U2 30 Years and 5 Tickets Later...


📷 By, Penny Pepperstein

Part 1. Thirty years ago, I bought my very first CD, ever. I was still obsessed with vinyl records and cassette tapes but when my mom bought me a CD player for getting good grades and just for being the awesomeness that is me, (half to brag a little).  I began the incline of building my CD collection but not until after I listened to The Joshua Tree pretty much 24 hours a day except in school and even that was up for debate, until I could allow myself to buy another CD.

I knew every song, every word and would hum every melody in between the words. Bono’s voice was like a serenade. His voice would start in a tenor only to rise to a falsetto for emphasis, the song With Or Without You (1987 “Joshua Tree”) is the perfect example of what I mean. The Edge played a kind of shimmering guitar riff that would be the signature of most of the songs from the album. The Joshua Tree was U2’s fifth studio album and up until then; I recognized and liked some of U2 music but never really considered myself a huge fan. I always thought of them as more of a political band and the age of 15, I didn’t want to think too much when it came to listening to music.

The first song I heard from The Joshua Tree was and still is my favorite, Where The Streets Have No Name. The song was played in rotation on every pop radio station and on MTV, too. I remember watching the videos every hour on the hour. The coolest thing about the video is that it was recorded live on top of a store in southern California. MTV helped take The Joshua Tree and the videos that followed to a whole new level. Because of that the album The Joshua Tree was a global, number one, Billboard sensation.

There was no denying the change in the band’s musical status. They went from playing in theaters to sold-out stadiums and touring worldwide. U2 had captured the hearts of millions of people, and mine was one of those hearts.

Getting tickets to U2 was about as difficult as getting tickets to Michael Jackson, and I’m so not kidding. The closest I remember them being near Omaha were in Kansas City, and well I was 15 with a paper route, and no drivers license. Going to Kansas City was like going to the moon, a billion miles away. As the albums would come so would the tours, and as I got older, strange as it may sound like the concerts got more difficult to go too. I was becoming an adult, with a job and a child to take care, which made a concert again, a million miles away. However, I never lost hope that someday I would get that chance. In the meantime, there were plenty of new album releases to enjoy.

Part 2. I applied for a job at Bellevue University in Bellevue, Ne. in 2009 about three weeks before the show. I had intended to let my interviewer know that I would need two days off to go to this concert, that I had purchased the ticket over six months ago. However, when she started mentioning the benefits, I would have and one of them being a free college for my kids and not just at BU but at several other colleges, including the one my daughter was currently attending. I suddenly had a sick feeling in my stomach, and a wave of terrible depression hit me hard. As I went about my brand-new job, I tried to get up the courage to say something to my boss and each time I thought I had met that courage, I got a case of the “what if's."

Then, the week of the show arrived, and I was scheduled to a two-week training class, and if I missed any days, I could be terminated. Well, that was not an option. So, I watched my opportunity to see U2, watched what could be my only chance to see and hear Bono's serenade me with that voice, watched as the chance to see Edge and his shimmer guitar riff, quietly drift away. I blew it, and if that wasn’t enough salt to the wound, the job just lasted a year.

I put it out of my mind but never forgot about it, although I would get a little depressed each time I heard “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the radio. Well, I suppose it didn’t matter which U2 song the radio played because honestly all of their songs would bring a pang to my heart. Trust me, I hear myself saying it, and I cringe. I like to think of myself as a practical person who wouldn’t act like a baby with such "nonsense," but I am.

In 2015 to my delight, U2 was starting a world tour to support their latest release Innocence. When I heard I got a little giddy with delight. I honestly didn’t care if they were coming near Omaha or not because I would fly, drive, hitchhike or roller skate to this concert, I was going. The U2 website showed the tour schedule and the closest they were going to be would be Chicago, again. “So, Chicago it is!” Only an 8-hour drive I would once again try to make a weekend of it by visiting The House of Blues, The Hard-Rock Café and a museum or two if there was time.

I bought two tickets this time and began the wait. The long ass wait to see a concert of this caliper, especially after the heartbreak of the last time’s long ass wait. I found joy in the radio again. I even retrieved my old Joshua Tree CD from hiding, opened the case, blew off the dust and popped it into a dinosaur of a cd player in my car and daydreamed. What would they play first? It was an awesome feeling. I was sure my friends couldn’t wait for the concert to arrive either, as I just wouldn’t shut up about it.

And then….

Part 3.

“I knew I Should Have Taken That Left Turn at Albuquerque”

I fell in love with the sweetest man on earth. You may be asking yourself “what the hell is she talking about” but I have to start with that sentence. I have to say, “I am in love with the sweetest man on earth” or the second part of this article makes no possible sense. This sweetest man on earth, let’s call him John for the sake of privacy, John and I had been together for a few years and when the company, he worked for asked to move him to Albuquerque, NM of course we agreed. However, we weren’t expecting the move to be so fast, the job wanted him AIS (ass in seat) by June 20th... The concert was June 28th...

The five stages of grief are what happened to me over the next year. Here is how it went:

Denial: This is so not happening to me. I am going to wake up from this nightmare any minute now.

Anger: ANY MINUTE!!!

Bargaining: I will fly, drive, hitchhike or roller skate to this concert.

Depression: This sucks. This really sucks. Why does this sh*t keeps happening to me? (tears) I give up!

Acceptance: Well, that’s it. It just is what it is. I wasn’t meant to see them, and that is just how it has to be. (This is usually followed by taking a step back to visit step 4.)

