“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
–Harvey Dent, “The Dark Knight”
The cracks started to show
around “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.”
If I’m honest, their last good album
was probably one or two before that.
But that’s still my favorite,
terrible title and all,
because it was the last time you could really hear the boy,
the last time he could even hear himself.
In that keening yodel,
you can hear something unleashed, soaring in a high parabola
a barn swallow braving the realm of hawks.
It is a voice only a poor boy could develop
even though by then he was singing about a rich man’s concerns:
getting a place in New York
dealing with a midlife crisis.
It’s never good to look your heroes too deep in the eye
Paul Hewson has never let us.
From the name to the sunglasses to the alter egos
he’s always appeared to us through a screen,
a color filter,
sixty glaring TV monitors
stacked up the back of the stage wall.
And if we think we see through him, now,
it’s worth considering
that maybe we are simply inside the fishbowl, too,
aging alongside Bono,
hemmed in by our own comfort,
and the boy we miss in him
(fist in the air, triumphant, screaming)
is just the distorted memory of ourselves
passing outside the glass,
a shadow rippling and blue with time.
“And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave….
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
–Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”