Christian Sinclair developed CAPA’s new Dublin Seminar entitled Sounds of Resistance: Music and Politics in Ireland and will be co-teaching it in summer 2018. Recently he attended U2’s Joshua Tree concert in Dublin and has offered to share his experience on the CAPA World Blog.
Last night, Saturday, July 22, along with another 80,000 fans, I attended U2’s Joshua Tree concert at Croke Park here in Dublin. The fans, hailing from all around the world, were loud, enthusiastic, supportive, and emotional. Just like they should have been. The energy was incredible and the longer the evening went on, the more frenzied the crowd became. Next to me on one side were two Irish guys in their late 40s who had seen the band at Croke Park in 1987. On the other side was a young Nigerian who had flown in from Lagos to hear them play. They (we!) came from all over. The city was transformed for days before the concert with thousands milling about in U2 t-shirts, street artists painting Bono portraits, ticket hawkers, impromptu stalls selling U2 paraphernalia, and news agents selling special U2-hyped magazine editions.
My personal U2 journey didn’t start this weekend here in Ireland though. In 1983 when I was studying in Scotland U2 released their third album, War, and I’ve been a fan ever since. That was my introduction to the group and War continues to be my favorite album (followed closely by Achtung Baby). War has two songs in particular we’ll be looking at here during the course: “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” (which they played last night!!) and “Two Hearts Beat as One.”
A few days prior to the concert here I was in the small English town of Wollaston. I wanted to explore a bit of music history, so I had lunch at the former Nag’s Head Pub (now the Wollaston Inn). The Nag’s Head was one of the premier music venues back in the 1970s and 1980s. U2 played the Nag’s Head in September of 1980 and the entrance fee was 50p (this concert was €85 for the faraway standing section). One fan at the 1980 gig recalled how people didn’t want to spend the 50p to see them and Bono had to resort to persuading people in the parking lot to come in to hear them. I wanted to see the old pub to understand where they came from. Definitely worth the visit. While we won’t be going to England for this Music and Politics course, we will be visiting the likes of The Cobblestone and Whelan’s Pub, two iconic Dublin music venues. In fact, The Cobblestone calls itself “a drinking pub with a music problem.” We’ll focus of course on the latter.
The 2017 Joshua Tree tour celebrates 30 years since the album’s release. The Dublin performance was just one of dozens this year, but what made it special was that it was in Dublin and it was a homecoming of sorts for the group. The concert began with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and segued into Joshua Tree classics such as “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.” When they started “Where the Streets Have No Name” three jets flew overhead spewing green, white, and orange smoke representing the Irish tricolor. The crowed went wild. They played the whole album through, song by song. Between the songs there was shouts of “F**k you, Bono!” as well as “Thank you, Bono!” (We’ll be exploring this love/hate relationship Ireland has with U2’s frontman). Bono did go on a bit about some political issues last night, but it was relatively tame compared to other concerts. Two hours later they finished and an emotionally drained crowd began the slow trek home. It was a powerful, intoxicating musical event.
During our course in Dublin we’ll be looking at U2, of course. You can’t study music and politics of Ireland without delving into U2. In fact, one of the course books we use is divided up into three parts: Before U2, U2, and after U2. They are not, however, the be-all-end-all of Irish music. Incredibly important and perhaps the best known internationally, yes, but we’ll also be focusing on more local Irish music, some groups you’ll have heard of, others maybe not. Regardless, it’s going to be an intense, musical learning experience.
Here is some footage from the concert- U2 performing their song "Elevation":
I look forward to welcoming you to Dublin!
Christian Sinclair is Director of International Studies at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. In addition to managing all education abroad programs, he teaches a course called “International Human rights, Music, and Resistance,” which is designed to give students critical thinking skills around the topic of human rights, particularly in relation to freedom of expression, and focuses on how music is viewed, produced, and consumed in the countries and regions of the world. Sinclair has also taught Intercultural Communication, Ethnography of the Middle East, Human Rights of the Middle East, and Global Perspectives on Social Justice. He has led student programs abroad in Colombia, Jordan, Oman, and England.