The Significance of “Being There”
Months ago, CJ announced that his friend scored us tickets to the U2’s The Joshua Tree 2017 concert. And I was so excited…but not for the reasons you might expect.
I was never a huge U2 fan. Don’t misunderstand; I always liked the songs from The Joshua Tree. However, during the time they were played religiously on the radio, the only band I truly loved was Heart. (Brigade, FTW.)
No…the reason for my excitement is that the album came out after I was old enough to really remember cultural things but before I moved to Germany.
To provide a little context, my family was stationed in Europe during a time when the Internet was young and when AFN immediately discontinued “Ellen” after the episode where she came out as a lesbian. It’s difficult to describe how it feels to miss an entire decade of your own culture. Suffice it to say, when dealing with people in my generation, there are a lot of references I don’t understand and “you had to be there” moments.
But The Joshua Tree album is not one of those things. I was here for that and I do know those songs! For this event, I was not excluded from the club…and in the days leading up to it, I wonderered if I would experience a moment of communitas.
Since I essentially missed the 90s and didn’t get to Seattle until 2010, I’m a bit fascinated with the 90s Seattle nostalgia. Without purchasing a bunch of clothes I’ll never wear again, I did my best to mimic my watered down impression of how one would dress…
(Yes, I’m aware The Joshua Tree came out in 1987, but U2 was still touring in the 90s, so it’s close enough!)
Let’s see how I did…
Band t-shirt? If Johnny Cash counts, then check. (I was told band t-shirts are acceptable as long as you don’t wear the band you’re seeing.)
Beanie and unwashed hair? Check. Not really the right style, but it will have to do.
Lipstick that makes me look nearly dead? Check
I was super skeptical about that lip color!
This is what happens when a lindy hopper who dresses 30s/40s vintage tries to venture into a different decade… Not a total fail, but not really a win, either.
CJ made the ironic observation that even though I was aiming at an aesthetic from 25ish years ago, I was the most “in style” I’ll ever be since these looks are cycling back right now. Damnit.
The stadium was truly packed well before the opening band, Mumford and Sons, graced the stage.
Just enjoying some popcorn while waiting for the show to start…
As you can see, CJ and I were down in the general admission area and not too far from the stage.
The excitement and energy in the crowd was tangible; the beer and the weed were fragrant. We were surrounded by people talking about the last time they saw U2 live or their favorite songs on the album. Others were on the phone with friends or family saying, “Guess where I am right now?!” (Dick move? Maybe.)
Mumford & Sons
There’s a weird, innate crowd mind-share that magically allows everyone to know something is about to happen. A few moments before Mumford and Sons took the stage, the whole crowd lurched forward in anticipation. The band began playing and everyone cheered. At first, the crowd moved a little awkwardly, but then became less self-conscious as they warmed to the music and the booze warmed them. By the time Mumford and Sons played their final songs, the whole crowd was singing along with arms in the air.
I’m really glad I got to see and hear them live. I’m aware of their music and always liked it, but never searched it out. Now I’ve experienced the power of a live show, they’ll join my playlist rotation, for sure!
U2: The Joshua Tree 2017
I know I’m not going to be able to capture the show as well as it deserves, but I’ll do my best.
As U2 began to play, the screamed and lurched forward again, packing ever closer to the stage. The energy lifted and then soared as Bono sang and everyone sang along.
The sound was amazing – the U2 guys certainly haven’t lost “it”. Bono’s voice carried me away, along with the rest of the crowd, floating on the lyrics of songs we all knew by heart. The music made me feel like I could fly over the California desert, high above everything. The set and cinematics were incredible. I was surrounded by very tall humans, so I was unable to capture decent photos, but if you’re curious, check out some of the photos King 5 captured. This YouTuber has some great footage that captures the epic nature of the set.
As we expected, the concert became quite political, which I was, of course, on board with. (Funny how it’s easy to be on board with a political concert when you agree with the message. Very different from my feelings about the political message at a Toby Keith concert I attended a million years ago. Never again.) Naturally, they included some brilliant jabs at Trump, but also some incredibly touching human rights and feminist messaging was woven into the performance.
Also, both Bono and The Edge still have epic hair…if you care about that kind of thing.
I Want This to Be a Rule at All Concerts
DO NOT FILM THE DAMN SHOW ON YOUR STUPID CELL PHONE!
I’m talking to you, all of the tall people who were standing in front of me:
Your phone, while an amazing gadget, does not have the ability to pick up sound of any quality at a concert. I guarantee the people with whom you share the video are pissed off because you made them watch a shitty clip of a concert they probably wish they were at, and the sound is so crappy they don’t even know what song you sent them.
The irony is that while you dicked me over pretty well because you all blocked my view (save for hundreds of backlit cell displays), you dicked yourselves over even worse! You spent all that time focusing on capturing a shit-tastic recording that will be a mere shadow of the concert, so that you didn’t actually experience the show.
Don’t be a dick and ruin for yourselves and everyone around you. Just buy the digital download when they release the concert movie.
Despite my saltiness over the cell phone videographers, I had an amazing time! And dare I say, I experienced a little communitas.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the music. While I loved every lyric and chord, I think it meant something a little different for me. So many of the folks around us were there to re-capture their youth through the music they loved, while I just wanted to claim a tiny piece of our culture for myself.
Instead, I finally felt that sense of community and shared experience when it got political. In Seattle, at a U2 concert, surrounded by people who care about equality and social justice, I was swept away in the feeling of the moment and I truly belonged. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with the hope and belief that we can fix things.
It’s just one more reason why I love this city.