Saturday, May 24, 2008

How to Dismantle the Ultimate Experience

I was driving home tonight, listening to my Rattle and Hum CD, and I decided it was time to write this post. So, here goes.

Okay, so it may seem a bit late to be posting a review of U2's Vertigo Tour concert I went to in December...2006, but this isn't so much a review of the concert itself (you can find plenty of those on line) as of the feeling of perfection that existed for a few brief hours a year-and-a-half ago. Go back in time with me, if you will.

November, 2005: Tickets go on sale for U2's Honolulu show, which is scheduled for April, 2006. Tickets go on sale at 9:00AM, and I am sitting at my computer by 8:45, just waiting for Ticketmaster sales to begin. Anybody who knows me knows that this is impressive. By 9:02 I have my tickets. $55 for general admission!

March, 2006: My husband and I have just made the worst decision of our lives to date and have decided to purchase a Cold Stone Creamery. We are in Arizona for our franchisee training. At this point, we expect to be taking over our store by April 1, and we know things will be crazy, but somehow I will find a way to see U2. It is announced that U2's Honolulu show has been cancelled. They are considering November or December for a reschedule, details to follow.

This is a drag. Not only am I not going to get to go see U2 in April, but now I have to wait until November or December. On the plus side, by November, we will have been in our store for a while, it will be winter, so business will be slower (yes, even in Hawaii), and we will have a better handle on everything. All in all, it should be a much better time to try to take time off for a concert. As time goes by, we hear rumors that the show was cancelled due to an illness in one of the band member's families. While I genuinely hope that this situation improves for the sake of said band member and his family, I can't help but feel that this might not bode well for a reschedule. I'm not proud of this, but there it is.

May 26, 2006: We FINALLY take possession of our store. We have jumped in on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, summer is in high gear, all sorts of new programs are rolling out, we don't know what the hell we're doing, and we're short-staffed. So begins our journey into hell.

July 21, 2006: U2 has announced their new Honolulu tour date of December 9th! Pearl Jam has been added to the ticket as well. Nice. At some point, a second show is added due to popular demand. Meanwhile, we are up to our armpits in alligators trying to get our feet under us in the store.

October, 2006: My little sister and her boyfriend pack up their lives and move out here, from the mainland, to help us with the store. The day they arrive we have to tell them that we may be facing bankruptcy. The store is losing money fast and is secured, in part, by our home. Welcome to Hawaii kids! It's a great place to be homeless!

December, 2006: The only bright spot in my future right now is the U2 concert. I hate the store. I am devoting my life to running a business that will very likely cause us to lose our home. I have dragged my little sister out here and thrown her into a crap situation. I would be better off going into the store every morning, lighting a big pile of money on fire, locking everything back up and going home to relax for the day. At least I wouldn't be incurring food and labor expenses.

December 9, 2006: Come hell or high water, I am going to see U2 tonight! I don't care if I have to close the store and face all kinds of possible fines and trouble from corporate. The store has taken away our will to live; it has taken all the joy out of our day-to-day lives. I cringe every time my phone rings. I'll be damned if it's going to ruin U2 too. This is the one thing that I have had to look forward to for the last year.

Just as I suspected, my shift leader calls in sick for the night. We manage to scramble and bribe one of my other shift leaders to come over and close up the store after she gets off work at her other job. Phew! Crisis averted!

My husband and I are going to the concert with my cousin and her husband. We are worried that parking is going to be horrendous. We have general admission seats, which means on the floor of Aloha Stadium. We are afraid that it is going to be a claustrophobic nightmare. Well, they are worried about these things. I don't care. My main concern is that these things don't ruin it for them because I don't want someone else's bad vibe to ruin my night. I am going to enjoy myself, dammit, and you'd better not put a damper on this for me. I've been looking forward to this FOR OVER A YEAR NOW AND IT'S THE ONLY FORESEEABLE SHOT AT HAPPINESS THAT I CURRENTLY HAVE!

We get there about 3 hours before the concert. Parking's a breeze. Security is no problem. Well, not a big enough problem to ruin our night, anyway. We get beers and sit down at a table by the entrance where we can do some good people watching. We continue sitting and drinking through the opening band. Pearl Jam takes the stage, and we decide we should make our way onto the floor. We steel ourselves for the tight-knit, drunken mass that we know we are about to enter. We make our way to the floor where we have PLENTY OF ROOM. Sure, if you want to fight your way up to try to get by the stage you can, but really, what's the point? I'm pretty sure Bono's not going to pick me to come up on stage with him anyway. We're happy where we are, around the 50-yard line. We can see everything on the giant screens, we have room to move around, and we don't have to go all the way up the field to get back to the bathrooms or the beer.

Pearl Jam put on a great show, but I'm not here to see them. I'm here to see U2. Please tell me that they are, in fact, somewhere backstage.

