Songs of Brilliance

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I was talking with a buddy at my gym and gushing about the upcoming Joshua Tree 2017 Tour. He is not a fan but knew that I was. In addition, he is nearly ten years younger than me. I mentioned that that album propelled them into the ionosphere. Songs like Where the Streets Have No Name and With or Without You and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For were what produced the album’s huge success. I finished my spiel by stating that these songs were classics. To which he replied, are they or are they just old?

There times when I have been myopic about the band’s music, mostly when I was younger. And I admit that I bristle whenever someone criticizes the band, but less now than before. Yet I was still surprised that he asked that. My response was, of course they are. But was that just the fan in me talking?

I was fully prepared to launch into a dissertation on why those songs are, but did not have the time to explain in the gym setting. But it got me thinking about what made me believe that they were.

Classic songs or not?

There are many ways to define a classic and folks far more knowledgeable than me may have a better set of criteria, but here goes.

First and foremost, the songs had to have stood the test of time. They have to be listened to and enjoyed by the original generation—in this case Gen X—and the generations that followed. And they have to be remembered. There are many songs that were big hits of a particular time, but literally forgotten in the years that followed. The songs that I mentioned have stayed in the public’s memory banks. Longevity is what helps a song achieve classic status.

Second is impact. The songs had to have an influence culturally and critically and it had to have been widespread. The success of the album in sales, airplay, music awards and tour attendance clearly demonstrated its appeal around the world. They are still recognized today for their effect on the original generation of fans, artists, critics and the ones that followed.

Third is representation. The songs must be illustrative of the time, like the eighties. There are so many songs that are classic eighties songs, and these are definitely at the top. Major music publications such as Rolling Stone Magazine, Spin Magazine and Q Magazine have attested to album’s relevance, so this is not just my opinion.

Fourth is quality. Simply put, how good are these songs? I would say that they are great and so have music fans, successful musicians and respected critics. It is difficult to get so many to agree on something. So, an achievement like that can only result from that thing being good.

Combined, these elements are what warrant giving a song (or songs) classic status. These helped solidify than band’s place in the rock pantheon.

Regarding my buddy at the gym, I simply supported my opinion by turning to a couple other gym buddies and asked if these songs were classic, to which each responded yes. I told him if he asked around he would get more yeses than nos. It wasn’t convincing win, but I could see he was thinking about it.

The Soundtrack of My Youth

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Now that the band has launched its Joshua Tree 2017 Tour, it is astonishing to believe that is has been nearly thirty years since their original tour.

I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic lately. If you have read my previous posts (When I Became a Fan) you will know that I have been looking back through the long lens of time and reminiscing about days long gone.

The origination of the word nostalgia is from the Greek nostos, meaning pain, grief or distress and algos, meaning homecoming. And it is true that when I think about when the album first released, there is a tug on the heartstrings that feels like pain, although not unpleasant.

If I could turn back time

For a little while now, I have been feeling a strong desire to return home—not a place but a time. The eighties seem so cheesy now, but it was a heady age filled with video games, hair gel and lots of MTV, although I had to go over friends’ homes to watch MTV. No cable for this guy back then.

I remember how truly wonderful it was to discover the band for the first time. Their music was new and different and came at a time when my life was in constant flux. High school was tough enough, but losing a parent made even the simplest things, like going to class, a much greater effort than I could have imagined. There were times when it felt like I had a tornado inside me and I really wasn’t equipped to handle it. As a matter of fact, I handled it badly and was failing at nearly everything in life.

Listening to The Joshua Tree made me happy and going to the concert helped me realize that things were not as bad as I thought. The best part of that time was that I learned that things get better—I got better. As they did, the music from that album took on greater meaning. Listening with my unsophisticated ears as Bono’s words went into my brain I slowly realized that there was so much poetry in their songs.

Lots of popular songs from the eighties had lame lyrics if you just saw them on the page. I never felt that with U2’s songs. There was something much more abstruse and challenging about their words and I liked that, even though I couldn’t discern the meaning some of the time.

But what a great time it was. That album changed the way I dressed. I abandoned sportswear and sneakers and started wearing a lot of black. Much to my mom’s chagrin, I grew out my hair and pierced my ears. After the music video With or Without You aired, I started wearing my hair in a ponytail. I also bought a black trench coat from a secondhand store and a pair of Dr. Martens boots. For me, it was somewhat transformative. There was something particularly enjoyable about it, like I was changing my identity.

