Last night I was part of a crowd that raised its hands toward the stage while we clapped and sang along to songs about faith and conviction. The music was interspersed with stories, passionate calls to live a life of service to others, warm reflections on the strengths of the heartland, encouragement to support Africa and other poor countries through advocacy and aid, and acoustic versions of ditties like “Father Abraham,” “Old Man River,” and “Johnny Came Marching Home.”
No, this was not an evangelical gathering of youth pastors – it was U2’s Vertigo concert! And it was simply amazing. They put on a great show; Bono danced with a girl from the audience whose sign read “I lost 75 #s to dance wth Bono,” and admidst a flag show, swirling lights, and a circle catwalk, they introduced social justice issues like a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Coexist (peace between the Abrahamic faiths – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim), and the ONE Campaign (my job!! see link at right). Four encores, a song dedicated to the Mayo Clinic, and music by Dashboard Confessional were also packed in there. Mix in a little Miller Lite and sweatshop-free t-shirts – Target Center presents a night of fun for the whole family!
I was struck with so many aspects of the evening: the song lyrics, the pastor-like qualities of Bono in his lead role, the way all four band members were in the spotlight and shared attention, the balance of simple six-string guitar after pounding drums with inundating electric bass, and the responsiveness of the audience to the whole experience. And while its not meant to be a worship event, per se, or a community of faith engaging in confession and ritual to remember our role as the church, I felt many of those things as I swayed and sang. (FYI, there are many sites that examine U2 and their journey through faith, rock ‘n roll, politics, and the US – but check out @U2, U2 sermons, or my friend Adam’s site for some great places to start getting more info.)
The CD is called “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and has some classics like the upbeat “City of Blinding Lights” (opening song), and the spinning “Vertigo.” It also has convicting lyrics in “Love and Peace or Else” and “Crumbs From Your Table” – which was debuted for the first time live in Minneapolis last night, I later learned. (Excerpted lyrics: ‘You speak of signs and wonders, But I need something other, I would believe if I was able, But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table. Where you live should not decide, Whether you live or whether you die, Three to a bed, Sister Ann, she said, Dignity passes by…’)
And my favorite song from the CD, played acoustically by The Edge as Bono sang, is “Yahweh.” More excerpts from lyrics:
‘Take this shirt, polyester white trash made in nowhere, take this shirt, and make it clean.
Take this soul, stranded in some skin and bones, take this soul, and make it sing.
Yahweh, Yahweh, always pain before a child is born… Still I’m waiting for the dawn.
Take these hands, teach them what to carry, take these hands, don’t make a fist.
Take this mouth, so quick to criticize, take this mouth, give it a kiss.
Yahweh, Yahweh, always pain before a child is born.. Still I’m waiting for the dawn.
Take this city, a city should be shining on a hill, take this city, if it be your will.
What no man can own, no man can take, take this heart, take this heart, take this heart, and make it break.’