Bono sold his soul for an SMS

Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with addressing bottom-of-the-pyramid poverty and AIDS; I was a fairly early signer (signatory? or is that just nations?) to the One campaign, and I'm glad that Bono is using his extremely large soapbox to push such things, if only in a very info-lite fashion. However.

I'm pretty ambivalent about the U2 concert we went to last night. Were I to consider only the music and the show, I'd say it was very good. Though the entire decade of the '90s was ignored (but for "One", which no longer counts, having become a brand name), and I'm one of those people who thinks Pop was a much better album that the two since, I was otherwise pretty happy. Opening with "City of Blinding Lights", closing with "With or Without You", and representing Boy with three songs in between are all good choices.

What I didn't like was the political message that I got out of it; call me a strict constructionist, but I felt like songs were being used in ways not fitting to their original context.

I started out merely amused, as the overwhelmingly white audience in Auburn Hills cheered wildly when Bono addressed us as "Detroit", but the irony started to annoy when "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was declared, "this is your song now". Yes, thank you, we appreciate your post-9/11 solidarity, but I really don't think that's the only or best "separate societies" parallel that can be drawn to a "Detroit" audience. Bono's call to "coexist" is not something that's newly an issue around here, and I lamented that Jew/Christian/Muslim was the only social division Bono felt a need to address. But, hey, I can forgive.

At least, that I could forgive. The next bit really rankled, though, with "Bullet the Blue Sky" dedicated to "the brave men and women of the American military". Yes, Bono, that's wholly appropriate. Take a song about American complicity in Central American military atrocities, and turn it into a salute to the American military? Now, let's say you use this as an opportunity to push a "hate the war, but pray for the warrior" type of message. A "war is terrible for all involved" sort of thing. A criticism of America, "peeling off those dollar bills, and slapping them down - one hundred. two hundred." Dollar bills to the Taliban, dollar bills to Saddam, and now dollar bills to Halliburton.

The follow-through was totally botched, though. The choice of "Miss Sarajevo" as the next song was spot-on - but Bono softballed the message. To anybody not already outraged by turning "I can see the fighter planes . . . see the sky ripped open . . . to pound on the women and children" into a military salute, I expect any criticism to have been totally lost. Bono lined up his soapbox just right, and then squandered it.

Except, he didn't. He was just setting up a different soapbox. From "Miss Sarajevo", we launch into a rousing, feel-good round of "Pride", and then Bono sets the hook. He reminisces briefly about Zoo TV, when they could just reach out and call anybody..."Speaking of which," oh no, is he schilling what I think he's schilling? "who's got a cell phone?" he turns the arena into "a true 21st century moment" with a constellation of backlights. And, yes, he's schilling what I think he's schilling. Pander to the audience, make us feel righteous and patriotic and compassionate, avoid criticism, and all so that he could solicit text message signatures to the One campaign. Naturally, "One" follows, but at this point I'm thoroughly upset enough that it has no positive meaning, and simply becomes a commercialistic jingle, the string of lyric abuses emphasizing that "One" is now just an empty theme song.

Now, as I said, I'm solidly behind the One campaign. But if the cost of getting people to sign on is stoking/stroking American militarism? That's not a good trade-off. Especially since half the people in the arena probably couldn't tell you anything about the One campaign - all they know is that Bono told them to send a text message, so they did. Oh, and maybe it has something to do with world hunger?

I think I may have outgrown U2's concerts.