The Experience of U2

Image courtesy
Image courtesy

The shot above was one of the many incredible moments of the U2 360 concert at Soldier Field on Sunday night.  Never having been to a U2 concert, I cannot compare it to previous U2 performances, but I have to say that its definitely in the top 5 of shows that I have been to in person.  Some of the other amazing live performances that I have been to have been Les Miserables and Phantom on Broadway and the Queensryche Mindcrime tour and pretty much any show that I saw at Red Rocks near Denver.  But it has honestly been a while since I have seen a big time concert like Sunday night so its hard to compare to any previous ones that I have seen.  What I can say is that it was not only a great time, but it was a very powerful experience.  Since I really started listening to U2’s music in the early 90s, their songs have been mile markers in my spiritual journey.

First U2 song that really “hit” me was when we would sing “40” as a part of our worship times with University Christian Fellowship when I was at CU.  Since that time, I have listened to the deep meanings within so much of their music – starting for me with Joshua Tree and continuing through the last several albums.  What has always struck me about their music is the way that the spiritual has been woven through the music.  It is not a “beat em over the head” type of message, but instead a message that fits in with the whole.  It feels very natural in their music and not just something that they feel “has to be in there.”

I guess that’s what I feel our faith should be.  It should not be something we have to “wear on our sleeve”, but instead that people would recognize that there is something deep and significant happening within and through us as we journey with Jesus in our lives.  It is my deepest desire to have Jesus so woven through every area of my life that it is never something that feels forced.

Back to the concert…this page on details the concert and the setlist, but the most amazing pieces of the show for me were…

  • The intro combination of Breathe, No Line on the Horizon, Get on Your Boots, Magnificent, and Beautiful Day.  Those pieces set a strong tone for the rest of the show.
  • When they moved into Your Blue Room, I honestly had no idea what song they were doing.  I read a few reviews of the show and there was a lot of criticism of it.  While I did not recognize the song, it was a very moving piece of the show, both in the actual performance and the visuals around the stadium. has a great video of the piece here.
  • I am not a big fan of the album version of “Go Crazy” but the remix they did in the show really rocked the house.  Getting Larry Mullen Jr out in the ring with the drum was really awesome.  The bass line of the piece really drove it.
  • The last section of the concert (including the encores) was a great way to wrap it up.  There were clear statements of supporting the protesters in Iran (Sunday Bloody Sunday was the song, bathed in green) and of supporting Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma as they led into Walk On.  They closed the show with words from Desmond Tutu, then a combination of One, Amazing Grace, and Where the Streets Have No Name before they moved into the Encore pieces which included Ultraviolet, With or Without You (my fave U2 song), and Moment of Surrender to close things down.
  • Nearly 2:30, but I could have stayed there for another few hours as there were many other songs that I wished they had played.  However, asking for a few other pieces is like asking for another 30 minutes in an art museuem.  There’s always more to see and to experience.

Here’s hoping there will be a 3rd leg of the tour to smaller settings (U2 …hint…you’ve only played Cincinnati once – in 1982!) and I would be there again.

A final thought…I was struck as I always am at events like this.  Transcendent is the word that my wife used as we talked about it.  70,000 people singing along, arms waving, eyes closed…looked a lot like worship.  While they were not worshipping the band (or at least I hope they weren’t) – there was something moving there for people.  People were drawn into the experience and had something beyond the normal happen.  As we are looking for how we connect faith to real life, one of the calls I believe we have as Christians is not pulling people in, but instead going out and helping people discover the ways that they are already experiencing the divine.  Paul did this in Acts 18 with the statues in Athens, Jesus did it in his down-to-earth parables.  We are called to do the same.

One thought on “The Experience of U2

  1. Great posting, Ed. I’ve been a long-time fan of U2, ever since they first hit the US in ’82-’83. I’ve always connected with they way they included spiritual themes without being overt. It felt validating to my faith and how that would be integrated into events and feelings in other spheres of life. For most of the early recordings those references were often hidden (like in Sunday Bloody Sunday) or oblique. In the later releases it has been much more “front and center” (like Magnificent). I’m not sure I like it as much, even though I often like the clearly positioned Christian Rock groups (Resurrection Band, anyone??). I’m curious why that is. Is it because I liked getting the inside joke, and it’s not as directly challenging? Or is it that I want my faith lessons compartmentalized. None of these are very positive reactions, I realize, nor will they turn me away from the band. Especially since they have been so effective in exposing people (even in subtle ways) to faith-based and humanistic ideals and aspirations.
    I love the idea of using U2 songs in church services. Another event that really solidified my fandom was when, in ’83 or ’84, the priest at the Catholic church adjacent to my dorm at Ohio State used 40 in a Sunday evening homily. I was so impressed with him, the band, and the Newman Center that I spent several of my college years attending there and getting involved with that community (even though I was Presbyterian).

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