I didn’t really want to deal with the traffic, the parking, and the mess of 100,000 people descending on a patch of ground in Pasadena on the hottest day of the year so far, even though I loved the band and cherished the album they were celebrating.
Besides, I’d already seen this tour 30 years ago as a teenager, when I had one of the more magical musical experiences of my life… a story I told here.
Anything else would be a letdown.
This time of year, the early morning sun explodes through my bedroom window and pierces whatever slumber I’ve been able to muster. When yesterday dawned and my eyes were pried open by the blinding promise of another chance, my first thought was what do I have to lose.
So I drove north and met my friends where Pasadena bleeds into Eagle Rock. We pledged patience and put on our invisible capes of understanding as protection against the humanity we were going to encounter.
And off we went.
We were closer to the stage than I thought we’d be, surrounded by the obligatory weekend weed smokers and hammered cougars posting selfies on social media.
Why come to a show if you’re not really there, since your attention is focused on telling other people that you’re there?
But I had my cape on, so I took a breath and made only one comment to my friend. I didn’t even say anything. I just raised my eyebrows.
Chris Cornell's departed voice fell into familiar melody over the speakers, and the scattered pre-show energy focused into appreciation as we paid our respects to the empty stage.
The last few lights went out, and the crowd roared like lions.
In 1987 I’d sit on my bed and listen to the first CD I ever owned, The Joshua Tree, over and over and over. And over. Everything was there; hope, alienation, love, depression, confusion, triumph, all propelled by a sonic landscape that felt more real to me than the music the cool kids in high school were listening to back then. I wanted to put these songs on a mix tape for world leaders and suffering cultures and suburban parents and lovers I hadn’t met yet, so all of them could experience the same depth of understanding I felt when I listened to the album.
That bass, drums, guitars and truth forged the soundtrack of my growing up.
And I stood there 30 years later listening to the same songs, next to the 50s-ish diamond-clad couple who were looking drunkenly deep into each other’s eyes and singing I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
I wondered if they got the irony, and quietly affirmed that they didn’t.
But it didn’t matter.
Because this was one of the greatest bands of all time, the same four men for 35 years, playing one of the most iconic albums ever, front to back.
And it was beautiful.
The screen behind them with desert highway images was beautiful. The thunder of bass in my belly was beautiful. The affirmation that these guys were still playing together was beautiful. The thread drawn between my adolescence and adulthood was beautiful. The blessing of the men making the music and me still being here after 30 years was beautiful.
The gratitude between the band and crowd was palpable, and beautiful.
My silent gratitude was beautiful.
And the songs… the songs were beautiful.
I left as The Joshua Tree’s last chord resonated over the 100,000 people, now joined as one, in the mysterious way that different memories and experiences and lives all become shared when a mirror of songs is held up to the night sky.
As I walked out, I could hear the band still playing from their catalog of hits, the crowd still pulsing.
But I’d already found what I was looking for.
And it was beautiful.