After Pearl Jam, the stage goes dark in preparation for U2. At this point, I am still not sure that I am going to get to see U2. I'm so used to every bit of happiness I experience being cut short by the store that I'm not going to believe it until it happens. I'm still waiting for some guy to come on stage and say, "I'm sorry, folks, but U2 isn't going to be able to perform tonight. You'll all have to go home now." Then I would have to go home disappointed AND witness some guy getting torn apart by an angry mob.

A ticker starts running across the top of the giant screens showing all of the Vertigo tour dates so far. "#131 Honolulu" rolls across the screen. This is the final show of their tour. It's been a rough road, but they've made it. It's been a long wait, but we've made it. We've all made it! We're all here! Everybody is cheering. And then the opening notes of "City of Blinding Lights" start floating out over the audience and everybody goes insane. I'm jumping up and down cheering, yelling, rejoicing, tears streaming down my face. Oh my God! They're really here! I hear The Edge! He's actually ON STAGE, PLAYING MUSIC! You have no idea how relieved I am at this moment! I didn't want to have to watch a guy get torn apart by an angry mob. This is the first time I've been happy-really, honest-to-God happy-in about 4 months (and it's about the last time I will remember experiencing joy until almost a year later when we sell the store. Thanks, Cold Stone!). This is the best possible way this moment could have gone.

I have the play list from this concert on my iPod, and every time I hear the intro to "City of Blinding Lights" I throw my hands in the air (open palms, wiggly fingers, like jazz-hands, but more relaxed) and cheer (concert cheering, like for The Beatles, not sports cheering. There's a difference). When I am driving I only do it for a second and only when it is safe to do so. Don't tell my mom, she'll have a heart attack.

But I digress. Everything about this concert was perfect. It was just good. I know that sounds a bit anticlimactic after all I've just said, but I mean good as in "good vs. evil" or "all the goodness in the world" type good. The band was amazing, the crowd was happy, the vibe was good. The set was perfect.

U2 has a large body of work, and to pare it down to a concert-sized play list, I absolutely could not have asked for a better set. "City of Blinding Lights" was the perfect way to open the show. I had thought that they might open with something really powerful and high energy like "Vertigo," something to really get the crowd going,and I thought that was exactly what I wanted; but after such a long wait and so much trepidation and being mired down in the mental and emotional exhaustion that we were in, "City" was the perfect opening. It just trickled out over the crowd and said, "Hey. It's all ok. You can relax and have fun now. Now let's do this," and everybody was so ready to take that journey. "Oh, you look so beautiful tonight!" They were singing to us. We were singing to them, and truer words had never been drunkenly sung. It's a deceptively mellow song. Just to listen to it, you wouldn't think of it as being something with which to kick off a concert, but therein lies its beauty. It set the perfect tone. It has such a clarity and simplicity to it, an uplifting, life-affirming feeling that I can't even explain. It starts out quiet and builds to this joyful crescendo that the crowd can't help but become a part of. It allows for a sense of hopefulness, that everything might still be ok. And it was, just like the music had promised. For a few hours in December, everything was ok. Perfect, in fact.

There were 2 songs that I had hoped to hear but wasn't counting on since they are, to my mind at least, a bit obscure as far as U2 tunes go. I got to hear both "Angel of Harlem" and "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses". At the end of the show, Billy Joe Armstrong joined the band on stage for a rocking version of Saints Are Coming. Eddie Vedder and Mick McCready joined U2 for their version of "Rockin' in the Free World."

The whole experience was just good.

Even the porta-potties were good! I kid you not! The majority of the crowd had to trudge all the way back up the aisle and halfway around the stadium to use its permanent facilities, but for a privileged few down on the floor, they had the cleanest most efficiently-attended, easy-to-get-to porta-potties I have ever seen. There were attendants who would hold your drink or your sweater while you were in there. I don't think this was their job, but when all of us drunkenly handed over these items, they were kind enough to hold onto them for us. When we came out, they had wet wipes available for us so that we could "wash" our hands and they handed back our belongings which, due to the generosity of the attendants had not been thrown into a heap on the ground or given away to some other foolish drunk. When even the porta-potty experience is good, you know you have experienced a rare moment of grace!


Shana said...

I love your description of the show as good, as in good vs. evil. That's exactly it! How anyone could walk out of a concert like that and not be changed in a soul-altering way is beyond me.

I am envious of your Pearl Jam opening act. We had Kanye West. Who was fabulous. But Eddie Vedder? Yum.

PS: I am very disheartened by your news that my disappearing scissors problem will not magically be solved when my children grow up and move away. This changes my outlook for the future tremendously.

Dreamybee said...

Hi Shana!

Yes, Pearl Jam did a great job. It was a pretty good two-for-one.

I'm sorry to have been the bearer of bad news! At least you have time to adjust your strategy now. :)

Thanks for stopping by!