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I’ve had an exhilarating 5 days, which includes a total of 10 flights, 45 hours in the air, 1 academic conference on U2, 1 U2 stadium concert, and only 13 hours sleep. The first academic conference on U2 included some really impressive papers from theologians, musicologists, anthropologists, and more – interweaved with keynote speakers Anthony DeCurtis, Neil McCormick, Matt McGee, and Agnes Nyamayarwo. It went off.

The audience was a great mix of academics and U2 fanatics – and these categories were not necessarily, or even often, exclusive. It was all U2 geeky goodness. When for instance, during one question-time, Danielle Rhéaume noted that she was the person who found and returned the long-lost original October lyrics, one could feel a palpable chill come over the entire room.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, and after a few Guinesses, I attempted some ‘Numb-style’ photographs at the Durham Irish pub with a few of the conference attendees. Here are some: my Alaskan co-presenter (Dan), the Discoverer of Bono’s October Journal (Danielle), an Aussie U2 fan who hasn’t missed a concert in quite a while (Gary), and an Aussie film-maker (hmmm… I can’t quite remember her name anymore; I must be sleep-deprived; but you watch: some avid U2 fan will tell me soon; they’re good like that Natalie):


As an indication of some of the papers on offer: Sydneysider Greg Clarke compared Bono’s and Nick Cave’s conceptions of Jesus, and he reckons that while Cave has a lot in common with nineteenth century liberal scholars such as D.F. Strauss, Bono has a lot in common with someone like C.S. Lewis. That wording is more mine than his, though. He also mentioned a new Aussie book by Craig Schuftan and Brad Cook, with an outrageously punny title: Hey! Nietzsche! leave them kids alone (2009). Christopher Endrinal very clearly explained the mechanics of vocal layering in U2 songs such as ‘The Fly.’ The layering of the fly voice and the angelic falsetto was something which I had looked at in my own paper on fallen angels, so it was good to see how we came at this from different angles (and with different conclusions, but hey!). Dan Pinkston’s comparisons between U2 and Stravinsky, in the paper which followed, issued a challenge all those musical snobs who refuse to acknowledge where classical and pop music share important techniques in common.

There were two Kiwis present; Steve Taylor was the other one. I hear there may well be a book following, containing some of the papers.

– Deane Galbraith

Here are some other conference blog reports:

@U2 – Matt McGee
Holy Heteroclite – Dave Wainscott
Discover – Sheril Kirshenbaum
Emerging Kiwi – Steve Taylor
U2 Sermons – Beth Maynard