Registration Open for April U2 Conference

We recently purchased our registration for the second-ever U2 Conference, to be held in Cleveland, Ohio this coming April 26-28.

While there have been U2 fan gatherings of all shapes and sizes, this confab, which debuted in 2009 and coincided with a U2 show, is one-of-a-kind event in North America. Organized by the visionary Scott Calhoun, the website @U2, and a cast of many others, this U2 Conference further establishes “U2 Studies” as a legitimate interdisciplinary field of academic study, uniting those who work in the academy in areas such as theology and musicology, literature and popular culture.

The complete schedule includes numerous panels on either the “fan” or “academic” track, a keynote by noted rock writer Ann Powers, collaboration with the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame that occupies a beautiful piece of real estate on Ohio’s north coast, a U2-themed worship experience on Sunday after the conference closes, and two performances by two different U2 tribute bands ONE and UF (or Unforgettable Fire).

Follow the drop-down links from the main conference website (http://u2conference.com) for more details. Early-bird prices remain in effect through March 11.

[pictured on homepage: UF band]

Bono Preaches the Gospel of Social Justice at Georgetown

Reposted with permission from http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/11/13/bono-preaches-gospel-social-justice-georgetown

“Do you think he’ll sing?” the girl in the row behind me wondered aloud.

“I hope so,” the young fellow beside her said before continuing, “My dad would freak. He was a big fan of U2 when I was growing up. He used to play this one album,The Joshua Tree, over and over again.”

His father was a fan.

I am a thousand years old, I thought to myself, as more Georgetown students filled the seats around me at the university’s 111-year-old Gaston Hall, the main lecture hall on campus named after Georgetown’s first student, William Gaston, who later served as a member of the U.S. Congress.

The hall, decorated with stunning art-deco-era frescos and the crest of every Jesuit institute of higher learning, has hosted many dignitaries over the years, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to name but a few.

“So if he’s not going to sing, is he just going to talk,” another student asked, with a distinct whiff of disappointment in his voice.

“I hear he’s an awesome speaker, though,” still another student said.

The students who packed the auditorium, many of them from Georgetown’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business and more than a few donning black t-shirts with the insignia of the ONE Campaign (of which Bono is a co-founder), weren’t sure what to expect from the famous Irish rock star and humanitarian.

A concert? A lecture? Another boring speech?

I’m fairly certain none of the students present for Monday night’s event, sponsored by the Bank of America and The Atlantic magazine, anticipated hearing Bono, the 52-year-old lead singer of U2, preach.

But preach he did.

After an introduction by Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America (whose presence was greeted by some grumbling from the students seated around me, one who suggested in a stage whisper that they start a chant from the Occupy Wall Street movement), Bono bounded up to the lectern, grinning with his blue eyes flashing excitement from behind his trademark rose-colored shades.

“Thank you, Brian — a gentleman in a world where, uh, that quality is not always on tap,” Bono began, as the crowd roared. “The band wanted me to say thank you to you too, Brian, because, as you heard, the band are committed to the idea that ever school kid in Ireland should have access to free music lessons if they need ‘em. So Brian has been helping us out with that.”

(That seemed to quell any unrest about having one of the world’s leading bankers in the room.)

“I don’t know if this is a lectern or a pulpit,” Bono told the crowd, folding his arms on the wooden podium in front of him, “but I feel oddly comfortable. It’s a bit of a worry, isn’t it? So … welcome to Pop Culture Studies 101. Please take out your notebooks. Today we are going to discuss why rock stars should never, ever be given access to microphones at institutes of higher learning.

“You will receive no credit for taking this class,” Bono joked, “not even street cred — it’s too late for that. I will, of course, be dropping the occasional pop culture reference to give the impression that I know where your generation is at. I do not. I am not sure where I am at.”

Good. I’m not the only one who feels ancient amidst this audience of youngsters, I thought.

“And the first existential question of this class might be, ‘What am I doing in [Gaston] Hall?’” Bono quipped. “I could be down having my third pint at The Tombs….Pop culture references. Rock star does research.”

Score one for said rock star. The room erupted in laughter at the mention of one of the campus’ legendary watering holes.

