"[W]e don't want to do anything that is ever going to embarrass our fans. That's why over the years we've turned down so many offers from companies who want us to endorse their products."
Like A Song: City of Blinding Lights
March 10, 2011
[Ed. note: This is the 54th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
When I first heard "City of Blinding Lights," I was impressed. It was a big song for U2, and I thought it should have been the first song on the album. I had no idea when I first heard the song that it would twist through my life and supply me with distinct memories: from inspiring me in song, to inspiring me to help, to repaying me.
MARCH 26, 2005 – LOS ANGELES
I was in San Diego early to take in the first two nights of the Vertigo tour. I was assisting with the @U2 pre-concert party, and hanging out with two great friends, fellow @U2 staffer Sherry and her other half, Steve. We took the day to drive to L.A. because we had time, and of course, U2 was rehearsing. If this was going to be a U2 vacation, we were going to geek it up.
Then, the magic occurred. Fans who were gathered at the L.A .Sports Arena were let in with the radio contest winners to watch the last rehearsal for the Vertigo tour. To see a preview of what's to come for free before opening night was like winning a golden ticket. They opened with "City of Blinding Lights," and it was just magical: the confetti sprinkling down, the sheer joy of the moment, Bono singing "Oh you look so beautiful tonight" at full tilt. It was a defining moment in my U2 fandom, one I doubt I will be able to top. The song was perfect for opening the show, just as "Zoo Station" was perfect for the Zoo TV tour. It set the tone for the entire show.
MAY 14, 2005 – PHILADELPHIA
An accident occurred at this show for me that turned out to be somewhat magical. During the opening of the concert, Bono "appeared" to rise up under a shower of confetti at the front of the ellipse. I wanted to photograph that moment with my fancy point-and-shoot camera. I made sure the flash was turned off. While I knew what to expect, I missed the moment entirely -- I snapped too early. The resulting image, however, has easily become one of my favorites.
I have moved on to more serious photography interests, from a point-and-shoot camera to a digital single lens reflex camera. I have had opportunities to officially photograph U2 for @U2 at events like the "U2 by U2" book signing, Bono receiving the Liberty Medal, and a couple U2 concerts (1, 2, 3).
My interest in photography and U2 led me to the African Well Fund, where I organized three different photo auctions of U2 material by fans. The auctions raised more than $20,000 over the three years it has occurred. I put that image of "City of Blinding Lights" up for auction twice and was amazed at the money it raised for the cause.
FALL OF 2010
An ad agency contacted me last fall about using that same image for a high-profile ad campaign. The money they paid me allowed me to upgrade my camera gear -- something I couldn't do easily with a young family, and one thing I couldn't have dreamed of when I took the photo five years earlier.
Every time I hear the song, I think of those distinct moments in my U2 fandom, from golden tickets and mistake shots to helping a Bono-inspired charity, and how they all came full circle in giving something back to myself.
For further photos of U2 from Phil, click here.
© @U2/Romans, 2011.