I was 12 years old when a friend's mom took us with her to see U2 in concert for the first time. This was a new friend, the kind of friend girls make in junior high school when they decide to become someone new, and her mom was one of those cool music fans just this side of "groupie;" she had something like a thousand albums, and a neverending wardrobe of concert t-shirts and tight jeans. So, I was spending the night at this friend's house, and her mom was all, "Come on girls, we're going to this concert." And it was U2 at the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver (a Bill Graham venue which is now the Walgreen's two blocks from my house -- the marquee is still there, but instead of advertising bands, now it gives you sale prices on diabetic supplies and photo finishing. If you don't know who Bill Graham was, please Google him and educate yourself -- you'll be glad you did, I promise!), February 28, 1982. The Rainbow was so small that you couldn't help but be close to the stage, and there we were, my friend and I, just psyched that we were out doing something cool for the night, instead of hitting the mall or the movie theatre with our peers. Some punkish band opened up (a U2 fan site lists The Brains), and then U2 took the stage, and I for one was entranced. The sound wasn't quite punk like the Sex Pistols but it wasn't quite "rock" either (this was the era of Journey, Styx, and REO Speedwagon, in addition to numerous foul bands from Canada... which I can say because I am Canadian). Everything about it was fast and frenetic -- the guitar playing and the drums, and this crazy lead singer guy sort of bouncing all over the place, or whatever it was he was doing. It was all just this burst of manic energy, and it was like nothing we'd ever heard before, and like nothing we'd ever seen before.
And it was OURS. It was like they got up there and said, "Here you go -- take us with you."
So I have. For 22 years. Someone asked me why I'm such a devoted U2 fan. I've always found it easy to be a devoted U2 fan because the fact is, they're so devoted to me, to us -- to their fans. Is there another band on the planet that feels guilty for putting out something that's not necessarily their best (even if most of loved it anyway)? Is there another band on the planet who would've taken the stage after winning a Grammy and apologized in front of the whole world for a concert tour ticketing fiasco? They're devoted to being the best band they can be, not just because it's a lark to be in a band, but to make us, their fans, happy. There are people who have passed through my life who promised me undying devotion who've given me a hell of a lot less than U2 have in 22 years of fandom.
That's not the sad thing it might sound like -- it's not sad because music is just as important to me as anything else -- life, love, freedom, whatever. And to be a music fan and then be blessed with a band like U2 -- well, that's like a little glimpse of God here on earth. They're just one more item on my list of things to remind that there is a God: Beethoven, Mozart, my son's laughter, the Grand Canyon, Harry Potter books, Colin Firth's eyes, the invention of the iPod, Bob Dylan, George Lucas movies... U2. They make me cry, they make me laugh, they make me think, they make me want to be a better person. I mean, I think Bruce covered it a bit more eloquently than I ever could in his Hall of Fame speech, but there it is -- in exchange for their devotion, they get mine.
They don't make a mess in my kitchen and not clean it up; they ply me with songs of longing and searching and passion (I'd even tell you that some of the songs are better than mediocre sex); they dress in the latest rock star fashions and don't embarrass me by going to the curb for the paper in my robe and a pair of sweats; they probably trim their nose hairs too, but who cares, because they never ask to use my bathroom for weird grooming rituals; they appreciate me, and to prove it they gave me songs like "Miracle Drug" and "Stuck In A Moment" and "Out of Control" and "Bad" and some of the best poetry ever written -- freedom has a scent like the top of a newborn baby's head.
You know, Bruce Springsteen I love, Van Morrison I can't hear often enough, Bob Dylan I adore, countless bands and musicians are worthy of my time and ear and sometimes a bit of a crush, but U2 -- they're the band I'll spend the rest of my life with.