10.09.2009

Reflections on my own paper at the conference, and on the 360 show

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.

10 comments:

Nathan said...

Beth, thanks for spelling out those 5 characteristics.

I'm curious, which of them, specifically, do you feel the 360 show falls short in accomplishing?

Thanks,
Nathan

U2 Sermons said...

I personally don't see *any* of the 5 being accomplished on (at least the US leg of) this tour as viscerally and irresistably, with the entire audience drawn in, as U2 have often managed. But I'd probably say #s 2 and 3 were the weakest in the shows I've seen or heard. It's easy to point to ways in which U2 and their team are still getting something done on all 5 counts, of course.

(Naturally, these are far from being the only characteristics of leitourgia; I simply presented on particular marks of it that have usually also characterized U2 shows.)

jzazzera said...

Your comment "the world is done the way it ought to be done" reminded me of my days at Yale with Aidan Kavanagh. "Doing the world" was the phrase he most impressed on my mind.

U2 Sermons said...

Jzazzera -- absolutely: that line is indeed straight outta Kavanaugh, whom I admire almost beyond words. I envy your getting to study with him! I imagine the phrase may be in his "On Liturgical Theology" somewhere but in the paper I cited it out of Fagerberg's "Theologia Prima" where he quotes it more than once without a reference, just as something Kavanaugh said over and over.

Bono said...

Dear Beth - I have the feeling, that Bono is doing less talking on this show as a result of, partly the new songs speak very clearly about hope and about problems in the world -secondly because he thinks he has said so much as a speaker now, so there is not so much more to say.
I found the communication in Raleigh very deep - Bono sang to the moon, he sang Stand by me to the moon, he sang City of blinding lights to a boy, who was like himself in the song, and the boy enjoyed, he sang Amazing grace a cappella, he related to the confer. and Agnes, he lended his mike to the man singing People get ready, and he has Tutu to do the real motivating one-preaching, and then the show ends up with three love-songs. With lots of feelings and tensions and still ending in some kind of belief in the project called Love - thy neighbour, thy closest, thy world...

Just some reflections having seen U2 twice - also in Gothenburg in Sweden, and compared to that, there was much more liturgia in Raleigh..Guess they are working at it, to get it better, and better and better..

Joergen

U2 Sermons said...

Thanks for the comment Joergen. So many wonderful moments in Raleigh. I was on the internet the next morning looking for a picture of either the boy or the People Get Ready moment, hoping to substitute them for pictures from the Vertigo tour in my presentation! No luck though.

Unknown said...

I hope the tour grows legs soon, I see them in 2 weeks in Vancouver. I have purposefully avoided all reviews of 360˚ but couldn't help but read your note here. I've already considered this last album to be their least artistic album, so I'm hoping the concert isn't too deflated (I saw Popmart and all their DVDs and find their shows to be so beautiful!).

Thanks for your continued posts - great stuff!

Unknown said...

It dawned on me as I read your next post that I experienced all 5 of these points at a Leonard Cohen concert in May. People exited the concert hall in absolute silence, a reverence. It was absolutely astounding!

U2 Sermons said...

Zaak -- I have not had the privilege of seeing Cohen, but that comes as no surprise!

Bono said...

I saw Cohen the summer 08 in my town in Aarhus - exactly the same - he was so generous and so honest and so grateful and so beautifull - we were all uplifted in the summer. 12.000 people under Gods sky - warmed from him and his poetry and the wonderfull orchestra.
joergen