I picked up Steve Stockman's book Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 with a bit of reluctance. Being a hardcore U2 fan for so long I really questioned whether Stockman could really tell me anything I wasn't already aware of about my favourite band. The answer? Yes and no.
I can’t say I made any great discoveries about the band or the influence of the gospel in their music. That being said, if you are a casual fan of U2 or have wondered about where these guys stand in terms of their faith in Christ, this is the book for you. I’ve heard so many comments like, “supposedly these guys used to be Christians” and other such remarks. Believe me, if you’ve really read their lyrics, even during the Achtung/Zooropa/Pop years, you would find a deep faith that is seeking to take the Kingdom to the darkest corners of the world while not being afraid to deal with all of the doubts and hypocrisies that those of us who are called Christ followers often try to ignore. If anything, the book falls into the trap of becoming an apologetic for Bono, painting him as a bit of a saint when in fact, he has many shortcomings just like the rest of us.
There are also some interesting details here that I wasn't aware of about the early influences on the band and the environment in which they grew up. But perhaps the most interesting thing I learned was about Bono’s best friends – Gavin Friday and Guggi of the Virgin Prunes. I’m a big fan of Gavin Friday’s solo work so it came as a bit of a surprise that he was, for a short time, part of the Shalom Christian fellowship that Bono, Edge, and Larry were also a part of. It was also fascinating to find out that Adam, for so many years known as the non-believer in the group, the partier who enjoyed all of the excesses of being a rock star, has now come to a point of faith as well.
Stockman goes through each album in the U2 discography to identify the Christian themes that are woven throughout the lyrics from I Will Follow on their first album through to Yahweh on their latest. The only point to be aware of is that Stockman does not draw on any personal interviews with the band. His body of research consists of quotes from previously published articles, books, and interviews. Not the end of the world, but don’t be looking for new material here either. While not on the same level as John Waters’ brilliant book Race of Angels, it is still a worthwhile read for the casual and the hardcore fan alike. YYYY