Even Better Than The Real Thing or Stuck In A Moment I Can't Get Out Of?
March 3, 2006 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I used to be a raving U2 fanatic as a teenager. Ten years later I just like them, mostly for sentimental reasons. Is it still worth flying across the country to see them in concert? (Note: I have never seen them live before.)

It was 1991, I had just turned 14 & I happened to borrow U2's newly released "Achtung Baby" from my local public library. I was amazed by what I heard & couldn't stop listening - this was the first time I ever really connected with music. Somehow that album managed to express my emotions in a way nothing else could. I quickly became hooked on U2 in a way that went far beyond just having all their albums. I don't think I bothered listening to anyone else until I was around 19 or so. Then I discovered Nine Inch Nails & lost my virginity & somehow U2 seemed about as relevant to my life as Celine Dion & I barely listened to them for a couple of years. The unthinkable happened - they finally got around to touring my tiny city of Perth, Western Australia in 1998, and I actually refused to go.

Eventually I got around to listening to their 1997 album Pop & as I was developing more of an interest in electronica & had always admired Bono's determination to "continue fucking up the mainstream", I was quite impressed... Rediscovered their relevance when I left home for the first time to move in with a bf, a relationship that didn't last long, & was listening to their 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind almost non-stop for that traumatic induction into adulthood. Since then I've waxed & waned in my fanaticism - I've followed their career closely, but I find there's just too much other music I prefer to listen to now (I've really moved away from anything rock, a lot of stuff I listen to doesn't even have lyrics or guitars or real drums) ... when I do play U2, it's usually because they were the constant soundtrack of my youth & I'm feeling nostalgic.

2005 - their last album didn't really grab me (I'm starting to realise that Achtung Baby was probably the pinnacle of their career & it's all downhill from here) & I've ebayed off a lot of my formerly very large & just slightly obsessive collection of U2 records & memorabilia. Yet when I hear news of their Australian tour, and $99 general admin tickets, I am somehow tempted. True, this time around they are giving Perth a miss - not a surprise since it's some 1500 miles from the nearest major city. However, I've already been across the country twice the past 2 years to see artists that didn't make it way out West (Radiohead & Tori Amos) so the travelling isn't an issue, if I really want to go. Because I have some spare cash lying around I find myself buying tix to both Sydney shows, since I can always sell them again if I don't end up going.

March 2006 - They're going to be here at the end of the month. I still can't decide if I should go or not. Having gone there twice in 2 years I'm a little "over" Sydney, for one thing (although I could just as easily go to Melbourne as tickets are still available, and this has the advantage that some people I know well are going there too, & I know no-one in Sydney). I keep getting this feeling that I ought to go because I used to be such a huge fan & I still know all the lyrics to all their songs (even the songs off the latest album...) & it sounds like even the vaguely interested find their shows an awesome experience. However, I also can't get over the fact that I'll be paying $1200+ US just to see a band I kind of like... I have about $2000 US that stashed away, & I should really be spending nothing because I need $4000 US for some "cosmetic" surgery that would dramatically improve my life... plus I would love to upgrade my aging G3 CRT iMac to a brand new Core Duo.

But, you know, this could be their last tour, or I might never happen to be in the same country as they are performing in ever again, or whatever, & tickets are not an issue... I'm just anxious that I'm going to have blown most of my savings on an experience I could have done without, with nothing to show for it. What's a reformed U2/Bono obsessive on an average income to do?
posted by hgws to Travel & Transportation (43 answers total)
That was a really great story, regardless of what you choose.

U2 should keep on touring, but you're right. You never know. I'd do it. Why not, right? You only live once.
posted by k8t at 10:10 AM on March 3, 2006

Is it still worth flying across the country to see them in concert? (Note: I have never seen them live before)

I once made the mistake of seeing The Buzzcocks years after their sell-by date. It was an unpleasant experience and the bad memory has unfortunately tainted my subsequent listening enjoyment of their tracks. You are probably the best judge of when U2 peaked with respect to you, and you seem to have stated this in the affirmative multiple times.
posted by meehawl at 10:16 AM on March 3, 2006

Assuming you can get tickets, and especially if you can get general admission, I highly recommend you go. Like yourself, I was once a huuuuuge U2 fan (ask me about my tattoo sometime), but I find that in recent years they have felt more like a business venture (U2, Inc.) than a rock band. My experience at the show last fall was dissappointing--too much staged preaching, not enough rock. But, that's my own personal experience, and yours may be much different.

