Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My First U2 Concert

I've followed and been a fan of U2 for awhile now, but Saturday night was my first U2 concert experience. The first stop of their 20 city North American leg of their 360 Tour. The Fray, one of my favorite bands, opened at the packed Invesco Field at Mile High.

U2 came with 102 trucks and spent 4 days putting together their $70 million stage.

I've been to some incredible concerts in my day, but this one topped them all. It was pure spectacle combined with a deep concern and passion for good music and social justice. If U2 comes to a city near you, don't even think about missing them.

U2 played many of their classic favorites and played quite a few songs from their latest album.

Since the concert was on May 21st, 2011 (a date suggested by Harold Camping to be the end of the world), Bono humorously dedicated "Until the End of the World" to Mr. Camping.

But the highlight of the night came during a 4 song set before they walked off stage for the first time. This stage that had been the scene of a raucous rock concert turned into a holy space of worship and concern for those who endure injustice at the hands of the empires of this world.

The apostle James, in one of the few and clearest mentions of religion in all of Scripture, defined religion like this: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" - James 1:27.

With those for eyes to see, Invesco Field, usually a coliseum filled with football, scantily-clad cheerleaders, and loud cheers, turned into holy ground. It even felt more worshipful than most of the more than 1,500 worship services I have been a part of on Sunday mornings throughout my life. Bono led the crowd in songs of lament, hope, and unity.

The band lowered the lights a bit and started into "Sunday Bloody Sunday" while showing scenes of oppressed people throughout the world. It was interesting to see people shout and cheer to this lament, a song that speaks out against the historic bloodshed in Ireland. In fact, one of the most iconic moments of U2's early years is the footage of Bono parading a white flag around with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" blaring in the background."How long must we sing this song" sounds hauntingly like the words of authors of the Psalms.

Following "Sunday Bloody Sunday," Bono led the crowd in a repeated refrain of "Rejoice" to a new melody the boys had created.

Then, Bono introduced a video with the recently freed Aung San Suu Kyi thanking U2 fans for lifting their voices to free her from house arrest in Burma. As Bono puts it, Aung San Suu Kyi is to Asia what Nelson Mandela is to Africa. That video was followed with "Walk On," a familiar U2 song written for Aung San Suu Kyi praising her for her activism in fighting for freedom in Burma. And as if on cue, Amnesty International workers carried in candles representing the 3,000 prisoners who are still unjustly imprisoned in Burma. And one of the great lines from that song, "a place that has to be believed to be seen," took on a whole new meaning in the midst of this 4 song praise service in the middle of a rock concert in Denver.

The band then followed with one of their most acclaimed songs "One," which took on an incredible sound in the midst of this worship chorus.

And before the encore, the band finished with "Where the Streets Have No Name." It was an incredible song set. And the worship of the crowd (with eyes to see and ears to hear) was a more authentic cry to God for justice, unity, and lament than perhaps any worship service I have ever been a part of.

And at the end of their encore, they finished the concert with one of my favorite songs, "Moment of Surrender." It was the perfect ending to an incredible night!

I was forced to ask, "How could our worship experiences be more authentic like my experience at the U2 concert?" I know the spectacle and setting had much to do with the impact I felt. But could we write more authentic lyrics? Could we write songs of lament to fill our normally joyous celebrations.

As I sat with a couple who feared the lost of their unborn child in a service recently, the worship that so normally fills my soul with passion and love for God suddenly echoed back so hollow. Where was the note of lament for this couple? Where was the cry of desperation to God? It was nowhere to be found in that service and I'm afraid that's too often the case. But plant that couple in the midst of 80,000 people in Invesco Saturday night with ears to hear, and I think their experience might have been much different.

We need musicians and writers who will chart a new path for Christian artistry. I'm so glad there are bands like U2 that remain in the secular scene to bless a wider audience. But Saturday night made me cry out for more bands like Derek Webb and Gungor who will sing it like it really is and write lyrics for our services that seem to miss the mark so often.




Anonymous said...

I am glad you enjoyed the concert as U2 is a great band and I do see much of God resounding through their work...praise God for that.

I am glad to see you raising questions about where lament is in our worship. We have praise teams and praise bands but no one ever thinks about having a lament team/band.

Nine years ago my wife and I buried our first child. Since then and after ministering to others in the throws of suffering, I have come to love the voice of lament. Yet one thing I have found is that many Christians seem uncomfortable with lament and I wonder why...what does it say about us if we are afraid of lament...what does it say about our faith?

Grace and Peace,

K. Rex Butts

Collin Packer said...

Great questions, Rex. Thanks for your willingness to open up on the blog, which can be such a volatile medium.

Blessings in your ministry and to your family!