They’ve long said that music speaks where words fail, a testament to the added value of soundtracking a monologue with a melody. Words have always been the tried and true form of communication, yet music is able to evoke a deeper, more impactful pathos than the stand alone word. For that ability, music represents a core pillar of artistic expression and like all art, it rests with the dormant potential of outliving its creator for millennia if the vehicle is truly that strong. With that, many musical greats have likely took pen to pad and mallet to kick drum with that very intention…create a song or album that transcends the abstraction of time. A ballad that resonates across generational gaps, appealing to the 16 and the 60 year old. A jam that carries the stopping power to be played today, tomorrow, and forever thereafter. My friends, were talking about scribing a timeless classic.
The mantle that houses the symphonic classics is a hall of fame corridor lined with musical icons that meander through countless genres and eras without scrutiny. While R&B, country, pop, and indie all have their delegates, it appears that rock stands tallest on the perennial podium, casting an all encompassing shadow as the music genre Goliath. The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Van Morrison, and the Beatles are but an iota of the rock & roll mercenaries that have waged war against the hour glass and not only lived long, but prospered. The rock legends of the baby boomer generation stand today as the most emblematic musicians in history, a list that can be put through the Top 40s centrifuge only to be derived down to what can be equated to musical carbon…U2.
The lads from the Emerald Isle have set out to perform their 1987 classic Joshua Tree album in a global mega tour, filling the seats of some the most famous and grandiose arenas in the known world. Effortlessly, the 57 year old Bono and his wolf pack of classical crooners oversell venues fit to accommodate 50,000+ die hards. This is musical clout that we still see with todays contemporaries like Drake, Rihanna, and Miley….the difference here is that U2 is outspokenly riding their own coat tails, fabric work that they sewed together 25 years ago that lies intact without wear to this day. As The Joshua Tree Tour continues, Bono and the boys will take to the stage night after night and power through the same 2 hour set list, a compilation of their post-acid, pre internet classics. Like clockwork, they open with Sunday, Bloody Sunday and transition through New Years Day before emancipating the thirsty crowd with the melodic kill shot that is the Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With or Without You, and Beautiful Day medley. This trifecta packs enough of an emotional punch to bring the 50 year old dads in attendance to tears; a nostalgic walk down memory lane likely reminiscent of first kisses, the loss of virginity, and the glory days of college. At this point, now decades beyond the inception of the hits, a U2 performance is as predictable as your own 9-5. Simply put, they found their Goldilocks zone in the music world and planted the flag. Still though, the lion share of the U2 discography will afford itself replays in perpetuity, proving that the band is a poster child for the transition from One Hit Wonder to quintessential classical hit machine!
Even with 22 Grammys, 6 MTV awards, and the trophy cases magnum opus in the form of Bonos Noble Piece Prize, the crowd was still surprised to see 4 unsupervised 20 something’s in attendance. The Chicago show would mark my U2 reservation, a tour date we splurged for once tickets were announced and showtimes slated. Me and my trusty fraternal brothers formed our own band of misfits for this outing and surrendered ourselves to The Joshua Tree. After securing ourselves a spot on the guard rail, we were stopped time and time again with inquiries as to our age and reason for being at the 25th High School Reunion party that was a U2 concert. Startled by the fact that we came with the same agenda as them, the “adults” held us with laud, cheering the fact that people of the younger crowd still understood what “real music” was. After appeasing one group of 40 somethings and their survey, a second group would swarm us with the same questioning as if we were witnesses to a homicide. Finally, our knight in tattered 80’s rock tour clothe sprung us from the Spanish inquisition with a very simple, yet prolific statement as to our cause. “No one is too old or too young for U2.” Then he spilled beer on me and screamed Bloody Mary as Bono headed our way.
Perhaps the $8 dollar refreshments and left over hallucinogens from actual Joshua Tree visits blinded our elder patrons from what me and my friends had thought to be a mutual understanding….U2 is the fucking best. I saw them at MSG when I was 8, at Soldier Field at 23, am hoping to catch the farewell tour in LA at 35, and the reunion tour in Boston when I’m 50. While the musical chops of the band is certainly of the highest caliber possible, the real reason why a U2 concert is such of crock pot of people is because of the common thread established in the lyricism. While the band is certainly of the rock and roll descent, they can be sub categorized as folk music. Their lyrics are eloquent but speak truths as universal as the blue sky. They hit the heart strings and form a camaraderie amongst the crowd that transcends any socioeconomic, neoliberal 2017 boundary possible which is why their message of COEXISTANCE resonates so strongly…this is music for the common folk. Bono said they sing songs that are to be played on Sundays and Mondays, claiming that to be “the peoples time.” The crowd ooed and ahhhed at this retort, again uncovering a ubiquitous nerve…people struggle. They appeal to the hurt and pain that is the daily, but the beauty and bliss that is the life.
Well, I never manage to keep these thoughts brief, so if you’re still here I thank you. Like the rest of the 60,000 I shared Soldier Field with last week, you’re of the silent majority of dreamers and believers. A soul that can tap along to any old radio hit, but recognize when an art is true. It is the folks like us that give the artists the fragment of a chance of seeing the vision through…leaving behind work that outlives the creator. Procuring a classic is as daunting a task as any. Bono and U2 show that it is not about commercializing yourself and giving the people what they want. Instead, it is an introverted process of self exploration. The people’s plight is within us all…one must simply appeal to it to achieve todays closest thing to immortality! One day, given enough time, we all might find exactly what we are looking for…until then we sing that we are still searching.