#BandsYouNeedToSeeLiveBefore YouDie: U2

18 Aug

Forget about the stigma. There’s no one as pessimistic and as much of a hater as me. Forget about the big productions that their concerts have become. You’re allowed to spend a little money when you’re probably the biggest rock band in the world. Forget about Bono’s politics. Sure, he can be a tad self-aggrandizing at times, but he’s earned that right. And yeah, their fans are annoying. But when all is said and done, there’s a reason they’ve lasted all these years and are one of the best. Before this July, they were on my list of bands that I need to see live before I die, my concert bucket list if you will. Just so I could cross them off. Sure, I wanted to hear some of their songs, but at some point, when you’ve seen as many shows as I have, you just want to say that you’ve seen some bands. Here, I’ll provide you with an account of their show in the New Meadowlands Stadium that I took my dad to see, who’s been a fan of the band since their debut album Boy, but had not seen them live since.

The idea first came to me as I was rewatching the live DVD Rattle and Hum for what feels like the 17th time on a dreary Sunday afternoon that I didn’t have work. See, last year for some reason, VH1 would always air the film really late at night. For like two or three weeks straight. It was during a time in which things in my apartment weren’t completely copacetic. Let’s just say, I wasn’t the most popular roommate. I’d rewatch the film and fall asleep to it most nights. I wasn’t really getting along with my folks much at the time either, so I needed something to put me to sleep. Music was usually the go-to for me. And for those few weeks, it was U2. Sometimes you can’t make it on your own indeed. And I started to come around to them. Frankly, if this video of “Where The Streets Have No Name” doesn’t give you chills, check and see if you have a soul.

And it was then, on that dreary Sunday, revisiting that concert footage that I knew I had to see U2 at some point. Probably soon. I mean, how old are these geezers? I remember that they were supposed to come around the year before, but had to postpone or something cause Bono had back surgery and they rescheduled the dates. I checked online when their show around here was: July 20th. Not too far off. Probably sold out and probably a lot of money.

Who would I take anyway? Then I remembered, my dad loves U2. My dad and I have had a tumultuous relationship, but deep down, is one of the people I care about most in this world. When it comes down to it. We had been making progress in our relationship but it needed the final push. When we had problems back when I was in high school, I invited him to go see my favorite band, Tool, with me. Things got better. This time, it was my turn to return the favor, with his favorite band. I checked to see if there were seats available and, to my amazement, there were and for reasonable prices. I snapped two up and figured I surprise him as an early birthday gift.

The day of the show came and he had no idea what we were doing. Even when we pulled into the Meadowlands parking lot. He figured it was an event, but didn’t know what it was. I had gotten us two subs from Tastee’s and a six pack of Blue Moon so we can tailgate. And we started talking. It was probably the most we’ve talked in three years.

When it was time to go in, he finally figured out who we were going to see and his face lit up. We took our seats (which actually weren’t half bad considering when I got them), bullshitted, sat through Interpol’s set, and then got ready for U2 to come on.

I always like to look at setlists beforehand, so I had an idea of what we’d see. I knew Bono would talk to the crowd, play certain songs, come out for a few encores, and be done. But even with such a large production, it was an event that refused to be static and each moment felt special.

The band came out to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, fitting considering their stage setup. They wasted no time, starting the concert off with four tracks from Achtung Baby, probably my second favorite U2 album. They opened with “Even Better Than The Real Thing”, which really worked as an opener, shifted into “The Fly”, jammed to the groovy “Mysterious Ways”, and then into “Until The End of The World”. Well, they passed my first test: they really know how to start a fucking show.

Then, The Edge ripped into their first single, which pleased my dad to no end, “I Will Follow.” Probably one of my favorite songs by the band as well and, interestingly enough, worked really well even in the large setting of the stadium considering it’s one of their earlier, more stripped down songs. One of the highlights for the night, mostly because I love seeing when my dad get real jazzed up about something.

Yes, some of their newer songs leave a little to be desired, but they completely dispelled that notion when they went into “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, a song that resonates with me at the stage of my life more than it ever has. It was at this point that I had my first spine tingling moment of the concert: a crowd of over 90,000 people completely stealing away the spotlight from Bono and belting out all the lyrics. He had to stop and let us finish the song. Never had I seen the crowd singing unaccompanied for that long. Yes, that includes “Better Man” by Pearl Jam. A beautiful moment.

