I don’t have much of a music concert bucket list.
I’ve seen a lot of my favorites over the years, and can pretty much recall in specific detail some of the greatest performances I’ve seen and smile about them still (Tom Petty at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen).
But a couple of years ago I realized that there were two giant holes in my concert resume: I’d never seen Bruce. And I’d never seen U2.
Well, bucket list completed. Saw Bruce in 2012, and Thursday night, at a frenetic, pulsating Madison Square Garden, I finally got to see the band that strongly influenced my teen years.
U2 is often hailed as the greatest live band in the world, and man oh man were they ever fantastic Thursday night. Lots of times in life we hype things up in our minds so much that when we actually experience the thing, it’s a letdown.
Thursday night was most definitely not a let down. Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton, The Edge and an AIDS activist/world peace attempter/lead singer of an Irish rock band named Bono kicked serious rock and roll ass for 150 minutes.
Some thoughts on the show from my rocked-out brain, where three days later I’m still humming some of the songs I heard:
— First, they sounded great. But the look of the show was incredible. I’ve seen giant stages before, seen bands get up close to their fans, seen hi-tech video boards. I’ve never seen anything like the enormous “virtual reality”-like screens at this show (above photo). When Bono sang a few songs about his childhood, he literally disappeared into the board and “walked” down Cedarwood Road, where he lived as a kid. Throughout the show there were these incredible video montages (and even calling them “montages” doesn’t do them justice, they were like mini-movies) and they were mesmerizing.
— Thanks to age and his famous bike accident, Bono doesn’t run around and go nuts like he used to do. But damn if he still doesn’t have incredible stage presence. Even when he was not singing, just talking about huge breakthroughs in AIDS treatment or about his first girlfriend, he commanded the arena like few singers I’ve ever seen.
— Funniest thing to me Thursday was how Bono always called his lead guitarist “The Edge,” when talking to him, always making sure to put the “The” in there. He would say stuff like “The Edge, what should we do next?” Cracked me up every time. Like after all these years, you can’t just call him “Edge?”
— Waited 27 years to hear my all-time favorite U2 song, “With or Without You,” live. I first heard that song in 1988 and immediately went out and bought the record (“What’s a record, Grandpa?”) and listened to it at least 15 straight times on my stereo’s record player in my bedroom. Three decades later, it still moves me.
— There are lots of feelings I’d like to experience in my life still, and I hope I’ll feel most of them. But there are two I don’t think I’ll ever get to live out, and I have long thought about and desired them, and saw Bono enjoy both on Thursday night.
First, I would kill to find out what it’s like to walk out on stage, look out on 20,000 people, and hear all of them screaming in excitement for you. Just because they love your music, know you’re about to make them happy, and are so damn excited to see you. God, that’s got to feel great.
The other feeling, related to that one, Bono got to experience during the final song of the encore. As the band started to play “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Bono held the mic up to the MSG crowd and let us sing the first two verses of that classic. To hear 20,000 people belting out a song they know by heart, belting out your song back to you? Got to be incredible.
— A kid in the row behind us who looked to be around 8 years old was there with his obviously super-cool parents. The kid was rocking out hard to every song until about 9:45 p.m., an hour into the show, when I looked back and saw him passed out in his chair. Party hard, man, party hard.
**Finally today, two baseball things to pass on. First, Pedro Martinez, who I believe is the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen in my lifetime (apologies to Messrs. Maddux and Clemens), gave a wonderful Hall of Fame speech in Cooperstown Sunday; check it out here. Second, check out this crazy strange play in baseball Sunday that hadn’t happened since 1955. It was a triple play turned by the Seattle Mariners against Toronto, but it was a 3-6-2 triple play. Two of the three outs were made at 3rd base, and the Mariners’ third baseman never touched teh ball.
Hard to do. Pretty horrendous base-running. I love how clueless and helpless Toronto’s third-base coach looked here; I’m pretty sure the Bad News Bears wouldn’t have looked this bad, even with Engleberg and Lupus running.