"Monday morning, 18 years of dawning, I say how long..." - U2, Out Of Control
Just over 30 years ago, a coupla friends wrote to U2 to say they shouldn't put their tickets onsale during school hours, cos anyone that really cared about getting good tix had to sleep on the sidewalk and/or skip school (as we did) to get em. U2 somehow got in touch with them (I think they literally called my buddy at home, his mom had no idea what was going on), said they wouldn't put tix onsale during school hours anymore, gave them tickets and backstage passes to all three nights of the sold-out shows, and when my buddy's mom couldn't take him on the last night, they picked him up and gave him a ride home in their limo on the last night of the tour. For several tours after that, the band would reach out and see if my friend wanted tickets.
I was at one of those shows, and there was an extra backstage pass, and I ended up with it. After the (ridiculously great) show, Bono walked up to me backstage and asked, 'are you Josh Nathan?'. I pointed to my friend, and Bono turned to him and said, 'so you're the one who's been beatin up on our manager'. He knew about the whole story, took the time to talk to us. The good ol' Edge indulged all my 15-year old questions about being in a rock band, equipment, who knows. It all changed me forever. Anyone who's ever wondered how I got so idealistic, why I say thank you as effusively and as often as I do, why I sell my own merch and talk to people forever and play on sidewalks and write back and just try so hard to show anyone that cares at all about me and the music how much that means to me... this experience has a lot to do with it.
There are so many more details to this story that illustrate further how unbelievably cool U2 was in that situation. They had just sold out 3 nights at a 15,000 seat arena, 'Pride' had just hit #1, they were blowing up so fast, they'd played 45-ish shows spanning several countries and it was only April, they'd been pretty much on tour for 5 years straight... and they still paid attention and took the time. Anyone that wants to give them shit for whatever (and of course they've done/said some stupid stuff in the last 30+ years of being superstars), at least know this story is real, and that I've never experienced/heard a story quite this cool since. It's also worth remembering that Bono has spoken up, raised more loot/awareness about inequity and illness, and generally shown up more consistently and consciously than any mainstream artist I've ever heard about.
Anyway, this is all to say that I'm going to see them tonight (and tomorrow night), with the same friend, 30 years later. He was the first person outside of my family to hold my daughter when she was born. I'm the godfather to one of his kids and a constant presence in his family's life (and at their dinner table haha). We're giddily texting about it (which is what got me to take a break from show-booking and such to write this down). We haven't taken a U2 album seriously for a long time now, we have very measured expectations. We will talk shit during the crappy new stuff and root for moments of transcendence. At this point, it's just family.
ps - With all this in mind, from 3:06 on in this clip from when U2 played in Ireland in September 2001 is particulary resonant. Some big ideas, indeed. It's also the song my friend wants to hear most tonight and/or tomorrow. Here's to rooting for moments of transcendence.