Saturday, October 15, 2005

Yahweh and U2 in concert

I’ve been thinking again about U2 since I’m finally reading Bill Flanagan’s excellent book U2 at the End of the World.  I’m struck by a number of things (aside from how little Bono seems to sleep when he’s on tour) but especially the way the band continues to tinker with their show to make it more say what want it to say and to react to what’s going on in the world and in their lives.

That made, for me, a connection to the song “Yahweh”, one of my favorites from How To Dismantle and Atomic Bomb.  I had some questions about the use of the Muslim crescent and the Jewish star a friend helped me sort through that.  What I haven’t seen anywhere, though, is the way the band changed the last line the night I saw them and, I assume, had been for the entire leg of the tour – perhaps for the whole tour.  The line on the album is “take this heart and make it break.”  An allusion that most people with a Bible background understand – PS 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

U2 usually uses “Yahweh” as the last song for the evening coming right after they sing “40,” a version of Psalm 40 with a bit of Psalm 6 thrown in for good measure. In concert, though, when I saw them, Bono sang “take this city’s heart and keep it safe,” That turn of the phrase turns the song from a personal confession (and quite a remarkable one at that) into a benediction. Bono once again changes the lyrics to fit the setting and does it in a way that blesses everyone.  I really like this band.

13 comments:

Beth said...

This has happened at every show I've been at save one this year, and it's definitely a benediction vibe.

The lyric change I'm currently curious about is "one man washed on an empty beach, betrothed, betrayed with a kiss." I thought I heard that word live a couple times, and now that I've heard recordings of Boston it is clear as day. Betrothed/betrayed?? Hmmm....

I think the funny thing about Flanagan (other than the funny things I named for you in email) is how he unwittingly keeps coming back to the question "Why does Bono eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

Bob K said...

According to a friend of mine, the betrothal / wedding ritual of first century Israel had a number of interesting facets to it – one of which is the groom-to-be handing the bride-to-be some wine and saying “this is my blood.” That betrothal is echoed, of course, in the words Jesus used at the last supper. It was followed quickly by the betrayal of Judas. Could it be that Bono has picked up on some of that connection in his study of scripture?

Beth said...

Whoa.
Maybe, maybe not. But -- it also does open up for me the idea that there is not a parallelism of one event intended here: "betrothed with a kiss/betrayed with a kiss" -- but that they are two sequential events: first betrothed, then betrayed with a kiss. Hmm. Also: is it the same guy from the empty beach?...

That wedding thing does seem like the kind of idea Bono might want to work with, if he read it somewhere or heard it in a sermon -- watch for a song called "Betrothed" on the 2008 CD ;-)

cj98caleb said...

bono is cool indeed mr.keeley

Beth said...

More:

"Israel was forbidden by God to drink the blood of animals or of humans. So blood covenants in Israel (such as betrothal and marriage agreements) were entered into through the drinking of wine that stood in the place of blood.
From a cultural perspective, in the ancient Middle East, that wine became the blood of the person offering it as a covenant drink."

"As Jesus sat at His last Passover with His disciples, He poured wine into His cup and blessed it, telling the disciples, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins' (Matthew 26:27-28). By literally drinking from His cup, they each accepted the terms of the New Covenant. It was a symbolic betrothal or engagement of the church, the Israel of God, to Christ."

OK, you know what, I'm really leaning toward this now. Esp. since in "Mercy" we have a song which at least begins as clearly directed to a female partner whose first line is, "I was drinking some wine and it turned to blood."

Bar Bar A said...

So glad I found your through Beth!

I'll be back to read more.

I get to see U2 for the first time ever on Nov. 1. It's not easy to get tickets here in LA, they sell out within minutes but I refused to miss them this time and paid the "big bucks" to a ticket agency. I know it will be worth it

Deb in Ohio said...

To Well Woman--

Enjoy the show! My first U2 concert was on Nov. 1, 1987--the Hoosierdome in Indianapolis. The most recent, all these years later, is the first one that has come close to that original show--and that includes Michigan, when we broke bread (well. . .ate pizza) with Bono and the boys. Pittsburgh was PHENOMENAL. They have gotten tighter and tighter and the songs are totally reinvented for me. I have been to church!

Anonymous said...

I saw U2 at Auburn Hills last week and was unprepared for the Coexist portion of the show. I have been a little intrigued and maybe a little more troubled with the Coexist theme, as it seems to equate Mohammed, Jesus, David, as all equals. From what I take from pluralism, is it disrespects all religions. Christians dont believe Mohammed is equal to Christ, that is offensive. Muslims do not believe Christ is God, that is offensive. Jews dont believe Christ is God either. So to say they are all theologically equal is folly. But maybe I am reading into that too much. I certainly agree that the religions should "coexist" without killing eachother; bloodshed or ignorance in the name of religion is folly as well. In your article you said Beth at U2Sernons helped you through this, but I have been unable to find anything there on this in depth. How do you see beyond the apparent pluralism and misdirection of the character of God, "in the name of love" - have you read any other helpful links or articles?
Thanks!
johnny5

Bob K said...

to johnny5 - Here is what Nathan Hart (from http://nathanhart.org/)wrote: "Bono actually says "Jesus, Jew, Muhammad, it's true: all sons of Abraham." it's an attempt to find the unity in the people of the religions of the world, in order to find peace instead of war among them."

Similarly, in "Yahweh" the pictures of the symbols of the other religions seem to be saying "we don't hate Muslims and Jews" rather than "they're all the same." (Thanks to Beth from U2semons for that.)

So, I think Bono really wants war in the name of religion to stop - or as he says "people are more important than ideas."

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Anonymous said...

To paraphrase an earlier entry "I saw U2 in Cleveland last week and was unprepared for the Coexist portion of the show..." and I share the sentiments of that blogger.
Intresting is the later entry...
...Similarly, in "Yahweh" the pictures of the symbols of the other religions seem to be saying "we don't hate Muslims and Jews" rather than "they're all the same." (Thanks to Beth from U2semons for that.)...

Where does Beth's understanding come from? I would not ever get that idea from what I saw in concert. The mixing of the symbols seemed to say "equality," not in the human rights sense, but in the "all religions are the same" sense. I hope Bono's not into this mushy universalism. It pretty much ruined the concert for me. Maybe I just expected too much from only listening to lyrics.

Bob K said...

I hope the previous anonymous poster looks back here again. First of all, thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate the dialogue.

A read of The recent book by Michka Assayas (Bono in Conversation) makes it pretty clear that Bono is no universalist and his "Jesus, Jew Muhammed - it's true is CLEARLY referring to "all sons of Abraham." That became even clearer to me when I watched the Vertigo Tour DVD.

Just like you use the Bible to interpret the Bible, I think you need to use Bono to interpret Bono so the COEXIST theme, which is so strong, is the one that I think is what is meant here.

Of course, someone could ask him outright but his Christian subjtext is SO obvious in other places that I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

Anonymous said...

For the most part, U2 has been ending Veritgo with "40", not Yahweh. If they play Yahweh, they play it before "40", not after.