U2 at the Rose Bowl: Concert Porn for the Masses
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It was cool. It was a big Happening with flashing lights, lots of color, inspiration, 100,000 people screaming along in unison, moved by the pure ... spectacle of it. If we were in North Korea, these songs would have been about the Supreme Leader and we would have all been flashing colored placards in unison rather than putting on masks of Aung San Suu Kyi or waving our cell phones in the air. The comparison fails for any number of reasons, but it is true that when you stick this many people with a shared enthusiasm into the same space, the power of it is overwhelming -- and can be a little scary.
But we're in America at the gosh dang Rose Bowl, so the big-ticket mass happening is not trippy North Korean dancers but an Irish rock band with a charismatic lead singer, beautifully enormous love songs, a BlackBerry sponsorship and a lot of money to put on a high-tech power sucking extravaganza that delivers a noble and honest message of peace. Songs from the heart, to the People, for the People. To heal them. To inspire them. Everything is going to be all right.
Cynicism aside, it's true, actually. Even if some of us prefer our lead singers with a little more natural-born swagger, Bono is a very effective messenger: handsome, tuneful, personable, dedicated, smart, and funny (he described himself last night as a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito with a little bit of Dennis Hopper tossed in, which isn't too far from the truth). What he lacks in funk, he more than makes up for in enthusiasm. Bono thinks BIG. He thinks BEAUTIFUL -- which is the noblest of causes -- and somehow avoids the platitudinal. Barely.
Maybe it's the sunglasses. They exude detached gravitas. Standing in a circle-within-a-circle stage beneath a four-legged spider thingy that looked like the main terminal at LAX (U2 was situated where the luggage pick-up is), Bono controlled the Rose Bowl. He was a master of a grand human orchestra. He lifted an arm, the masses lifted an arm. He waved it in the air, they waved it. He demanded they sing an entire verse of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and they sang it pitch-perfect (more-or-less). He ran laps around the vast track that surrounded the stage, which added an extra dimension of U2 access, and we were impressed. He sang. He SANG. HE SANG!