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Nov 3
People have the Power
There are plenty of leadership topics that are timely and worthy of writing about. But this post may not include many. Instead you’ll have to hear about two hours of musical ecstasy because I just can’t bring myself to not share the sheer exuberance I experienced at a U2 concert last night. But stick with me.

It was nearly four o’clock yesterday afternoon when I got a call from my wife telling me that she had scored some last minute tickets to the U2 concert at the Staples Center. I am a big fan of live music and catch as many concerts as I can over the course of a year but a chance to see U2 live – in my mind is the mother lode. Not that I haven’t seen them before – I have many times. In fact, I saw Bono and mates in Phoenix just last spring as they embarked on the Vertigo (current) tour.

Now the tour was winding down, would it be as enjoyable having seen the band just six months ago? My anticipation was concentrated and my expectations soared. However, I had no idea how memorable this concert would become. I can’t say enough about this performance. I have been somewhat flummoxed while writing this. The experience last night was so dynamic and filled with emotion that it seems ridiculous to try and convey what it felt like to be there. But such conveyance is a challenge that is worthy of my effort and keenly accomplished by a fellow attendee and U2 blogger.
U2 Bono and Edge.jpg
The show was quite different than in Phoenix last April. In Phoenix, it was typical U2 energy and a set list that was an amazing anthology of the band’s enduring sound. However, last night, Bono seemed more introspective. The lighting was more subdued. Blue and shadows replaced many of the bright reds and yellows of the Phoenix show. While the band was right on, the concert could not have felt any less programmed and planned. That made it special.

As you can note in the set list, the band hooked and weaved several non-U2 songs into their own hits. It was as if Bono, the Edge, Adam and Larry were sharing the music that inspired them but not through a simple cover song. Rather, Bono subtley dropped snippets of non-U2 songs throughout the night including Rockaway Beach and Exodus (Bob Marley) Rock The Casbah (The Clash) When Johnny Comes Marching Home (Civil War song) Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) and People Have The Power (Patti Smith). It was random and magic. My point in sitting down and writing this was not to offer a review
of the night. There are plenty of voices that can offer that. There was more here than just another concert. But what was it? Was it just me psyched to see my favorite band?

A look across the web, revealed others shared my thoughts. Most reviews followed a line similar to this offered by Dan O,

“You know... you see U2 over the years and expect greatness. Sometimes you get close to it, and sometimes you actually get the real thing. Tonight proves that they are absolutely the greatest rock band, not only going, but EVER….[the] 'Walk On' to 'Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses' sequence, that ultimately rolled into 'Bad' was as good as you could ever imagine.”

”This is the manieth time I've had the luck of seeing U2, and believe it or not, it was a masterpiece of rock.”

Most comments like this came from people that had seen the band twenty or thirty times. So I was not alone.

But is there something to learn about leadership stashed deep in this experience? As I witnessed the sounds, lights and ebullience of the crowd, I wondered about this man Bono that stood before a crowd of 20,000 and moved them. People of all races, religion, political leanings, kids, grandparents-  participated in this expereince. And I mean that in the full sense of the word. I have never been to a concert where the crowd sang more and interacted with the band like last night. Bono seemed thrilled to surrender the show to the audience. Maybe that was what made this experience so incredible. There were 20,000 unified voices - 20,000 voices that honored Rosa Parks by singing “sleep, sleep tonight” on MLK. 20,000 voices that sang along with the acoustic version of “Walk On” (the Edge broke two guitar strings early on in the song but refused to stop despite a guitar tech crouched nearby with a replacement six-stringer). 20,000 voices that sang  “I'm wide awake, wide awake, I'm not sleeping” and then were led by Bono into a chant of “People have the power.”

Giving the power to the people – that is leadership. Fostering the collective energy of your organization – that is leadership. Focusing a diversity of people on one idea – that is leadership. Letting go and trusting – that is leadership.

