Few days ago, was introduced to an initiative taken up by Gul Panag about getting U2 to perform in India (Thanks to fellow blogger Shradha Revenkar for that). The soaponline.in website had a comment board setup and for starters, I put a comment there too (here, somewhere below, still online). Then, after being encouraged during a little chat on twitter by Gul herself, I wrote my U2 story.
Basically, I have a ticket for a U2 concert that is supposed to happen today, 14th July 2011, in Philadelphia. I had surrendered to my fate long ago, but this little story (for what it’s worth), Gul Panag said later on email, will eventually make way to U2. I don’t know what happened to it but here it is anyway.
I have a ticket to July 14’s U2 concert that is going to happen in Philadelphia. And yet my story manages to be a bit of a heartbreak.
My first memory of U2 is a picture of the band that appeared in, of all newspapers, The Economic Times, sometime in 2000. It was not the band that attracted me to the picture but it was another artist’s picture that appeared alongside their’s that caught my attention. Sheryl Crow had won the Grammy for her cover version of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and so had U2, for their album “All that you can’t leave behind” (ATYCLB). “So these were the guys who had sung ‘With or Without You'”, I said to myself. I had just been enlightened with that song, thanks to the “Songs of the Millennium” collection that had just been released by Universal Music. The good thing of an album that is an assortment of the best songs is that not only are these albums value for money but they also, in effect, become the best advertisements of music bands they carry, simply because they showcase the best songs.
I bought ATYCLB’s audio tape with much skepticism. My allowance allowed me to spend Rs.125 (in today’s economy, $3 approx) on music, per month so I made sure that the money was well spent. My definition of a good album then was an audio-tape that one could play on and on, without the need to fast-forward. ATYCLB qualified as one.
About 6 months after I had seen U2’s picture, I was in a city called Pune, 4 hours from Bombay. In a new city, with almost no friends, I had 2 years of my education still left. One of those days, I bought U2’s Best of 1980-90 — it made sense because buying a “best of” U2 gave me a chance to look at the best that they had to offer without risking my monthly music allowance. A few hours after buying of that tape, I remember, leaning over the stairs of our old house in Pune, a Gothic like structure in shambles, with “Pride” blaring into my ears. I hit rewind a few times, because I remember telling myself that “Pride” had the kind of music that I could define as perfect. It was just the music I was longing to hear, almost subconsciously, because I had never heard anything like it. That evening, in Pune, I evovled to a different personal age of music.
Following that day, every month, tape by tape, I kept bridging the gap between the 1984 hit, Pride and ATYCLB. The sounds of “Achtung Baby”, were discovered. Bono once said that “Achtung Baby” was the sound of 4 guys chopping the Joshua Tree. It fascinated me no end – that a band could completely abandon the music that got them their greatest classic for something completely unconventional and then come back to it as U2 did with ATYCLB. There was a method in U2’s madness, in their contrasting genres while they experimented with Electronica, classic Rock and Pop. To untrained ears this was random but in truth it was anything but that.
For someone born in 1981, to appreciate the rock and roll (and everything else) churned out in 1984, in 2003 was a coming of age.
In Goa, my home, I once saw an advertisement of a U2 concert to be played on HBO. Cable TV didn’t have much choice, power supply was intermittent. And this had to be taped. On audio. It was the infamous Boston Concert, DVDs of which were later gifted to me by my gracious friends. That night, with guests in house wondering what I was upto, I connected my philips music system to the television, taped the whole concert with audio that was interrupted by advertisements and power cuts. This master-tape was then converted to MP3, edited and archived on a Compact Disc. This was my prized possession for years to come.
U2’s concert in Chicago happened. I heard Bono’s speech about his first impressions of America. About the American spirit that found inspiration on landing a man on the moon. My impressions about America were not the exact copy of Bono’s but we touched common ground. With my first article appearing in a major Indian news magazine, months after my first visit to America, I chose this inspiring moment to be a part of my writeup because this was now what Bono meant to me — Much more than a musician but someone who could inspire minds and people. Bono was, by now, an old friend right there in my headphones.
In 2010, I was summoned to be there for work in the US, for six months. I had a vague thought in my mind, that I might be able to attend a U2 concert. I did not know how realistic the idea was because a U2 concert was always a “big deal” for me. I mean, staying in the shadows, even if it was as an audience, I had started to be always in the awe of the band. To see them in real, in the flesh had by now, become a far fetched dream.
I landed in Newark on 1st May 2010. I checked in a traveller’s Inn, that was next to a 7-Eleven convenience store that evening. The next day, Sunday, 2nd May 2010, my first day in America, I fetched a copy of USA today from the store, among other things. Somewhere in the middle of the thick broadsheet, I came across a small, unassuming piece of news – that U2 was about to play a series of concerts on the east coast. NYC and Philadelphia among a few of them. My first morning in America, still jetlagged and it had brought in my life’s dream. I looked at the map and my options. A few phone calls and 16 days later, on 18th of May, I had a ticket to U2’s Philadelphia concert that was supposed to happen on July 12, 2010.
12 years of following their music. My first and possibly only trip to America. U2 at their best, on a tour. I had a ticket to watch them in the flesh. That was my one shot.
On May 21, 3 days after I bought my ticket, it was reported that Bono had undergone an emergency back surgery. On 13 July 2010, ticketmaster.com sent me an email, conveniently informing me that the concert was now rescheduled to July 14, 2011. I did not expect anyone to appreciate the irony in there but I did not know what to make of that email. Fate kicked my butt. All I could do was take a printout of the e-ticket, frame it and put that on the wall with the caption- “The closest I could get to U2”.
A few weeks back, a friend suggested why not sell the U2 ticket that I have? I could still have my ticket framed and the money back. Not a chance, I said. Bono’s having one less man for audience on 14 July 2011.