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February 10, 2008

When Love Comes to Town

"When Love Comes to Town" is a great song for U2charists. While it isn't one of U2's most popular songs, and therefore a lot of people won't be familiar with it going into the service, the song is simple enough and has a simple enough structure for people to catch on quickly. And it works particularly well if you're doing the music live rather than having people sing along to records. It's not hard to do live, either; this is one of the easiest U2 songs to play, with easy chords and no elaborate guitar effects. If you've got someone in your youth group who can play the chords E, A, and B -- and that's a classic blues structure that most guitarists know -- you can do a good version of "When Love Comes to Town." Some of the advantages of doing this song live:

  • You can eliminate the guitar solos -- which is particularly good to do considering that there are two guitarists soloing.
  • You can do the "hey yeah yeahs" as a call and response with the congregation, which is something that even those who are totally unfamiliar with U2's music can catch on to very quickly, and that can really build energy in the congregation.
  • You can include, if you'd like, spoken elements of the liturgy (see below) in the middle of the song or play the song just instrumentally while the congregation says spoken elements of liturgy at the beginning or end of the song -- and keeping the music going can help to keep the momentum of the service going.

So if you're doing this song, where best to put it? Some people have used it as an absolution. That makes some sense, as it's definitely a song about sin (actions the character speaking in the song regrets) and redemption (particularly in the chorus). I think it works MUCH better as a confession of sin, though, for the following reasons:

  • The song is set entirely in the past and hints at a future "when love comes to town," but for the most part is NOT set in the present. Absolution is about receiving forgiveness in the present; confession is about things that have happened in the past and amendment of life one intends in the future. In other words, the time frame in which the song is set matches the pattern for confession almost perfectly, and absolution not particularly well.
  • "When Love Comes to Town" fits the pattern of confession darn near perfectly: its verses catalog regrettable things the speaker has done, and the chorus -- the part of the song that speaks of the future rather than the past -- talks about the speaker's intent to undergo amendment of life (instead of being lost, breaking promises, and standing idly by in the face of Christ's suffering in the world, the speaker wants to get on board with love "when love comes to town"). It fits the pattern of confession too well, in my opinion, to ignore for that spot.
  • Finally, and most importantly, "When Love Comes to Town" is spoken entirely in one voice -- the voice of the speaker, who has done these regrettable things and hopes to change. An absolution speaks of someone else (God) offering forgiveness for sins committed. Without a voice in the song other than that of the contrite speaker, "When Love Comes to Town" only hints at absolution, in my view.

So, for all of these reasons, I think "When Love Comes to Town" works very well, and works best as a confession, or as part of one.

February 10, 2008 in Absolutions, Confessions, Music | Permalink


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