I once could hear and then was deaf and now can hear again. I’m not talking about conversion. I’m talking about recovering from last night’s U2 concert. The pope is not a fan of rock concerts, as in hypnotic screaming mayhem. But isn’t BXVI giving Bono an audience? Well, I was in Bono’s audience last night.
Am I taking liberties with the usual format of Q: Why Am I Catholic? / A: Because of . . . ? Well, maybe. But since I can list my “great concert experiences” (*) on one hand, shouldn’t I be allowed some liberties?
Furthermore, it’s Sunday, our Lord’s Day, and this post might be a way of resting from the serious business of explaining “Why I Am Catholic.” You don’t buy that? I don’t buy it either. Read on.
* Since you asked, they were: (1) seeing Janis Joplin front “Big Brother and the Holding Company” at the Fillmore East in 1968; (2) sneaking through a window in the Mt. Holyoke College chapel to find myself on stage with James Taylor mid–”Carolina in My Mind,” circa 1970; (3) sitting again on stage, but this time in the UMass Amherst gymnasium and literally in front of the bass amplifier for Gracie Slick and the boys, a/k/a “Jefferson Airplane,” circa ditto; (4) taking my four-year-old daughter Martha to a “New Kids on the Block” gig at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, having her go all delirious over the opening act, then having her fall asleep in my arms as the Wahlbergs and their homies sang the first song, about 1990; and finally (5) going butt wild myself over “Speedway at Nazareth” during a Mark Knopfler–Emmy Lou Harris concert in Boston two or three years ago.
Now, I’ll always have Bono and me.
The back story: When Katie and I were traveling through Ireland with our daughters about seven years ago, I had a pair of Bono shades. (And if you want to see what Bono shades look like on another very holy person, check out this picture.) Somewhere around Sligo, I think, I began telling Martha and Marian that I was planning to write memoir called Bono and Me.
The second back story: We came to Chapel Hill Thursday and were informed by Marian that after the football game Saturday we would be going to “a tailgate” chez a friend of her friend Win. She said that there would a mariachi band at the tailgate. I jokingly said to tell Win that I wasn’t coming to any tailgate for anything less than U2. No, I did not know U2 was playing in Raleigh Saturday night. Saturday morning, Marian asked me if I wanted to see U2 that evening. What?! “Win will get tickets.” Win was my new best friend.
The concert: Think of a giant space spider pouncing at about the 40-yard-line of a major college football stadium, then letting down a 360-degree video screen on the heads of four teeny musicians from Ireland and you’ve got the picture. Bono asked, “How do you like our spaceship?” and referred to the video screens (which showed live action) as an attempt to create “intimacy on a grand scale.” They did.
Smartest thing the band did was building to a crescendo with some of their most recognizable tunes, especially “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” after a speech from Bono about rights abuses in Tehran, and “One,” as a sort of world-unifying anthem. Gotta hand it to the quartet: They’ve stuck together for thirty-plus years, and they’ve stuck to message. The concert was generous (over two hours), including two long encores. Most moving was a walk by the lead man around the outer ring of the stage with a boy named Brian from the audience, whilst Brian wore Bono glasses and Bono sang “City of Blinding Lights.” Halfway through the tune, the pair broke into a bounding, joyous run.
Because of Bono and Me? I am a Catholic, and that gives me joy. Last night, in the company of Katie, Marian, and Win, I experienced joy. Part of it was the concert. Part was the company. Part was the enormous harvest moon that hung overhead in the open-air stadium, directly in front of Bono, no less. Part was getting into bed in one piece, with the pillow on reverb. But joy it was. So there is an equivalence here, a Bono=joy=Catholic=me, and if I’m not mistaken, he’s a good Irish Catholic lad himself. I’m Catholic, married to an Irish lass.
“Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is still the greatest rock song ever written. And as we were reminded again last night, Sundays on this planet, God bless us, are never without their share of blood.