By Bridget Thompson, Semester 2 2020-2021 Study Abroad Student from Bates College Lewiston, ME (USA)
As many already know, U2 is perhaps one of Ireland’s most celebrated contributions to the music world. Its four members—Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr.—met at the Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Clontarf, Dublin, forming the band in 1976. Since then, U2 went on to blaze new trails in genre, sell millions of albums, and tour internationally, all to worldwide acclaim.
While U2 is surely many peoples’ favorite bands, I want to tell you why they’re mine. For me, the obsession started at a very young age, 4 or 5 in fact. Growing up in a house full of boys, it still makes me laugh that my father’s only daughter was the one who took to his musical tastes. But anyway, U2 was a large part of my household growing up: it was always playing on the stereo in the family room, or in the car on long road trips, and sometimes the concert footage would function as my father’s idea of a ‘movie night.’ Granted, at such a young age, I didn’t always know exactly what I was listening to or looking at (I specifically remember my brother and I laughing hysterically at some of the graffiti-like stage art from the Zooropa Tour), but on some level I knew that I liked it.
The most notable anecdote I can remember from that time is probably the illustrious “Bring Your Favorite CD” to pre-school fiasco. The year was 2003. My preschool teacher had announced the day before that each student could bring in his/her favorite music to listen to as a class. I strolled in that day, one hand gripping my father’s, the other U2’s 2001 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I triumphantly handed it to the teacher who stared at me perplexedly and watched as she placed the fuzzy black and white CD onto the pile of Barney and Blues Clues discs. For me, it was a victory, no matter how small.
As the years progressed, I listened to more and more of their music, and by the time 2009’s No Line on the Horizon rolled around, I was more than concert-ready. Opening up those RedZone tickets on Christmas morning, I felt like the luckiest girl alive, and counted down the days until the July concert date at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although it ended up getting rescheduled for an entire year later due to Bono’s emergency back surgery (I will never forget how and when my mom broke the news), the day finally came in July 2011 for the concert. Our section was right next to the stage, and for the next two hours, I was in bliss. I may have been the only twelve-year-old there, but I knew all the words. Quite devastatingly, when Bono reached down to grab my hand during the concert, my small arm couldn’t reach his, even with my parents frantically hoisting me up in his direction! But when we left the stadium later that night, The Edge’s guitar echoing in my ears, I knew that had been one of the best nights of my life.
Fast forward another six years later, when my dad scored us General Admission tickets to their 2018 Experience + Innocence Tour at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, I was similarly ecstatic. The day of the concert, we waited in line over four hours outside to snag a spot by the inside stage, but neither of us cared. Right before the concert began, my dad and I were talking with a fellow U2 fanatic who nonchalantly mentioned that he was attending his 600th U2 concert. SIX-hundredth. Yes I know, crazy. As the lights dimmed, the mic reverbed, and the band began walking out, I thought to myself, “No matter how dedicated a fan they are, how could anyone attend 600 U2 concerts?” By the time the night was over, I once again understood.
All this is to say that when it came time to pick a study abroad destination, it was not a difficult decision for me: I knew I had to get to Dublin. Although the unexpected arrival of a global pandemic surely complicated things, I was determined. I arrived in Dublin on a rainy mid-January morning, and although I was shuttled into my accommodation for two weeks of restricted movement shortly thereafter, I had finally made it!
In early March I made the momentous journey to 10 Cedarwood Road, Bono’s childhood home and the inspiration for a track off their 2014 album Songs of Innocence. It was only a few miles from my apartment, so no grand trek by any means, but a special one nonetheless. On my way there, I played my favorite songs from all different periods of the band’s career and reflected on how the very streets I was walking on had inspired many of them. When I finally arrived, I paused, took a deep breath, glanced at the cherry blossoms falling gently beside me on the asphalt, and silently thanked Bono, Edge, Larry, and Adam for making what was not only a soundtrack to their lives, but a soundtrack to mine. Then I pressed play.