An Excercise in Engaging with the Arts: U2 in Concert

This summer, I’ve had a great opportunity to participate in a weekly discussion group with a handful of college students participating in Veritas’ Project Columbia. The goal of the group is to develop a biblical appreciation of the arts—something that happens to be a significant interest of mine. Needless to say, I’ve really enjoyed the process of thinking through various biblical passages, readings, and works of art for the group to consider. And it’s always interesting and rewarding to discuss these things with other people. With that in mind, I thought I’d let those of you who were interested come a long for a bit of the ride by engaging one of the works we’ve looked at in our group.

Owing to the fact that I’m a huge fan of the rock group U2, I couldn’t resist bringing in a in a clip from their 2001 Elevation Tour for this week’s discussion. Occurring at the conclusion of the concert’s main set, it consists of two full songs bridged by the (partial) chorus of a third. The first song, “Bad,” addresses someone struggling with drug addiction, a reality the band saw often enough growing up in Dublin. The connecting chorus is taken from “40,” and the final song is one of the bands most enduring anthems, “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

I managed to find a couple of YouTube clips that, when watched in sequence, give you gist of the experience, though the continuity suffers just a bit. I’ve embedded them below, but the quality isn’t the greatest, so it might be better if you go to YouTube directly and search for the videos yourself.

A few things to keep in mind as you view them:

1. How would you describe the “mood” of each of the three segments of the sequence?

2. How is the change communicated? Consider a number of factors in addition to lyrics and musical expression, including lighting, the physical expression and posture of the band (particularly Bono, the band’s lead singer), and how the scene is actually filmed (the framing and editing of the shots, etc.).

3. What is significant about the order of the sequence? Another way to think of this might be to consider where we start as viewers and where we end.

4. I would argue strongly that a biblical view of art insists that art doesn’t have to always communicate overt messages (it’s entirely appropriate simply to enjoy a picture of a beautiful sunset, for example). Nevertheless, art can and often does express ideas in powerful ways. With that in mind, what do you think is communicated by the overall presentation of these songs?

If you like, you can find the lyrics here: Bad, 40, Streets (though I should note that Bono makes an important lyric change in the midst of the final song).

Next week I hope to offer a few thoughts of my own.

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