There was also another change in me. It awakened the creative part of me that had fallen asleep during the time of my father’s illness. I learned that it was difficult to be imaginative when I was unhappy. The album made me want to write. And I did again.

I find myself wishing that I could go back and discover their music again—if only briefly—just to have the feeling again.

A really big album

It’s been nearly three decades since the release of The Joshua Tree and there are times when it doesn’t feel like it and there are times when it does. With the album approaching thirty, I wondered if the album is as huge as I remembered.

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Here are a few facts that I gathered:

  • Over 25 million albums sold
  • Ranked number 3 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Albums of the 80s.
  • Winner for 4 Grammy awards and numerous international awards.

That is quite a feat considering that there were so many great bands that were in the eighties. The ones that I remember were Van Halen, Motley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, but there were many others. In my high school those bands were all bigger and more popular than U2. But there was something cool about liking a band that was not as popular. And I did know that U2 was already big prior to Joshua Tree.

So here we are nearly three decades later celebrating an incredible album that marked the band’s rise into superstardom. What better way than to see them live? My only wish is that they perform the songs like they did during their first tour. For me, it’s how I remember those songs the best. It will be exciting to hear the whole album—live—just like we did way back when. For some of us, it will be A Sort of Homecoming (and you see what I did there?).

For all of us it will be a reminder that we are all still young, where it counts.

When I became a fan (pt. III)

The Afternoon of the Show

I showed my mom how grateful I was by actually helping her clean the house. It was one of those rare occasions where I actually did something without being asked several times. I already mentioned that I wasn’t doing well in school; I also wasn’t so great around the house. But she let me help without pointing that fact out. Moms can be cool like that, sometimes.

RJ swung by my house around one o’clock (I was the last to be picked up) and we headed over to Oakland. Joshua Tree was playing on the tape deck in his car.   It was a warm, cloudless afternoon with no wind as we drove across the Bay Bridge. Our friends Cecca and Julie were sitting in the back seat and singing along and I kept thinking, I can’t believe I’m going to a U2 concert. Perfect moments. There aren’t enough of them in life, are there?

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Although we had reserved seating, RJ wanted to get there early so that we had enough time to buy a concert tee shirt. Back then, certain bands would do this cool thing with their concert tees. You could only get the real tee at the concert. The real tee had all of the tour stops on the back. I remember seeing a Joshua Tree Tour ’87-’88 tee in Tower Records long after the tour ended. There was no itinerary on the back.

Back to the show. We pulled into the parking lot of Oakland Coliseum about a half-hour later and five dollars for parking (yeah, that’s right). We all chipped so RJ didn’t have to pay. I had never been to the Coliseum before and had no idea what to expect. I did not expect to see so many vendors selling all kinds of merchandise. Concert tees were ten dollars and the lines were very long. I was determined to have a memento of the show and told our group that I wanted to get one before it started. They were all in agreement and waited with me; RJ got one as well.

The Stadium

What surprised me the most was to see so many people smoking regular cigarettes, clove cigarettes and marijuana. It’s not that I was strait-laced, but there were so many cops around. It didn’t seem like the ones smoking weed were even concerned about getting caught. I kept thinking they were all so daring. How can you not be worried about being caught?

To continue, RJ and I bought our shirts and we headed to our seats. We were in the very Upper Reserve section. There is another term for that: The Nosebleed Section. For those who have never heard of that term, the thought was that the air was so thin up there your nose would bleed. It didn’t matter because I would have gladly listened from the men’s room. The show was sold out and we had seats.

As we made our way to our section, I could hear some stagehands doing sound checks on the equipment. Let me state that The BoDeans opened for U2 (followed by The Pretenders) and it was The BoDeans equipment that was being tested. When one of them began strumming on a bass guitar, it reverberated throughout the Coliseum. The sound was literally booming. I was surprised at how loud it was.

