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.