A Herstory Lesson with U2

Almost one year ago, just moments after the final echoes of applause finished resonating through crowd at Columbus’s Nationwide Arena, I embraced the magical aftershock I experienced following the Coldplay concert I had just witnessed and took a (somewhat) solemn vow to never attend another concert as long as I live. Nothing, I concluded, could ever top what I then referred to as “the greatest night of my life.”

But just as I revise the date of “greatest day/night of my life” on a semi-weekly basis, so too I revised my post-Coldplay concert ultimatum: Last night, I broke my vow by attending the U2 concert at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.

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Now, before you gasp in horror and wrongfully accuse me of cheating on my favorite band, allow me to assure you that I had no intentions of breaking my promise so soon—in fact, I didn’t know until 24 hours before U2 took the stage in Pittsburgh that my dad and I would be taking a spontaneous 2.5-hour road trip to catch the band whose songs “With or Without You” and “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” admittedly make me feel nostalgic for a time period that I was never even alive for to begin with.

C’mon! My music-guru father and I hadn’t attended a concert together since the Wiggles came to Cleveland in 2003—I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

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I felt strangely like an imposter as the long-time U2 fans crowded in the stands around me: While my dad has routinely encouraged me to branch out of my Chris Martin comfort zone by listening to the similarly-sounding Irish rock band, only a handful of U2’s songs have grown on me as intensely as Coldplay’s, and to tell you the truth, I thought the lyrics of Bowling for Soup’s song “1985” said, “…there was YouTube and Blondie, and music’s still on MTV…” for embarrassingly longer than I should have.

But a concert’s a concert, and if I was going to break my promise to never see another one for the rest of my life, gosh darn it, I was still going to sing and dance along.

I could write as many words as there are lyrics to U2 songs about how magical it was to tap my toes along to my favorite Lumineers songs when they opened up, how incredible it was to hear “Pride (In the Name of Love)” performed live, how strange it was to watch the bizarre videos in the screen behind the band and how fun it was to finally see a concert with my dad. Instead, I’m going to touch on my favorite portion of the concert: U2’s performance of “Ultraviolet (Light My Way).”

Bono dedicated the song to all of the sisters, mothers, wives and daughters in the crowd, and throughout the band’s performance, the screen displayed photos of some of the most powerful women in “herstory,” including everyone from Rosa Parks to Gloria Steinem, Sojourner Truth to Ellen DeGeneres, Maya Angelou to Malala Yousafzai, Betty Friedan to Oprah Winfrey.

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Though the five minute ballad was not the only politically-charged performance of the night, I was thoroughly impressed by the band’s commitment to utilizing their position of privilege to stand up for Syrian refugees, AIDS victims and, of course, women.

“This country does incredible things when people come together,” Bono reminded the crowd. “Left and right, pop rockers and priests, soccer players and soccer moms—you can disagree on almost anything when the one thing you agree on is important enough.”

While not everyone in attendance might’ve agreed with the band’s jab at President Trump’s hopes to “build the wall” or their plea to help Syrian refugees, hopefully everyone in the crowd could agree on at least this one truth:

“It’s a beautiful day when women of the world unite to rewrite ‘herstory,’” Bono concluded before the band performed its final numbers of the night, effectively winning me over as an official U2 fan.

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Was it as great of a concert as Coldplay’s? I’m going to stand by my (unpopular) opinion and respectfully disagree.

Was it an excellent chapter for my contribution to herstory? Absolutely.

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P.S. If the complete stranger who was giving me a dramatic eye roll as she witnessed me typing on my phone during Bono’s monologue happens to be reading this: Ha! You were wrong! I am not some stupid teenager texting during a concert! I am an attentive fan who just wanted to remember the stellar quotes that he was tossing out!!!

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