I know whenever anyone talks about Bono, a debate among Christians is sure to follow... "You know, he used to be a Christian. Is he still a Christian? How can he be and drop the F-bomb on the Golden
Globes? Well, he is doing a lot for Africa, but didn't you read that article where he got drunk and passed out on the floor of some bar in New Orleans after the super bowl? What's with that headband anway?" Bono has become one of American's Christians' favorite topic. I think my church is going to have a Sunday School class just to debate Bono's faith next year. So, writing this entry, I know I'll stir up a few comments and criticism. But, I've got a pretty decent story to tell that I've managed to wrangle into a bit of personal revelation or is that rELEVATION? Never mind, that was last tour.
You see, U2 has always been my favorite band. My sister bought me the Unforgettable Fire when I was about 9, and I've been hooked ever since. I had posters on my wall all growing up, U2 guitar song books, t-shirts, you name it. U2 is a big reason I probably ended up in Third Day. They've always blended spirituality with great rock music. So, to me it was the most natural thing in the world. Since I grew up on U2, I never really understood why rock music is always associated with rebellion. To me, it has always been about soaring melodies that wake you up, make you think, and stir your soul. When I was hooking up with David, Mac and Mark in the early days of Third Day, I didn't really even understand what all comes with being in a "Christian" band. God seemed like the only topic worthy of a really good power chord.
My tastes diversified in high school. REM and the Black Crowes were local legends. Pearl Jam and Nirvana were on the scene. Anyone in a rock band has got to learn to play some Led Zeppelin. But, at the core of it all was always U2.
A few years ago Mark and I had the opportunity to meet Bono when he came to Nashville to enlist CCM artist in DATA's efforts to end extreme poverty in Africa. (DEBT, AID, TRADE for AFRICA.) Mark and I had just been to South Africa a few months before with Habitat for Humanity. So, we were very keen to hear what Bono had to say. A lot of awesome things came from that meeting... A bunch of Artists did a tribute record to raise funds, and Jars of Clay has started an amazing foundation called the Blood and Water Mission to bring fresh, clean water to Africa. Brad, Mark and I made a trip to Lesotho in southern Africa to experience what AIDS is doing to Africa
firsthand. Since then, we've tried to direct as much attention as possible to World Vision's HOPE child initiative which specifically targets children in regions hardest hit by AIDS.
I think that CCM artists and fans really grabbed on to Bono's mission. I know that a lot of the political results of DATA's efforts are because American politicians now realize how many of us there really are. It's been really amazing to be a part of a sort of revival among believers where we've realized that our faith shouldn't just compel us to improved behavior, but to a real sense of mission and justice for the world.
Anyway, sorry for preaching. A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to go see U2 at Philips Arena in Atlanta. We had already bought tickets ahead of time. But, the folks at DATA hooked us up with some passes so that we could go backstage and talk with Bono before the show. Since I knew this was coming, I immersed myself in U2 fan geekdom for a solid week. I listened to all my records, I watched
DVDs, I even read a new book called Bono: In Conversation where Bono pretty much lays out his life story, faith and philosophy. As I was reading the book, we were out on the road doing the All Access tour. Every night after the show, we'd sit at an autograph table for over an hour signing cds and talking to fans. I was kind of living out both sides of the fan experience. I was receiving it every night after the concerts with countless stories of inspiration and appreciation. But, I was also experiencing the other side of fandom as I was getting prepared for the U2 show and our meeting with Bono. All week, I was really questioning what it means to be a fan. It is short for fanatic you know. What do fans really want? What did I really want from Bono? As I was reading the book, one part really spoke to me. Bono was talking about meeting Bishop TuTu and asking for a blessing. He went on to say that he's always craved the blessings of older men whom he respected. Everyone from Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, the pope, and Billy Graham have given Bono what amounts to a blessing. Bono even talked about how Jacob tricked Isaac to get the blessing from Esau. Why didn't God intervene? Maybe it was because Jacob valued the blessing more.
