U2/Saturday Night Live/ Nov. 20, 2004
I like stage shows. Dancing. Costumes. Wardrobe malfunctions. Moving, mechanical parts. If Madonna's gotta lip-synch to pull it off, so be it. This is spectacle and a good spectacle is a mighty thing to behold.
I also love performance. I tend to think of this as a more stripped down thing. The moving mechanical parts are humans. Humans attached to instruments. A rock band in its most basic form would fit here. Rappers in a cipher, too.
Can a spectacle feature performance? Yes. Can a performance veer into spectacle? Yes. But the main thing is, they both can stand on their own.
I don't want to get into one of these debates. They both have their merits. Hallelujah!
That said, one of the most inspiring bits of performance I've witnessed recently is U2 on SNL this past week.
Usually a performer offers up 2 songs at most to the late night tv crowd; on this particular Saturday night, u2 took the stage for a third time during that goodbye period when the cast is all on the stage.
The Edge kicked into the jagged chords of "I Will Follow," the band's king clarion call from its clarion clogged song file. Bono dropped into all the requisite rock star poses (the toe-to-ground, the cross, the it's-cold-outside). The Edge slid up and started singing the chorus into Bono's mic. Bono slung an arm around his shoulder and said something like, "I'd follow you anywhere." Feels cheesy to write it, but it felt sweet and real when it happened.
Then Bono walked off the stage and started heading toward the audience. Clearly this wasn't planned. The camera people seemed confused. This wasn't part of the master plan. The Edge followed Bono out into the audience. A kerfuffle unfolded on live television. A joyous kerfuffle. How rare.
Bono started grabbing the camera and pulled it along in Zoo TV fashion. He straddled some woman in the front row and she looked like she might explode with happiness. He then headed toward the main stage where the cast members were jumping up and down. He pulled Amy Poehler to his chest and she looked like she was crying.
The song ended and the audience crackled and convulsed. Just as the show was about to go off the air, I could hear Bono say, "One more! One more!" The crowd officially went kablooey. Cut to commercial. Only in my imagination could I guess what the rest of that set was like.
I was sweating when it was over.
Now, your turn. See it here.