It’s a little embarrassing to admit it, but this past Sunday, I went to my second U2 concert.
I know, I am a 40 year-old lady with six children.
But for real, no matter how much people hate on U2 for that “downloading their whole new album on everyone’s iPhone without permission” thing (which honestly, people should thank them for), I challenge anyone to attend a U2 show and not come out of the experience inspired not only to explore the wide world of music, but also to become a bona fide humanitarian.
Because, when it comes to U2, it’s always been even better than the real thing for me.
Yes, it is necessary for me to plug U2 music in this blog.
As long as I can remember, U2 has represented my mother. My mom always played U2 music in the car or while she was doing the dishes, and never hesitated to buy me the latest U2 humanitarian accessory, whether it be a wristband that supported struggling musicians or a t-shirt that provided AIDs drugs to African women. And, like most surly tweenagers, I rebelled against this obsession as much as I possibly could, mostly by being surly and unpleasant. So, nothing much different than any other mood I threw at my mom, but with more, “OMG I hate U2 they suck so bad I hate everything.”
Thankfully, I grew out of being a tween, and allowed myself to realize that not everything my mom liked was totally and completely uncool (just most of it). I realized, that, even though U2 is generally thought of as being a band enjoyed by the middle-aged, the message of the band is completely applicable to being a young adult in a confused society.
Teenagers, contrary to popular belief, are deep thinkers with humanitarian souls. Most teenagers have the desire to enact real change in their communities and to unify the human spirit, but are too confused by the trials of growing up to fully understand how to achieve these goals, or even that these goals are possible. Personally, as a teenager, I was mostly concerned with how to cover up my zits with makeup without it being totally obvious (which inevitably led to orange skin). I desired a deeper connection with the human experience, but wasn’t sure how to reconcile my insecurities with reaching out to the poor, lonely, and oppressed.
Listening to and understanding U2’s music was part of the journey that turned me into an empathetic and (mostly) self-confident person. The spirit of the band’s music is hard to explain, because, let’s face it, it’s not enjoyed by everyone. I’ve heard from many people that all U2 music sounds the same, that U2 is only for middle-aged women, and that Bono is a gigantic douche and he needs to stay the hell off of my phone (some valid points in there, but seriously people, some people would pay $14 for something you got for free).
Allowing myself to listen to and to enjoy U2 music allowed me to experience, for the first time, the exhilarating highs and heart-wrenching lows of the human experience. The way I’ve learned to see it is, we’re not all that different, or as the Beatles would say, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” (Which doesn’t really simplify anything, but hold on here. I can explain.) Some aspects of life transcend language or ethnic barriers and tap into the very meaning of being a human, aspects of life such as religion, love, and, yes, music. Not all music. But some music. Most notably, some music of arguably the world’s most popular band.
U2, by the way.
Now, I know that all U2 songs probably aren’t universal (“Drunk Chicken,” anyone?), but I highly doubt that any sentient human being can listen to the first three songs from “Joshua Tree” and not feel exhilaration, longing, pain, desire, and nostalgia for something that passed long ago. I’ve even heard these songs called the first three songs a person hears when they enter heaven. True? Not true? No idea, but I sure hope so.
Only one of the three, but the joy this song elicits in me can’t be unique to only myself.
Knowing that “Streets” can be equally enjoyed by me, a middle-aged French man, or a South African mother of four has helped me come to the obvious conclusion that, hey, we’re all the same soul. We’re one, but we’re not the same, so we get to carry each other (and I totally just thought of that myself). Religion, language, morals and values– important yes, but dividing, no. All people deserve the same right to life, and those of us with this right have the inherent duty to provide it to those still struggling for dignity. Fair? Of course, what’s not fair is that this is still considered an issue.
Actually where I got the “carry each other” thing.
U2’s humanitarian message isn’t exactly tacit, either. The most recent concert I attended had obvious plugs for the ONE campaign and Product Red, Bono’s pet projects that provide debt relief and vaccinations for our impoverished African neighbors. Last concert I went to during the 360 tour featured a segment where everyone pulled out an Aung San Suu Kyi mask in solidarity with the the beautiful soul of this Burmese leader who is currently under house arrest by the oppressive military regime of the nation. Combine U2’s preachy message with preachy music, and you’ve got 16,000 people on their feet, realizing (maybe for the first time) their role in the human experience and the beauty of humanity’s interdependence.
I’m not sure if I’ve done a great job of conveying the universality of U2’s music and how it connects all of us undergoing this human journey, but I do know how U2 has done my mom and I a favor by giving us something to bond over. I’ve attended two U2 shows (and hopefully more in the future) with my momma, and I can attest to the fact that a person can’t just go to a U2 show and not have something to marvel over with whoever they went with. Just slightly older than a teenager at this point, I’ve lost a little bit of my angsty unhappiness with the world and come to appreciate what I’ve been blessed with, whether it be time to spend with my mom or my ability and duty to provide aid to those who don’t realize the inherent dignity of being alive.
Plus, I hope to one day be the attractive brunette that Bono pulls on stage and dances with. Petty? Yes. But as long as I manage to provide vaccinations, education, and debt relief to the less fortunate while fully understanding the human experience, is pettiness really such a bad thing?
Just chillin’ with my mom. As you can see, I am a brunette, and not super ugly, so maybe one day, I’ll be pulled on-stage and experience my 15 seconds of fame.
Also, U2 needs to play “Numb” more often.
Nothing says cohesive human experience more than mumbled lyrics over an electronic beat and a dripping faucet. Trust me, I’ve listened to this like three times already today.