“I heard Election Night was quite messy on the pint front. Isn’t it amazing how three pints can make everything seem like victory, but four or five and you just know you’re about to taste defeat,” he continued. “Anyway, congratulations are in order. Not just for turning out in record numbers, but — forgetting politics for a minute — for electing an extraordinary man as president. I think you have to say that whatever your political tradition.”

Bono also congratulated the audience for being freed from the “tyranny” of political “attack ads.” Imagine, he said, if they never went away, if attack ads were the norm for everything, even, say, college admissions.

“Hello. We’re Georgetown and we approved this message,” he said in the stoic voice of a political ad announcer. “Let me say a few words about some other fine institutions you might be considering. UVA: Thomas Jefferson, what have they done to you? Syracuse: A school whose mascot is a fruit. Duke: A school that worships the devil.

“Georgetown – you’re in with the other guy! Georgetown has God on its side. Everyone knows God is a Catholic, right?” said Bono, whose late mother was a Protestant and late father, Bob, a Catholic. “Two words: Frank Sinatra. That proves it!”

All jokes aside — and he was terrifically witty throughout his nearly hour long address — Bono turned his attention to his true passion: helping the world’s poorest of the poor.

“I’d like to hear attack ads on things worth attacking. If there was an attack ad on malaria, I’d get that, because 3,000 people die every day — mostly kids — of malaria. Let’s have an attack ad on malaria. Let’s have an attack ad on mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. I’d get that. Choose your enemies carefully because they define you. Make sure they’re interesting enough because trust me, you’re going to spend a lot of time in their company. So let’s pick a worthwhile enemy, shall we?

“How ’bout all the obstacles to fulfilling human potential — not just yours or mine but the world’s potential?” he continued. “I would suggest to you that the biggest obstacle in the way right now is extreme poverty. Poverty so extreme that it brutalizes, it vandalizes human dignity. Poverty so extreme it laughs at the concept of human dignity. Poverty so extreme it doubts how far we’ve traveled in our journey of equality; the journey that began with Wilberforce taking on slavery and a journey that will not end until misery and deprivation are in stocks.”

Were Bono an actual preacher, that was where he would have pounded his fists on the pulpit.

Painted on the wall behind the podium where this unlikely preacher of the Gospel of Social Justice spoke are the Latin words: Ad majorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem. Earlier, Georgetown’s president, John De Gioia, reminded the students of their meaning: “For the greater glory of God and the betterment of humankind.”

The Abolitionists. The Suffragettes. The Civil Rights Movement.

Social movements have always been powerful, Bono told the audience, but there is something special about this moment in history — it’s “transformative.”

“This moment, this generation [has] the chance that you have to rid the world of the obscenity of extreme poverty. Wouldn’t that be a hell of a way to start the 21st century?”

You could have heard a pin drop. The kids seated on either side of me were leaning forward in their chairs. They were listening with the attentiveness professors only dream about. Bono had their attention and kept it as he told them about the power they have to make changes — significant, global changes — by the conscious choices they make about how they spend their money, through social media and emerging technologies, by making sure their politicians keep the promises they’ve made about foreign aid funding in Africa and the rest of the developing world.

Something big was happening in the room. You could feel it. A palpable presence. I’d call it the Holy Spirit.

And it reminded me of a night 10 years ago at another college campus, when Bono spoke at my alma mater, Wheaton College in Illinois. At the time, I was traveling with Bono and his organization DATA (a predecessor of ONE) across the Midwest where he was trying to get American evangelicals (in particular) to turn their attention to the AIDS emergency in sub-Saharan Africa and to do something about it as a matter of justice — as a matter of the heart of their own faith.

Bono’s address at Wheaton fell about half-way through the Heart of America tour and it was a turning point not only for the tour, but for the movement it sparked. American evangelicals — the great “sleeping giant,” as Bono called them at the time — woke up, got involved, and worked for change. The monumental successes in alleviating crushing debt, supplying life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs, malaria netting, and the funds to put millions of African children in school for the first time are a testament to what transpired in Wheaton’s Edmund Chapel in early December 2002.

I know students who were there that night who’ve gone on to dedicate their careers and lives to helping the “least of these.” I, too, jaded journalist and wounded evangelical as I was at the time, was changed. Healed. Inspired and transformed.

The same thing was happening in Gaston Hall last night.