Speaking of beautiful, the band wasted no time in providing the crowd with another awe-inspiring moment. After a video presentation by Commander Mark Kelly, whose wife is the representative from Arizona that was shot at. Enter “Beautiful Day”, my favorite modern-day U2 song and my dad’s as well. It was at this point that sharing this moment with my dad got to me, and I felt tears well up in my eyes. It was indeed a beautiful day and I was glad to share it with him.

They nailed “Pride (In The Name of Love)”, which still packs the same punch that it did back in the 80s. “City of Blinding Lights” was surprisingly impressive, mostly assisted by the, yes a little predictable, light display. Not quite blinding, but very nice. “Vertigo” was, well “Vertigo.” And the main set winded down with two ‘statement’ songs in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Walk On”, making me want to get up and actually do something. I just don’t know what.

The band went off the stage and we were treated to another video presentation, this time of The One Campaign. Appropriately, the band kicked off their first encore with “One”, which the crowd again provided solid backing vocals. This was the encore I was looking forward to the most. As “One” finished, I decided to stand again even though everyone around was sitting down. I knew what was coming next. Bono did a quick “Hallelujah” rendition by Jeff Buckley. And then, cue the distant synth. Then The Edge…

“Where The Streets Have No Name”

Once everyone was able to make out the guitar riff, everyone stood. And the band played it flawlessly. A perfect way to end the first encore. If they wanted to end the concert here, I would’ve been fine with it. But fortunately, they didn’t.

Out they came for the second encore, starting with “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” which I enjoyed thoroughly, I song I used to love when I was really young. Then, the crowd pleaser, “With Or Without You”, which was absolutely beautiful and stunning in the big stadium. The song really made the venue feel much smaller and more intimate.

I knew what the next song would be, a mediocre new song. As it started, it actually started working as a closer. Granted, it wouldn’t have been my choice but it worked.

As U2 came out for a group hug, I saw Bono whisper something into Larry Mullen’s ear. One more song.

The entire show, Bono was talking about one of the first times they came to Jersey, Asbury Park more specifically. It was during the tour for Boy. The last time my dad saw them. And with their final song of the evening, something they had not done all tour (in fact, the show turned out to be the longest on the 360 tour), the band tore into one of their oldest songs “Out of Control.” I don’t know much about Boy, having only heard it straight though a few times, but “Out of Control” instantly became one of my favorite U2 songs.

I look over at my dad. He was beaming. He puts his arm around me and says “What a show.” Finally, something we can both agree on.

The Edge was fantastic, one of my favorite live guitarists I’ve seen. Bono was engaging and actually seemed humbled by the magnitude of it all, which is the opposite of how he is portrayed. Mullen and Clayton provided the steady backbone for the evening. Probably the band with the best chemistry I’ve ever seen, it’s no wonder they’ve been together for so long.

Yes, I crossed them off my bucket list and I urge all of you to do the same. But this night was more than that. It was a reminder to me how special concerts are to my life, and how they can really be a special event in yours. Countless times, I’ve reminisced with my friends about a great time we had at a show, how crazy the crowd was. And this one instance, it represented the shift in my relationship with my dad. At that moment, all our disagreements washed away. It was about the music. So thank you for that, U2. Regardless of where you stand on them, I’d recommend seeing them at least once before they get too old. You won’t regret it.

Next week, I’ll discuss the concert I went to the week after with my girlfriend. I’ll leave you with a video of the U2 show I went to. Out of control

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3 Responses to “#BandsYouNeedToSeeLiveBefore YouDie: U2”

  1. ankit arora September 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    which was the ‘mediocre new song’ they played before out of control?
    oh, and welcome to the other side.

  2. arrrrrmando September 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    It was Moment of Surrender from their latest album. It wasn’t bad at all and would’ve actually worked as a closer, but I’m lukewarm on their newer stuff. Glad they closed with Out of Control, it blew the lid off of the stadium. Great show, thanks for the read!

  3. ankit arora September 28, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    i’m sure it was a great show. i haven’t had a chance to go to one of their concerts since they’ve never toured india. but do watch this vid. – streets live from slane castle, elevation tour.

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