Even Better Than the Real Thing

U2 came to Argentina last week, and I’ve been struggling with how to talk about the experience.

This is the third time I’ve seen U2 live, and the second time in Argentina.  I debated a whole series of different angles to describe the concert.

It was like watching Nolan Ryan at age 44…

Yeah, that could work.  Bono and company still have their fastball.  They opened the show with Even Better Than the Real Thing, and the effect was electric.  Muse had opened and played well, but when U2 came on the stage, it was like an electrical surge went through the audience.  They performed with incredible energy and verve.  With runners on base, Bono can still bear down and bring the heat.  The band was engaged and enthusiastic all night.  They looked like they were still having fun.

But there were signs, the run is coming to an end.  I’m no Posnanski, though, and I don’t think I have the chops to pull that piece off.

It was like a long goodbye…

I contemplated talking about how it felt like U2 might nearly be finished.  Bono’s voice showed signs of wear.  Not on the tough stuff, but on the routine.  He still tops out at 98, but he sits at 91 or 92.  The whole show was flooded with words of joy and gratitude.  It almost, almost felt like they were saying goodbye.  At the end, Bono hooked his jacket on the mike, which retracted up into the giant screen suspended above the stage.  It felt like an ascension.  The concert made me feel old even as it made me feel young.  Maybe U2 will continue touring for another 20 years like the Stones have, but part of me wondered if that was something they needed.  I know Rock is a drug, but it felt like maybe they were going to sober up.

I know better than to bet against rock stars needing fame, however.

It was like hearing my own biography sung back to me…

U2 has been a soundtrack for my life for decades.  Not only are the songs amazing, but they’ve come to symbolize moments in my life.  All That You Can’t Leave Behind is the anthem for my first years in Argentina, a song that perfectly expressed the choice I made to leave home to come here.  Where the Streets Have No Name screams to me about the dichotomy between where I lived (places with dirt roads and no street signs despite being in the city) and the Place I someday long to be.  I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For…well, that pretty much sums up all of us, doesn’t it.

During the encore, I found myself with my hands raised to heaven singing along asking God to please show me how long I had to sing this song. There was something intimate and profound about the world’s most famous band singing to 50,000 people that cut me to the core.

Then again, what could be more narcissistic and self-involved than to take that night and make it all about me.  What could be more ridiculous than to blog about how U2 speaks to me about my life. (The answer: blogging about how I wanted to blog about that but didn’t. I’m a hopeless child of generation.  God help us all.)

It was freaking awesome…

Why try to be profound or pretend to be a rock critic or essayist for the day?  By a complete fluke, we had great seats. That is to say we sat in the aisle very close to the stage.  We were behind most of the action, but when the band members came around to our side to play, they were super close.  The show was incredible, vastly superior to the one we saw in 2006 when we were a million rows away. The Estadio Unico in La Plata was much smaller than the last venue we saw them at (the famous Monumental where River Plate plays).  The band worked hard to give everyone an amazing show, and the spirit in the stadium was beautiful.  It was a night of effervescent joy.  They played for more than 2 1/2 hours.  It was heaven.

It wasn’t a Nolan Ryan no-hitter at 44, but it was a 4 hit shutout with 8 Ks.

It wasn’t goodbye, but it was good night.

It wasn’t my life, but it did belong to all of us.

It wasn’t freaking awesome, wait, yes, yes it was freaking awesome.

Sorry about that. I told you, I’m no Posnanski.

Videos after the jump

What better way to finish this off than with videos shot from my IPod Touch?  (You can’t mock me if I do it first).

What do they play before a U2 concert in Argentina?  Classical music, of course

The crowd was geeked up before the show even started.

The crowd sings Still Haven’t Found... You know they all speak Spanish right? Still now all the words.

End of the World is an underrated song.  Bono came around to the back for this one.

God and I did some business during this song.