We got to our seats and sat down, watching the crowd stream in from all around. Since we arrived early there was no one seated around us, but we also knew that would change very quickly. RJ lit a cigarette and held out the pack so each of us could take one. I looked around for the security guards, who were everywhere, but didn’t seem to notice or care that so many were smoking. Cecca and Julie didn’t seem to be too worried either. I was the only one who was concerned that four teenagers were going to get caught smoking in a non-smoking event and get kicked out. Again, this was my first rock show and I didn’t know anything.

RJ finished his cigarette and stood up, “Dude, let’s go.”

He wanted to buy four 7-Ups. My friend Cecca brought a hairspray bottle filled with whiskey she took from her dad’s liquor cabinet. She snuck it her purse and I was sure the guards who were checking people’s bags were going to confiscate it. All they had to do was smell what was in the bottle. But they didn’t. At this point it was probably safe to assume that the security staff really weren’t anything to brag about. The plan was to be sipping on Seagram’s Seven Crown and 7-Up (Seven and Seven for the unenlightened) at our seats. Mission accomplished.

I am going to skip talking about The BoDeans and The Pretenders. Both put on a great show and I was surprised how good Chrissie Hynde sounded live.

However, it was U2 we came to see and they did not disappoint. Everyone leapt to their feet as soon as the house lights dimmed. The band took the stage to roaring crowd. It was so loud that it sounded like one continuous tone. The show hadn’t even started and I felt like I was going to pop from the sensory overload.

Bono stepped to the microphone shouted, “San Francisco!” Everyone threw their hands in the air and howled as the Edge began to strum the beginning of Where The Streets Have No Name. I cheered at the top of my lungs. Suddenly lights as bright as the sun shined from the stage and Bono launched into song. All sights, sounds, even the pounding of Larry’s drums in my chest was nearly too much and wonderful at the same time.

For me, there is no better U2 song heard live than Where The Streets Have No Name. I think the long beginning gives you a sense of ascent and by time Edge’s guitar comes in, followed by the rhythm section, you are flying. Add to that the flashing lights above and around the stage and the experience was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

I sang aloud and didn’t care that I was off-key. Cecca wrapped her arms around my waist and held me so tight. The past few days were a surge towards this song and I just let it fill me up. It was like a waterfall of sound that poured right into me. I closed my eyes and let it wash the grief and sadness out of me, even if it was only for a short time. It felt like I was being purified of all of the melancholy in my body.

I have heard people say that going to a particular concert was a “religious experience”. I think what they meant was that they encountered some kind of epiphany and that I understood. That show was a baptism, although I feel a little guilty saying that as a lapsed-Catholic. But it did feel like I was being admitted into a body that shared a common interest. That night I became fan.

To be perfectly candid, it wasn’t as though I recovered completely overnight. I still had my bad days, but there were good ones, too.

In addition, it wasn’t the music that saved me from a foreseeable decline; my family and friends did that. Instead, it was the music that I turned to when I was alone and wanted to feel better. There were days when the pain and loneliness were more than I could have ever imagined. And there were days when the joy and comfort from loved ones were more than I deserved.

Over time, I got over it. I grew up and learned how to deal with loss. The happy days eventually outnumbered the sad ones. U2’s music stayed with me from that time on.

Finally, I am thankful for the things that I learned from that time. That solace can come from simple things like listening to a record album. Happiness can be singing along to it with friends as I drove down a stretch of open highway. The best of all, I was surrounded by people who loved me.

And during those tough few years when I was young and still innocent, The Joshua Tree was the soundtrack of my life.

When I became a fan (pt. II)

Even after listening to The Joshua Tree dozens of times, I still didn’t consider myself a “true” fan. Back then I believed a real fan had to attend a concert.

For me, going to a show was a big deal. First, I had to be able to afford to buy a ticket. Second, I had to have permission from my mom. Now that I think about it, I needed to get my mom’s permission first. I wouldn’t be going anywhere if she said no. Truth be told, I was failing a few of my classes and getting into trouble outside of school. She was frustrated with me but gave me room to deal with it myself.

I always tried to mollify her concerns by telling her I was okay, but I really wasn’t. I wasn’t ready to tell her how unhappy I was or how much I missed Dad.

