My presentation at the U2 conference looked at 5 characteristics of leitourgia as set forth by a cluster of recent liturgical theologians (David Fagerberg, Alexander Schmemann, Aidan Kavanaugh, and Peter Fink) and described how U2 shows have fulfilled them, with examples from across several tours. I did this in deliberate contradistincton to the popular "church" metaphor -- which I don't think is all bad, but has significant potential for misprision and category mistakes. (The 5 characteristics of leitourgia were roughly: the sense of any divide between the sacred/secular is demolished and exposed as a psuedo-Christian lie, a group of people become something they were not as a mere collection of individuals through a deliberate process evoking a corporate connection, a promise of ultimate fulfillment is rendered perceptible to the senses, the world is done the way it ought to be done [justice is enacted], and people are engaged in a way that helps them offer up the totality of their uncensored lives and selves.) BTW if you are going to use even these brief paraphrases in connection with U2, please have the courtesy to cite me and link me.
Anyone who really knows that literature would have recognized that I was begging several questions and working with the source material in a very generalist way, but I was betting on the field of liturgical theology per se (as opposed to theology of worship or liturgy, practical theology, etc) being so tiny that hardly anybody there would be equipped to call me on it.
I had mostly finished the paper by the time I saw the 2 Foxboro shows, and of course several of us went to the Raleigh show during the conference. There's been a lot of discussion online about this tour, its audiences, and its setlist (or setlists, since they keep tinkering with them), with people coming out various places about whether it's working, and I don't feel a need to rehash any of that. It is true, though, that I had a bit of an existential crisis about the paper after Foxboro, because the current U2 show, in my opinion, does not successfully achieve the 5 characteristics I was working with. It is trying in several ways, I think -- even trying too hard -- but not succeeding. I want very emphatically to say that this assessment has nothing whatsoever to do with questions like whether spiritual themes are more or less to the front in the show (focusing on that would essentially violate my point 1, in fact).
Whether this is deliberate or simply something U2 have been pushed into by a combination of circumstances such as a pre-NLOTH commitment to the Claw, a low-selling album with no hits, and the need to please US stadiums full of casual fans, I don't know. But I ended up simply putting in a few small disclaimers that these 5 points reflected U2's modus operandi for much of their career. And nobody asked about it. But on some level, I guess I am still hoping that maybe there might still be some developments in this show (future legs?) that can foster the leitourgia experience that is what (unlike many many others, who of course have every right to come for very different reasons) I value most about the band live.