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"I don't like music unless it has a healing effect. I don't like it when people leave concerts still feeling edgy." — Bono

Column: Off the Record..., Vol. 18-778

@U2

OTR off the record 1200

Now that The Joshua Tree Tour is heading Down Under, I’m excited for the fans who have a long-overdue chance to see the band. It’s a shame countries outside North America and Europe see the band so infrequently, but it’s well worth the wait. Australasia and Asia are going to see a great show. I really hope the band has a trick or two up its sleeve and will give the fans a little bit of the Experience + Innocence Tour too. Maybe Mr. MacPhisto will make an appearance again? He never really goes away, after all. For what it’s worth, I don’t think that’s likely. I imagine it’s difficult for Bono to get into those characters’ shoes, so portraying both MacPhisto and the Shadowman might be a little too much.

I know many North American and European fans are planning to travel to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, and that’s fantastic. I wish I could do it myself, and I would do it if I could make it work. But if I may make one request of those intrepid travelers, please try to allow the locals a shot at the rail spots. In some cases they haven’t seen U2 live in 13 years, and they deserve to see them up close and personal. We’ve all had that chance time and time again in recent years, and now it’s their turn. Regardless, it will be great to see fans from all over the world converging again to enjoy the band as one.

 


 

I’m not sure how many people can pinpoint the exact moment U2 became their favorite band, but I know I can. It was a little after 9 p.m. Monday, June 11, 2001, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I had been a U2 fan for a few years after I first heard “Staring At The Sun” on the radio. They weren’t my favorite band (R.E.M. and The Beatles were vying for that spot at the time), but I liked them enough to get up early with a friend to buy tickets at the Boscov’s Ticketmaster Ticketron at the Neshaminy Mall. In retrospect, it was an interesting time for my U2 fandom. I owned only a couple of albums, including War, Pop, The Best Of 1980-1990, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The phrase “Achtung Baby” was just nonsense to me and I couldn’t have even begun to tell you what a Zooropa was. But I was excited nonetheless. I knew the hits and I loved the new album, so my hopes were pretty high.

It’s the only time I’ve attended a U2 concert without any idea of what was to come, so the whole show is stuck firmly in my head. I was confused and pleasantly surprised when the band tore into a roaring Elevation with the house lights still up, and amazed when the lights suddenly cut out and the show began in earnest. I heard “Until The End Of The World,” eventually one of my all-time favorite live songs, for the first time. I was struck by Bono’s showmanship when he pulled a woman out of the crowd wearing a Ramones shirt before dedicating “In A Little While” to Joey Ramone. It was, without a doubt, the best concert I had ever seen, but there was somehow still more to come.

The exact moment I went from being a “regular” U2 fan to the kind of fan who does things like work for fan sites and collect absurd amounts of U2 music came toward the end of their main set. It was the transition between “Bad” and “Where The Streets Have No Name,” particularly as the crowd was singing “how long to sing this song” and the opening notes of U2’s ultimate live song started to ring out. That’s when I was hooked. The rest of the show was a blur (except for The Edge’s wicked “Bullet The Blue Sky” and “The Fly” solos). It was all my friend and I could talk about for days. Two days later while searching AltaVista for the setlist, I stumbled upon a website called U2Tours, and by extension, atU2. I’m really glad I did.

Every June 11, I notice the date and am reminded of this show. And after a little math, I realized this is the 18th anniversary of my first U2 concert. My U2 superfandom is officially a legal adult, old enough to vote, head off to college, and join the military. They grow up so fast, don’t they?

 


 

Finally, if you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I’ve spent the past two months or so listening to each of Bob Dylan’s studio albums in chronological order. As I write this, I’m at 1975’s The Basement Tapes, so I still have a long way to go. I’ve really enjoyed hearing how Dylan’s style changed from album to album, sometimes subtly, and sometimes drastically. I’ve never done this experiment with U2’s catalog believe it or not, but I can see some similarities in how both artists have grown throughout their careers and how they’ve tried to move on from the sound they became famous for. It’s something I’ll keep in mind as I continue to listen to Dylan’s copious albums, and U2’s as well.

Of course, perhaps the biggest connection between the two is U2’s cover of “All Along The Watchtower” from Rattle And Hum. I’ll leave you with a short video of U2 performing that song on Oct. 16, 1988 at the Smile Jamaica Benefit Concert.