A new song from U2 comes on the radio, and the kid behind the counter carries on about how much he hates those whiners. He looks like a roadie from the latest Kanye West tour, neck tatoos, baggy bants and a hoodie; eyes hidded by the latest incantation of fashionable sunglasses and a half a beard hiding his face.

I just chuckle, and pay for the wine, and remember…

April 2, 1985, the Irish rock band U2 comes to Providence. I’m probably wearing a hoodie, high-top sneakers and a sports jersey, might even have my latest pair of fashionable sunglasses on my head, probably had a scraggly beard going, but that, I don’t remember. Somehow, me and my friend Jon scored tickets and figured we would go and see what all the fuss was about. The band had been getting great reviews and selling tons of records, and I couldn’t figure out why. They seemed alright when I saw them on MTV, but nothing special.

We get to the Civic Center, find our seats and wait. There’s something electric in the crowd, they start chanting “No War, No More,” and everybody is in on it, and I find myself joining, and I never get involved in stuff like that, but it was contagious and I couldn’t help myself.

u2Suddenly, the house lights go down, the crowd goes banannas, The Edge’s stark guitar pierces the din, the stage explodes with white light and Bono is there, and Adam and the drummer, I forget his name, is pounding away and somehow the twelve-thousand people in the crowd start singing, and I don’t know the words but it doesn’t matter because I’m right there with them, and before long I’m standing on my seat, then the top of the backrest, feet straddled between the aisle, staying upright not from my own remarkable balance power, rather from the press of bodies that have become one, and the entire crowd is singing, shouting, and swaying as the original wave takes over the Civic Center. And it doesn’t stop, not after the first song, or the second, third or forth, keeps going while Bono brings out the trademark white flag and waves it back and forth during Sunday Bloody Sunday, which I even knew was “not a rebel song,” gets louder and more cohesive as the flag makes it around the floor seats and somehow ends up back on stage, in Bono’s hands, and the show goes on, and I’m completely hypnotized, and just like that, it’s over, and U2 are gone, but their spirit lingers, and the crowd keeps singing, long after the lights go on, we’re singing “how long, how long must we sing this song…”

It was absoultely perfect. And then we have the other perfect performance, Super Bowl, 2002, with the country still reeling from the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks a bunch of guys from Ireland took the biggest stage in the world in the country they were visiting and did it again, delivering the perfect tribute, and somehow making us believe that we would survive, and the world could be a better place, because at that moment, it was.

I feel bad for the kid at the counter, and hope that somebody in his generation comes up something as good, because the Kanye crowd just isn’t cutting it.

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