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Old 12-18-2005, 08:20 AM   #1
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Our Minister Of Music, Bono

The News & Observer
18th December 2005

Our Minister of Music, Bono

by David Menconi

About an hour into U2's show Monday night at the Charlotte Bobcats
Arena, the event became something very different from a typical rock
concert. During "Sunday Bloody Sunday," front man Bono donned a
headband with the word "COEXIST" spelled out with the Muslim
crescent, Jewish Star of David, Christian cross and other religious

"Coexist: what a beautiful, simple thought, and it's getting harder
to hold onto," Bono said, adding a prayer "that we do not become a
monster in order to defeat a monster."

For "Bullet the Blue Sky," Bono adopted the pose of a prisoner:
headband over his eyes as a blindfold, down on his knees, arms raised
with wrists crossed. It looked as though it could be commentary on
the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal in Iraq -- until Bono solemnly
intoned at the song's conclusion, "Dedicated to the brave young men
and women of the United States military."

But the moment that took the cake was the introduction to "One," the
final song before the encores. Bono asked the sold-out mob of 17,000
to turn the arena into a Christmas tree by holding up their cell
phones. He went on to say that as long as everyone had their phones
out, they should join up with the anti-poverty One campaign by text-
messaging a number on the video screen.

Then he paid tribute to a North Carolina political figure whom left-
leaning rock stars have vilified for decades -- Jesse Helms, the
conservative icon known as "Senator No" during his 30-year tenure in
the U.S. Senate. But thanks to Helms, Bono said, more than 400,000
Africans with AIDS are getting medication now.

"This stuff works," he declared, outlining his ideology-spanning plan
for victory over poverty worldwide. "Teddy Kennedy and Jesse Helms;
South and North; casinos and churches -- all walking together as one."

United, the crowd roared. And Bono began to sing.

We're one, but we're not the same

We get to carry each other, carry each other.

By the time his name was mentioned onstage, Helms was no longer in
the arena. But he traveled to Charlotte for a pre-show dinner with
Bono. The men first met in 2000, when Bono won Helms over to his
cause of fighting AIDS and poverty in Africa. Monday was a chance for
Bono to catch Helms up on the work that still goes on nearly three
years after Helms retired from politics.

The next day, the senator's wife was singing Bono's praises.

"He is doing marvelous things," Dot Helms said in a phone interview.
"He is an exceedingly smart man and also a deeply committed
Christian. ... I think that's the motivation behind what he is doing.
He feels people ought to be in the trenches doing things and not just
talking, which he said to us."

Nobody could accuse Bono of "just talking." Bruce Springsteen, Tori
Amos, Steve Earle and other high-profile artists are politically
active on a variety of issues. But no one in popular music is in the
same league as Bono -- a man the New York Times magazine calls "the
most politically effective figure in the recent history of popular

A large part of that is Bono's willingness to get down in the
trenches and work within the political system. Through his African
relief organization DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) and hobnobbing
with Helms, President Bush and other politicians, Bono makes as many
headlines for activism as for music. Earlier this year, when Bono's
name was floated as a candidate to head the World Bank, it almost
made sense.

On tour, Bono spends as much time talking politics as singing. The
day after a show in Boston earlier this month, he met with students
and faculty at Harvard University. And in March, on the day U2 was
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bono found time to do
an interview with Chapel Hill filmmaker John Wilson, who is making a
documentary about Helms.

"He really wanted to do the interview," Wilson says. "He was proud he
had met with Jesse Helms and the impact he had on him. Bono didn't
care that he and Jesse Helms didn't see eye to eye on a large number
of issues. He cared about them seeing eye to eye on AIDS relief in
Africa. He's very sincere about what he's doing. He has a unique
approach to finding common ground. Even when people come from very
different walks of life and philosophies, it's amazing what can
happen if they find common ground on something important."

When asked what he thinks Bono would do if he wasn't a rock star,
Wilson says, "I think he'd be in the ministry."

Music, mission, ministry

On U2's 1991 song "Acrobat," Bono sang in a tone approaching anguish,
"I'd join the movement if there was one I could believe in." Since
then, he has come up with a solution: Don't simply join a movement or
even lead one, but be one.

By now, U2 isn't just a band or a multinational corporation. At
times, U2 seems like a sovereign nation with its own foreign policy.
Lately, the band has been like a cross between the United Nations and
the United Federation of Planets from "Star Trek," with Bono in the
swashbuckling peacemaker role of Captain Kirk.

With his rare combination of charisma, megalomaniac ambition and
humble good intentions, Bono was born to play that role, and it is to
his credit that he's onto himself. As he said in Rolling Stone
magazine last month, "I'm sick of Bono. And I am Bono. It's like, oh,
man, shut up. But there it is."

What's striking is how organic Bono's activism seems within the
context of his music, which has always had messianic overtones. Even
his overt displays of onstage propagandizing don't seem forced, in
part because Bono tends to come across as larger than life no matter
what he's doing -- he even makes toweling off between songs seem like
an epic gesture.

As was fitting for a show given over to displays of unity, Monday
night's concert ended with Bono and band passing the music to the
crowd on its longtime show closer, "40," a song about drawing hope
from fear. Bono got the crowd to sing the outro, flashed a peace sign
and walked off. The other three members left one by one, and the
crowd continued to sing.

How long to sing this song?

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Old 12-19-2005, 09:13 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing Mrs. Springsteen!
Awsome Article!

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Old 01-02-2006, 01:39 PM   #3
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Yes, I really felt the 11/8 concert as a communion of sorts, not just a concert, but a spiritual experience.
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