When I learned that that they would be coming to San Francisco (technically Oakland Stadium) I knew I this was my chance. My best friend RJ also wanted to go and had already decided to buy tickets when they went on sale. These were the days before the Internet so if you wanted to buy them, you had to go to a ticket broker or the venue itself. In the Bay Area, music stores like Tower Records and The Wherehouse had outlets inside where you could buy them. But, you needed to get there early if the group or artist was popular. You could always tell when there was going to be a big event because people lined up the night before. Thankfully, RJ already said he would do it. He had more lenient parents because there was no way my mom would have let me stay in a parking lot in the city overnight.

The Hurdle

With the ticket problem solved, the big challenge was my mom. The concert was on Sunday, November 14, 1987. I had school the next day and it was in Oakland, California. I prepared this whole argument about how the stadium was right off the freeway and we wouldn’t be going into any of the rougher parts of town. I had a list of reasons why this would be my only opportunity to see them. I had a back-up plan of simply begging. So one night after dinner, and after doing the dishes and taking out the garbage I was ready for my pitch. I decided to simply ask her if I could go and was ready to be upset if she said no. I was worried that I hadn’t earned the right to go. With a list of rebuttals in my mind, I was like a lawyer trying a case. But all that was unnecessary, because she said I could.

Years later she admitted to me she didn’t want to say yes, but when she saw how happy I was, it made her happy. She said that I had been sad and quiet for so long.

Three Days Before the Show

My phone rang at five o’clock on that Wednesday morning and I almost didn’t answer it. But, I got up to yell at the idiot calling at 5 am. As it turned out, it was my buddy RJ.

“Dude,” he said, “U2 is going to play a free show in the City today, before the real concert, do you wanna go?

I was barely awake, but still coherent enough to say yes. He said he would pick me up in thirty minutes. I was ready in fifteen.

Only in San Francisco

RJ picked me up and we drove into the city. He explained on the way that they would be playing a free concert at Justin Herman Plaza at Embarcadero Center. He also said that we would have a prime location at his mom’s office building, which overlooked the plaza. We would have a bird’s eye view of the show and not have worry about being crammed together with thousands of other people. I still have no idea how his mom got approval for us to be there, but I was glad she did.

We arrived at the office and met her at her desk. She then led us to an outside stairwell where we had a fantastic view.

There were thousands of people already waiting and I was so glad we weren’t in the throng. A flatbed truck was parked in front of the water structure. There was a drum kit, a stack of amplifiers and three microphone stands positioned on the bed. I remember thinking how simple and stripped-down it looked. It seemed plain compared to their other concerts that I had seen on MTV, but ultimately I had no idea because I had never been to one.

There was an electric excitement in the air and everyone around buzzed with patient enthusiasm. The band’s staff was walking the area, talking into their crackling radios and seemingly oblivious to the crowd as they were going through their sound and video checks. And because a big rock band was giving a free performance, there was a heavy police presence as well.

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Rather than detail the awesomeness of this show, let me just say that their show was captured brilliantly in the band’s film Rattle & Hum. My words cannot do it justice and I’m sure fans—especially ones of my generation—have seen the performance. So to state the obvious: it freakin’ rocked. Seeing the band play and watching Bono sing for the first time in my life was momentous. It was literally one of the best days of my life. I l kept thinking, that’s really them. There is something magical about seeing them live, like all your senses have been enhanced.

Towards the end of the show, Bono picked up a can of spray-paint and wrote, “Rock ‘n Roll Stops the Traffic” on the water structure. The crowd roared its agreement and he ran back to the stage to finish “Helter Skelter” and I wondered if he would get into trouble. He did.

The time after the free concert was surreal. It was strange that everything felt slightly different that day. We left the city and thought about where to eat. Our friends Cecca and Julie met us in the afternoon to hear how it went. While at McDonalds I couldn’t stop gabbing about how awesome the show was. I felt like a lightning rod after a storm.

As special as that was, it was only a prologue of what was to come.

When I became a fan (pt I)

I was recently asked how long had I been a fan. I replied, almost thirty years.

That got me thinking. Timing was an important factor in affecting which music would responate with me. The Joshua Tree was the album that came at a pivotal time in my life. We all have stories about life-changing experiences through music.

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I was in high school and like most teenagers, spent much of my time listening to music. My parents were divorced and my younger sister and I lived with our father.

