Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to go to hear U2 play its 360 tour at Giant Stadium.
It was a long afternoon/evening getting into the stadium and waiting for them to take the stage --Muse, the opening group, started late and then there was a long break between bands-- but the night was clear, the temperature was in the 70s and, up where our seats were, there was a nice breeze so the waiting wasn't bad.
The stage was set with a large "claw" that seems to have been designed to play the role of a spaceship at several points in the show. (Why was a bit beyond me.)
And once U2 came on, the evening was amazing. Not only did the group do a series of songs from their newest album, No Line on the Horizon, but they also did many of their older and best loved pieces like Sunday Bloody Sunday and Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. The Edge did some amazing riffs that blew me away. But the best part was how, in typical U2 style, Bono led the crowd (more than 82,000 people--larger than any concert at Giant Stadium had ever been and even larger than Pope John Paul 2's appearance there in 1995) in a blend of music, social justice, and worship.
When he sang Magnificent's lyrics
"I was born to sing for you.
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice from the womb...
Only love, only love..."
it was so easy to believe that the words were true.
People around the stadium stood as U2 began "Walk On"; Bono dedicated the song to Aung San Suu Kyi (the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been under house arrest in Burma for more than 20 years) and dozens of Amnesty International workers walked onto the stage holding up her picture. A bit later, Bono began a quiet, solo version of Amazing Grace and then moved into "Where the Streets Have No Name", the song that captures the image at the end of the book of Revelation better than any I know. Then there was a short video showing Desmond Tutu laughing and telling everyone how "we are the people who, because our voices were heard, millions of people are alive thanks to the miracle of AIDS drugs and malaria drugs" and highlighting the ONE movement, a video that moved into U2 playing its song "One". Using cell phones, the audience lit up the stadium in solidarity.
To me, much of the evening truly felt holy. The message and the music reached across all generations and background, causing people all around me to raise their hands in worship as Amazing Grace was sung, to listen to Tutu's mini-sermon, and to stand in respect for those embodying justice and peace. I was amazed at how well Bono and U2 did what most Christian sanctuaries no longer can-- moving people with the message of God's love, causing none of the lines outside to divide, and asking people to once again commit to building a world where the streets have no name. At the end of the evening, when Bono turned to the audience and said "God bless you and good night", ending with such a benediction felt exactly right.