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"We can write sexy songs and spiritual songs — and songs that are both. We can write anything we want — and get away with it." — Bono



by Catherine Hornblower

U2: Originals of the Species

When I first saw U2: Rattle and Hum in June 1999, I just couldnt believe my eyes and ears. I fell truly, madly, deeply, irretrievably in love with both their message and medium. Now here I was waiting to see U2 from the floor for the first time.

Around 7:45 a.m., my brother and I were racing up Figueroa Street towards Staples Center. When we reached the GA line, Zoo Station was already in full swing. Eyes greeted us from behind U2 books and magazines. Arms and necks poked out of U2 tee-shirts. People had folding chairs, reading stands, picnic umbrellas, makeshift tents, and air mattresses. We giddily enlisted in this elite corps of crazies.

Around 1 p.m. my brother rushed back from one of his reconnaissance missions. Holding our spot in the U2.com GA line, he dispatched me to the loading dock with pen and Boy liner notes. By the time he joined me at 2:30 p.m., there were 100 fans at the dock craning their necks and scrutinizing everything in sight for clues about U2s arrival.

Around 4 p.m. a black GMC Yukon Denali XL with tinted windows pulled into the loading dock. Another followed, then a black Mercedes sedan. Unable to see anyone inside, we stayed quiet. One of the security guards seemed to say it wasnt the band.

Another Yukon suddenly appeared at 4:30 p.m. The back window rolled down, Bonos cowboy hat came into full view, and we all went ballistic. Explaining that he was late for soundcheck (how many other Nobel Peace Prize nominees can do that?), he affably shook a few hands and clamored back into his car.

Just before doors opened at 6 p.m., we learned that a flashing Vertigo on the ticket scanner meant wed be in the ellipse. Sleight of hand and twist of fate/ On a bed of nails [they] make[ ] me wait

I was barely through the metal detector when my brother screamed, WE GOT IT! WE GOT IT! Hoping against hope, wrists fluttering orange and green, we tore into the arena. And then there it was. A place that has to be believed to be seen. The pristine black rail at the very front of the ellipse, on our favorite bassists side. When our parents rang for an update, my brother put it this way: If I wanted to I could unplug their speakers!

After Damian Marleys galvanizing opening, Dallas Schoo and the rest of the U2 crew prepped the stage. As they triple-checked everything, I noticed them nodding and giving thumbs up to each other. It was mindblowing to catch these backstage moments up close.

We tightened our grip on the rail and counted down with our neighbors. Heaven on earth/ We need it now/ Im sick of all of this/ Hanging around

My goose bumps arrived en masse with Arcade Fires Wake Up. Each beat lands with such uncompromising finality, as if crying out, Achtung baby! This is the point of no return!

Then the heavens opened and three angels hit the ground playing City Of Blinding Lights. Curtains of light twinkled in the dark while confetti poured down like a hailstorm of granted wishes.

Suddenly Bono leapt onto the stage from our side. Before addressing the whole arena he came over, leaned down, and sang two lines of the first verse to me, his eyes unwavering from mine. I felt disarmed and empowered all at once. I felt as if he had guessed my name and was shouting it out again and again and again, validating my existence each time. I felt as if he had anointed me an original of the species. I felt beautiful. When I couldnt take it anymore I looked away. In retrospect: Did I waste it?/ Not so much I couldnt taste it.

That was my moment with Bono. Before the 19,999 other fans at Staples had him. Before Mr. No. 1 in the GA line had him. Before the remarkable women from Exit had him.

My heart reached bursting point again as I watched Adam love every second. Standing just above me, he kept smiling, winking, and gallantly mouthing Thank you! to the crowd like a bridegroom whos spotted old friends among the wedding guests. Suddenly he beamed right at me, relishing my excitement. Perhaps we were thinking the same thing: The songs are in your eyes/ I see them when you smile The second time our eyes met I glanced away, embarrassed. You steal right under my door When he grinned at me a third time, I was so thrilled I immediately pinched my brother to look over. Needless to say, I felt a huge void when he took the opposite side of the stage for 40. I am still enchanted by the light you brought to me/ I still listen through your ears, and through your eyes I can see.

Indeed, Adam Clayton is the Cary Grant of rock n roll.

Both Adams charisma and commitment to the music knew no limits. He unleashed unforgettable fire during Elevation, Beautiful Day, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky, Where The Streets Have No Name, and All Because Of You. His soothing riffs sweetened the agony in With Or Without You and hushed the heartache in One, providing the perfect counterpoint to the Edge.

Larry treated us to some precious moments too. As he sat there breaking the sound barriers in the darkness, I glimpsed the first few signs of age. In the shadow boy meets man But boy overtook man by a landslide when he broke into song during Fast Cars!

At the end of the concert, Larry surprised us again by grabbing the mike stand and heartily thanking everyone for coming to his birthday party.

This evening U2 nursed our souls with live aid. They brought all that they had, all that they couldnt leave behind, and even something from the future the incomparable, ingenious Edge. Not content to let their music do the magic, they embraced us themselves. In doing so they left a private legacy deep inside each of us, yet right there on our neighbors faces. You bury your treasure/ Where it cant be found/ But your love is like a secret/ Thats been passed around.

As the house lights came back on, I looked up at the stage a last time. Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry, Im still standing, Im still standing/ Where you left me







(Note: All quoted lyrics are from U2 songs.)

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