One day my father came home from work and told me he had to tell me something. He liked to read the afternoon paper spread out while the sitting on our living room floor. With very little emotion, he told me that his nagging cough turned out to be lung cancer. It was also at an advanced stage and the doctors said he had about a year and a half.

I sat on the floor next to him not knowing what to say and then started crying. I didn’t make a sound but my tears began to fall on the newspaper. He patted my back and said, “Don’t worry son, I’m gonna beat this thing. Why don’t you make me a cup of coffee?” I think he did that because he wanted to give me something to do, which I did.

I was never more worried that day in my life. My father was a tough old guy and I thought that if anyone could beat it, it would be him. His treatment was aggressive requiring chemotherapy and surgery. His oncologist was optimistic and we all were relieved when he told us they got it all out.

We cared for him during his illness and I really and truly believed he was going to recover. I thought, he’s going to get better and I can go back to being a kid again. But he didn’t; he actually got sicker. The doctors gave him a year and a half, and he died in nine months.

Afterwards, I struggled for a long time and nearly bottomed out. When Joshua Tree came out a year later, it stuck a chord with me. I remember hearing With Or Without You for the first time on the radio. It sounded so different than other rock songs at the time. The beginning was so gentle and quiet and distinctive, but most of all, peaceful. It didn’t start like any other song. Whenever I heard Larry’s soft drumbeat followed by Adam’s muted bassline I knew within the first couple seconds that it was With Or With You.

Those days I primarily listened to was hip-hop, pop and soul. I didn’t listen to rock much; I just wasn’t into it. But there was something very different about U2’s music, especially Joshua Tree. I found myself not changing the station when their songs aired. They didn’t sound like other bands and I liked that. By the time I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For debuted, I decided to buy the album. As a lower-income kid living in San Francisco, I had to get a part-time job if I wanted to have any money. My mother didn’t earn much and couldn’t afford to give me an allowance. So, I got a job as a baker’s assistant at the local French bakery (which isn’t as romantic as it sounds) making $3.25 an hour. These were the late-eighties, but even then it was considered a low wage. The work was hard but it gave me an income, so I could buy things like music.

A New World

It was the first rock album that I had ever purchased. I had to wait until the weekend because my mom wouldn’t let me drive to Tower Records on a school night. So on a sunny Saturday afternoon I drove to the Tower Records in North Beach and bought my first U2 record. I remember marveling at the nearly all-black album with the band members looking so serious against a stark desert landscape. I remember thinking these guys are cool. Not wanting to wear out the record, I bought some chrome-metal analog cassette tapes to make a good recording. Metal tapes were all the rage back then and I was willing to spend the extra money to have the best tapes for my car and boom box. I spent the rest of the weekend listening to the album and thought that if more bands would sound like them, then I’d be a rock-music guy. It was a whole different realm to me.

Yes, I have still have the album

Yes, I have still have the album

But it was the third song on their album that really grabbed me. I was still grieving from the loss my dad and when I heard Where The Streets Have No Name it felt like the person in that song was thinking and feeling the same things I was thinking and feeling. In the first stanza when Bono sings, “I want to run, I want to hide. I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside.” I kept thinking, that’s me. I did not know it at the time, but I was actually suffering from depression. With all of the wisdom of a teenager, I assumed depression was something adults got, not kids. That depression was like walls all around me slowly closing in until it crushed me. I just wanted to tear it down and break free, but I didn’t know how.

During that summer of 1987 U2 was playing everywhere, which was okay by me because I loved that album. Whether it was Where The Streets Have No Name or I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (and so many others) those songs captured my mood during a difficult time in my life. The longer I listened the more I realized that Bono was a bona fide poet. His lyrics were transcendent. Listening to the album made me feel less sad and at times, happy. I would lie on my bed with my Sony Walkman playing at full volume and imagine that I was the voice in those songs. It was in those moments I would think: Maybe I’m going to be okay, because I feel okay right now.

I was still a long way from recovery, but I was getting there. And what happened next turned out to be exactly what I needed.

 

Technology and U2 tours

I had a thought recently: has technology made going to a show better? My initial answer would be yes. From our ability to buy tickets to recording a live performance, everything has been improved upon with the advent of technology. So, that must be a yes, right?

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My own history has shown that the answer is not that simple. No one can deny how much easier it is today to learn about an upcoming tour, a new album or directly connect with band member. It’s absolutely great.

