Madison Square Garden
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I went to my first live concert in Kansas City when I was 13 years old. My neighbours, the Houlehans had a fairly large family with three sons about my age. They had an extra ticket to see U2 during their ZooTV tour at Arrowhead stadium. Our tickets were for the suite; free food and soft drinks all night. Above the stadium, a semi-cloudy haze of indigo clouds. Hanging from the rafters directly above us, a sign that read BONO FOR PRESIDENT. The opening act was a band from Iceland called the Sugarcubes, a pop act fronted by a duo consisting of some crazy dude and a little known-singer perhaps the most beautiful voice I’d ever heard in my life to that point. Her name was Björk. U2 were perhaps at the peak of their powers then, the stage was extravagent and with dozens of bright media screens flashing one thousand messages and Trabant cars hanging from the sky, their headlights doubling as spotlights. For a good 20 years, it remained the best concert experience of my life.
I grew up with U2 songs playing on the radio, but it wasn’t until that concert that I realised just how many of the songs that I loved as a kid were theirs. Then a few days after that show, a classmate called Garrett approached me on the school track and field and offered to let me borrow his cassette tape of The Joshua Tree. “My brother was at the show,” he said. “He got to touch The Edge’s leg.”
Shortly after, he dubbed me a tape of War, and then I had to get all of the records. I started out with Achtung Baby and Rattle and Hum for Christmas, then I got the documentary which sort of cemented this idea that I should be in a rock band. As much as I’d tell people how much of an influence Prince was on me, musically, technically, it was The Edge whom my playing style was the greatest inspired by, perhaps to this day. And then the following summer arrived; I was lovesick and full of my first long-term meta-type ideas and dreams about what I was gonna do with my life, when Zooropa dropped. Today it’s one of their little-fanfare, deep-cut records. But I rode with that album into my adulthood; it, along with perhaps Radiohead’s OK Computer defined that coming of age time in my life… I can never part with Zooropa for these reasons.
Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. are all in their mid-50s now, at that age where the legacy fanbase begins to look like a grateful dead crowd. As a longtime fan at 36, I felt as if I was among the youngest there, save for some fans a little older than me who brought children who were just a little younger. I’d half-expected the band to run through the motions on songs the way that music artists their age tend to do (because let’s face it, when you’re washed up, you’re washed up) … but on this night, Bono & Co. played with quite a fervour–they were like a young punk outfit with something to prove. It was my 5th U2 show–quite infinitesimal to literally all of the other fans I’d met in queue that day (some were on their 40th show, or their ninth show of this tour)–but in sheer terms of musical performance, I’ve never seen them better than at the Garden.
The following images were captured on digital and film with my trusted Fuji x100, and on 35mm using Kodak Tri-X 400 and CineStill 800 film, both rated @ 1600.