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by Bradley Morgan
Last Saturday, I ventured out to Soldier Field to see U2 play their masterpiece record The Joshua Tree in its entirety. I had been looking forward to this show for months. I even invited my dad and he drove over six hours to experience his first U2 concert.
Of course, I had seen Ireland’s favorite sons play a few times already including a greatest hits show and a concert promoting their latest studio album. However, this tour was different. The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 was designed with duality in mind; to commemorate the past but to also understand its relevance in the present. While this show signified a nostalgic trip for some, the tour set out to make a statement about the complexities of humanity and society. In preparation for the performance, I had to go back and find out not only what The Joshua Tree meant to me as art but also what U2 represented that made them so relatable to me over the years.
My path toward U2 fandom began at age twelve back in the fall of 2000 while I was living in Alaska. Anchorage didn’t really have any record stores or cool hot spots where hipsters could browse indie music stacks and discover the next big underground thing. Not only that, but streaming media online was not as sophisticated and easy to use as it is today, plus my dad wouldn’t let me download music. So, the only musical outlets available to me were whatever played on commercial radio and the limited selections of a local Wal-Mart or FYE.
That fall, U2 released their single “Beautiful Day” and it was life-changing. The sound was big and anthemic; qualities that inspired a budding teenager who had a lot to say and demanded that he be heard. The optimism and humanity within that song truly spoke to me.
Prior to that, U2 was a band that I had only heard of before. I had seen copies of War and The Unforgettable Fire in my mother’s CD collection, but I never listened to them before because what teenager wants to listen to their parents’ music collection? I wanted something new and relevant to me right then and there, despite the irony that this exciting new addition to my life was being delivered by an already established and accomplished band.
The music itself wasn’t the only thing that made me connect with the band. This band had something else going for them, too. They were Irish. That instantly made them more relatable and meaningful to me. As the son of an English immigrant with Irish grandparents, that made U2 so much more special. A bond was established through a shared ancestry that I wouldn’t quite understand until much later.