My first concert of 1987 was U2’s sixth date on their Joshua Tree tour. I didn’t know U2 beyond Under a Blood Red Sky, but “Where the Streets Have No Name” immediately captivated me. I intuitively knew this band, this record, and this concert would change my life.
My friend David and I convinced our parents to let us make the 4-hour drive to Las Cruces, our longest independent road trip. As we relaxed before the show, we felt childhood dripping away as the freedom and frustration of adulthood washed over us.
Lone Justice opened in support of Shelter, and I was entranced by Maria McKee’s boundless energy. It was a short set but it was an important part of my journey into independence that night. It stood on its own as a strong show, and it set the stage for what was to come.
Because I came in with a beginner’s mind, certain aspects of U2’s performance profoundly touched me while others went straight over my head. Years later, David reminisced about the magic of hearing “October” live and my only fuzzy recollection was a slow song I didn’t know. However, I clearly remember the opening notes of “Where the Streets Have No Name” rattling the arena as a life-changing sense of community and joy spread across the crowd.
That sense of community—of unity—makes U2 unlike any other band from the past 34 years. Most artists build communities that include an antagonist, someone who threatens the well-being of the community. U2’s community, however, is us. All of us. U2 pushed 17-year-old kids to be better versions of themselves in the same way they pushed world leaders to be better. Their call to action was universal: no matter what personal battles we face, live with a spirit of goodness, respect, and love.
I sit at my desk on this grey Saturday morning, exactly 34 years after that concert, and I am taken back to U2’s challenge that I be a better human. I’ve made progress but I still have a lot of work to do. And as I reflect on their call to action, I realize it is even more important today than it was 34 years ago. We have chosen to build communities defined by our antagonists instead of building communities that include all of us. We need to rise to that call of action, and we—all of us—need to become better versions of ourselves, to live in a spirit of goodness, respect, and love.
“Personal Stories” is a series of posts about artists, albums, concerts, and other experiences that permanently changed our relationships with music.