In the moments where my mind has been wandering this week, I wind up facing a bizarre and beautiful question: do I spend several hundred dollars to see U2 on The Joshua Tree 2017 tour?
There’s a few layers to unpack here before answering. First of all, can I afford to spend a small fortune on concert tickets? By all accounts of human earnings and needs, sure, as I have a full-time job, a modicum of savings, and that devilish extension of the self known as credit. But looking at my mountain of student debt and other, perhaps more pressing, living expenses, the expenditure seems rather frivolous.
Facing the reality of those logistics, the next question is how much do I want to see this show? SO VERY MUCH is the immediate answer, because how could one not want to see this tour, especially anyone who fancies themselves a student of modern rock history as I do? How many reams of papers, gallons of ink and infinite key presses have been devoted to this masterpiece over the years? More than anyone could count, and more than enough to prove its merit. No one who knows modern music is unaware of U2’s existence and by extension The Joshua Tree as their breakthrough LP of 1987.
I will pause here, though, to come clean before there are any misconceptions: I am not a huge U2 fan. But I am not not a U2 fan, in fact “With or Without You” was one of the first covers I sought to master. “How to Dismantle” was a pivotal teenage record, too, and I once sang “One” at a hotel beach party. Still, there are definitely bigger U2 fans than me, and part of me would feel maybe a little insecure if I attended and knew less than my fellow audience members, like I was wrongfully taking someone else’s spot. Imposter syndrome does not bode well as a precursor to a great concert experience.
Then again, maybe going to a see legendary tour would catapult my modest fandom into super-fandom, sparking a relationship that would lead to much more back catalog listening. Live performances, after all, is one of the best way to get hooked on a band/album/genre.
The other day, I was discussing whether to buy tickets with my significant other, who knows more about U2 than I do and considers The Joshua Tree front-loaded. But it’s possibly the biggest contender for best front-loaded album, as the triple threat of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “With or Without You” is perhaps the best possible ordered trio of songs ever. Especially concluding with that riff at the latter’s four-minute mark leading into the tambourine outro. Chills, every time! In the concert context, this weighs in the favor of going, because I think hearing those songs played loud in an stadium, in their proper order, would be akin to a religious experience. The rest of the album is smooth, sexy, impressive, too, with resonant tracks like “Running to Stand Still, “Trip Through Your Wires” and “In God’s Country.” It’s as near perfect a listening experience as an album can provide, making it one of the best choices for a live run.
After the tour’s announcement, multiple news outlets/critics/industry watches commented on the cultural relevance of this particular album touring at this particular moment. The takes have been many, some have been rather thoughtful http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/7654338/u2-joshua-tree-tour-live-2017-more-than-nostalgia?utm_source=twitter and given this a meaning beyond music. Speaking just in terms of the music, though, this album will be talked about for as long as rock music and rock stars are, and the eternal bragging rights are arguably worth the cost of a year’s worth of car insurance. Right?
Then again, when I think about the many shows that come through LA, I could spend what it cost for one or two U2 tickets on a show a week at The Echo, The Troubadour, The Fonda and other small venues I’ve come to love for the next several months. More bang for the buck, so to speak.
But still all of this is just conjecture, just words. I mulled this over for more than 48 hours without actually putting on the record. So I pulled up track two, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” turned the dial up and let The Edge’s perfect, precise tones wash over me. Every other line seemed to shock me right at the heart. Only to be with you…What I’m looking for…Bleed into one….Yes I’m still running. The feeling this song evokes in me and obviously countless other listeners is exemplary of U2’s power and prevalence.
Maybe I don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a concert to emphasize that. Maybe I can just put on headphones tonight and walk through the LA rain. Or maybe I can seek the live experience in the name of discovery, in the name of risk-taking, in the name of feeling fully without regret. Either way, I think I — and all who love this album — will be left richer for it.
“I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes, I’m still running
You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Of my shame, you know I believe it
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for…”
~I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
U2, The Joshua Tree