Through accident, providence, and generosity, I ended up at U2’s show at Giants Stadium last night. And I have to say, it was pretty great. I’m a casual fan, though, and not being familiar with their latest work or back-catalog, I’m not going to try and write a comprehensive review. Instead, here are some unorganized musings and highlights.
1. My friend and I were loitering in the parking lot before the show when we were approached by a young woman with a laptop. “Would you like to sign up for Bono’s ONE organization?” she said. “There’s no financial obligation, you’ll just occasionally get emails asking you to add your voice to various causes.” She held the laptop out hopefully, but, sensing we were waffling, she said hurriedly, “You can make up a name and email if you want. I just want to get some more sign-ups tonight.” And that’s how Mr. Jeff Goldbum (firstname.lastname@example.org) became a member of Bono’s ONE organization. I rather imagine this is how those ACORN workers got into so much trouble.
2. Giants Stadium has apparently decided that young men are more likely to smuggle drugs, guns, and other implements of destruction into these kinds of events, and so they’ve summarily barred men from carrying in any kind of bag at all – a policy I wasn’t made aware of until a security guard pointed at my satchel (read: man-purse) and shook his head. I argued with him, pointing to the equally-voluminous purses that women were strolling inside with, but it was to no avail, and finally I ended up stashing the satchel under a silver Honda CR-V, where it and a few of my bulkier possessions were presumably run-over and then scavenged later in the evening. This was my first encounter with the cruel sting of sexism, and let me tell you: it hurt.
3. People from New Jersey get drunk in a way that is completely different from the way that normal people get drunk.
4. The Edge is possibly the least-technically-talented player to ever be lead guitarist in a world-famous rock band.
5. U2 has an astonishing number of really excellent songs. As someone who’s paid little attention to them, I was a little surprised at how many of the songs I knew every word to, how many had been so culturally ingrained that, even for me, they were like second nature. They put on a great show, too, energetic and keenly aware of their audience and trying as hard as possible to please them. U2 also has the strange ability to take men – tough men, men who haven’t cried since the third grade and who call each other names like “bud” and “big guy” – identify with unabashedly sentimental lyrics. It’s a weird thing to see middle-aged, blue-collar New Jersey men crooning along with lines like, “I have kissed honey lips / Felt the healing in her fingertips”.
6. There were 60,000 people at this show at between $80 and $300 a head, which is a truly enormous amount of money per show. A hefty chunk of that is obviously going to the tech guys, and let me tell you, they are putting it to good use. The technical wizardry behind this show was mind-boggling. The sound, despite being piped through a dozen twenty-foot-tall speaker stacks, was perfectly mixed and clear – no part was slighted. The lights were perfectly timed to the songs. And then there was the stage itself. Bono referred to it as a spaceship (as in, “we’re the ones up here on this spaceship, but I promise we’re not taking off without you”) but it didn’t look like a spaceship at all; with its four spindly, segmented legs, it was more reminiscent of the lower exoskeleton of a massive insect – something from Starship Troopers, perhaps.
7. Lastly – At one of the first concerts I went to in college, the first semester of my freshman year, Ryan and I had an encounter with a girl who was utterly, bewilderingly inebriated. She shouldered her way the the front row of the crowd, leaving a vodka vapor trail in her wake, and proceeded to so alienate the crowd around her with her dance and general booziness that the crowd saw fit to reprimand her and propel her to the back once again. It was a remarkable performance, and for it she earned the private nickname of “Drunk Chick” from Ryan and I. But as I attended more concerts I realized that Drunk Chick was more an archetype than an individual, and time and time again I encountered her unstable brethren in venues across New York City. The woman seated next to me at Giants Stadium last night, while a generation older than the original Drunk Chick, was, if not her actual mother, than at least her Spiritual Mother, and as I regarded her – slack-jawed, swaying slightly, yelling “woo!” every couple of seconds – I felt a strange kind of tranquility steal over me. These days I’ll take any sense of constancy that I can get, and the Drunk Chick At The Concert above all else is dependable.