Well, the light bulb turned on. What do fans want? Fans want a blessing. Fans want to be appreciated, they want to be acknowledged, they want to be lifted up. I turned to Mac in the front lounge of the bus, and told him that I knew what I now knew what I wanted from Bono. I wanted a blessing. I wanted my hero to validate me. Lofty, I know. But, musicians are supposed to dream big.
Well, the night of the show came around and we headed to the concert. I was the point man with the tickets so I got to experience the other stressful part of being a fan... picking up tickets at will call, parking, meeting up with the group and passing out the right tickets, and passes, etc. We finally got it all sorted and we headed to the meet and greet area. There were probably about 50 people in here. Basically, Bono was going to walk in on his way to the stage. We were all spread out and having some conversations when Bono walked in. He was talking to the head of the Center for Disease Control, located in Atlanta. He took a picture with a girl having her 14th birthday. Then he turned to us. The conversation was brief, he basically thanked us for our help, he asked us about our trip to Africa, we snapped a picture and he was gone. We didn't have a chance to chat it up. He didn't invite us on the plane to finish the tour with them or open any shows. He didn't tell us that Conspiracy No. 5 was still his favorite even though it has sold the least. He didn't ask why we don't play Thief or what Blackbird was about. We met, and we went to our seats.
Well, the concert started off as probably my least enjoyable concert experience ever. This was certainly not the band's fault. you see about the 2nd song in, Vertigo, 4 people walked right into our aisle completely wasted. They were stumbling and cussing and screaming. They told David's wife to move and were getting all in our face. David asked the guy for his ticket and he took out a dollar bill
instead. One of the guys finally took out his ticket which had them way at the other end of the aisle. But, they stayed right in front of us, yelling and cussing. David got an usher and they slid over to
their seats. But, we all moved around and I was standing right next to the loud, extremely drunk man. It was now about the 4th song in and the guy was screaming in my ear twice as loud as Bono was singing from the stage. My blood started just boiling. Every 30 seconds, the guy would bump into my shoulder. Bono was talking in between a song, and the man was screaming expletives at the stage. My veins started popping. I took off my jacket and handed it to my wife. I asked her if she had bail money. She was pleading with me not to do anything. "You'll get kicked out." I started not to care, I
couldn't hear the concert anyway. As the band started Love and Peace, or Else. He bumped me again. By this time, I had a whole kung fu scenario acted out in my head. I clenched my fists. Then, he full on knocked me over into my wife which knocked her to the ground. I stood up and grabbed the man by the neck and I guess you could say that I instructed, no commanded him to change places with his girlfriend. I vented. Well, he moved. 5 minutes later he was gone, probably in a cab heading home.
Well, there was "controversial" Bono on the stage singing about Love and Peace while "Christian" Tai was tearing into the guy and thinking about how to allude police in the event of an unintended homicide.
Did I feel justified, absolutely! Did I feel righteous, absolutely not. When I get really worked up, it takes me a while to calm down. They started playing Pride in the Name of Love exalting the non violent methods of MLK and Jesus himself, and I had just spent the last 20 minutes thinking about extracting my justified vengeance on the drunk next to me. I felt sick to my stomach. As they started Where the Streets Have No Name, I prayed. God, forgive me for losing my temper, thank you for helping me to not totally lose control, help me to calm down and relax. Amen. Well, Streets is a great song to get you thinking outside of yourself. I was loosening up, and finally starting to enjoy the concert.
Then it happened. After Where the Streets Have no Name, Bono started talking about how great it was to be in Georgia. How a lot of great music has come from Georgia. REM is an incredible band. Third Day is here tonight. ... I didn't hear anything else. I stood there with my mouth open. My wife looked at me with her mouth open. Did Bono from U2, the biggest band in the world, just mention Third Day
in the same sentence as REM? As Bono talked about Africa, and the band started to play ONE, tears streaked down my cheeks. Bono asked us to get out our cell phones and text our names to Unite to sign up for the One Campaign. Well, since I had signed up a year earlier, I took the opportunity to text Mac with this sentence.
We got our blessing.