The first few notes of any U2 song would send me into those five stages all over again. This was never supposed to be an obsession, but it had really felt like one. U2 was officially placed on my bucket list and would remain there for almost two years.

Part 4.

Have You Ever Seen U2, See U2?

In November of 2016, John and I moved back to Omaha, Ne. We missed our family terribly, and it was no longer an option to be away from them. It was a good decision and a couple of months after we got home John mentioned hearing that U2 was touring. Before he could get out the last word from his mouth, I was already on the computer scoping out of dates. There it was, Chicago, Soldier Field, June 9th, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of; you guessed it, The Joshua Tree.

To my crazy, goofy shocked look on my face, to the tears in my eyes, to the butterflies in my stomach, to the damn near hyperventilation, I clicked on Ticketmaster’s “buy now” link and the site said, “Tickets go on sale” blah, blah (the date) blah, blah. So I waited. During the wait, I got the idea that I would sign up for the fan club so that I could be one of the first to pick seats.

The day came, and I logged in to Ticketmaster with my “special code” the U2’s site supplied me to use toward the purchase. I picked our seats only to change my mind and then changed it back, again. Finally, I picked reasonably priced tickets with a reasonably seat selection. That was it, I was going. I did buy two tickets again one, for myself and one for John. The show was on a Saturday. I would make a mini vacay again. I rented a car, reserved the hotel room. We would hit a museum, and the Hard-Rock Café had a VIP pass that included a shuttle to and from the show. This was perfect as we didn’t know our way around at all. The VIP also offered food, open bar, and a U2 cover band called UZoo. Again, I say, perfect!

Part M.F. 5

Do you ever feel like the forces of nature are plotting against you? Not working against you, but actually plotting against you? Like somehow Santa found out about that time you stole nail polish from Wal-Greens and now Santa is collecting on that debt? With interest? That’s me.

So let me start with relieving the tension by saying I did get to see U2, but not without a good, slap-in-the-face, stress added to it. Everything started smoothly. We got a free upgrade on our rental car. The hotel room was mediocre but livable, the restaurant we had breakfast at was fair to partly okay. Nothing special but not McDonalds. We went to the Museum of Arts and Science and loved every detail, and as soon as we can, we intend to go back. After the museum, we headed to our hotel to freshen up, we Ubered our way to The Hard-Rock, to say that I was excited would be understatement. We arrived at The Hard-Rock and headed up stairs to the VIP lounge. Alcohol was consumed. Okay food was consumed, and this incredible band was playing their hearts out. At first, I was irritated to be listening to "U2" before seeing U2 but was pleasantly surprised at their talent. UZoo was not just a cover band. They were the real deal. Jason Messham as Bono, Chris Simeone as The Edge, Mathew Chapman as Adam Clayton, Dom Lausic as Larry Mullen Jr. was entertainingly close imitations of the look and sound of U2. They are very much a part of this article, but I will talk more about them later as they deserve their own article. When it was time to leave, UZoo rode along with the VIPs, they too, were going to the concert. U2 seeing U2, that’s something you don’t see every day.

The shuttle picked us up in front of the café at 6:15pm, keep in mind doors at the stadium opened at 7. John and I were really excited about seeing a bit of Chicago and equally excited that we didn’t have to drive. We had a tour guide who gave us loads of cool information on buildings, performances and the overall history of Chicago. The night was breezy and with a tease of rain in the clouds, and I was so excited. I was for sure, higher than any of those clouds. This was it. I was here. Reality check!

Breaks kept screeching and stopping, as the driver was in the middle of a gridlock and damn near running over pedestrians to get to the stadium on time. I panicked every time I looked at the time. At five minutes to 7:00 when we were still stuck in traffic, and we could see the stadium but couldn’t get to it, I began squeezing John’s hand so tight I thought he might need surgery, and the nightmare just went on. Everyone else on the bus was panicking too, and we insisted on being dropped off anywhere. When we finally got off of the bus, everyone scattered and the movie “Home Alone” when they run through the airport kept entering my mind. We made it to the stadium, and as we walked around this massive building looking for the right entrance. The line just to get through the security stretched on forever and with no end in sight. I stayed calm, or so I would like to believe, and we finally got through the line, found our seats and the first band, “The Lumineers”, performance was already half over. I had been looking forward to their performance but this incident became an “oh well, It's not why I am here" for me.

I bought a few souvenirs while waiting for the show, then sat down next to John and sighed with relief. We made it. Then the moment arrived! U2 was greeted with cheers and whistles as they began the night with…. My cheers stopped, “this can’t be right” I said to myself. Where is the screen to see them? So I shook off the irritation and continued to watch… “I can’t see them!” they were tiny dots with lights that were shining on the tiny dots. To top it off, there was a giant pole blocking my vision of the un-seeable tiny dots. “This can’t be right” I said again, louder this time and looked at John. There was this huge screen behind them but nothing on it. Five songs and they hadn’t played anything from the anniversary album we were here for. Tears started again as I softly said to myself “this can’t be right."

After the fifth song, the stage went dark, and that huge screen behind them exploded into colors across a 200ft long 45ft high with a giant Joshua tree silhouetted behind the band. That shimmering riff of Edges guitar began the song Where The Streets Have No Name. I had goose bumps as Bono’s voice and that serenade of angst when the words “I want to run. I want to hide” gave way to the coolest show, ever! This has finally been checked off my bucket list, mission accomplished, and it only took…30 years and 5 tickets. Seriously? Posted 27th June 2017 by Penny Pepperstein

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