“Those people I’ve been talking about today — the poor — they’re not ‘those people,’ they’re not ‘them.’ They’re us. They’re you,” Bono said toward the end of his address. “They dream as you dream. They value what you value. There is no them, only us. The American anthem is not exceptionalism, it’s universalism. There is no them. Only us. Ubuntu. ‘I am because we are.’ There is no them. Only us.”

Maybe it’s a sheer coincidence (I’m doubtful) that the motto of Georgetown, a Jesuit university, is Utraque Unum, which means “both into one.”

Ultraque Unum in Latin.

Ubuntu in a dialect from South Africa where Archbishop Desmond Tutu — the man Bono only half-kidding says he works for — has taken the word as his own life’s motto.

Bono turned his attention to the Jesuits and their founder St. Ignatius of Loyola, to whom that Latin quote on the wall of the Gaston hall often is attributed.

“St. Ignatius, he was a soldier,” Bono began. “He was lying on a bed recovering from his wounds when he had what they call a conversion of the heart. He saw God’s work and the call to do God’s work. Not just in the church, in everything, everywhere. The arts, universities, the Orient, the New World. And once he knew about that, he couldn’t unknow it.

“It changed him,” Bono said. “It forced him out of bed and into the world. And that’s what I’m hoping happens here in Georgetown with you. Because when you truly accept that those children in some far off place in the global village have the same value as you — in God’s eyes or even just in your eyes — then your life is forever changed. You see something that you can’t unsee.”

Sitting there, tears dripping down my cheeks, I could feel it. Minds were opened. Hearts and eyes were, too.

Who knows when we look back 10 years from now, what the result of some of those Georgetown students seeing what they couldn’t unsee will be.

May we all have the eyes to see it.–Cathleen Falsani

Transform and Transcend: The U2 Conference Returns in 2013

In early autumn 2009, my life was changing significantly for the better in many beautiful ways. One October afternoon, I boarded a Greyhound bus to head east to meet a friend near Asheville, North Carolina, before heading on the next day to the Raleigh-Durham area for the inaugural U2 Conference and my third show (of six total) of the 360 tour.

What an honor to take my 25 year love affair with U2 and turn it into an intimate presentation about some of the more delicate aspects of my life, U2’s lives, and the message of their music for people struggling with addiction and recovery. But my talk titled “The Meme of Surrender” was only one of many windows into the intellectual, spiritual, and activist lenses with which we better understand the musical and societal contributions of our favorite band.

The 2009 conference changed lives and the forthcoming conference in spring 2013 will surely do the same. Never before had such wide and international collaboration of writers, professors, preachers, activists, and fans come together in such a unique fashion under an academic but inclusive big tent to offer sustained, in-depth meditations on the meanings of U2.

So many highlights soar in my memories three-years out, but some deserve more mention, in hopes that someone reading this might make the trek to Cleveland next April.

I will never forget hanging out after Saturday’s lunch, midway through the three-day conference, with a fellow presenter who had never seen U2 and didn’t have a ticket for Saturday’s show. A couple of us fans found this tragic. How could you have come this far, this close, and not be ready for liftoff with several thousand of your dearest friends? We convinced our colleague, who found a single seat online, and decided to come along for the party.

During a session called “Every Poet Is A Thief” and during a paper discussing “Lemon” in particular, when the presenter cued up the song for us to hear, a couple of us could not help but to get out of our classroom chairs, you know the kind that are desk and seat all in one, to start dancing to U2 at one of their most disco-soul moments.

In a weekend when the epiphanies wouldn’t stop coming, meeting African activist Agnes Nyamayarwo was more than amazing. We’ve thought in the abstract about how U2 and their fans have been involved in movements to save lives, but hearing this testimony from Agnes put face and place to such bold redemptive claims. Lots of ink has been spilled in recent years to criticize Bono’s approaches to African issues, but meeting Agnes offered a saving counterargument that supersedes the critics.

Agnes and her friends had brought some hand-made jewelry made by folks in Africa. My beaded, red, ONE bracelet is so beautiful and special and unique, that I will always treasure it as one of many mementos from that fall weekend. The weekend also prompted the publication of an anthology and a new online journal of U2 studies will soon lanch.

