Just like with books, a good album cover (back when people bought CD’s) would always catch my eye. Columbia House selling 1 full price CD then 20 CD’s at 1 penny was a game changer at our house. An influx of music so varied I never would have seen made it’s way to our ears. Among those, one of my dad’s personal favorite albums, U2’s the Joshua Tree. A stark black and white desert landscape with a lone alien looking tree planted square in the middle. The first time I heard it , it immediately spoke to me. The stirring, choppy sound, the harmonious angelic voice and the powerful , lyrical words grabbed hold of me and haven’t let go since.
20 years ago (I feel so old sayin that) my two best friends and cousins, Chris and Daryl, along with our good friend from martial arts, Tara, all went to Columbus, OH to see U2 in concert in the biggest, most expensive musical tour that had ever been done up until that time. I believe that was my first concert. Yeah, that’s a high bar. I was wearing yellow tinted sunglasses and leather pants because I’m just that strange, haha. It was a spectacle. Glittered mirrorballs everywhere, the band arriving in a spinning lemon straight from Studio 54 and one of the highlights for me, a Bat signal shooting straight up into the sky during their song ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”. It was pure marketing and money and surface but it amazed me to no end. The band was on fire that night, and I believe they played for nearly 3 hours.
I’ve since gotten married and we’ve had 2 amazing daughters but digging through my wife’s CD collection long ago, littered with classic rock and pop music, I was surprised to find U2 as well. She was a big fan actually. We vowed one day we would see them together in concert and now, 20 years after my rock stadium cherry was popped, here we were in Louisville KY live in front of the greatest rock band of all time.
Our seats were high; very high, nervously high for someone who doesn’t like places high up. The day was hot; scorching in fact and water seemed to be scarce. A 6:30 start time and yet the band didn’t show up until 9:00. All these factors were edging us towards questioning our decision. But as Larry Mullen jr (drummer) silently strolled out to the long Joshua Tree ramp in the middle of the crowd, sat down and started pounding his kit to the beat of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” the band’s most kick ass anthem, there was no turning back. We were hooked. We were captivated for 2 hours by hit after hit, the full encompassing Joshua Tree album, which I don’t know of anyone that’s heard it that doesn’t like it, and positive messages of hope, inspiration and mutual love for one another. Being there with my lovely wife of 9 years, holding her, singing with her, nothing can replace those moments in my mind.
The defining moment of the night, though, for me, was when Bono talked about becoming a different version, a better version for everyone, taking all our fears, insecurities, doubts and driving them out of our minds. He seemed to be a preacher on a pulpit at this time but in a way no other preacher or religious figure had ever been to my ears. He was telling everyone it would be okay. Then he started singing the song “Bad.” I just want to relay the lyrics here:
twist and turn away
Tear yourself in two, again
If I could
Yes I would
if I could
let it go
As he spoke this first verse, the way he let Surrender linger in the air, a wave of emotion washed over me; tears were streaming down my face. I felt a weight I always feel, the weight of life, of the world, lift off of me, physically and empty itself into the vast air of the stadium. It was an experience that I had never had just listening to music before. The song wound on, to the main verse
“Let it go
and so it fades away ”
until he belts, no screams, no thunders into the open sky, with a voice only Bono possesses
“I’M WIDE AWAKE!”
This is known to be a song about trying to break free from the grip of addiction; but on that night, in that arena, next to the woman I love, it felt like something hugged me, patted me on the shoulder and propped my chin up. It was truly inspiring and a night I’ll never forget.