Had you seen the Elevation tour, I would suggest skipping out on this one, but my experiences at the five Elevation shows I attended--especially the one where I was front row near-center stage--are cherished. I suggest getting there very early and hanging out with the really hardcore fans, then trying to get into the "heart" (or "oval" or whatever they're calling it). Half of the fun I had at the Elevation shows was being around and swapping stories with all the other old-timers before the show.

Spend the next few weeks reading and posting to the Interference forums, to get yourself psyched up for the show. It should be a magical experience for you.
posted by arco at 10:21 AM on March 3, 2006

First of all, that was a blog.

Second, I'm not a U2 fan. I think they suck. FYI.

You need $4,000 for surgery. You've got half. Presumably you have other bills and no rich uncles. You're contemplating blowing more than half your savings to see a cookie-cutter pop group in a foreign city that you've visited several times. Nostalgia is like fantasy. Enjoy it. Don't ruin it. And yeah, life is short, and if you want to blow your savings on "being young" that's understandable. Travel somewhere you haven't been, to see a band you haven't seen.
posted by cribcage at 10:22 AM on March 3, 2006

U2 is a sad, tired incarnation of what they once were. I'm surprised you liked Pop or the awful and empty All That You Can't Leave Behind. There's barely a grain of inspiration left. Seeing them now seems as though it would be like seeing a circus act. Kinda funny, kinda sad.

Just spend $30 or so and buy copies of Boy, War, The Unforgettable Fire and even The Joshua Tree. U2 doesn't get better than that, nor do most bands.
posted by xmutex at 10:36 AM on March 3, 2006

Yeah, IMHO they peaked at The Unforgettable Fire. Someone needs to lop off Bono's ears so he can't wear sunglasses anymore!

Save your money, kid. It won't be their last tour any more than Kiss' last tour was their final one.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 10:50 AM on March 3, 2006

Don't listen to the people who think one of your favourite bands sucks -- clearly you like U2, so not seeing them because cribcage doesn't like them is pointless advice.

That being said, however, I've seen U2 live twice. Their tours are so massive now, and filling such huge stadiums, that unless you can guarantee with absolute certainty that you will get the best seats in the house, right up front, you will probably not have a life-changing experience at one of their shows.

Both times I've seen the band, I was at the mercy of the ticket dealer and got horrible seats. I could hear the music, and I could see little people moving about on stage, but I could have had the same experience watching the concert on tv.

If the band means a lot to you, and you can guarantee awesome awesome seats, I say why not. But if you're just going to get "okay" seats, I'd say forget it. That's a lot of money and effort to go through for a mediocre concert experience.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:55 AM on March 3, 2006

But, you know, this could be their last tour, or I might never happen to be in the same country as they are performing in ever again,

I'm a huge U2 fan, but I don't think you should spend your surgery money on a flight this time 'round.

This will most definitely NOT be their last global tour. No way, no how. I'm not saying they're greedy bastards, but they are businessmen, and there's far too much money remaining to be made for them to just hang it up completely, utterly, at this point.

My guess is that they continue their pattern forever -- album, small tour, big tour, time off, album, small tour, etc, etc., although the "time off" portions might get longer and longer as they get longer and longer in the tooth.
posted by frogan at 11:03 AM on March 3, 2006


They will toss some oldie and goldies in the mix for the die hards. Hell, they did "In Gods Country" last time around.

I saw them years ago for the Zoo TV tour. It was life-changing awsome. I had been a fan since "Boy".

