In 1987, when I was fifteen, my friends and I took the train from Salmon Arm to Vancouver to see U2 in concert at BC Place.
This last weekend my friends and I did it again, except we drove ourselves. That wasn't the only difference in the experience.
In 1987 we had to get our tickets the old fashioned way, standing in line at the ticket kiosk at the Village Green Mall. Some, more adventurous types had even camped out, we didn't but we were still able to get tickets, because ticket resellers didn't exist yet except in the form of scalpers, who had to stand in line as well. Today, companies like Stub Hub buy up tickets online so they can resell them to you at ridiculous markup. Often, modern would-be concert goers can't get a tickets. Luckily, my friend is a big U2 fan and was able to get a bunch of great tickets via his U2 fan club membership.
In 1987 we were seated way up on the second tier, but every time the lights went down, before the Bodeans, before Los Lobos and finally before U2, waves of hundreds, if not thousands of people jumped over walls and barricades to get onto the floor. My friends and I were part of those waves. In the process I cut my hand on a barricade, I didn't even notice until someone pointed out the blood. A sweaty teen, freshly freed from the front of the crowd, handed me a dirty tissue to stop the blood. "Don't go up there. It's crazy," he said. I still can see the scar on my hand, I call it my U2 scar. My friends and I, after being separated in the waves, were reunited on the floor (somehow) and we enjoyed U2 together. Aside from the great show, which was ultimately captured in the concert film Rattle & Hum, we also shared some memorable events: the men in suits smoking marijuana, (hadn't seen that before,) security wrenching teenager's arms out of sockets in an effort to remove them from the premises, the crowd part because a naked man was swirling around dancing. (Security was less willing to grab him.) The performance itself was made of iconic gestures and sounds that would come to define U2.
Last weekend, we had floor tickets, so no blood was let. Thank goodness, I'm too old now. So was everyone else. Where BC Place was filled with teenagers in 1987, it was now filled with those same teenagers, middle aged. I didn't see security hurt anyone, only help people in distress. No naked people swirling, just polite, happy Canadians sharing an amazing experience with some professional entertainers. U2, although obviously older and less energetic was still able to captivate. Bono can win anyone over with a wave of his hand. The Edge still looked and played the same. Adam Clayton still just stood there doing the funky chicken with an ambiguous grin on his face and Larry, well Larry never changes.
To be honest, I didn't want to go when I first heard that U2 was doing a thirty year anniversary tour of the Joshua Tree. I thought, "How is that going to be anything but worse than it was originally?" I was particularly worried about Bono's voice. He does a lot of yelling and he gets tired. I'm really glad that I did go, because Bono was fine, everything was impressive and the concert was more than just fun, it was an experience. Music is something that can well up inside you and explode out, both as creator and creation. It's as close to spiritual as I've ever come, I think. Time, technology and prevailing social attitudes have put us all in a situation that is better than it was in the past (as hard as that is to believe.) Whenever you collect over fifty thousand people in one space and have them emote, be happy we are Canadian, be proud of our ability to get along swimmingly, celebrate our ability to do amazing things together, even if it is just to be part of an audience. Thank you U2 and thank you to my friend Ryan for insisting we go.
The world is a different place because all things change, even the things that we call unchanging. This continued change will go on unabated. It might seem like the world in 2017 is rife with ignorant and dangerous people, full of fear and/or hate. This, I suppose is true, but there has been and there likely will continue to be these people, always. It's not anything newer, it's just louder. Not because they are louder, (although this is usually the case,) but because we are better listeners. Furthermore, it doesn't change the fact that there are also decent, reasonable people, full of love and joy, there always has been, also always will be. I'm not saying everything is sunshine and lollipops, I'm saying we are better off than we were thirty years ago, because we are thirty years smarter than we were. They haven't changed at all. Kudos to us for becoming enlightened, shame on us for not sharing our enlightenment with the reluctant.
At one point, near the beginning of U2's set, Bono was talking to the audience, having us sing to Pride in the name of love, explaining: "Sing loud so others may hear you, where others close their doors yours remain open." It's a simple statement, expressing a broad liberal stance on the treatment of other humans being, or sometimes not being. It suggests we have a duty to do something in the service of one another rather than in punishment of one another. It's not lost on a U2 audience, be it here or in America, or anywhere else. But then again, we are not the problem, are we?