It has been exactly 889 days since I last sat down to write a blog. 889 days since I last felt inspired to do one of the things I love the most. Write. It has also been 1,152 days since I last saw a Live Concert, also one of my favorite things to do. So on Sunday, November 6 as I sat in my (amazing) seat at Meridian Hall in Toronto, to see Bono perform in the most un-Bono way, my anticipation was palpable.
When I read Bono was doing a small tour to promote his new book “Stories of Surrender” and it was advertised as “an evening of words, music and some mischief”, I knew I couldn’t miss it.
(photo: CTV News)
Let me set the stage, as Bono did so eloquently with a simple set of a table, a few chairs and three excellent musicians (who were not Adam, Larry or the Edge). Growing up, I did not have the entire collection of U2 albums on rotation. I had many. Most from the late 80’s through early 2000’s. But that’s how we roll, when our age becomes appropriate to the music.
One day in 1989 a recent box from Columbia House was delivered. I was 9 or 10, I hadn’t yet had a taste for Rock Music other than some of my dad’s old Queen and Led Zeppelin records and the first Rock CD I ever listened to in full, Born in The U.S.A. At the time, I wasn’t the one yet ticking off the boxes to make the music selections, but Rattle and Hum was delivered, and I was immediately hooked.
The timing was right and I was ripe and ready for Achtung Baby and all the songs there on out that would be part of the incredible soundtrack that was my teenage/young adult life. Zooropa, Pop, and of course All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The Elevation tour was the first time I experienced the church of Bono, and once you get there, you truly can’t go back. I cried the first time I saw him walk that catwalk towards where I was standing in the GA section and when the lights blew up and I saw him, it was the most surreal moment.
Back in Meridian Hall, in 2022, I am reminded of the incredible night I was blessed to have seen the Hip at the famous Beacon Theater in New York. Same angle, same view. Even closer to the stage. Seeing your larger than life Rock Idols in a small theater setting is not something you will ever forget.
It’s quiet. I felt like everyone around me didn’t know what to expect other than that it wouldn’t be the foot stomping, fist pumping shows we are all used t0. When Bono comes out, the crowd goes wild, but still, it’s calm. And for a moment, it's weird. He opens with City of Blinding Lights and its Bono and its crystal clear. His voice is the main event. He digs into the stories he told in his book from his life, his parents playing a huge role in his story, his health, his true love, his commitment to the world, so it became. He sings Vertigo and the crowd gets pumped but just as everyone stands, he pulls it back and we sit again to listen to more of his stories.
He can act! Like a one man Broadway show, he truly has the gift of stage presence. He’s funny, he’s smart and he’s mesmerizing. Some songs are snippets, like a tease of a verse or a chorus that you just want to chant to, Gloria, I Will Follow (the fists were ready to go on this one), Pride, Sunday Bloody Sunday…but true to the theme of the evening, it was an ode to the tunes that we know and love so well, and a gift to hear the stories behind them.
(1 pre show photo was all we got!)
It’s 2001 and I am standing on the floor of the Bell Center to one side of the heart shaped catwalk. The first few bars of Beautiful Day start and Bono is making his way down, singing the first lines, the lower key part of the song, and as mentioned, there I am wishing I could just reach out and touch him as the lights go up and he croons “It’s a Beautiful Daaaaay!” And oh we are there for it. I am 22, my life is ahead of me, the Towers have not yet fallen. But in 2022, in this dark theater, for his second to last of the night, Bono sings the most beautiful stripped down acoustic version of this song and I am filled with love, and appreciation for experiences like this. Reminded how the music I love so much fuels my creative spirit, a spirit that if I speak honestly about, has dulled over the last three years.
I didn’t have a smart phone at that 2001 show. I didn’t have a smart phone for the majority of the concerts I went to as a younger girl. Madonna, Elton John, The Hip, Blue Rodeo, Dave Matthews, Def Leppard to name a few. And we weren’t allowed phones in Bono’s show. And while I wished I had it to document the beauty of the music, and the memories with my best friend, I mostly wished I had it so I could take notes because I knew I would be writing about this moment in time. About how listening to some of my favorite songs live, in a darkened theater with no one screaming around me was a truly personal experience.
It’s November 8, 2002. Bono’s book is on display in my home where I will see it every day. And while I am deeply aware that I am in the business of selling goods and services, something that even on a good day, is no easy task, I will forever remind myself that nothing can ever take the place of living experiences. Whether it is something as simple as getting a group of friends together after a long time, to a road trip or learning something new, or just listening to music. We have to choose to live. We have to choose to celebrate. We have to stop and listen to the music. These are the moments that fill us up and fuel us forward because forward is the only place we can go.