Monday, September 11, 2006

My Nightly Middle Finger to MTV


It felt like the world was ending.

It felt like the world was coming alive for the first time.

During the four and a half months I spent living in a New York hotel room, covering 9/11, every human emotion was amplified. At any given moment, there were a million ways to feel -- a million reactions to a situation which was so overwhelming that any attempt to put it into words fell heartbreakingly short.

You just accepted it.

The pain. The loss. The hope. The fear. The emptiness. The rage. The joy. The vulnerability. The sympathy and empathy. The pride. The belief in the human spirit. The humanity.

It made you understand that it was these feelings that made life so painfully tragic and so breathtakingly precious.

After close to five months, I believed that I was exhausted. I was certain that the constant barrage of emotional stimuli had worn me down. I thought I was out of tears.

Then on February 3rd, 2002, U2 stepped onstage at the Superbowl halftime show and somehow managed to capture every contradictory emotion -- all that suffering and all that resilience -- and blast it through an amp.

I watched the lights dim; watched the names of the victims of the attacks begin scrolling up the massive backdrop -- climbing seemingly to heaven itself; I listened to the solemn and beautiful MLK lead into the first notes of one of the most uplifting songs ever recorded, Where the Streets Have No Name.

And I cried like a baby.

Every single moment of this performance and the audience's reaction to it is beyond description.

6 comments:

famous mortimer said...

good thing they had the scrolling names of the 9/11 victims to distract us from the way-off key version of MLK.

Bono's already massive ego must have reached god complex territory with this tour-de-farce. it was disgustingly manipulative to run the names of the dead in the background throughout the song, and even worse with the contrived flag-lined jacket stunt.

oh, and thanks E-Trade for putting your logo up for only half the performance. what a socially conscious yet shrewd marketing tactic.

folks, if your idea of healing the emotional wounds of 9/11 is interrupting two dozen steroid-fueled hulks chasing an inflated leather pig bladder to watch a self-righteous, past-their-prime* band dust off one of their 15 year old hits, well...hopefully recognizing the ridiculousness of that also reveals how fundamentally fucked we are as a society.

it was one giant blowjob for U2, and everybody got to put their lips on it. don't you feel better now, America?

*yeah, remember Zooropa and Pop? only in a post-September 11th world could their bullshit anthems and hollow meta-spiritualism win back an audience

Chez said...

You live in Los Angeles, correct? Perhaps you should leave the griping about bullshit and hollow meta-spritualism to someone a little further-removed from the source.

No offense, but complaining about Bono's occasionally messianic conceit is -- well -- so late 1980s. It's widely accepted that the man has an ego -- but you know what? He goddamned well should. He's the frontman of my generation's only enduring, relevant and still socially-conscious rock n' roll band. U2 has always combined drama, spectacle and yes, even commerce, and used the mixture to its full advantage; as it turns out it's usually also been to the advantage of the band's fans. Whining about the insincerity of U2's music and image -- as well as the supposed foolishness of football for that matter -- makes you sound like an elitist, and an unoriginal one at that.

Maybe there's something more here though. If you don't like the band that's entirely alright, but your unbridled outrage suggests something else. If you need me to, I can cue the somber music and you can tell us all in hilariously cliched, Team America-esque style how when you were a child, your favorite band U2 came to town and when you went backstage to get an autograph, they were drunk -- and the Edge and Adam Clayton held you down while Bono raped you.

Much love man, much love.

slouchmonkey said...

BAM! How you like me, now? BTW, Bono's got tasty nuts...

famous mortimer said...

nothing would have made me happier while attending the Joshua Tree and Zoo TV tours than to be passed around by the band members like so much weed, but I had no such luck. oh, how the tears of bitterness have stung over the years!

like the Van Halen / Van Hagar division, U2 has their own fan split around the Achtung Baby era, and still there are others who are happy on both sides...clearly I'm not one of them. U2 will be following the Rolling Stones into their 60s and still filling arenas around the world, and for that, kudos to them. they are as close to the Beatles as our generation is going to get, but they're not the soundtrack to our lives -- at least not mine.

life changes you and as you grow so should (and does) your taste in music. if it wasn't the case I'd still be listening religiously to Hall and Oates or Thriller like when I was 9, or acting like the typical adolescent experiencing Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. years later I enjoy them all but they don't hold the same meaning. U2 may take me back to an era of bar mitzvahs and sloppy necking with teenage girls, but for you it restored optimism and gave you the chance to emotionally exhale from holding your breath after 9/11, and clearly that works for both of us, much as we may disagree as to the validity of the other's views.

living in LA amongst the enemy has been valuable training for me as a misanthrope and helped make me almost entirely dead inside, so all the post 9/11 pep rallies in the world or well crafted commemorative speeches won't keep me from casting at least one critical and cynical eye on those pomp and circumstances -- and if that lilt casts me as unoriginal or elitist then I'll take that with the grain of salt on my margarita. you're a network / news guy Chez, so of course you know that just because the president Jerry Bruckheimers an F-14 Tomcat onto an aircraft carrier in front of a "mission accomplished" banner that it's only a pretty video clip and nice sound byte. America, fuck yeah! that perfectly packaged halftime show strikes me the same way, but we should all be glad it wasn't the annual cart-out-Aerosmith celebrity all-star "Walk This Way" remix. then the terrorists would have really won.

no 32 year old should be as venomous, pissed off, or suspicious as I am without having been molested by an uncle or a graphic and tragic wheat-thresher death from my youth, but nothing like that exists (except what I'm subconsciously suppressing). I'm just a naturally malcontent prick.

keep up the good work, mate.

Alex Barreto said...

In October 2001, I went to visit family in New York. Although they told me they were OK following 9/11, I really did have to see them (and it) for myself.

During that trip I was fortunate enough to see one of U2's three shows at Madison Square Garden. To call that show an uplifting experience is an understatement. It truly did border on a religious experience and I'm glad the country and even the world was able to share in that experience during the Super Bowl half-time. As cliche as this sounds, it really did show me the enormous power music can have.

Chez said...

Barreto: damn good to hear from you.

Mortimer: I certainly hear what you're saying, and as much as I hate to agree with you on this -- simply because it's such a cliche -- you really did have to be there to understand the full power of what was going on at the time. Americans by and large could sympathize and were certainly willing to be as compassionate as possible, but I specifically remember what my first trip back to Los Angeles was like after 9/11. It happened about four months after the attack. L.A. like another world; it was as self-absorbed as ever. It was as if time had stopped there. The movie studios were concerned about what had happened only insofar as they felt slighted that no one thought them important enough to attack. The people I ran into (and I admit to running with a painfully "Hollywood" crowd before I left permanently) seemed to think that September 11th was some kind of TV show -- Survivor: NY & DC. As far as they were concerned, the whole fucking thing was little more than an excuse for a really kick-ass benefit concert featuring Destiny's Child, two-thirds of the cast of Charlie's Angels, N'Sync, Pat O'Brien and a thousand idiot Scientologists ready to help Angelinos get over the collective grief of being on the same continent as the attacks by giving them free personality tests.