtering things through those categories makes it near-impossible to grasp how the specific school of thought I was using to read U2 in my paper treats leitourgia. Leitourgia is rather rare in American culture and is not often on offer full-strength in churches (whether or not those churches would claim to use "liturgy").

Fagerberg I think has most thoroughly articulated this; from the perspective I tried to bring into dialogue with U2's work, leitourgia isn't the same as "true worship." It's not just "a public deliberate arrangement for meeting with God." Worship is merely one of several activities that happen during leitourgia. Whether a 360 show's content makes it feel more explicitly worshipful to Christians in the audience than say Popmart did is not really relevant to how successful an overall example of realized leitourgia occurs.

....I'm kind of beginning to think that the 5 categories on their own like that are misleading, and perhaps I should have just waited for the book!

Derek said...

Hi Beth
I do love the blog - thanks for keeping it going :o)
I've been thinking again about your five definitions of leitourgia and without wanting to go into detail, I think I can still honestly say that 360 in Sheffield ticked all the boxes - but maybe only at a personal level. ie I had "eyes to see" but maybe others didn't?
Meanwhile, you were interested in the community comment I made (the community in the band).
It certainly seems more and more evident on this tour, but not just within the band - eg singing "happy birthday" to Willie Williams in his Sheffield home town. We sing happy birthday to people in church sometimes and it felt just the same. The audience felt (I think) like family, even from the back of the stadium.
It also begs the question.. has much been written about leitourgia and the community of the trinity and how they let us glimpse their world when we worship?
Grace and Peace
Derek

U2 Sermons said...

Interestingly, Derek, the local press after the first Foxboro show expressed disappointment at not seeing that "community within the band" thing -- and it was fascinating to see a very evident effort from Bono et al. at correcting the deficit at Foxboro night 2. They gave us all sorts of band interaction that had been absent night 1, which really changed the feel. I do think watching them connect with each other (and with their team) has an effect.

Nathan said...

Beth,

I wasn't aware that you had asked your audience to block the "sacred language" from this discussion. I've reread the 5 categories in that context and now understand that you're not really talking about the same thing as worship. Although I must say that thinking about those categories without thinking about Christian worship is a bit like standing on one's head! :)

And I compared my 360 experience to the other tours because I thought that type of comparison was implied in this discussion, i.e. if this tour is not achieving the 5 categories, then what did you base them on? Previous tours. Right?

Nathan

PS. There seems to be some others who are noticing the difference in where one sits at these show. Even today something came up in the reviews of the Cowboys Stadium shows. Interesting!

Chip said...

Beth,

I'm not going to rehash all I've said in the past, trust me, but I do have two thoughts.

First, the negative: if you really wanted to see U2 miss pretty much all of the leitourgia points (and neither one of us does :)), I wish you could timewarp back to May 26, 1997, for the DC Popmart. I've never seen so many people unengaged during a song than with "Please" -- people sat, talked about anything and everything other than the concert, did many things other than pay attention -- and that was during the most theme-unified part of the show! The same thing was true during other parts of the concert, but most obviously during "Please." I have never seen a reaction nearly as negative during any of the other two concerts I've attended. (It made Elevation 2001 a wonderful surprise, as I felt they had hit leitourgia mostly out of the ballpark their first DC night -- even if I still think there was a bit of a lack of thematic continuity on that tour.)

My point: U2 probably rarely achieve leitourgia everywhere in a venue. I'm sure that some and even many people had a transcendent experience somewhere in RFK stadium during Popmart, but apparently nowhere near where we were. My friend standing next to me didn't think leitourgia was achieved during Elevation, even though he thought it was the best concert he'd ever attended. And even there, I'd say that leitourgia was achieved in large part due to playing so many '80s songs that clearly were deeply meaningful to almost everyone present.

Second, an observation: Thinking back on 360, I agree that there was something markedly different from Popmart and Elevation (the only two previous tours I've seen), but I haven't seen anyone else write about this. There was a palpable sense that U2 had reached a resting place. Maybe "[we haven't made] it all the way to the light" yet, but there was a definite vibe of having reached a high point in our climb up the mountain where we can stop, celebrate, and be thankful for now. Bono thanked politicians many times over in DC that night, and he also was effusive in his thanks to ONE supporters. What was missing, as a friend pointed out to me, was a sense of fire in the social justice/cause belly. (My friend questioned whether Bono is as needed on that end in the age of Obama.) For that reason, looking back, I think the "Sunday Bloody Sunday" through "One" section was the weakest point of the show -- still very good, as you say, but without the usual passion. Elsewhere, I think the quest theme was mostly successfully maintained, and it's my favorite of my three concerts for combining a mostly successful leitourgia with U2's more interesting concert artistic ambitions.

Peace of Christ,
Chip

U2 Sermons said...

Hi Chip! As many have commented, the feel of a show is different different places in the venue, and I sure hope I haven't anywhere given the impression that I think all concerts on previous tours achieved leitourgia - that would be a ridiculous claim. Even to say a majority did might be too much. And obviously there will always be individuals who have transformative experiences (which is mostly what people want to talk about) and individuals who are not on board no matter how successful the show is.

However, leitourgia is rigorously public and corporate. Once people start saying "it was [leitourgia] for some people who had a transcendent experience but not for most people" or "it was [leitourgia] only if you were in the pit, but not in the stands" by definition we can't really be talking about leitourgia per se anymore. Without a significant quorum in the whole audience in all locations doing their job, using the term leitourgia is stretching the definition of that word beyond usefulness. I'd just use different words to praise what U2 are achieving at that point. Maybe go back to the broader "church" language, for example?

The way location would factor in on the corporate/public question would be if, for example, you were seated somewhere where the sight lines or acoustics made it difficult to gauge *overall* participation -- if, e.g., 80% of the venue were actually singing, but an acoustic issue made it sound to you like only 40% were. (And actually, a venue in which a number of seating locations had acoustics that problematic would be a significant roadblock to leitourgia happening at all!)