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We need to stop this two-steps-forward, one-step-back tango that we have been dancing for years and start marching. The good news is that a lot of people have their boots on. -- Bono, 2005

Column: off the record ..., vol. 17-756



Last week was an exciting one with The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 announcement and speedy ticket sale for fan club members. It was a welcome surprise to see that Red Hill and Wires presale codes were good for up to four tickets, and those tickets could be split different ways. This helps those who need an odd number of tickets, as well as those who need only one ticket but want to go to multiple shows. The flexibility was also a great treat for the European fans as previous tours didn’t allow for it. My personal experience was excellent: I obtained my tickets quickly with my Red Hill code with no snags. That was generally the case with the Red Hill group; however, it was not smooth sailing for those with a Wires code. For the Wires presale group, access to tickets was limited and many were shut out at the beginning. To the band’s credit, additional tickets were released throughout the presale, with GA tickets continuing to pop through the process. Meanwhile, thousands of tickets purchased in the presale could be found on sites like StubHub and Ticket Liquidator, infuriating fan club members. All the measures put in place to stop that practice appeared unsuccessful. I anticipate some of those orders will be canceled through Ticketmaster’s audit to ensure the rules of the presale were followed per the email that fan club members received prior to the presale.

Between the fan club presale email, information on U2.com, Ticketmaster.com and VIPNation.com, there was very little information about the cost breakdown by stadium seat location, nor was the cost of the VIP packages listed. Hundreds of questions regarding these topics were answered by the Zootopia moderators and fan sites like ours, with answers based solely on our own personal ticket-buying experience and crowdsourcing the information online. For me, this wasn’t anything new as similar issues happened for the U2 360 Tour and the Innocence + Experience Tour.

Complicating matters, some legitimate, long-standing U2 fan club members were classified as bots by Ticketmaster, causing their account to be frozen for 24 hours. It appears the act of successively throwing tickets back into the hopper with the hopes of something better triggered Ticketmaster’s anti-bot warning system. After speaking with Ticketmaster by phone, they were informed that their account was frozen and there was nothing they could do about it. This was the first U2 tour presale in my memory to have this happen.

I discovered a few things over the past week. First, The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 will be wildly popular. Second, the U2 fan community desires as much information prior to presale as possible to make informed decisions. Third, don’t throw back U2 tickets if you have them in your cart. Finally, Ticketmaster’s anti-bot software really does work, and hopefully it also catches legitimate scalpers in the same way it catches legitimate fans.

It has been six years since U2 performed in stadiums. The question was how do you top the U2 360 Tour, and if stadiums would ever be an option for U2 after that run of shows. The band has been specific in calling The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 something special. That’s an easy throw-away soundbite; however, it is remarkable that the band is challenging itself in this way. U2 is not waxing nostalgic in a static way about revisiting The Joshua Tree. Adam, Bono and Edge have said in recent interviews that the songs have a new life and resonate in 2017 due to world events and their own maturity as men. Never has a U2 album done this, and frankly, I am struggling to think of an album by other artists that has done the same. The only other album I could see U2 possibly touring in this way would be Achtung Baby, but that was a far more personal and emotional album. Achtung Baby does not have the political teeth The Joshua Tree has.

I found it fascinating when Edge said to Andy Greene in Rolling Stone:

I’m interested to see if in this new post-truth world, music sort of reconnects with the activist-protest thread that it had for so many years and seems to have lost recently. I think that aspect of music has always been, to my mind, an important, crucial part of what drew me to it, and why I think a lot of people are drawn to it. So I feel that this is a moment where music might go through a kind of renaissance of a kind and I’m very excited to see what young kids in their garages across North America and Europe are going to be writing about and releasing over the next number of years. I think it’s time to get back to some of that.

Edge is spot-on regarding the activist-protest thread that permeated the 1980s. It was an age when concerts and benefits brought awareness to social and political issues; many of them televised or broadcast live on the radio. Organizations like Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Rock The Vote were some of the many nonprofits that artists flocked to and supported from the concert stage in the ‘80s. U2’s earliest gigs were to support social justice causes, after all. Looking at the music scene today, there are very few artists who are asking challenging questions and holding up a mirror to the status quo. Many in positions of power are trying to discredit the social justice movement in the United States; with lawmakers in Arizona last week going as far as trying to ban social justice courses taught in schools. Thirty years ago, Arizona was in the spotlight as Gov. Evan Mecham cancelled the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday.

Very few have the track record U2 does in shining a light in the darkness of societal issues. This is indeed a moment in time when U2’s inclusive message and philosophy are needed, and the more people who can hear it the better. That is why stadiums are the way to go with this tour. That is why this album is the album to revisit. The Joshua Tree is part of the soundtrack to Generation X, and now the Millennials are discovering it. It’s incredible to see how the album jumped in iTunes since the tour’s announcement. Billboard’s Kenneth Partridge wrote a great article on why the inclusiveness of The Joshua Tree is vital for 2017.

People who haven’t shown interest in going to see U2 in the past are coming out of the woodwork to declare how much they’re excited about going to see this tour. Some missed the opportunity 30 years ago and don’t want to miss out again, and others like the music on that particular album and not much else. Unlike with other U2 tours, concertgoers know they will certainly hear the 11 album songs, and that hooked them. This is also a tour with an opening act, so the audience will be more diverse. To think, there might be people at a U2 show who didn’t come for U2! The band will bring a sharp message to the stage with this tour to attempt to change minds and hearts for sure, and the timing couldn’t be better for such a message.

Parents will certainly bring their children to The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, and our family is no exception. Li’l Miss made it quite clear after seeing Mr. Bono, Mr. Larry, Mr. Adam and Mr. Edge’s message on Christmas day that she was going to the show. Well, how could I say no to that? I’ll take that as successful parenting, I suppose. By contrast, my son, Pete the Chop, was not interested in going. He said, “Mommy, I like the music, but the concerts are too much for me. Just say hi to Mr. Bono for me.”

As readers will recall from some of my other articles, my son has mild high-functioning autism and sensory processing disorder (SPD). Indeed, concerts with loud music and bright lights are sensory overload for anyone with SPD, but he is also scared of how he would be treated. I can only hope that at some point, he builds up enough tolerance and courage to give it a try because I really want him to feel the U2 communal concert experience.

For music fans with a disability, courage is needed to attend a concert of any kind. In a recent study by Mencap, over 29 percent of those surveyed reported being bullied at a concert because of their disability, and over 12 percent were denied entrance into a concert venue due to their disability. The research did not parse out which venues, artists or festivals were unwelcoming; however, it does show that a great deal of care needs to be taken to ensure a positive experience for all.

I have yet to convince my son that it’s not like that at a U2 show. All are welcome with open arms and hearts. I am proud of the measures U2 take and the level of care given for those with challenges to enjoy the show. I have seen countless examples of the band’s heart for this segment of their fan base. For now, Chop will just live vicariously through the rest of his immediate family, and I think he’s content with that.

And finally … there is a grassroots effort underway to convince The Dalton Brothers to come out of retirement and rejoin the U2 tour as an opener with the two types of music they perform: country AND western. If you see #freebettydalton in your social media feeds, that’s why.

If you don’t know who The Dalton Brothers are…check out our special section on them.

Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.

(c) @U2/Lawrence, 2017.