While I doubt U2 will show up to play a concert, and while I am not sure that Cleveland in April could ever be as beautiful as North Carolina in October, the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a more than perfect venue and partner for a conference like this. I predict scholars and fans from all over the world will converge on America’s north coast for the second U2 studies conference. Everything you could want to learn about the 2009 conference along with all the breaking news about the 2013 conference as it becomes available are at http://u2conference.com. There’s plenty of time to draft a proposal or determine another way that you might get involved. See you next year in Cleveland!!!

–Andrew William Smith, Editor

(Image: Webzine editor Andrew William Smith meets up with hardcore U2 fan and author Cathal McCarron.)

Bono & Edge Busk For Bill Clinton & Other Bigshots At The Hollywood Bowl

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. 

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It Might Get Down: New U2 Doc Debuts

From all media reports, the Toronto International Film Festival (abreviated by Tweeters and just about everyone else as TIFF) got electrified by hosting the premiere of the new U2 documentary From The Sky Down.

Directed by the award-winning director Davis Guggenheim (It Might Get Loud, An Inconvenient Truth) and put together in a mere months, the film will debut to a wider audience on Showtime in October. The DVD will then get packaged with the 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of Achtung Baby, followed by a separate release of just the documentary.

About collaborating with U2 on this film, Guggenheim remarked, “They said from the beginning, we want you to make the movie that you want to make and they let me.”

An anniversary peek into the creative process of how U2 re-invented themselves with postmodern post-Joshua Tree promise, From The Sky Down should be a real treat for serious U2 fans.

The review of the movie in the Toronto Globe and Mail, however, questioned its worth as a standalone film, suggesting “this documentary on the Irish quartet U2 in creative flux at the end of the 1980s is not the significant film his others are.” For many others of us though, we will enjoy the backward, reflective gaze on the band’s process, or as the review puts it, seeing “special light thrown on the mysterious ways of musicians.”

360 Full Circle: U2 Ends Tour In Moncton

Not to start on a down note, but it is hard not to write an obituary. For many of us fans, U2’s 360 Tour stage, “The Claw,” has become an entity of its own. With the tour ending in Moncton, and the eventual fate of the Claws currently unknown, it is a little sad to think of the giant steel structure being disassembled for the last time. For more than two years, this engineering marvel has thrilled audiences around the world. Its arrival and assembly in town meant something cool and different was about to happen. It enhanced U2’s show without overshadowing them. It had a personality (if possibly only a projection of U2’s Willie Williams’ own personality) and some faults (legs that blocked some people’s views and a screen that increasingly lost some pixels). Such a presence will be missed, even if we know as fans that the band will return someday.

The end of a tour is both exciting and melancholy. U2 is able to relax and be a little more playful knowing that the demands of the tour will be over soon, but there also is an air of sadness with the eventuality of this production’s magic coming to an end.

Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada hosted this ending, and it did so well. With nearly 100,000 people in attendance, concerns about logistics in this smaller town were valid, and there were some glitches. Yes, traffic was somewhat difficult, but only those with unrealistic expectations could have been disappointed or annoyed. Moncton and its people embraced this event and should be proud of their efforts.

Carney kicked off the night with an ambitious performance. For me, too many cover songs marred what seems to be a relatively talented band.

The Arcade Fire took the stage for a performance that I had been anticipating for months. They played a fairly standard set, which is great for their long-time fans, but not immediately engaging for such a large crowd. The band has plenty of loud, catchy tunes to draw-in the audience, however it took almost 10 songs into their 12-song set for fans to be interested outside of the immediate Claw stage area. I had hoped that they might join U2 on stage at some point later that night like they had in Montreal on the Vertigo Tour. Unfortunately, as an Arcade Fire fan, they did not. Fortunately, as a U2 fan, it did not matter because Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry gave such a great performance without any special guests.

Many “ending” songs played over the stage’s speaker system before the band came out: The Rolling Stones The Last Time, REM’s It’s The End of The World As We Know It, etc. Also, two F-18 fighter jets made a few flyovers of the concert grounds before the show started. This may have thrilled the crowd more than either warm-up band.

