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U2 Elevation Tour

Elevation Tour 3rd leg: North America

: Joyce Center - South Bend, Indiana, USA

View all performances at Joyce Center, South Bend, Indiana, USA.

Pop band's lyrics take on new weight

Cathleen Falsani (published on 2001-10-12)

Source: Chicago Sun Times

October 12, 2001


I drove 200 miles this week to go to church in a gymnasium at the University of Notre Dame.

With 11,000 strangers.

And one Irish preacher with a familiar face.

The formidable Gaelic nose, the mouth that snaps open like a snake swallowing a mouse when he hits the high notes, the smile lines that have grown deeper around his stormy eyes since I started listening to him sing with his U2 bandmates when my age began with a 1.

On Wednesday, I could almost make out the smile (or worry?) lines from my seat in Notre Dame's tiny Joyce Center, as Bono roared lyrics I memorized years ago.

But in light of recent events that have sent me--like so many millions of others out there--diving back toward a place we call faith, the lyrics he sang were imbued with new meaning. It was sacred, joyful, healing.

Like how church is supposed to be.

"The heart is a bloom, it shoots up from the stony ground," Bono sang. "It's a beautiful day, the sky falls and you feel like it's a beautiful day."

It reminded me of something I hadn't expected to be thinking of in the middle of a rock concert: an old Baptist hymn I know from childhood.

"This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it, and be glad in it." It's taken from a psalm in the Hebrew scriptures. But you have to picture people in conservative suits and dresses clapping somewhat rhythmically to get the full effect.

As a kid, I used to comb the lyrics of every new U2 album looking for references to God and faith and Jesus and justice and all the stuff that would make my mother feel better about letting me go see them in concert. (It never did.)

Bono has never kept his faith secret. But he's not often worn it on his sleeve, either. He won't let himself, or his faith, be boxed in by labels. Christian. Evangelical. Born again. Seeker. Doubter. Prodigal. God's wrestling partner.

"I can't believe the news today, I can't close my eyes and make it go away," Bono sang. The song, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" refers to a horrid incident in Northern Ireland on Jan. 30, 1972, when British troops opened fire on unarmed civilian protesters. "How long? How long must we sing this song? How long?"

Bono wrote the song nearly 20 years ago. On Wednesday, it sounded like it had been written last week.

Later, he plaintively crooned, "Heaven on earth, we need it now. I'm sick of all of this hanging around. Sick of sorrow, sick of pain, sick of hearing again and again, that there's gonna be peace on earth."

As de facto band spokesman, Bono resisted juicing the tragedies in New York and Washington for pathos in the way many might have expected him to do. In fact, he didn't say much about the terrorist attacks until the last part of the two-hour concert.

Consider it the homily portion of the worship service. Bono talked about how abject poverty in the Third World, in places such as Afghanistan, can be breeding grounds for hatred, terrorism and religious fanaticism that grow out of desperation.

He talked about making a difference, about changing the world, about love and charity.

During the encore, before he got the whole place singing "Hallelujah" in harmony, Bono even led a procession.

He marched with about a dozen New York City firefighters and police officers around the huge red heart that was the stage.

"Have you been to church?" Bono had asked the crowd earlier in the show. "This is church."


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