We were in NYC, and sure the younger crowd will be out in forcem but that doe snot stop Bono and the boys from pulling some great tricks. We saw them at Giants stadium and they covered "Satelite of Love." Lou Reed appeared on the huge tv screen and sang along with Bono; then reed came out on stage. 3/4 of the crowd was confused, but the rest of us screameed "LOU!!!!" and gave alot of love to the Bard of NY.
posted by BeerGrin at 11:04 AM on March 3, 2006

I saw them once, a big arena concert in Kansas City. I came away with the firm conviction that I had wasted my money, because the u2 I loved from high school, was no more. Not that the u2 of then (zootv tour) was a bad thing, just that going to see the new u2 really only firmed in my mind, my disappointment at missing out of the u2 I did like, back in the day.
posted by nomisxid at 11:04 AM on March 3, 2006

I saw David Bowie once in the late 1990s and it was a total "kill yr idols" sort of experience. Everyone should go through it, I think.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:07 AM on March 3, 2006

Move on. Theres so much good music out there its stupid to get sucked into bland MOR mainstream rock like U2. Spend some time on last.fm -- its free and you will discover some wonderful music you hadnt heard before. Start with some tiger trap and other indie pop that came out of olympia washington in the early nineties.. it will blow your mind.
posted by petsounds at 11:11 AM on March 3, 2006

Are you mad? Save your money.
posted by A189Nut at 11:18 AM on March 3, 2006

If you're not sure, take that as a gospel-quality sign. Yeesh, you're talking about foregoing the opportunity to "dramatically improve [your] life". How can you piss the money away when something that amazing approaches your grasp?
posted by boombot at 11:30 AM on March 3, 2006

You have to see U2 live at least once in your life. They're unlike any band you've seen live and although the shows may be bigger and seem more 'corporate' to some fans, they're still in a different league.

I saw them 14 times last year in Europe and North-America. It wasn't my favourite tour and even a die-hard like myself can get fed up with Bono's sermonizing, but most people who'd never seen the band before were as blown away by them as ever. I run u2log.com and the comments we get and the mail we get in attests to that.

I reckon they have at least one more tour in them, but why take chances? Go see them.
posted by prolific at 11:41 AM on March 3, 2006

I once made the mistake of seeing The Buzzcocks years after their sell-by date.

Let me tell you I saw them in 1977 and they were pretty poor then. They could never really do it live that well, although it didn't stop me loving their records.

As for the questioner, hell yes, go see U2. They used to put on quite a good show and hey, you won't know unless you try, will you? It's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't. Probably.
posted by Decani at 11:55 AM on March 3, 2006

Yes! I have a very similar thing with Pearl Jam. Was fanatic as a teenager, don't buy the albums anymore, listen to the music now just for sentimental reasons mostly. But...someone surprised me with Pearl Jam tickets last fall and I went with a friend and totally ROCKED OUT. It was like going back to my teenage years (the good parts) and I had an amazing time. This was my fourth time seeing them live, and had it been my first, I imagine I would have been blown away.
(Also - I've seen U2 twice live - they put on a great, great show.)
posted by meerkatty at 12:01 PM on March 3, 2006

I would vote no, the reason being you refer to the band as one you "kind of like". If you were still a huge fan, loved the new record, etc. and had never seen them I'd say go. However, it sounds like it really won't be a life changing show for you whereas the surgery you're saving for could be.
posted by gfrobe at 12:05 PM on March 3, 2006

Take the money and do something useful with it. It's not like they'll really ever stop touring...the money's too good.
posted by cellphone at 12:11 PM on March 3, 2006

Robot Johnny makes an excellent point.
posted by S.C. at 12:23 PM on March 3, 2006

You have to see U2 live at least once in your life ... I saw them 14 times last year in Europe and North-America.

This is like asking a smack head which is their favourite colour junk. No aspersions intended! Thank you for the most hilarious thing I have read all week.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't get the whole repeat band viewing thing. The only band I've ever liked seeing more than once was Orbital, and they were distinctly less impressive the second time around.
posted by meehawl at 1:02 PM on March 3, 2006

Skip it, I've seen enough bands past their due date. I don't think any of them cost me even a weeks worth of groceries, and it still makes me feel icky thinking about it.

U2 definitely strikes me as past due. I've liked a couple of songs off their recent albums, but mostly because they remind me of songs off their much earlier albums.

I'd skip it. If you really want to blow your savings to go see a favorite band, choose one that's either still making music you love, or dedicated to feeding the nostalgia of their fans.

