Sunday, November 28, 2004

No! No! No! I Said I Wanted You Two

The Clinton Presidential library opened about two weeks ago, in a grand ceremony to honor our 42nd president. Many dignitaries attended, and entertainment was provided by an Irish rock duo: Dave Evans and Paul Hewson .

Interestingly enough, I’ve followed the careers of Evans and Hewson for about two decades now and I never realized they performed as a duo. Usually they recorded and performed with Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton as a quartet that goes by the name of U2.

As you may have suspected Evans and Hewson perform under the stage names The Edge and Bono. Despite the fact that The Edge is not a name, I am more annoyed by Hewson’s adoption of the surname of Cher’s first husband for his nom de plume. (Editor’s note: my favorite all time nom de plume is none other than Norm DePlume.)

So how do I feel about the more famous half from the world’s most popular rock band performing at the presidential gala? Curious, in a word. Why didn’t the entire band play? There are several possibilities.

Scenario 1: The rhythm section may have declined to perform on political grounds. This scenario is possible, but unlikely, given the fact that the band spent the 1980’s railing against the military buildup of the United States. They rocketed to stardom atop their 1983 LP titled “War,” a scathing critique of Ronald Reagan’s militarism. With President George W. Bush in the audience for the Clinton dedication, U2 less 2 played the biggest hit from “War,” the protest anthem Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Playing an anti-war song while the country is at war in front of the president who authorized such a war was a strong political statement. Surprisingly, they did not follow up with another title from that album, Surrender. A far superior choice given the president they were commemorating would have been the song One from "Achtung Baby." This lyric works on so many levels:

Did I disappoint you?
Leave a bad taste in your mouth?

George H.W. Bush was also in attendance. I'm sure he was thrilled to see Bono, who made a habit of in-concert calls to the White House switchboard demanding to speak to him during his administration.

It is possible that Clayton and Mullen decided that making a statement in this manner was too disrespectful or feared embarrassment by their band mates likely childish antics and tactfully declined to participate in the ceremony.

Scenario 2: The performers were paid, so the Clinton Library staff cut the costs by refusing to pay the members of the band they regarded as less important. I'm not sure whether performers are routinely paid for presidential command performances, but I doubt it, especially for performing a mere two songs. Even if the library picked up travel expenses, it wouldn't have cost much to add the band mates, as they could have shared the private jet they most certainly took and any additional room and board expense would be minor. Although I sincerely doubt the validity of this scenario, I do not have enough information to exclude it.

Scenario 3: The Clinton folks didn't think anyone would notice or care that the rest of the band was gone, as long as the stars showed up. Therefore, with multitudes wanting to attend, they cut where they could and ditched the expendable members of the band. I believe this is the most likely scenario. Remember folks, the main ceremony took place outdoors (a cover of the Beatles' Rain was the other song the duo performed, to cleverly commemorate the weather) with masses of attendees in bleacher seating. After the ceremony, a few select VIPs toured the facility. I'm sure that those VIP passes were scarce and wasting two on backup performers is not President or Mrs. Clinton's style.


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