Bono chose to end the show and walk off the stage with the crowd chanting the refrain  “people got the power.” The line, plucked from a Patti Smith song closes an inspired verse:

I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution
We have the power
People have the power ...

23 Comments/Trackbacks




Just a heads up that I'll be linking this on the blog for the "Get Up Off Your Knees" U2 book in the next week or so. A hair outside our usual range of topics, but I figure people interested in the implications of U2 for preaching and theology might also be interested in being good leaders... or I hope so anyway!

Beth - cool stuff. I am looking forward to it.

Beth - let me know when you publish. I would love to link to your blog.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Hal. It sounds like an amazing experience. I really appreciated the application you made with it. It is inspiring what power one common thread can unite. What an awesome responsibility having an audience is, and what a great example of the potential good that can come of it.

You are right, that was really an emotionally involved concert. You felt the band's passion for their music and for making a difference in the world.

Hal,I too had an amazing experience at that concert. I was proud and excited to be able to take my son Aaron to his first ever concert. Aaron was able to witness first-hand one of the best bands of all time perform a medley of songs performed with such emotion and inspiration. It was a beautiful day!

Roberta - Was he the 15 year-old singing every word to every song from "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"? Thanks for the comment.

I'm sorry, Greg, I missed your request. It's up now.

Not Greg, HAL. Geez, what's wrong with me. Altho I liked your comment too Greg ;-)

I am taking my 16 year old to her 2nd u2 concert on Friday. Not only will she be singing along to HTDAAB, but the whole back catalog, too.

Mel - you have obviously brought her up right. Have fun!

i was moved by bono's inclusion of those specific patti smith lyrics myself. so perfectly fitting for him to sing those words - and the entire crowd as well. i like your write-up...
peace

» More on Martin Luther King from LeaderNotes
By coincidence, I was watching the U2 Vertigo Tour DVD last night when the band  U2 began playing Pride (In the Name of Love) which is a tribute to Martin Luther King.  I had been thinking about writing a post... [Read More]

Thanks for sharing all that. The presence that the band has is amazing.

A great post.. I love reading great U2 stories.. thanks. Come visit me if you like: http://thedownlink.blogspot.com -Brian

Thanks for sharing.

I really appreciated U2´s Concert at Ullevi Stadium, Gotheburg, Sweden, July 29th 2005. But the most interesting is, I think how inspiring music can be and that it can bring out the power that can thread and unite people to try to make this world a better world.

U2 has taken their responsibility how it is having an audience like us. Now it´s our, the people´s choice to show what good it is that can come out of this.

I saw them in Honolulu with Pearl Jam. "In a Little While" was a U2 song, not a Ramones song, though. Poseur.

Thank you for such a great post! U2 has been the only constant in my life since I was 9 years old and I feel that they have inspired me and led me through the years with their music. Now my 7 year old daughter has her first U2 CD and she loves them too! It is so awesome to see others pass their music on to the next generation.

u2 the sounds of our lives

Just wanted to say you're right about that tour. what a great mix of new and old songs. and the covers spliced into the show always make it more special. I was at the Brooklyn bridge surprise show a couple years ago. theyre always creating an experience for people, rather than just playing.

This show delivered a very special gift to me, but sorry I won't share the story with the open world of internet for I'm quite sure there'd be many people who wouldn't believe me. Anyway... thanks for this review... "Bono seemed more introspective"... yeah.
By the way, it was not during Walk On that Edge broke a string, it was after it during Wild Horses. And please don't call him "a guitar tech"... call him Dallas Schoo, one of the kindest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

I came back to read again this wonderful review... and I realized my comment sounded waaay too snob and I want to apologize! Sorry, sorry, sorry... I just wanted to say that it was a very special concert for me and that your words brought everything back :)

G.,

Thanks for coming back. This show was obviously very personal to you. I appreciated your original comment and only wish I knew the names of the guitar techs!

All is cool.

H

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