You could probably see if you can find set lists from this tour (assuming its already underway) to see if they'll be playing enough of your old favorites to really make it worth while.
posted by Good Brain at 1:04 PM on March 3, 2006

Given that you need/want some surgery, I'd say skip it and wait for a more opportune moment. U2 are going to be touring until they are 80, I think.
posted by MegoSteve at 1:13 PM on March 3, 2006

Every arena concert I've been to in the past 10 years (even of my lifelong idols) has been a complete, utter disappointment. "Wow, look...there's Adam Yauch on a huge television screen." Seriously, get your surgery and pick up cute chicks/boys afterwards and you'll be glad you spent the $ on your life and not on a mediocre group experience.
posted by tristeza at 1:21 PM on March 3, 2006

You always regret the things you don't do more than the things you do.
posted by maxreax at 1:49 PM on March 3, 2006

I think I'd recommend saving most of that money for your upcoming needs, and spending some of it on U2-related stuff. Wasn't Apple selling an iPod with the complete works of U2 on it? And there are concert DVDs, etc.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:53 PM on March 3, 2006

Full disclosure: the above post was posted by "Ick! U2!"
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:53 PM on March 3, 2006

Getting your surgery taken care of is, IMO, way more important than seeing U2, especially considering they're going to be touring forever. This is coming from someone who has had similarly necessary surgery as yours and has seen U2 a bunch of times (admittedly, all of those times were back in the '80s when they were still putting out interesting records, but that's just my opinion).
posted by scody at 1:59 PM on March 3, 2006

Only you can answer whether or not you enjoy their music -- comments like "bland AOR crap" are just meant to impress the listener with the ineffable, fantastic coolness of the speaker, not offer any substantive advice.

I'm probably alot like you: I wore out Unforgettable fire (their best, imho) and The Joshua Tree when I was a teenager almost two decades ago (!). Their recent stuff has left me unmoved and I wanted to punch Bono in the mouth for the whole US-flag-in-jacket-lining bullshit he pulled at the Super Bowl. I had the chance to see them twice recently and passed, although Mrs. Docgonzo went and had a fantastic time. A very good friend of mine -- who is also the music editor of a local alt-weekly and equally non-enamoured of their recent work -- also went and said it was a blast. Sure, it's all about the spectacle and Mr. Hewson really can't sing any more, but it was a good night out.
posted by docgonzo at 1:59 PM on March 3, 2006

"Thank you for the most hilarious thing I have read all week."

You know what? There've always been a lot of U2-haters here at Metafilter, and I reckon my post provides the counterbalance.

I'm not going to apologise for seeing U2 many, many times. I'm the co-author of this book. Seeing the band multiple times on tour is essential.
posted by prolific at 4:14 PM on March 3, 2006

Imagine yourself as an 85 year old man. As you look back on your life, which would rather have to say?

"Damn, I wish I had gone to the concert by that band I sort of liked when I was a youngin'."


"Nuts! I wish I had had that surgery that would have dramatically improved my life."

The fact that you have to ask us instead of going with a strong gut instinct makes me think that maybe U2 isn't so your while...
posted by missmobtown at 4:21 PM on March 3, 2006

so worth your while...
posted by missmobtown at 4:22 PM on March 3, 2006

I'm going to echo prolific and say, "YES!!!! Go see them!".
After being a fan since my early teens (after hearing Achtung Baby), I FINALLY got to see them live this tour back in Chicago in September. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
I'm not sure how the overseas shows are set up, but in the US, this tour did "arena" shows instead of "stadium" shows - which most people tend to prefer (more intimate). If you do decide to go, make the effort to get GA floor tickets, they tend to be cheaper, and if you don't mind standing for a few hours, are more than worth it. I ended up about 3 feet away from the outside ring of the "egg" and it probably was the best concert I've ever been too.
One last thing - love or hate U2, most people would agree they put on a really good live show. If you're still up in the air, I think the band just put out a DVD of a show they did back on the first leg of the tour - it might be worth checking out.
posted by dicaxpuella at 11:56 PM on March 3, 2006

Do not waste your money or time. I loved U2 during the Zoo/Pop era - and saw the Popmart tour three times.

Didn't see them again until last summer, when I made a point of going to Dublin to see their homecoming show. It was a major disappointment. Most of the gig seemed rushed and ill-prepared. There were good moments (a brief ZooTV medley for one), but they were outweighed by the feeling of being cheated..
posted by ascullion at 1:12 AM on March 4, 2006

The current tour has, according to reviews, delved much deeper into the back-catalogue and been much less dependent on stage gimmickry than others in the last decade. If you haven't seen them before, and the money is burning a hole in your pocket, now's as good a time as any.

