I started this post as a Facebook status update, but that simply didn’t seem adequate considering the tragic news out of the U2 camp today.
Below is video I shot last night of U2’s final song for the evening, “One.” I left the intro intentionally long because of Bono’s very thoughtful and reflective state in this stripped down version of the classic song. Now in his mid-fifties, I believe Bono is becoming quite pastoral, offering prayer over the audience/congregation at multiple points throughout the concert. He often asks the assembled tribe to lift up hands of surrender, or challenges them to give up something that hinders them, pronouncing freedom as a priest would remind the faithful of their forgiveness.
“Put your hands into the sky,” Bono admonished on May 23 in Phoenix. “We surrender to you—to the God who gave us this great music.”
“This is a song of surrender.” He told a San Jose audience on May 19 as he introduced the iconic “Bad.” “Whatever it is you want to let go of tonight, let it go. You are free. We’re made free—our music, and the God who gave us it.”
There wouldn’t have been a way to know, while introducing “One” last evening, that their dearly loved friend and tour manager, Dennis Sheehan, would pass away in his hotel room during the coming night. But there was already a sense at the The Forum in Los Angeles that something was amiss. The crowd was distant. The spirit muted. Bono had to work hard to connect, and he eventually brought everyone in, but it took most of the concert.
In a final moment, Bono sent us out with a blessing: we get to carry each other. It’s an especially poignant thought considering the U2 community has had three major losses in as many months. Pastor Jack Heaslip, a greatly loved spiritual adviser and counselor to the band and crew while on tour, passed at the end of February. Larry Mullen Sr., the father of the famous drummer and the one who encouraged Larry Jr. to post a note announcing the formation of a band in high school, died just days before the tour started. And now, Dennis Sheehan, a gentle, caring man and the only tour manager U2 has had for over thirty years (a characteristic common of the U2 crew), is gone.
Last night’s emotional performance of “One” wasn’t exactly a premonition or a foreshadow of what was to come, but I do believe that the band demonstrated a sensitivity to the Spirit already present and at work during the show and then into the wee morning hours ahead. As I think about the significant losses the entire U2 family has faced in the last three months, I offer prayers and condolences, and am reminded, “We’re one, but not the same.”