U2 – April 10, 1987, Pan American Center, Las Cruces NM

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.

About Chuck

Chuck is a lifelong music lover. He spent his 20s working as a professional musician before discovering he enjoys listening to music more than playing it. He knows a little bit about most genres, though electronic dance music, rock, and hip-hop are his favorites. Eleven albums/shows that transformed how he sees and hears the world (in order he encountered them): Fleetwood Mac Rumours; Van Halen Fair Warning; The Cure Standing on a Beach; John Coltrane Crescent; De La Soul Three Feet High and Rising; Puccini La Boheme (de los Angeles, Bjorling, Beecham); Everything but the Girl Walking Wounded; Carl Cox, Twilo, NYC, May 2000; Godspeed You! Black Emperor Yanqui U.X.O.; Grateful Dead. Fillmore East, NYC, April 1971; Taylor Swift 1989.

1 thought on “U2 – April 10, 1987, Pan American Center, Las Cruces NM

  1. bobvinyl

    Your U2 experience was so much different than mine, not least of all, because they played zero songs from Joshua Tree when I saw them (having last toured for the anniversary of Joshua Tree, I think). In a way, that was cool, because they figured the fans who had been paying to see them for years had just heard a set full of that stuff maybe a year earlier.

    While you came with a beginner’s mind, I came with my cynicism. I always assumed that U2 was one of those bands I loved, but would never see. I was too punk rock for stadium shows 30 years ago and may still be too punk rock to pay rich men exorbitant amounts of money even a band who has continued to make good albums after re-inventing themselves multiple times. But the eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour caught me at a time when I was questioning some of my hard and fast rules and I went with a friend. Everything about it was pretty amazing. They create a very complete experience. At one point, they played a smaller stage that maybe 30 feet or so from our seats, but to me, they might as well have been a thousand miles away. In some ways, I think wanting to see them for so long and expecting that I never would built up my expectations to an unreachable level. My dislike of fandom in general probably didn’t help. While they were very different when I saw them, I suspect that they still inspired some of the same things you were able to appreciate in 1987, but in 2018, I just didn’t bring my best self. It’s odd, because I agreed to go in an attempt to be a better version of myself. I just couldn’t muster it that night.

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