Monday, November 14, 2005

Cover Citizens, Cover Country, Cover Bands & U2

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

At some moment in your life, you achieve awakening. When suddenly you realise that life is not about a rhetorical "making a difference". Many many years ago, I attended a U2 concert. It was smoky, delirious, passionate. The riffs for an acoustic version of Sunday Bloody Sunday slide forth from Edge's hands. Bono unfolds a piece of paper and starts to ramble against the IRA, Peace in Belfast and more importantly, the list of countries where human rights contraventions still exist. The usual suspects and than from his voice of passion comes the word : "Singapore". Heart sinks. Amongst the thousands of packed fans, no one knew I was Singaporean except myself and my Sg friend whom I lost in the wave of music-induced pandemonium. It rankled and it disturbed. It was shame. And I knew that U2 will never ever perform in Singapore.

Last week, I found out that a cover band, dedicated to covering only U2 songs, is performing in Singapore. It is remarkably ironic. Emblematic of the conundrum residing snugly within the multiple layers that is Singapore. A polished sheen of modernity. The State has created a generation brimming with potentiality, the possibility of flowering because each and every Singaporean has had an empowering education. But this potentiality gets lost along the way. And we, Singaporeans, find ourselves walking on by in a dry and waterless place searching for a forgotten fire.

Ice. Your only rivers run cold.
These city lights, they shine as silver and gold
Dug from the night, your eyes as black as coal. Walk on by. Walk on through.
So sad to beseige your love so head on
Stay this time. Stay tonight in a lie
Come on take me away.
Come on take me home.
Home again
The State creates an illusion of vibrancy that cannot look within itself. The restrictions on Gay party events, the 'loosening' of the Arts scene, the 'encouragement' of contrary opinion are all counter-poised with censorship, sedition and regulation. The State creates this illusion of creativity but refuses to let it out of the Box. 15 and Royston : restricted and censored. Jack Neo and Prison Life : Cultural Medallion. Reality and contextuality denied, hyper-State reality and textuality programatically processed. Reject the process, reject the reality and ship out to Van Diemen's land.

Now kings will rule and the poor will toil
and tear their hands as they tear the soil.
But a day will come in this dawning age
when an honest man sees an honest wage.
Hold me now, for I'm gone to face Van Diemen's land

So we have a cover band of U2 performing in Singapore, because my country is a cover country in so many renderings of the word. That a cover band is performing in Singapore slices open the heart of the cover band itself and explains why it remains a cover band without the soul of U2. In so doing, it slices open the perplexing state of Singapore and its people. A cover citizen of a cover country hearing a cover band in a state of the art stadium. Hearing but deaf for the beauty and the message delivered in the songs of U2. Deft betrayal. I was a cover citizen of a cover country. Once devoid of soul, empty in heart. Staring at the sun, happy, blind, deaf and mute.

It's been a long hot summer. Let's get under cover.
Don't try too hard to think. Don't think at all
I'm not the only one. Staring at the sun, afraid of what you'll find. If you took a look inside
I'm not just deaf and dumb. Staring at the sun. Not the only one.
Who's happy to go blind
Than, years ago, I attended a U2 concert. I saw the real thing. And it was even better than the real thing. I still have a bootleg CD of the concert where Bono talked about this blacklist of countries. Hunted for it and bought it off the Net. To remind myself that I am a citizen of Singapore and dreaming out loud to stand up for Singapore.

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Quote of the Day --
"Don't believe what you hear. Don't believe what you see. If you just close your eyes. You can feel the enemy. When I first met you girl. You had fire in your soul. What happened your face of melting snow? Now it looks like this. And you can swallow. Or you can spit. You can throw it up. Or choke on it.
And you can dream. So dream out loud. You know that your time is coming 'round. So don't let the bastards grind you down.
No, nothing makes sense. Nothing seems to fit. I know you'd hit out. If you only knew who to hit. And I'd join the movement. If there was one I could believe in. Yeah I'd break bread and wine. If there was a church I could receive in. 'Cause I need it now. To take the cup. To fill it up. To drink it slow. I can't let you go. I must be an acrobat. To talk like this. And act like that.
And you can dream. So dream out loud. And don't let the bastards grind you down"
-- U2, Acrobat


Blogger Beach-yi said...

But then why do U2 still performs in the United States? Aren't they equally guilty of Human rights contraventions?

4:43 AM  
Anonymous U2 fan said...

heard of this reference to sg b4, bono was reading out some AI list, i think it was cuz we still had someone detained by the isa, that chia guy who stayed in sentosa longer than mandela.

4:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

marvelicious stuff whoever you are!!

8:30 AM  
Blogger Mykel said...

Interesting observation you have.

But sadly for many insecure Singaporeans, it's still the same tune they sing for the PAP:

"With or without you
I can't live."

The ideology of survivalism is still something, "all [they] can't leave behind", apparently.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous T.T. said...

Seah Chiang Ngee from littlespeck just came out with a piece on 'young' Singaporeans which really ties in nicely with your last few entries on the powerful but powerless Singaporeans.

Anyway very astute observation and beautiful post, notion of a 'cover citizen' is really interesting.

12:32 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

hi beach-yi -- I understood that dualism only years later when there was greater cynicism in me. But during that moment, it was more primal and it hit me at a primal level. Hence, it stuck. Sometimes things like this happen. That moment.

U2 fan -- Yes, it was an AI list. I see a fellow fanatic. Haha.

Mykel -- There is a bootleg concert version of With Or Without You, where they string it with Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart and another unknown song "the stars will shine in the summer sky?" simply fantastic.

T.T. -- Thanks for the heads up. Not bad an article, but abit leaning too much on old school. Will not go down well. ahaha

Anonymouses -- Thank you.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow wow wow wow wow

10:56 PM  
Blogger clyde said...

U2 may never ever play Singapore, but then again so will many other great rock bands. Just no market for it here I guess. Too much of that Britney Spears crap going on here..

It's rare, a very rare thing I think for a Singaporean to reach that point of realisation as you have, that sense of shame and admission to guilt of being a 'cover citizen'. To see your country in the eyes of someone you respect and understand why. Especially when you are surrounded by several thousand people in a concert hall who probably agree! Perhaps there are so few because most are conditioned to arrogance in thinking it is a flawless and perfect nation.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Shion said...

This is your best post since I started reading you blog.

A cover country, who else can put it better ?

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A cover country, who else can put it better ?"

totally agree. remarkable observation and writing

3:50 AM  
Anonymous dj pbk said...

Sg is a cover country that sings a cover version of the song "democracy"

6:43 AM  
Blogger clyde said...

dj pbk, I suppose you are refering to the national anthem/pledge? That would make just about every primary and secondary school one big karaoke lounge for 5 minutes each weekday morning.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous dj pbk said...

clyde -- no lar, actually, the pledge and song is party-neutral but the way sg has developed politically = pap and Singapore becomes glue togethther when THEORETICALLY it shud not be and ppl shud understand that. sighz, "cover citizen", xeno as usual makes an astute observation.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious, which U2 gig did U go to?

8:30 PM  

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