John L. Evans Jr. | Special to the Sentinel
Twenty-two years ago, I went to my first U2 concert. The band performed at the Orlando-Seminole Jai-Alai Fronton. It was riveting.
On Nov. 16, I attended my latest U2 concert, and it was equally riveting. This time, however, the experience was borderline religious. Obviously, too, the band plays much grander venues -- a sold-out show at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
Not only has the band's gig become more sophisticated, but so has legendary lead singer Bono's activist message. Those of us who are conservatives, including Congressman Ric Keller of Orlando, like to let our one-and-a-half inches of hair down just as much as his wacky cult followers at U2 shows, and for some reason we'll endure Bono's leftist prattle, sprinkled intermittently throughout the performance -- perhaps because the guy just feels so darn genuine in an age of so much celebrity hooey.
Amid all of his electrifying rock-star ether, Bono has humility. I could not count how many times he actually thanked Greater Tampa for its support of U2. Funny, I don't recall ever being thanked at a Black Crowes concert; I suppose that has something to do with why the band is now essentially in the can.
Bono not only possesses humility, but he also possesses power, in no small measure. He mesmerizes his audience with a sonorous domain that he has created and rules. He had such effect on my buddy's wife that she actually spurted out "Bono!" in the couple's subsequent romantic moment. (Beware, ladies: Men talk to their friends, too.) At the end of the show, the cell phone replaced the lighter as the illumination of choice for appreciative fans. This made for quite the phantasmagoria.
Every single one of us Gen-Xers (I'm 38) knows of Bono, and every single one of us gets all fired up with his dizzying catalog of rocking tunes. The baby-boom generation above us has the Stones and Beatles. We've got U2, baby.
I teach sales training, and make no mistake: Bono is a salesman par-excellence. I do have one modest persuasion suggestion for him, and perhaps someone will e-mail this piece to the rock star aboard his massive custom jet. He likes to call on our elected officials for the relief of debt for a number of African countries. A laudable cause, indubitably. But what of human-rights abuses in Tibet? What of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia? What of child abuse right here in the United States? And then there's New Orleans.
My point is that I do not hear Bono acknowledging those of us who are working-middle class for this incredibly prosperous country. Elite rich folks set up offshore trusts to escape our tax code. It is we folks in the middle who pay the lion's share of taxes. Bono's message is almost one of assignment, as if the prosperity of this republic just appeared out of the mist, and therefore we should automatically pay for debt relief for other countries -- because Bono says so. Our prosperity, and according tax receipts, emerges from a staggeringly productive work ethic.
The rock star likes to take a religious tone as well. Again, he is well-intentioned, reminding us that we are all children of Abraham. Too bad some of the children of the prophet believe that killing innocent women and children in the name of God is holy business. Bono should remind his audience that Abraham was anti-terrorist.
Humble and powerful Bono would be well-served to say the following at his next gig:
"Thank you, America, for working so hard, being so innovative and respectful of the freedom to worship. I know there is a lot of funk in the world, but please be so kind as to call your congressman and ask him to support Third World debt relief. In the meantime, here is another tune from the Joshua Tree."
Perhaps then, I just might have called Ric Keller.