I was in Nice last friday for the last french U2 show. I would have died to go to Barcelona, but life had to catch up with me sooner or later : work obligations, friends, colleagues, money, an apartment into which a fridge was starting to stink in an awful way. So this was my second and last U2 show for the Vertigo tour. It wasn't my first, it wasn't my last, and still it leaves me a very special taste in the mouth, some particular traces on my skin, something that's a bit different from the other tours, yet something quite familiar - something U2-ish.
I don't want to sound fanatic. I don't want to sound like I've deified every member of U2. It's just some random impressions / feelings I've had after this tour and that led me to think U2 will always hold a very special place in my heart. Actually they always did. I grew up with them, I lived with them. Their albums are like the soundtrack of my life - I even had the incredible chance to meet Bono a couple of times in Dublin and they are memories that I cherish, for the fun and the joy they brought me. Somehow, a U2 concert isn't just a rock gig, something you go to with enthusiasm. It's something you devote yourself to and remember fondly for years going. I've attended more than a hundred concerts in my whole life, some extraordinary. Why were Paris and Nice 2005 so different ?
I felt so depressed when I came home in Paris sunday morning. I had newspapers cuts in my bag, pictures of the Nice show, souvenirs, my Irish flag that seems to travel with me everywhere. Paris was sleeping soundly under the summer sun, the street was silent, and my U2 tshirt was soaked in sweat. I threw everything in the washing machine and stared out of the window of my kitchen. The words were echoing in my head, you're the reason why I have operas in me. Right at the end of the song, Bono lifted his hands up in the air, and stared at the night sky. I have the picture with me. It's powerful. A moment I'm not ready to forget. I was probably gaping at him at that precise moment. I was right in front of the stage, front row, my eyes staring at him until he had the terrible idea to look down and take his glasses off : his bright blue eyes stared right into me and I thought I was ripped off my guts. I felt like a 16 years old for a moment and I guess I'll never quite understand the righteousness of that feeling until much later. For now, it just seems surreal. Not surreal that he did - surreal that it made me feel this way. A singer is a singer, a rock band is a rock band, and as a true Oasis admirer, I always had that line in my head : Please don't put your life in the hands / of a rock'n'roll band / that'll throw it all away. Well. Not quite.
Paris was incredible. The audience was extremely nice, friendly, supportive, human. The lights were beautiful, the stadium was candle lit, people were rejoicing - we all felt like one. We were all one fucking person with their hands raised and wishing to grab more of that moment, out of time, out of place. There was a religious silence at the end of the concert when more than 80,000 left the stadium to go back to their cars, their taxis, their subway trains. I didn't want to talk either : some songs were just too great to handle. I remember something one journalist wrote in a french music paper that I don't like that much, actually - but I'm grateful for that : they said that no one really understands what a live rock act is until they saw U2. You may or may not like, but at least you have to see them once ; that's part of your musical education. And even though it was my fourth tour, I totally got it. It suddendly hit me that there was nothing as great as a U2 concert in my entire life at that precise moment. My roommate (_trinity13 right next to me, who had never been to a U2 concert before, stared wide-eyed at the stage, at The Edge walking around the ellipse, as Larry discretly making his way to his drumkit during LAPOE. Everything was brilliant, but the noticeable exception of my face stuffed with tears. I felt so ridiculous afterwards. I was thinking, come on, this is not your first time, these are not your best friends.
I guess it's probably the Return Of The Boy they made. The first album. Songs like I will follow or The Electric Co that have defined so much of my childhood. I remember how I used to blow a fuse on Out of control. It's one of my mother's favorite U2 albums. It's strong, it's quick, it's poetic. It's all U2 is cracked up to be. It's all I ever wanted to hear. I always relied on U2 songs to soothe me or cradle me to sleep. It's how it's always been and I somehow relied on their live shows to take me away from my boredom, from my insomnias, from my depression, from everything that made me numb to everything in the world. That was what made me feel. Last october, I got One tattooed on my left wrist. One, for everything, one for one, one for them and one for me. So many things within three simple letters. Where have they gone ? Not so far away, actually. Playing impromptu gigs on the beaches of Nice, strolling around Dublin, trying to find funds to fight AIDS. The usual. The natural. It's never been away from me and it took me three months to recover from the Elevation Tour. I have the incredible chance to always be within ellipses or in pre-pits. To have the best sight of the band, to be the closest to the music, to be able to watch and memorize every single detail. It's a curse, because the more you get, the more you want.
I try not to be too erratic or ecstatic about it. I just remember the way Larry smiled - cause yes, we witnessed Mr Mullen smile !!! - is there some adjectives for it ? Does anyone know how to qualify the feeling ? And why do we feel so close to the band, so fused, so strongly bonded ? Why do we suddendly feel we're thinking out loud with an echo when Bono sings ? Why does it seem we're not on earth when they appear on stage ? Why does it feel like I've lost my watch and my head over these two concerts ? And why do I feel like a forsaken child when it's over ? They went offstage, and they had drinks and they went home, thinking about the next concert, and I was just there, climbing the stairs to the exit door, bumping into thousands of people also on their way out, and I didn't want to go. I didn't want to leave. I wanted more songs, and I wanted more sharing, more love. I'm usually not the love-stricken, peaceful type. It seems it got rid of my anger, more or less, gave me perspective. I laughed a lot, I've cried an ocean, I've fallen in love with the guy next to me, I've lost a tshirt and some strands of hair. I've held hands, I've hugged people, taken pictures of people hugging each other, became the resting shoulder for a girl too moved by With or without you, translated Bono's ode to his father to a young couple bemused and amazed by the intimacy The Big Boss created. There's no denying U2's the greatest rock band ever. With a guitarist coming from the future, a bassist undeniably the epitome of cool, a drummer sullen and beautiful, and a frontman powerful and heart-driven, there was no failure. And they'd better not quit.
We've come back to the beginning. We took a U-turn forward. We've walking backwards to the future. We're running ahead with our eyes over our shoulders. Toy, broken toy. In Nice, Bono thanked the audience for helping out a band like them, so young, just beginning, starting out. Well, no matter where, if they walk away, I think I can say without a doubt that I will follow.