The band itself has been on the leading edge of it for decades. From its use of multimedia during the ZOO TV Tour (’92-’93) to its relationship with Apple, they embraced it instead on shunning it. So where’s the problem?

With the emergence of social media it now has become important for us to record so much of our lives and to receive approval (in the form of likes, comments and/or emojis) for it. And, when did that happen? When did it become so important to let others know what we are doing at any given moment? Sure, a U2 show is a special occasion so it would justify documenting that moment of our lives. But, that is not what happens. We tend to document both the momentous and prosaic in equal measure. Obviously, technology has much to do with that. If it were harder to do, we would most likely do less.

The sad part is that I spent so much time recording the moment, that I missed a substantial part of it. That didn’t used to happen. I can remember the tours of Joshua Tree, Zoo TV, PopMart and Elevation with great detail, all because I didn’t have a camera (no camera phones existed during these tours as well) and I simply watched the show. Beginning with Vertigo and through i+e, camera phones continued to improve and my focus shifted to capturing the event. I’m glad that I did, but it is a little different now and I can’t say it is all for the better.

Bono & Edge City

U2’s shows are fantastic now. They have harmonized skill, practical knowledge, technology and artistry to create a truly enriching spectacle. The thing is, it is so good I can’t just sit back and observe; I have to record. The very thing that makes it worth watching makes me want to do something else in addition to that.

The worst part of that is that my friends are also doing the same thing. At any given moment they’re trying to get that great shot, record a particular song or post something in real-time that it has become a less shared experience than in the past even though we’re standing right next to each other.  I can remember in older tours feeling so connected to my friends and the band at the same time when my favorite songs were being performed. There was this whole cool dynamic of completely being in the moment, surrounded by friends and fans and totally immersed in the music that it almost felt like floating.

This is not to say that I don’t feel that anymore; I do. And I don’t want it sound like I’m lamenting for days before social media and mobile phones. I’m just saying that it was a little simpler back then. I did less. As a result, I experienced more.

I remember seeing a clip on YouTube from a recent show (I can’t remember which) where Bono invited a bunch of people on stage, as he has done so many times. But during this time, many of them were concentrating on taking selfies that it seemed like they had forgotten they were on stage with one of the biggest bands on the planet. Bono did what he could to bring them back, saying, “Live in the moment. Be in the moment.” However, it was strange that he had to say that. It was strange that he had to compete for their attention. And it is even stranger that this will likely be the new normal.

I tell myself that if I were ever lucky enough to be pulled on stage, I definitely would not be taking selfies. I don’t really fault the people that do. But, I just don’t want my memory of that unique point in my life being of me trying to frame the shot with me in the foreground and the band and audience in the background, while Bono waited.

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So, does that mean will I leave my smartphone and camera at home when the next tour comes to town? No. I will be bringing them with me. My hope is that I can find the balance of capturing key points of the show and simply enjoying the rest. I want to be more present for their future shows, not less.

In a way, I just want to be the guy who went to the show and marveled at what the band had in store.

U2 i+e Live in Paris coming to Blu-Ray & DVD

U2 Paris.i+e

As if you didn’t know already. U2’s latest concert in Paris will arrive on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 10th, so mark your calendar. Or, you can just pre-order it.

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If you missed this concert that aired on HBO last December, you now have the opportunity to own it. This was a fantastic show that must be seen. Our lads from Dublin put on something a little extra for this event given the ordeal Parisians experienced. These versions will also contain behind-the-scenes extras that were not shown on television.

U2 i+e Super Deluxe

For the hardcore fans, there is a super-deluxe version includes the Blu-Ray and DVD, plus a trove of memorabilia (postcards, book, buttons, even a USB light bulb like the one suspended above the stage). It isn’t cheap at $119.88 on Amazon. It might mean saving up, but it looks to be well worth it.

U2 lights up the City of Light

U2 in Paris

Our boys returned as promised and brought with them a little something extra to an audience yearning for an escape. It is amazing how a good show can make you forget about all of the tribulations in your life for a little while. That was evident on fans’ faces as soon as the band took the stage. For a city that was marred by tragedy and paralyzed with fear only weeks before, this was still a rock show and it was treated like one.

