Fun Thing Five: Even Better than the Real Thing

Last night, U2 rocked Busch Stadium. As I sat in a crowd of more than 50,000 hot and sweaty people, my life flashed before my eyes. Each song reminded me another moment that the music and lyrics brought meaning and definition to the indescribable parts and pieces of life. Bono seemed keen on taking a walk down memory lane, reading the set list from their show at Washington University 30 years ago, showing old videos from Berlin (?) in the 1980s, and even bidding The Edge to tell the story of "Stay." I don't think I've heard The Edge speak at a concert before.

When my strange obsession with U2 and going to U2 concerts comes up in conversation, people often ask "Why?" Quite often, the questioners love The Cure or Aerosmith, or maybe some obscure indie band from Montreal. These are bands that are worthy of fandom and obsession, but my sister wasn't a huge Cure or Aerosmith fan and it was her car that took me to school, volleyball practice, and home again when I was in junior high. I'm not entirely sure where she developed her obsession, but it is probably a better story than "my sister made me do it." During my teenage years, U2 albums sprinkled my wish lists until my collection was compete. U2 songs filled my mixed tapes (as in, actual cassette tapes) for running and for relaxing around my room.  For two years after I discovered "Acrobat" on Achtung Baby, I couldn't go for a run without hearing it. It was my fuel and my faith. Similarly, The Joshua Tree drove me through the rural Midwest between home and college, All that You Can't Leave Behind helped me to cope with being a college freshman while my high school classmates started going off to war, and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb accompanied me around my teensy college town. I can't hear certain songs from those albums without seeing my dorm room, the town square, and open fields of waving grain and farmhouses perched on the side of river bluffs.

Boston 2005, Vertigo Tour
Bono sang demurely last night. His voice has shown the effects of a lifetime of challenging and defining the way millions of people narrate their lives. He was laid back, the least composed I've ever seen him. Which is to say, he was still more composed than any other performer I've ever seen. The Edge backed up his struggling voice with harmonies that I've previously overlooked, never mind the guitar-playing genius living in his fingertips. Larry and Adam played patiently and reliably, as they have for decades.

This concert was likely the least prepared I've ever been for a U2 concert. I didn't scope out preceding concerts' set lists. I didn't listen obsessively to U2 music for weeks in preparation. I didn't have my heart set on hearing a particular group of songs. I went with an open mind and ready to be on my feet for several hours. Sitting, standing, and dancing next to my sister, the person who introduced me to so much of life including U2, I sang every word to every song and remembered where life has taken us. Singing along with the music and fans is more than the sum of the sensory experience, it is the sum of thousands of lifetimes singing and hoping for something more.

Bono and the band are by no means perfect. They are likely arrogant and greedy showboats.  They are likely contributors to some of the systemic problems Bono rails against in his public service portions of the concerts. But last night when Bono called out a member of his crew who has yet to meet his newly-born child and poked fun at himself for hauling 200 semi-trucks full of equipment across the country, I was reminded that we are all a little Bono: arrogant, stupid, humble, thankful, and hopeful. He's just a person, just like me, just like my sister. His honesty helps me to be honest, to be more faithful, and maybe just a little more silly.


Kameron Murphy said...

Wow, those are some really great photos.

Alaina said...

Photo 2: Compliments of random guy 6 years ago.

Photos 3-5: Compliments of Kameron Murphy, Esq.