Jet Flyover video link

Finally, U2 took the stage to the repeating opening riff of Even Better Than The Real Thing. As had been the case with previous shows, several Achtung Baby songs opened, then I Will Follow and Get On Your Boots. Bono continued the refrain, “Get on your boots, Moncton. Moncton… Moncton as opposed to Muck-Town. That’s not good.” –a reference to the incredibly muddy condition of the field. Most attendees were well-prepared for a wet evening since it had rained the entire day. Thankfully, the sky cleared up, and mud was the only annoyance to be endured. Bono referenced the rain as well saying, “Deep down, I know you like your rock stars wet.” I only can imagine that he was responding to any number of the signs that the die-hard fans were holding up in the Claw’s pit.

The Fly video link

After crowd sing-along favorite I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Bono performed a verse from Springhill Mining Disaster. A great cheer rose up as locals appreciated the small recognition from the band of the disaster that happened in nearby Nova Scotia.

Springhill Mining Disaster video link

Little flourishes throughout the night were reminders that this was a special show. Larry performed an extended drum solo at the end of Elevation. During the Crazy Tonight Remix, members of the 360 Tour crew replaced the usual faces of Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry on the video screen. Some of them mugged the way the guys usually do. Others smiled. Some looked embarrassed.

 

 

Much to the crowd’s delight, Bono belted out a beautiful and sorrowful verse of Hallelujah before the chiming guitar opening of Where The Streets Have No Name began. Streets always is a hit, but to see a mass of people in the General Admission section that flowed seemingly endlessly uphill from the stage clapping along was amazing.

Beautiful Day video link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The encore brought the usual trio of songs in addition to Bono’s multitude of “thank-yous” before Moment Of Surrender. As they played a particularly raucous version of Out Of Control, Bono, obviously enjoying the atmosphere, said during the middle section, “I’m not going anywhere without a bottle of champagne, so take as long as you want.” When he received the bottle, he opened it and began to spray the people in the pit. After a little discussion, Adam and Edge switched sides of the stage signifying they were going to play the traditional U2 show ending song, 40. While finishing his part, Bono removed his glasses and revealed his eyes welling up with tears.

It was a beautiful and emotional night. So many people in Moncton were seeing U2 and the 360 Tour for the first time, but as for myself and many others, we were seeing it for the last time. My U2 360 Tour spanned 12 shows in 9 cities in the U.S. and Canada, including the North American opener in Chicago and now the tour closer in Moncton.

Over the course of the tour, I have gotten to experience so many great things: meeting up with old friends, meeting new friends, visiting new cities, hearing new songs, hearing old songs redone, hearing songs I never thought I would get to hear live… just so many great things. It has been a wonderful ride. I would like to say a “hello” and a “take care” to all of my U2 AOL MB friends (you know who you are), my Interference friends (those I have met in person and those I have only met online) and to some of the random people I was fortunate to run into along the way: Chris and Stephanie, Alan, JJ and Katja, Audrie, Michel, Paul and others. I hope to see you again someday. I am so glad that we all took the time to introduce ourselves to the people around us. I am so glad we all met while seeing U2.

Bono added a long extra verse to the end of Stay (Faraway, So Close) Saturday night, and I think it is appropriate to close out the reviews of the 360 Tour:

“3 o’clock in the morning,

and the trucks roll out of town.

Ray Daniels, we’ll be thinking of you,

sittin’ on his cloud.

110 shows,

but strangely, this feels like home.

Glad my wife is here tonight.

It’s not a night to be alone.

Everbody’s lover,

everbody’s brother,

all came here for the show.

Some loves, some loves

are just so hard to let go.

3 o’clock in the morning.

It’s quiet. There’s no one around.

Just the bang and the clatter

As 360 leaves town.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 July 2011

Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Magnetic Hill Festival Grounds

Setlist

1. Even Better Than The Real Thing

2. The Fly

3. Mysterious Ways

4. Until The End Of The World

5. I Will Follow

6. Get On Your Boots

7. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

(Springhill Mining Disaster snippet)

8. Stay (Faraway, So Close)

9. Beautiful Day

10. Elevation

11. Pride (In The Name Of Love)

12. Miss Sarajevo

13. Zooropa

14. City Of Blinding Lights

15. Vertigo

16. Crazy Tonight Remix

17. Sunday Bloody Sunday

18. Scarlet

19. Walk On

20. One

21. Where The Streets Have No Name (Hallelujah Intro)

22. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

23. With Or Without You

24. Moment Of Surrender

25. Out Of Control

26. 40

 

Review, photos and video by kramwest1

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