Love & Light, Evil & Resistance at Tulsa Tour Opener

May 4, 2018 · Print This Article

Love is all we have left, after sitting around in airports all day, trying to get to Tulsa for opening night. Love is all we have left, we will need to wake up before dawn to catch another flight to St. Louis for the second night of the tour. Love is all we have left, after all the money we will spend on this touring hobby this spring. Love Is All We Have Left, what a moving call to worship and call to action with which to begin this show!

Many of us fans travel just as hard as the band, investing crazy amounts of spiritual and financial investment into making this happen. Put “Hey I’ve been waiting to get home a long time” from Lights of Home in conversation with “You can’t return to where you’ve never left” from Cedarwood Road, and we are all just visionaries and vagabonds, finding home wherever we hang the tour lanyard. Or we are all just homebodies, traveling only in the comfort of our headphones, catching the show because of someone’s generous livestream. U2 simultaneously cultivates the rooted and the rootless in its restless but committed fanbase, and this time.

Due to the continuing emotional content, it’s not fair to call the “innocence suite,” in the first part of the show, safe or lazy. We need not compare this tour to other tours. U2 have participated in plenty of revivals of past themes on subsequent tours, it’s just that the interlocking reprises of Innocence into Experience exist in more intimate reciprocity than any precedent in the band’s touring career.


The second set shocked us though, shaking up any reticence that this tour would tame the tragic resonance of its content. By the time the crackling crunches of Vertigo gave way to Desire, we all recognized Bono was in character, and the band had descended on the small stage for a sinister and surreal circus act, a punkish pentecostal tent revival. From the shimmering sequins on his tuxedo jacket to the over-the-top tophat, Bono incorporated elements of his tortured B-movie taunts, last seen during Exit on JT30.

Before we were greeted by the return of the MacPhisto character made famous during ZooTV days, I caught traces of James Franco’s version of the Wizard of Oz. No matter who this madman was, he looked like a washed up carnival barker who had nibbled a little too much of the brown acid at Woodstock. Before going all Juggalo face with the heat of horns and hate, we got a little desperate preaching about the lusty and greedy elements of Experience. This experience is not the mature sage wisdom of middle aged rockstar do-gooder, no, but the raw confessions of a rock bottom moment, about to get sucked into a satanic salon.

1 macphisto remy bono U2 start

When MacPhisto fully manifested his screwtape manifesto, it was even darker than the sepia-toned anti-Trump moment last summer. He snarled out his dramatic reading from the dark side: “I’ve been a busy little devil. But you’ve made it all so much easier for me these days.  The truth is dead. When you don’t believe that I exist, that’s when I do my best work.” The liberal naive notion that if we pretend evil does not exist, it does not exist, is turned on its head by a man who has called himself a radical centrist; insofar for Bono, the center is God not humanity.

The short speech might make your hair stand up. These are not the happy chillbumps of Where the Streets Have No Name, but the theological recognition that evil has name and goes by many names. My name is Legion, for we are many — a stunning warning from the holy scriptures comes to mind. All this fused into a smoking live debut of Acrobat. This is one of those times when you pinch yourself, to say you were there.

Although Bono and the shows visual designers are always on-point with activist messaging, this show might have been the most adamant call back to the barricades of nonviolent resistance I have ever seen at a U2 concert.  From before and throughout the show, the screens scrolled agitprop posters that suggest somebody in the U2 creative team knows that this tour falls on the fiftieth anniversary of the May 1968 uprisings in Paris. “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance” is only one of many radical memes seen on the screens.

Even though some of the overt visual references to the neo-nazis and alt-right in the show were traumatizing and triggering, they set up what might be the most riveting version of Pride in that song’s illuminated history. The band stationed themselves at the corners of a quadrilateral filling the arena floor, and the house lights went up; it was mesmerizing church in a new way, for a band that is always finding ways to make church happen in hockey arenas. It healed just a little, taking our breath away after the first part of the second half left us broken.

Bono kneeling2

American Soul and Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way are used as American prayers to pull U2’s adopted second country back from the precipice. We still don’t know how it is going to turn out, but Bono recited the Declaration of Independence as reverently as he recited the 23rd Psalm earlier in the show.

While last year’s stadium tour was a classic rock victory lap, this is a serious show for serious fans. The new set is a lone light bulb at the end of a dark alley, and if we participate with open hearts, the usual joy of a U2 show also wrestled with elements of grief and sadness and vulnerable uncertainty. We will be back to explore these regions of reckoning as the tour continues.

-Andrew William Smith, editor        @teacheronradio

Photo credits- Desire/Macphisto by Remy from @U2Start

                          Bono Kneeling by Jaime Rodriguez @jrodconcerts

                          Full band Vertigo by Andrew William Smith


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