Officially tagged “A Decade of Difference: A Concert Celebrating 10 Years of the William J. Clinton Foundation,” the former US President invited the likes of Lady Gaga to perform at this gala event in the Hollywood Bowl back on October 15.
U2’s frontman and guitarist gave this gig their all in a stripped down “Irish busker” mode that included lots of buzzed Bono banter and the live debut of “A Man And A Woman” that, like the rest of the set, included an intoxicated and improvisational vibe and a bleepy backing track courtesy of Edge’s Mac.
The singer’s extended rambles between songs sometimes sounded like stumbles, so when he made some snarky asides or called the newest live song a kind of blue-eyed soul with red eyes, it caused many on the fan forums to speculate that the singer was drunk—or perhaps just a little bit “off” for the performance.
But U2’s relationship with our former president has always involved a mixture of partying and politics. Bill Flannagan’s brilliant band biography U2 At The End of The World chronicles the band’s first meeting with then Governor Clinton—at dawn in a Chicago back in the early 1990s. As the story goes, a bendering Bono almost wakes the sleeping (then candidate for) President in the wee hours, and then, the bright-eyed Clinton wakes the passed out bandmates in the first light.
All that said, Bono balanced the silly speechifying with some serious solemnity, including props to Mrs. Clinton and a prayer for peace in the Middle East preceding a heartfelt and stripped down “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
The passionate and poetic conclusion to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” included alternate lyrics that by vivid implication lifted up the peace prayers of the people of Israel and Palestine:
On another broken hill
red crosses and a crescent moon collide.
Pilgrims pray to know God’s will
Scracthing in the dirt, queuing up to die.
Scorched earth or cruel sun
Is this the battle Jesus won?
Like “A Man And A Woman,” another nugget that didn’t make the standard 360 tour setlist, “Staring At The Sun” really soared into the dark night with a stunning string section. Other tracks included “Desire,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “One.”
Before the closing song of “Miss Sarajevo,” Clinton joined the band on stage and shared quite the fan’s testimony in favor of the band’s commitment to social causes. This speech sums up so much of what people admire (and many people deride) about this band.
Clinton concluded, “I want you to know something. Of all the people who made all the efforts to come here, these guys came the furthest. They have others things going in their lives. They are the greatest touring band in the world; the last thing they needed was another trip on an airplane. But they came.”
“We’ve been friends a long time. I want to say to Bono, thank you for the ONE campaign. Thank you for campaigning against debt. Thank you for trying to save the foreign aid budget of the Secretary of State and the United States. Thank you for campaigning against poverty.”
“And I want to thank Edge for doing something very close to my heart. When Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed the most unique cultural and musical resource in America in New Orleans, this man led an effort to raise money for all those musicians in New Olreans who had no money but are part of America’s cultural history, and I will never forget it. So give them another hand.”
We in the fan community—who have been “giving them a hand” for three decades—concur with President Clinton. –Andrew William Smith, Editor
Photos from the u2.interference.com fan forums.