One of my favorite passages of Scripture is from 1 Kings 19:11-13.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
It’s a fascinating passage to me. For one thing, it speaks against the attitude of bigger is better, which is a big temptation in worship sometimes I think. And it’s just interesting how God doesn’t always speak to us through powerful events, that sometimes He chooses to speak to us through a whisper. We wait to hear God through big things when He may already be speaking to us through smaller things, maybe. I dunno. But this passage has long been one I’ve thought a lot about.
There’s a similar thing that happens with music and energy I think. Energy is a mysterious thing. It’s somewhat independent of skill and musicality. You can have the most musical group in the world play unbelievable stuff and still not have energy. Then you can have a single musically competent but not amazing person play and have tons of energy. Musical energy is strange like that. I kind of wrote about that a long time ago about a Michael W. Smith concert, where Wilshire was very talented, but had no energy. Then Chris Rice came on with a single guitar, he’s a decent guitarist but won’t blow anyone away, but he had amazing energy. It’s strange like that.
Anyway, U2 amazes me like that, because they have incredible energy. Thing is, it’s really hard to figure out why, because musically, they’re not that great. Larry Mullen Jr. is a solid drummer, nothing more. He can set a beat. But you won’t hear him doing any amazing drum solos. I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard a drum solo from him. Adam Clayton is a passable bassist. I can pretty much play all his bass lines, and I’m just a beginning bassist. 90% of the time he plays straight quarter or eighth notes. It’s like the guy is allergic to syncopation or something.
Lots of people don’t realize that the Edge is not a super talented guitarist. I can play most of his stuff. With a couple months practice, I could play all of it. The hardest thing about his guitar work is figuring out the effects he uses. But the stuff he actually plays, not that hard. You’ll never hear a screaming the Edge guitar solo. His “solos” are either just chords, effects, or just simple notes repeated. As for Bono, he’s got range, but if you ever hear his raw vocals without effects… yike. They have a bit of his raw Joshua Tree vocals on Rattle and Hum and it’s painful.
So yeah, U2 is not super talented musically, but put them together, and they have amazing, incomparable energy. Their set on SNL a couple weeks ago was fairly amazing. The most incredible energy I’ve ever seen though on TV was when U2 played Elevation on SNL a few years back when Val Kilmer hosted. Insane energy. People were jumping up and down, going crazy. Good stuff. I still think Elevation doesn’t get enough respect. It’s an awesome song.
No one cares.