People Have the Power

Remember those first few shows, when the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat” signaled that U2 was about to make their entrance? (To be precise, it was four. What would we do without the good people of U2 Gigs? Without them, I’d just be making stuff up.) This made sense because duh, the Ramones, 1976, The Miracle…it fit perfectly with the theme of both the SOI album and the Innocence + Experience tour. Then on Phoenix night one, a different “this is it, U2 is about to come out” song was introduced: Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power,” which is not at all from the same era of club punk and transformative miracles in a young Bono’s life.

Yes, Patti’s a punk icon – but “People Have the Power” was released in 1988. By then, U2 was already a Grammy-winning, 25 million copies of Joshua Tree selling, record breaking global phenomenon with lovers and haters all over the world and their own grandiose tour documentary. They had already won the adoration of millions of fans and were well on their way to that “great life” Bono always thanks us for. So all things considered, “People Have the Power” is an odd choice for this tour about early days and young revelations – right?

That’s what I thought at first. Now, I’m realizing maybe this song is actually a very fitting subtext for this tour. Night after night, we’re seeing Bono accommodate fan requests (no, not Acrobat – at least not the song. The tribute band Acrobat, though!). We’re seeing him bring people on stage and converse with them, ask them where they’re from and give them a few seconds to plug their projects. And yes, he’s accommodating song requests in his own way. From saying, “People are telling us we need to do one new thing every night” before launching into Ordinary Love, The Crystal Ballroom or Lucifer’s Hands – to tonight, when so many of us went ape-poop because our guy finally listened to us and did a lyrics-altered rendition of the WOWY “Shine like stars” coda – Bono is telling us that U2 fans have the power.

“We surrender to you,” he keeps saying. “And to the God who gave us this music.” Powerful indeed.

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U2 history seeker in the radical center. The air is so anxious; all my thoughts are so reckless. Contact via Twitter at @U2RadioBrook.

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