Atomic City and You (too)

At Easter dinner last spring, my brother-in-law Benson said, “If you could hear one band live before they stopped playing, who would it be?” I answered first, without even thinking – U2. I’ve been listening to their music since I was a teenager. Rattle and Hum, their 1988 album, was my first, and soon after I bought Joshua Tree, Boy, War – all the acclaimed albums from the 80’s. These songs were like the soundtrack for my adolescence. I listened to them on repeat, on cassettes on my stereo while lying on my bed, or on my Sony Walkman whenever I was places I didn’t want to be, or when I was in one of those adolescent moods.
Though we lived in Chicago in our 20’s when they played there, I missed that show, and have regretted it ever since. And then we had kids, and got busy with life and you know how it is… I hadn’t even thought about hearing U2 live in a long time. Benson told us, “I heard they’ll be playing in Vegas sometime soon!” Frankly, I’ve never had a desire to visit Las Vegas, but this had me intrigued. So as soon as we got home, I signed up for the U2 fan club (something I never do), to “get the latest news” on the band, and I’d say it was worth the $50 fee, though I clenched my teeth at the time. A month later, I got an email about concerts in December, and I bought us two tickets. It was more than I’d usually pay for a concert, but who knew how many more times this group would play together? I figured it was probably worth it.
Fast forward to fall, and those tickets I bought on a whim were seeming like not such a crazy idea. People were quoting exorbitant prices for tickets, due to third-party sites and dynamic pricing. (Guess it paid to be a member of the fan club afterall.) U2 released a new music video to go along with their residency in Vegas, called Atomic City, featuring footage of the venue and a new song, and I started getting a bit excited.
By the time we arrived in Vegas, Dec 14, we had read up on Sphere, the newly-built revolutionary venue space that features a huge spherical LED screen both outside and in. My husband the computer programmer and electrical engineer was fascinated by the tech involved to make this all work. I won’t pretend that I understood any of that, but I will say it looked pretty great. There were spectacular visuals for each song, something like an IMAX movie theater on steroids, with everything from outer space to thunderstorms to the landscape of Vegas appearing in high-definition right before our eyes, in time with the music.
I’ve become pretty cynical about aging rock-and-roll musicians, especially ones doing tours featuring music they released decades ago. And I find the upsurge in outrageous prices for concerts ridiculous. But there I was, listening to a concert featuring music released before I graduated from high school, by a band with only three of their original four members, and all in all, I’d paid quite a bit to be there. It seems, if it’s a band I’VE been listening to for decades, suddenly my logical arguments don’t really amount to much. I had a blast. It was a great show. They sounded amazing. The crowd loved it.
Being in a huge space with thousands of other people who are all really excited to be there, experiencing something together you all have been anticipating for months (maybe years?) – it strikes me now how unusual that is. How many communal experiences do we all have on a regular basis? It’s not as if just being there made me love the woman dancing in front of us. But part of the magic of the night is that we weren’t watching in our houses alone, on a screen. We were all together, in one room, with the guys who made the music of our youth, singing along, out-loud or in our heads.
I rolled into church that Advent Sunday morning to play and direct my choir a little worse for the wear after our days in Vegas, but I didn’t regret going. Who knows how many more shows U2 will play. I was there. What band or musician do you want to see before it’s too late?