If There Is A Light, Don’t Let It Go Out
I think I am in a state of denial, possibly facilitated by cold medicine. (I am recovering from an intense bout of what us fans like to call #BonoMono – cold and flu-like symptoms brought on in some conjunction with U2 concerts/events; usually from standing for hours in the GA line in less than desirable weather conditions, screaming one’s lungs out for the length of the show, and sometimes taking plane rides full of stale, germy air…)
For the past three years I have had U2 concerts somewhere on the horizon; if not tickets in my Ticketmaster account, then at least a looming announcement of upcoming dates. Five iNNOCENCE & eXPERIENCE shows in 2015, (a 40th U2 anniversary show in Dublin with a tribute band in 2016), five Joshua Tree concerts in 2017, followed by my personal record of number of shows per tour – nine eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE concerts that just wrapped up last week.
I have a habit of U2 concerts now; and I cannot fathom that when I say ‘concerts that wrapped up last week,” it actually also means the tour itself wrapped up.
I am in a state of disbelief. I have not yet processed this fact. No more U2 shows for an indeterminate period of time? Nope. I don’t understand that comment. That can’t be right. Three years of tours. It can’t be over. My brain and heart do not know how to consider this as a reality… The reality it now knows and lives in is one where I go to five U2 concerts in nine days, 19 in three years.
Sure, somewhere out there in the periphery of my mind I know those five were the last five: four shows in Dublin and the final show in Berlin, which was added to make up for the September 1 show the boys had to cancel after Bono lost his voice mid song. (Maybe he got his own version of #BonoMono…)
And although the Berlin pre-show music was a heart-breaking (yet also amusing) setlist of songs saying goodbye (The Beatles’ Hello, Goodbye; REM’s It’s the End of The World As We Know It; Chantal Kreviazuk’s Leaving on a Jet Plane; Alice Cooper’s School’s Out For Summer; Europe’s Final Countdown; The Steam’s Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye; Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over), and despite Bono’s declaration towards the end of the show: “We’ve been on the road for quite some time, just going on 40 years, and this last four years have been really something very special for us. We’re going away now…,” I’m weirdly not experiencing tour withdrawals.
I’m still just euphoric, high off the crazy buzz, energy, and love piped through my soul over those five shows and nine days of hanging with my U2 peeps (though, again, that could be the cold meds…)
It’s strange. I started to mourn this tour after the extraordinary fourth and final Dublin show, even though I still had Berlin left. I walked into that show still jazzed from the first three and from having just been on the rail at main stage the night before where I had the joy of touching the Edge’s guitar (swoon, I TOUCHED the Edge’s guitar… his super awesome, uber kind, star tech guy, Dallas Schoo, held it out from the stage to let the kid next to me touch it and I couldn’t help but also reach out… swoon) and getting an Edge pic from Dallas as he walked along the barrier (I had “Pic Me, Please” written on the palms of my hands and held them up as he walked by. He grabbed my hands, depositing two pics in them slyly and joked that he was #42 in the GA line. Seriously, he is so kind :D).
But Dublin 4 was so much more intense in emotion, love and energy! The crowd bursting randomly into song: the sentimental and super meaningful for fans, ’40;’ the overwhelming emotion of the band and audience; the insert of Landlady for Bono’s wife Ali, the still new to the setlist Dirty Day…
It was fervent, spiritual, in that Church of U2 way I’ve described before and it made me realize there was only one show left, one show to experience these highs, to see so many of my U2 friends and meet new ones. I lamented the coming loss.
And then Berlin. Seeing U2 in Berlin is close to seeing them in Dublin. As mentioned in my U2 Berlin city guide post, the band have a special connection with this city due mainly to their recording of Achtung Baby at Hansa Studios. This is when and where they almost broke up and where, as the legend goes, the song One came out of nowhere and saved them. It’s where they chopped down that Joshua Tree.
But in addition to that history and connection, this show was the very last show of the tour… the make up show. An audience that maybe had a bit of PTSD from being at the original show where Bono inexplicably and unexpectedly lost his voice. U2 doesn’t just cancel shows, and from what I’ve heard, Bono sounded wonderful until he didn’t and then they did everything they could to not cancel, but it couldn’t go on. It can’t have been easy for the band or anyone in the audience. No one knew what happened and even for those of us listening on Periscope or Mixlr from elsewhere in the world, fear set in.
Please just let him be ok!
And he was (at least as far as we know).
The returning crowd (and the lot of us that managed to pick up tickets for the new date, I assume from those returned by people that couldn’t make it – thank you, whoever you were, for my spot!) was unreal. Un. Real.
Electric. Lively. Enthusiastic. Sparkle and shine. The Mercedes Benz Arena was 17,000 plus four people radiating love between band and audience. There were many moments where the band was visibly awed by us. And equally us by them.
At one point Bono even acknowledged the fans that travel from around the world to see them: “You people are… ridiculous,” he said, in an reverential, sweet, we-can’t-believe-you-do-that-for-us, manner. Ridiculous, good; not ridiculous – off your rocker (though maybe that too).
The Berlin show surpassed all my expectations for a final show and the news that it was to be filmed for the DVD release added to the special-ness of that concert. I thought for sure the devastation of the end would hit immediately.
