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October 04, 2009



Even if people are not aware of participating in liturgy, I think they nevertheless derive a great deal of meaning from what CS Lewis called the "reliability, predictibility, and repetition" of a liturgical experience. Indeed, for some, this is the whole point. It might sound cheap, but I'm not sure it isn't what was behind the liturgy in the first place--to remind us of the unending presence of God and how he fits seamlessly with the rhythms of life. Liturgy is extremely organic.

I think this is not unlike people who religiosuly attend Grateful Dead shows or Dave Matthews Band shows. On the one hand there is a lot that remains the same from show to show. However, the reason why so many of their fans have been to dozens of their shows is because the bands are perpetually open to the movement of the "spirit" to guide them. If one is listening carefully enough, no concert is even remotely the same--even with an identical playlist. There is a certain thrill for them in being caught halfway in between knowing exactly what is coming and what might be...

Re: your other question on BTBS (oh, how I would have loved to have seen Steve Taylor), I think U2 has done this with their other songs. Take Sunday Bloody Sunday. On the record it is an ironic militaristic triumph--a peace song sung violently. I listened to it again today for the thousandth time and there is still no denying it. Larry's drums set the stage and Edge's strumming nail the point home--it is a marching, flag waving roar. At Red Rocks however, he is already trying to back away from what people have misinterpreted the song to be ("maybe way too much talk"). The climax of Bono's frustration happens in Rattle and Hum, when he yells out "fuck the revolution!"--the cry of a master whose creation had been co-opted by the same people he was decrying.

This risk is inherent in any creative process: once it has been released there is no control over what people do with it. Heck, fans of The Police still think "Every Breath You Take" is a love song.

I think Bono has always kind of resented Sunday Bloody Sunday. On the one hand, a huge contigency of U2 fans insist that it is the Band's greatest masterwork (I am one of them--remind me to give you my top ten list, by the way) and most of these devotees "get" the song's message.

But for much of the Zoo TV tour, U2 eschewed playing it--Bono being "ready to let go of the steering wheel" and deciding to see what would happen if they refused to play the rock and roll game.

Today, the song is sung in freedom and it is U2 who seems to have done the co-opting: the creator gathering his creation back unto himself, as Barth might have said it. SBS is now about all oppressed peoples.

Ironically, I think one of the most powerful renditions of the song was performed by Radiohead in a kind of meditative afterthought. Their version channels the Rattle and Hum version, but is more disquieting and creepy. I took it to mean that Radiohead was putting that version of the song out there for U2 to take it back in triumph.

You would have loved the conference Jay! And we could have used another academic around!!

Your assessment flows perfectly out of our discussion after Maynard's and Taylor's presentations. I commented that many of the U2 concert catalog could fit Taylor's model. For instance, just the night before at the Raleigh show, Bono dedicated "New Year's Day" to the military (I'm used to him dedicating the ironic "Running to Stand Still"). In the song he sang, "America, let's begin again... let's begin again." U2 are always expanding and contextualizing and, Taylor would say, humanizing their songs. It's a beautiful hermenuetic! I'd like to share the paper Jessica and I wrote with you because Jessica elequently picks up on this as she relates the killing of a gang member in her neighborhood (she heard the shots fired) with BTBS as performed on the Elevation tour in Boston, "Amereica's making war on itself!"

BTW, "Every Breath You Take" is not a love song? We had it sung at our wedding.... Just kiddin', lol.

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