"If you look at music as emotion, then I think you'll connect us to the ballad tradition, to the wailing and keening of the old music."
Column: off the record ..., vol. 16-745
October 16, 2016
It might be October (Larry Mullen Jr. birthday month!), but Christmas has indeed come early because Bono has discovered Snapchat and it is the BEST THING EVER.
Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of seeing U2 in Dublin. I can’t believe how fast that time went. I’m still in awe that I was able to fulfill this 14-year dream of mine. Last month, however, I achieved another musical goal. I got to see Adele perform at her sold-out residency at Madison Square Garden. I’ve been waiting what seemed like forever to attend one of her shows. 21 is in my top five favorite albums of all time and for years I’ve wanted the chance to hear that stunning material live. Adele delivered above and beyond. I mean, come on, how can you not just cry your eyes out? Her vocal prowess aside, she was also insanely funny, humble, kind-hearted, and the genuine soul that shows on her records.
Something that stuck with me was what Adele said about the relationship that inspired 21. She said that sometimes she felt a bit weird singing these songs every night that were about this toxic period of her life, since she was now in a happier relationship and also a new mom. But she decided that because she was in this positive place, it was OK to visit this previous time because it taught her a lot of lessons by going through it. It ultimately led her to where she is now. I’m no stranger to relationships gone sour, so Adele gave me a lot of hope and promise. It reminded me a lot of what Bono said during the I+E tour about visiting your past. That if you don’t visit it at all, you’re condemned to stay there forever. For me to feel inspired at the Church of Adele like I did at the Church of U2 was very empowering. And for that I’m grateful.
To stay on the same note of being inspired, I’m still on a high from attending U2’s 40th anniversary celebration in Cleveland. I don’t think there is a better feeling than surrounding yourself with friends and honoring the band that brought you all together in the first place. Also, to have these moments captured in a music lover’s paradise like the Rock Hall was really special. Perhaps what I was most thrilled about was getting to see the U2 Tattoo Project exhibit in all of its vibrant glory. I’m someone who is quite familiar with being inked (I’m the owner of 12 tattoos, three of them U2 related). Having seen the early stages of the exhibit, when creators Beth Nabi and Chris LeClere were interviewing/photographing fans at the I+E tour, I felt there was this spark that you knew was going to explode from this project. A tattoo is not just an image. It’s a story. There is something behind these designs that connects you to a piece of personal history. For all of us inked creatures, U2 help tell our history lesson.
I can honestly say I was overwhelmed when I saw the exhibit in person. It really meant that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one with pieces of my life touched by U2 that I had to permanently commemorate on my body. I think in doing that, it keeps the moment as well as the devotion to U2 preserved forever. Because it means they are more than just a band. It means that they helped guide us, save us, carry us, and gave us some sense of hope when we needed it. In Beth’s caring collection of our stories and Chris’s thoughtful eye for our photos, all of us fans have been on the same journey together without knowing it until now. We are all tattooed brothers and sisters. I am so thankful for this project to exist.
Let’s keep the theme of being a fan going. Have you ever covered your walls with your favorite band growing up (eighth-grade me with her Spice Girls room raises her hand)? Or have you ever baked a cake or eaten dessert in honor of your celebrity crush for their birthday (cue me gobbling up a piece of chocolate cake on April 2 for Michael Fassbender’s birthday)? Then, my friend, you are most certainly a fangirl/fanboy. If you own up to this title, I have a really fantastic book recommendation for you. It’s called The Fangirl Files. The book, written by Amy Johnson, is the ultimate guide about being a super fan from an actual super fan herself.
Amy, also a die-hard U2 fan, devotes an entire chapter to the band and notes on “U2 as church” (which I touched upon in my Adele section). She thinks that, “Even if you don’t believe in something higher than us, you can believe in the music that does lead, protect, encourage, comfort, and energize us.” Sounds like our boys, right? Amy also chronicles some of her favorite U2 concerts over the years and what made these gigs particularly special. A standout is finally seeing them in Dublin in 2009 because she shared this dream with her mother, who is also a U2 fan and positively encouraged her fangirl nature growing up. The connecting thread of the book is the bonds that you create via your fandom, whether it’s through music or celebrity crushes. For Amy as well as me, the friends you make because of a band are actually some of the strongest friendships ever because the music is your magnet. I met Amy at the U2 Conference in 2009 in Raleigh and we instantly clicked. We never would have met had it not been for our passion for U2. This book comes to life from someone who is truly a fangirl at heart and understands that if you want to travel around in a tailspin to follow your favorite band or waste your day off watching their concert footage on YouTube, you just do it. Because you’re a fan and that’s what fans do!
Speaking of great books, I’m currently devouring Bruce Springsteen’s brilliant autobiography, Born To Run. I’m a born and bred Jersey girl, so it was pretty much a must for me to read it. A review I saw online for the 500-page tome mentioned that there was no way the book could have been ghostwritten because every passage sounds like true Bruce. I couldn’t agree more. The book is like sitting with The Boss on the couch with him telling you these wild anecdotes. A bonus for me is when he mentions certain places in the Garden State, as I know where these places are since I’m from the same area as he is!
I’m at the point now in the book where he is out of high school and trying to make a real living as a musician with local friends as his bandmates. After a few gigs, he is faced with the decision of shuffling up his band a little due to disagreements among them. He says that it’s only natural and, “Only the luckiest bands don’t grow apart.” I immediately marked the page to remember this quote. U2 flashed before my eyes. During their 40 years together, U2’s road wasn’t always traveled along smooth pavement. I’m quite sure there were times when they must have thought it was going to be the end for them. But they pushed through. While disagreements might have stretched them like a rubber band bound to snap, they came together again to make richer, inspiring music for us within those conflicts. And here we are now, 40 years later and still going strong.
They are the lucky ones, and as their fans, so are we.
Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.