They're playing arenas rather than stadiums, and stadium gigs are a good way to be put off seeing a band you like, especially if you're old enough not to enjoy having to stand in the same place for six hours while the kids around you piss into bottles rather than give up their place close to the stage.

(I've seen U2 three times: the first two were fantastic; the last, in '97, was both forgettable and in a shitty venue.)
posted by holgate at 4:52 AM on March 4, 2006

There've always been a lot of U2-haters here at Metafilter

I am from Dublin. My ex's brother was in class in Mount Temple with Hewson and Evans. I've mooched at the Principal Management xmas parties. I've thrown my coat at McGuinness (I thought he was the coat check guy!). Someone I'm acquainted with who should remain nameless has vomited on Hewson's porch.

I reserve the right to form my own opinion concerning the multinational, billion-dollar business conglomerate known as "U2".

What I find amusing in this regard is that someone who would confess to seeing a band over a *dozen* times during one tour with substantially similar performances would then advise someone else, seriously, that they need to spend surgery money to because everyone needs to see U2 "at least once in your life".

That is hardly unbiased advice. Whereas, if you read my original comment, it is addressed towards the perceptions of the OP in regard to their feelings concerning their relationship to the music of U2, both past and present. It is not directed towards some absolute, essentializing pronouncement of infallible and transformative experience granted from on-high. My feelings conerning U2 did not enter into the advice and were not offered.
posted by meehawl at 10:32 AM on March 4, 2006

I'm (still) a big U2 fan (saw them three times this tour - all of them great, emotional and powerful shows), but if you're actually planning on spending money that was set for surgery to go see a concert, then "what the hell are you thinking!?!?" trumps all band loyalty for me. Seriously. Dramatically improve your life or spend that same money for a couple hours of entertainment (no matter how outstanding the show)?

U2 do (still) put on a helluva show and I'm sure you'd have an awesome time, but I wouldn't spend money earmarked for more important matters on one concert.

Maybe if you could catch a couple shows... ;)
posted by adamp88 at 4:32 PM on March 4, 2006

Response by poster: Well, thanks everyone for your replies - and I do mean everyone, even the U2 haters. I was looking for some objectivity here - my family are very cool & would be entirely supportive of me dropping over a grand on a trip to see a band, and my friends are so used to me being the world's biggest U2 freak that they don't realise I stopped plastering every spare inch of my walls with Bono photos over 2 years ago & it's a rare moment indeed now when a U2 song hits my speakers.

My conclusion is that I'd swallow the travel costs if I only had other relative trivialities earmarked for my savings, but the surgery is hardly that - I have a severe case of "manboobs" which I have learned to live with, but I don't want to be binding my chest daily or living in fear of taking my shirt off for the rest of my life.

So no U2 for me at this stage... although I am just impulsive enough that I won't say I'm not going until they have left the country...
posted by hgws at 12:11 AM on March 5, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, send off topic replies to email or metatalk
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:58 AM on March 8, 2006

Looks like you made the right decision... I just heard on TripleJ that the U2 tour has been cancelled.

(I immediately thought of this thread!)
posted by bruceyeah at 5:27 PM on March 8, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, Bruce, I couldn't believe it myself - I mean I've been that close to buying plane tickets & booking accommodation all year...

Puts the comment "If you're not sure, take that as a gospel-quality sign" in an entirely new perspective!
posted by hgws at 3:10 AM on March 9, 2006

Meehawl, I know a lot of people in Dublin who share your outlook on U2. Usually in the same age group as the band. Often wannabe musicians. My ex, for example. He'd burst out crying seeing The Edge on tv, out of spite. But that's another story.

What I wanted to add was that I missed the 'surgery' part of the original post. I just very quickly saw the question and responded to it. Had I known the whole story I would not have advocated seeing U2 in favour of the surgery. I'm not that insane.

Still, they're a bloody great band and it's very sad they've had to postpone the last ten shows of the tour due to family illness.

I sincerely hope hgws gets another chance to see them play live.
posted by prolific at 11:11 AM on March 9, 2006

PS. The whole 'my brother went to school' spiel is hilarious. A real life walking talking cliche Dub.
posted by prolific at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2006

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