Yet it’s been a week and I have not had the usual pining and withdrawals that I normally have. In fact, I had way more after the US leg ended for me in New York. Way more. Even though I still had the Europe shows to attend back then. So much withdrawals and mourning that it spurred this blog post.
But for some reason, I haven’t felt that sadness yet. I’m sick as a dog (where did this saying even come from?). But I am still euphoric. I’ve pretty much only been listening to my U2 eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE Concert Setlist on Spotify since I got home and find myself somewhere between slow dancing alone in my kitchen to Stay, Far Away So Close and bouncing as much as my sinuses allow to Elevation as visions (hallucinations, maybe? I’m on a LOT of cold meds…) of the concerts flash around me.
Such is the power of music, and particularly of U2’s music, for me. I mean, I started missing them instantly after Berlin. I really really miss them. And although there are already rumours of 2019 dates for Australia, there is no official announcement so who knows when we will actually see them live again.
But I am living on a concert high that knows no end and cannot fathom anything after five incredible shows in nine days and two countries. Shows that were just soul-blinding and full of the usual awesomeness, emotion, and story-telling that make a U2 concert a U2 concert.
Story-telling Through That Blakeian Framework
I mentioned in a previous post, how the sister albums, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, were inspired by William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. Like Blake’s set of poetry, these albums used repetition of imagery and themes told through the lens of both hope/idealism (innocence) and a darker questioning of the world (experience). U2 and their tour designers brilliantly carried this framework into the sister tours through that repetition of themes and imagery.
Where the 2015 iNNOCENCE & eXPERIENCE tour looked at the loss of his mom in Bono’s youth, 2018’s eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE looked at the relationship between Bono and his dad as an adult and Bono’s relationships with his kids (Dirty Day, Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way). Where i&e looked at first love (Song For Someone) and the more mature themes of passionate love and breaking up (Mysterious Ways, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Every Breaking Wave), e&i looked at lasting love (Landlady, You’re The Best Thing About Me).
Where i&e looked at growing up during the Northern Irish Troubles (Raised by Wolves, Sunday Bloody Sunday), the refugee crisis, and the hopeful theme of what world do we want to be, we can still make it, e&i started right out of the gate with a much more dire look at where we are headed (though still edged with hope) through Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator.
Where the iNNOCENCE & eXPERIENCE tour concentrated on the innocence of growing up as boys in Dublin in the 70s (Out of Control, Cedarwood Road), eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE is almost entirely about the later years in life, the maturity that comes from experiencing the world. Though the tour changed dramatically from the US leg to the final European shows, they all began with the dark look at life-threatening experiences and how that changes one’s perspective of what is truly important in life, our loved ones and hope (Love is All We Have Left, The Blackout, Lights of Home). Astutely, experience for U2 means an eventual return to that lens of innocence.
Where i&e touched on the forming the band (Miracle of Joey Ramone), Bono talked in e&i about how they almost split up during Achtung, how the walls around the band were rising as the wall in Berlin fell.
The repetition of themes and imagery also came through the stage design and screen graphics. That’s not to say that the graphics and such stayed the same between tours, they didn’t. But there were images that carried through. For example, both tours used a graphic novel to illustrate the intermission songs (The Fly in i&e and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me in e&i) and the artistry of Cedarwood Road from i&e was touched on in e&i in Dirty Day.
And most dramatically, the eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE shows ended with the imagery and sounds that opened iNNOCENCE & eXPERIENCE: the lightbulb (representing the lightbulb in Bono’s childhood room) and, for the last two Dublin shows, the oh ohs from Miracle of Joey Ramone, the song that opened iNNOCENCE & eXPERIENCE.
Seriously. This band is so thoughtful in the way they tell their stories in concert. It isn’t really even just a story – these tours took us on a journey through their personal, political, and musical lives, from innocence to experience. U2 are un-paralleled here.
Also, final thought: having missed the Zoo TV tour, how frickin awesome was it to have so many Achtung Baby/Zooropa songs on the last leg!? Wow! The arrangements for Zoo Station, The Fly, Stay, and Wild Horses… I just can’t even. just wow…. soul-wrenching, soul-lifting, tear-jerking, heart-pounding, elation, elevation, revelation…
And the return of the onstage bromances…
And top hats… top hats and eyeliner… swoon.
Blacked out, It’s Clear
Nope. I lied. I’m totally mourning this tour now.
My denial was the denial of withdrawals… Held up by obsessively listening to the setlist on Spotify and editing my pictures since the Berlin show, buffered by cold meds. Writing this post has opened the gates and broken down those walls.
Damn it! I miss my boys! I miss the concerts… oh – Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way live…. ugghhhhhh – this song and how the crowds night after night continued to sing the the oh ohs to the point of clearly overwhelming the boys and Bono having to stop us so they could carry on… My heart!
Meeting up with all my U2 friends and making so many more…
For the past three years I have had U2 concerts to look forward to… I have a habit. I love this habit.
I. Miss. My. Boys!
But so glad that we are all still here!
For more photos from these and other shows, check out my 2018 Photo Gallery