I saw U2 last night at FedEx field near Washington, D.C. You had to be awed by the spectacle of the show, the 360 degree video screen and stage set, dubbed the claw, the 90,000 fans singing along but it was a reminder again, too, that Bono may be as good a politiician as we've ever seen. Politics for rock bands is either predictible or treacherous. When Michael Stipe of R.E.M. wears an Obama button at a concert, it's all appreciated by his fans. When the Dixie Chicks or other groups slide into politics they risk alienating their base.
Last night's show was overtly political and bipartisan. He singled out George W. Bush for praise several times because of the increase in AIDS funding under his administration. He noted that Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Pat Leahy were in the audience and praised them as well as George W. Bush's Chief of Staff Josh Bolton. He dedicated "New Year's Day" to Ted Kennedy and a shortened version of the Beatles "Blackbird" to TIm Shriver. Bishop Desmond Tutu appeared on the giant 360 screen, which floated like an alien spacecraft over the state, to introduce "One" -- which is also the name of Bono's campaign to end poverty. VOlunteers from Amnesty International mounted the 360 degree outer ring of the state carrying masks bearing the likeness of Burmese leader-under-arrest Aung San Suu Kyi. When he introduced the band he described each as being in his cabinet, likening the drummer Larry Mullen Jr to the head of OMB. You don't hear the phrase OMB at many concerts. There was a tribute to Iranian dissidents too, as the stage was bathed in green lights and pictures from their protests lit up the video screens. It'd be easy to dismiss Bono as a wannabe messiah or picture him taking the act to Vegas in 20 years. But no rocker has had a bigger impact politically and the deft political skills that got him to this point were on stage last night in Washington.