I took a pause today while working on my “Ecce Bono” presentation for next week’s Fandom and Religion Conference, in which I plan to talk a lot about Bono the artist and the art of U2, and yes, Bono’s HMTMKMKM rebuttal to, oh, tens-of-thousands (?) of 1980s fans — “They don’t know what you’re doing / Babe it must be art.” I took a pause, as I said, which means, of course, I checked facebook, and lo’ and behold saw that Frank Schaeffer wrote his review of one of U2’s recent Boston shows as a HuffPo post, making special mention of the artistry he saw. Perfect. Thank you, facebook, Frank Schaeffer, and a cosmic alignment, because I’ve been looking for reviews of U2’s current tour that specifically call out the artistic achievements U2 is making on the Innocence + Experience tour.
Even better, it’s from Frank Schaeffer, son of THE Francis (and Edith) Schaeffer, who are renowned to many an Evangelical from the 1960s to this day. Although Frank has traveled away from the “Cedarwood Road” of his parents’ L’Abri, Switzerland, I have a feeling he shares in Bono’s own admission of “You can’t return to where you’ve never left.”
Frank sure can write a catchy headline — “Bono Is Still Working Through the Guilt All People Feel Who Believe in a Higher Purpose” — and isn’t shy about the f-word, but then so can and neither is Bono too. (Eugene Peterson once told me he figured the f-word was just “the way Irish Christians talk.”)
Here’s what caught my eye from Frank Schaeffer:
George Balanchine never produced a better or more precise ballet. This was rock as choreographed surgical strike.
U2 has more hunger for art than a twenty-something wanna-be just starting out. I mean who made them work THIS hard?! Why? Mission. What? To prove that rock isn’t bullshit and that rock gods aren’t all lazy pricks. Purpose? To channel the creative spirit of the universe and a loving creator. So what is the show? Proof that U2 cares enough to reinvent the rock show and learn very new tricks. The Innocence & Experience show is one long f*** you to meaninglessness. It is more ballet than music, more theater than rock, more art show than glam show. It is also the best stage show I’ve seen since watching Peter Sellars’ production of the St. Matthew Passion at the Armory in NYC last year.
Sure the designer of this show is in a way more important than the band … but who hired that person and backed them? The band. Yes, the new music is autobiography. Yes, that’s self indulgent, but no more so than any biography or memoir. And this is a rock-biography-opera. So the question is is U2 naval-gazing. Of course they are. So is every writer and movie maker. All we have is our stories and our lives. All we have is our experiences. Sure it gets a little churchy. What do you expect? Bono is still working through the guilt all people feel who believe in a higher purpose they know they (we) can never attain. This band travels in a cloud of evangelical good will … So what? You got a problem with world peace?
What’s the new U2 show finally about? The inherent value of beauty. Period.
Walk on, Frank Schaeffer, and keep writing about all that you can’t leave behind.