I am listening to U2’s “Vertigo” Chicago DVD right now. I have been listening to Vertigo all day. In college I went through a “Boy,” “War,” “October” phase. Before that I only knew “Best Of 1980-1990” and 2000’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” of course. This last year, “Unforgettable Fire” has been my favorite.
I’ve been a fan since I heard “With or Without You” when I was five and I’ve often been disillusioned with the band because I was so confused by their paradox: Christian ideals, dressing in drag, speaking out against apparthied, saying the f-word. I was 18 and finally said I am not going to bother with this confused bunch until I learn more about them. I was perplexed that a rock band could demand more of me about the world and of faith than I understood myself. Six months later my sister surprises me at the airport with U2 Slane, Ireland concert tickets. I thought we were going to Chicago. I couldn’t handle it. Bono was screaming, speaking to his native Dubliners, he proposed that a statue to Phil Lynot should be erected which later was (you can see it in Once). “This is a small island.” “Jesus, this is Judas!” I was lost. I didn’t know the names of everyone in the band. Inexcusable being that people miles away from Slane couldn’t get tickets to their “home-town” show, people who knew the life stories of Paul Hewson, David Evans, Adam Clayton, and founder Larry Mullen Jr. But that was then. It solidified me as a fan, but now I was nose to nose with my conflict. Who the hell are these guys?
Brendan Kenelly: “If you want to serve your age, betray it.” Bono and company tucked this quip away and wove it into their songs, artwork, and stage-act for nine years. Nine years I had no idea what they were doing… until I discovered that quote. It started to unravel the guise but I wasn’t sold. The possibility of their being misguided was still looming. As my prejudice subsided though I began to see their antics again through this new perspective; it started to make sense. Genius and geniuses.
I can’t say enough how inspired I am by this band and its frontman. I am able to laugh at the caricature of him and I’m awed by its genius because he exaggerated his persona to achieve just that kind of grotesque reaction. We can all laugh and cringe at that through our split fingers. We can all laugh at the bleeding heart, bespectacled, leather clad, cigar smoking, swaggering, hip thrusting, maniac because it’s absurd and ridiculous and common. Jim Carey enjoys entertaining via cautionary comedies like “Liar Liar” and “Yes Man”. Bono has vehicles just as significant when he becomes “The Fly,” “Mephisto,” and “Mirror Ball Man,” especially stinging.
I am glad I was never able to love a band I knew nothing about. If they were tea-cup worshipers – I just needed to know and perhaps ask why. I got a lot of flack in high-school even though they weren’t tea-cup worshipers. I used to keep this small obsession close to my chest, only occasionally wearing my U2 concert shirt in public, not joining in conversations of avid, 30-something fans in line at Starbucks. Let’s face it, even though it’s always good to be a U2 fan, they mostly go to Starbucks. I have drawn graffiti on the walls of Windmill Lane Studios, I’ve eaten chicken from purportedly The Edge’s favorite pub, I own bootlegs going back to 1983, I own many singles and albums on vinyl. I’ve read the U2 by U2 autobiography sleeve to sleeve and I’m bound to read it soon again. I saw U2 when they came to my home town for the first time and I understood the visual and lyrical references this time around. I got to know my band and they came to my home town.
I think it says something when to understand the band better you have to discover things about yourself and your faith. I’m listening today and just soaking in Bono’s “Vertigo” lyrics. He’s malleable. He’s far older than me yet far less cynical. He really believes what he’s saying. He does so much more than he talks. How is this possible? How do I get more like this? The song tells me, I suppose.