Guided by voices and guitars

Bono captured at Spartan Stadium by Darren Breen of GR Press

Running through John Ball Park on an exquisite June
morning with sonic ecstasy hammering in my ears. With an iPod you can take the
full rock experience anywhere, and I do. Dialed up the first mix I made for
Andrea at the tender beginning of our blessed relationship. As John Cusack put
it in “High Fidelity,” a mixtape is a work of art, lovingly tailored in pacing,
theme and tune for just one dearly adored person in the world.

First , Fountains of Wayne playing “I-95,”
a lovely story about a dude driving nine
hours to see his baby described with vivid journalistic detail: “Constellations blinking in the sky/ the road
is open wide/it feels so cinematic till a van/driven by an elderly
gentleman/cuts right in front of me/from then on that’s all I see.”
 Feel myself driving down that road at night,
radio cutting in and out, foot on the pedal and heart full of longing as I run
by Sacred Heart Church hard by the park.

Now The New
Pornographers’ “Bleeding Heart Show,”
among the more glorious tunes of the
latter-day pop pantheon, moving with orchestral majesty from sober contemplation
to boundless euphoria, all scattershot imagery, soaring vocals and pulsing
rhythm. “Hey-la, hey-la, hey-la,  hey-laaaa” they sing with the rapturous
joy of a secular Pentecostal choir.

Now to Garbage and “Why
Do You Love Me?,”
Shirley Manson’s guitar-driven, maddening query to a guy
who insists on loving her despite her mistakes and “ugly things.” “Why do you love me? Why do you love me? It’s
driving me crazy,”
she keeps asking the presumably faithless lover, but she
could ask the same of God. “I get back up
and I do it again,”
day after day, presumably after failing miserably the
previous day.

Nothing works me through a failed or promising day like
music pumping in my ears as my body runs through the park. It’s the most direct
route I have found to the pulsing heart of creation, which I choose to call
God. Every time I fall it lifts me back up again and takes me there on a rocket
of turbocharged Les Pauls and drums that batter every obstacle in their way.

Still riding that rocket three days after experiencing U2
at Spartan Stadium, among the more extraordinary concerts of my long concert-going
career. As well described here
by my Honeytones bandmate and Grand Rapids Press colleague John Sinkevics, it
was a singular event on a splendid summer evening. Under a wide blue sky and a
gargantuan, War of the Worlds-ish stage called “The
Bono sang prophet-like to 65,000 faithful, “It’s a beautiful day/don’t let it get away.”

With spectacle and passion — and help from a video
appearance by Archbishop Desmond Tutu — Bono and band celebrated the glory of
life and railed against its injustices. In the name of love, their songs
speared the summer air, poured through our bodies and pierced our hearts.

God was there in the throng, pulling us toward the
pulsing heart of all as Bono sang, “she
moves in mysterious ways.”
Indeed he does.

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