Suffer Little Children

“Oh Manchester, so much to answer for”

from “Suffer Little Children” by The Smiths


When asked to associate music with Manchester, I suspect most people will make a connection in their minds with the “Madchester” scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s and the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, et all.  Alternatively, they will think of Oasis. 

Mancurian bands on my iPod?  Joy Division, New Order, Badly Drawn Boy and The Smiths amongst others. 

I’ve only been to Manchester a handful of times.  The most significant trip was on 11th August 2001.  My sister had got two tickets to see U2 on the Elevation Tour.  I’d idolised U2 in my younger years and, had they been available, probably would have worn a wristband with W.W.B.D (What Would Bono Do?) on it. 

I’d largely lost interest after “Rattle and Hum”‘s release in 1988 and had only really begun to listen to U2 again when “All You Can’t Leave Behind” was released in 2000.  I hadn’t seen them play live since the Joshua Tree tour in ’87 and was looking forward to the gig, but wasn’t over excited.

When we got to the Manchester Evening News Arena we were ushered down to a standing area right in front of the love heart shaped walkway that protruded from the stage.  We were merely a few feet away from one of the biggest groups in the world. 


It was amazing to see them in an indoor venue and, after all the razzmatazz of the “Zoo TV” and “Pop Mart” tours, this was a group playing on the strength of their songs and performance.  It was like a stripped back U2 show, where Bono was trying to connect with the crowd every bit as much as he had done back in the early 1980s.

That gig was a revelation.  I realised that whilst I had shunned U2 in favour of more alternative or edgy bands, their back catalogue had been so much a part of the soundtrack of my life.  It dawned on me that their music had almost been omnipresent in my teenage years and into my twenties.  I recognised afresh how much faith, doubt and social justice permeated their lyrics.  I appreciated how honestly Bono often wrote and wrestled almost like the writers of the Psalms.  That resonated with me so much more than the trite cliches and bad theology we often sing in church.  That evening, I saw anew that Bono had often been the voice of one calling into my wilderness in the desert years where I had been attending church, but not walking as close to God as I could or should have been. 

It caused me to look above and beyond the stage and to recognise that there was a still small voice within the noise.  A voice that had guided me through the years and spoken to me and shaped me in the most unexpected ways.  If the church will not speak up, it seemed that God would speak through the rockstars.

As the band wrapped up “Walk On” they went into a refrain of just singing “Hallelujah” over and over again.  To hear 19,000 people singing along was a truely spiritual experience.  It really felt like worship – not of U2 – but, for me, a way of really saying “thank you” to a God who had watched over me when I was short of peers in those teenage years where you try to square confusion, hormones and God. 



5 Responses to “Suffer Little Children”

  1. 1 Craig March 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    like you I tried listening to cooler stuff over the years but realised that the two bands I have listened to consitantly from the age of about 8 or 9 is U2 & Bruce Springsteen and whos music has an honesty and encouragement that you rarley here in music anymore. I guess God has used lyrics from these bands to reach me over the years or make me question and seek God further.
    As they both may to touring this summer I have a dilema! I couldn’t afford to go to both gigs do I (A)get a ticket for Bruce who I have never seen before? (b)ticket for U2 who I have seen 3 times but are always great live or (c)with a baby on the way and a possible house move niether and save the pennies,What would Bono do???

  2. 2 thestatethatiamin March 3, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks for commenting Craig. I guess that the older I get, the more I realise how GOd has used a whole bunch of things that were outside of church to connect with me and help shape my world view.

    As regards U2 gigs, I’ve not heard any rumours of tour dates yet. If you hear anything, let me know!


  3. 3 Craig March 5, 2009 at 9:29 am

    The group are expected to announce plans for a world tour on Monday. Manager Paul McGuinness has said it will be a “revolutionary production” where the band are “surrounded by the audience”.

  4. 4 thestatethatiamin March 5, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    There seems to be a stong rumour that it’ll be Hampden on 18th August. I think the springsteen tickets go on sale this Friday. Not sure when U2 will be confirmed.

  5. 5 Damascusmoments April 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Really interesting to hear the influence u2 has had on your journey.
    Bono’s faith is a powerful thing. Before I read your post, I blogged about it this morning here:

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