What I find admirable is the fact that they always pay homage to the city that they are performing in. There was a certain gravitas to this show and they definitely connected with the audience when Bono declared, “We are all Parisians tonight”. Having grown up in Dublin during the British Occupation, they were all too familiar with acts of terror and violence. He was not simply blowing smoke when he offered his commiseration.

However, they knew their responsibilities well and the reason that they were there was to lift house to the rafters. The bar is always set high—sometimes impossibly so—and they always clear it. Given the temperament of Paris at the time, the bar must have been on the moon. Yet, our intrepid Irishmen confronted this challenge like seasoned athletes and played like pros. It never ceases to amaze me that after all of this time, they never, ever phone it in.

For me, U2 show is always about uplift. Their sets are arranged to start at the ground level and slowly climb over the course of two hours. The whole idea is elevation—and you see what I did there—to ascend the entire crowd into the stratosphere. It should be easy, right? You’ve got fans who paid to see your show, so they’re gonna like it no matter what, right? Wrong. I’ve been to shows where it seemed like the crowd all took Sominex. Even worse, it looked the band didn’t even notice.

The jeopardy was high because taking a too-serious tone would probably bum everyone out. But, being too happy can seem disrespectful. It’s less about taking the middle road and more a high-wire act, which is where our boys go to work.

In their favor it did seem like the crowd needed to know everything was going to be all right and getting their wish. It’s strange to think that something as simple as a concert can do that given the depth of adversity that Paris was suffering. I’m guessing it isn’t that simple. When Bono exclaims the French motto, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” (liberty, equality, fraternity) he knows that those words speak to the core values of all its citizens, especially now.

During City of Blinding Lights, he brought this French kid on the stage. I like it when Bono brings someone on the stage with him. I never know what they’re going to do. Some are nervous and stand around waiting for direction from him. Some take to the spotlight like a fish to water. But all of them are happy and I can see myself on the stage alongside him. When he gave that kid his sunglasses and sport coat you would have thought the kid was part of the band.  There was nothing but attitude and swagger in the way he performed with the B-Man.

At the end of the night, Bono said that the band heard that Eagles of Death Metal lost their stage, so they lent them theirs.  EoDM hugged their gracious benefactors and then rocked out like a troop on a mission.

U2 could have easily kept the spotlight on themselves and share some of their own tragedies with the crowd.  Instead, they chose to share it another band who desperately needed it.

Class act all the way.

U2 Live from Paris premieres Monday (12-7)

U2 Live in Paris 2015

Just a quick reminder that this Monday, December 7th will be returning to Paris to perform their last two shows from Innocence + Experience Tour 2015.

The concerts will be held at Accorhotels Arena in Bercy.  Their final show will be airing live on HBO, so set your DVRs.  Even if you’re watching it live, you will want to see it again and again.  I sure will.

There is no doubt that the band has something special planned for these night.  Their shows are already spectacular.  And in light of recent events, I’m sure they will use the time to bring everyone at the arena, and the rest of us watching at home, just a little bit closer.

It’s gonna be awesome.

U2 announce dates for Paris shows

U2 I+E 2015

The band announced the dates for their final Paris shows.  Originally scheduled for November 14th and 15th, the band was forced to cancel their shows due to the terror attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13th.  Many venues were also cancelled as the officials took all necessary security measures to keep the public safe.  Even though they pledged to return, they could not provide a date due to the fact much of the situation was out of their control.

Bono expressed his dismay and anger on the radio saying it was the first direct hit on music that we’ve had on this so-called was on terror.

With the circumstances changing daily, it was nearly impossible for them to know when they could return.  However, they are back and ready to rock.

This is very welcome news as the band has proven again their commitment to its fans, Paris and music itself that they stand with all of us who truly believe that love is stronger than hate.  As fans, I know we can all agree that they have always put the emphasis on the music and us.

U2, Live Nations and HBO all deserve hearty congratulations for rescheduling such a large event so quickly, in what I am sure must be a very complicated and very difficult situation.  So set you DVRs for December 6th and 7th because our favorite lads from Ireland are going to elevate the City of Light.  These shows will takes on special meaning, as they will prove that nothing creates solidarity like music.

Hats off to Paris as well.  I hope these are two more giant steps towards normalcy.

#strongerthanfear