After "Beautiful Day," U2 played "MLK" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" while a giant screen behind them showed the names of all the victims of September 11. Bono screamed "America!" and ran around the heart-shaped track while the crowd went insane and the names of the dead scrolled up into the sky. U2, as a band, was essentially born for this moment. Nobody's lip-syncing here. "Where the Streets Have No Name" is another song about escape, but it has a bigger canvas and a more equivocal story. It doesn't mean anything; it's a vehicle for producing chills. I'm guessing more than a billion people felt chills at the same time during this performance. It's not really even fair to compare it to any other Super Bowl halftime show. It took place on a different plane. When I watched this live I thought I was going to pass out. The moment when the screen comes tumbling down and Bono holds open his jacket to reveal an American-flag lining is probably the high point in the history of rock music's work in the service of public healing. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but it may be the moment that most encapsulates what America was like after September 11 — the intensity of raw emotion, the need for mass spectacle, the sense that something genuine and vulnerable was coexisting uneasily with cell-phone commercials and an air of vague corporatization. (As I said: U2 was born for this.) And yet it made you feel like the top of your head had been taken off.I need some Negativland to cleanse myself of this pomposity.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
The next time someone tells me there's too much irony in the world, I'm going to throw them in a river. Grantland's Brian Phillips: