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U2 and Psalm 40

25th November 2005

The Wichita Eagle has an interesting — albeit brief — article by Phil Kloer on how U2 balances music and faith.

Here are some excerpts:

The song has been sung at almost every concert U2 has played on this American tour. It comes near the end of each show, sometimes at the very end, when band and audience are both a bit worn out:

“I waited patiently for the Lord,” lead singer Bono cries out. “He inclined and heard my cry.”

It’s a 3,000-year-old song that never made the pop charts, just the Old Testament. As in Psalm 40.

U2′s version is simply called “40″ and was played last week during the band’s sold-out show here.

It was also played Sunday at All Saints’ Episcopal Church’s special service — a U2 Eucharist.

The events are mirror images of the same body of work: a rock concert in an arena that sometimes felt like a worship service, and a worship service in a church that felt like a rock concert.

The mega-selling Irish band — sometimes called the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world today — is not marketed as Christian music but as rock music, despite a body of work that constantly references the Bible, deals in apocalyptic imagery and addresses Jesus directly.

“The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or running away from God,” Bono said in a recent Rolling Stone interview. “Both recognize the pivot, that God is the center of the jaunt.”

I recommend taking a gander at the article.

On a similar note, I lectured this week on the “Gospel according to U2.” Among other things, I talked about how U2′s gospel (like Jesus’!) included a social conscience. To illustrate my point I showed “Love and Peace or Else” from the new Vertigo concert DVD. The performance of this song is awesome and it is a great lead-in to “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” I was playing the DVD so loud that one of my colleagues who was teaching down the hall had to come and ask us to turn the music down a bit. It was a blast and (ahem) a great learning experience for my students of how popular culture and religion are intertwined.

I’m not sure when I will have time to bring together my notes into a coherent blog post, but if I do, this is where I’ll post it!

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