Music Events as Contemporary Spectacle: U2’s ‘360°’ Tour – a collective experience of rock, rituals and resistance

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis is concerned with how fans experience, create meaning from, and contribute to the creation of a spectacle. Existing theorizations of spectacle are limited and often undifferentiated. Furthermore, there is little knowledge of how an event becomes a spectacle.This research addresses these gaps. In particular, it aims to develop a better understanding of the concept of spectacle and process of spectacularization in the context of a rock music event. It investigates the contribution of the spectators to the creation of spectacle, arguing that the spectators of U2’s ‘360°’ tour (2009W2011) as human agents are more than passive consumers of commercial entertainment. A comprehensive theoretical framework, drawing on the concepts of community, identity and power, helps to address questions of belonging and identity, embodied experiences and politics. Adopting a social constructionist philosophical position, the research draws on a blend of netnography, ethnography and critical sociology. Rich qualitative data were collected in three phases, including preliminary online research of selected U2W related websites, in depth semi structured interviews with 26 fans, and U2’s Show director, and a qualitative content analysis of documentary material. Three overarching, partly overlapping and prominent themes emerged from the interview data: community and identity, enchantment, and politics. Thematic analyses of the findings revealed that U2’s concerts gave individuals a sense of belonging to a global community of fans. They also provided an enchanting, liminal space, which offered transcendent experiences and increased fans’ awareness of certain socio political issues, although this was highly regulated and choreographed. Despite the temporary and episodic nature of U2’s shows, the community was real for many of the fans, and was perpetuated online. This research contributes to re defining an re theorizing the spectacle in the context of rock music events. Consequently, any contemporary attempts to define modern spectacles in the context of rock music events need to include the notions of community, enchantment, and politics, and account for visual, artistic, spiritual and spatial aspects as well as scale.
    Date of AwardMay 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorUdo Merkel (Supervisor), Paul Gilchrist (Supervisor) & Catherine Palmer (Supervisor)

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