Thursday, August 27, 2020

Soul work: two blessings and the eXPERIENCE tour

Heartland: U2’s Looking For American Soul
An International Virtual U2 Conference For Scholars And Fans
October 18 – 24, 2020

Some thoughts about making change, U2, appreciative inquiry and the beatitudes have been floating around my head for a while. With a week’s holiday, and a commitment to only do fun and creative things, today I submitted a conference proposal for the International Virtual U2 Conference.

Paper proposal: Soul work: two blessings and the eXPERIENCE tour

“American Soul,” from U2’s Songs of Experience album, begins with a spoken word segment by Kendrick Lamar. The words flip the blessing genre of the Beatitudes, critiquing the “arrogant” and “filthy rich.” As Bono explained, “There’s a righteous anger that is hard to argue with.” Played live, every American concert goer was urged to stand up and look around, for “refugees like you and me.”

“American Soul” was replaced by “New Year’s Day” on the European leg of the eXPERIENCE tour. The change is canny performance, given the emotional connections between the song and the Polish Solidarity movement. The switch is also smart marketing, given U2 then released “Europa Ep”, with two new versions of “New Year’s Day.”

However, the change also offers another type of soul work. This becomes evident as the eXPERIENCE tour performances of “New Year’s Day” in various European cities are analysed. The song begins with Bono offering a spoken word blessing. Berlin is blessed for the winemakers and the wine drinkers, Belfast for soul music and Milan for the “Santa Maria delle Grazie where you can join in the Last Supper.” These particularities are followed by a general blessing, for all who are part of the “blue above the Europe we share.”

Bono’s blessings share similarities with appreciative inquiry, a collaborative, strengths-based approach to change (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987). Each blessing shares particular memories, offers cultural hope and invites conversation about a shared future. In response to Brexit and asylum seekers braving the Mediterranean sea, Bono has crafted a unique blessing for each city and every soul.

Hence the two legs of the eXPERIENCE tour offer two types of blessing, one of righteous anger, the other of appreciative inquiry. Both invite consideration of the experience of soul work in the making of cultural change.

Posted by steve at 09:44 PM

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