Tag Archives: Bloody Sunday

My Mother’s First Rock Concert: U2 in Baltimore


Over the years, I’ve gone to see U2 a total of four times.  Each show was special for different reasons.   In 2001, I saw them for the first time after years of trying.  Four years later when I saw them perform in Washington DC, they busted out the rarely played “Out of Control”.

I knew U2’s show in Baltimore would be a special one, too.  As a Christmas present, my older brother and I bought my mother a ticket. Not only would this be her first time seeing U2, it would also be her first rock concert.  After years of watching her sons go to the band’s concerts without her, my mother would finally get to see Bono and company in the flesh.

She’s listened to U2 for almost 25 years, mostly because my older siblings exposed her to them.   She’s always enjoyed The Joshua Tree; though it took her fifteen years to declare Achtung Baby is “one of their best”.  It’s hard to listen to “Bad” without thinking back to Friday afternoons when she made pizza in the kitchen.

When the day of the show finally came, my mother was nervous about the large crowds and the stage show.  She became concerned about the band’s moving catwalks after hearing about them on the radio.  I was a bit apprehensive about going to a concert with my mother.   After all, this was a new experience for me, too.

Naturally, I wondered if it would be too loud for her.  Maybe the giant video screen and flashing lights would be a bit much for her.  Bono’s politicizing is sometimes off-putting for even faithful fans of U2.  What would she think if he gave the audience a lecture on Africa?

On our way to the concert, my fears began to subside.  As we made our way into the stadium, my mother seemed less nervous and more excited.  She had even brought a pair of earplugs, on my friend’s suggestion.  “What’s the name of the song about Bono’s father?” She asked as we weaved our way around the hundreds of people inside the stadium.   “I like that one.”

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” I said.  “Though I don’t think they play that one on this tour.”

After walking half way around the stadium and climbing to the upper-deck, we finally made it to our seats.  U2’s elaborate stage with its massive spider-like claws stretching into the air, circular video screen, and giant antenna took up much of the field.  “It’s crazy isn’t it?” my brother asked.  “It’s wonderful,” she replied in awe.  She might have been referring to the stage, but it was also much more significant.  She had finally made it, and enjoying the company of her two sons.

When U2 appeared on stage – Bono appearing last – my mother let out an enthusiastic whoop.   The earplugs were no where to be found.  From the very beginning, it was clear that I had no need to worry.  After every single song – even the ones she didn’t know – she cheered so loudly that it put the audience members around us to shame.

She was amazed at how The Edge could play so well, as the catwalk beneath his feet moved over heads of the audience.  Bono kept his political talk to a minimum, and instead offered kind words and praises of thanks.  “It’s nice to hear him have such a positive view of the world,” She said after the show.

The set-list was divided between greatest hits and deep-cuts.  While I prefer the latter, I could have dealt with an entire nights of worth of well-known songs for the look on my mother’s face when “Pride”, “One” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” were played.

U2 is the biggest band in the world not because they put on great shows.  Their songs speak universal truths and offer hope in a world full of confusion.  Songs even my mother, who is almost 20 years older than Bono, can relate to.


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Nostalgic 1994 Songs: Zombie

After the success of their debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We, The Cranberries decided to tackle “serious topics” such as death and abortion on their second album No Need to Argue. Singer Dolores s O’Riordan laments dead family members in “Ode to My Family”; and later contemplates getting older in “21”.  With its heavy riff, “Zombie” exploded on the radio in the fall of 1994, and showed that the Cranberries could actually “rock”.

And it did rock, but it was also polished enough to be on the Mix Radio Station that was played on the bus-ride to school.  The guitars in the chorus may have had distortion on them, but they never overpowered Dolores O’Riorden’s voice. It also helped that the song was catchy as well.  (Who could forget the, “What’s in your head? In your head, zombie, Zombie, Zombie-ey-ey-ey-ey” chorus?)  On one bus ride, a friend of mine let borrow his Discman, and a copy of No Need to Argue, and I was surprised to find out that “Zombie” actually had an extended ending that was edited out of the radio.

Even at 13, I had a vague idea of what “Zombie” was about. Even if you knew little about the Irish Troubles, O’Riordan made it clear what her target was decrying their “their tanks, and their guns, and their bombs.”  I may not have understood exactly what events she was referring to, but I clearly understood the sentiment.

“Zombie” sounded great in 1994/1995 but time has not been kind to this song. While The Cranberries surely felt a need to take on such topics (like most good Irish bands), 16 years later “Zombie” sounds trite compared to other songs about the same subject.  Its title is just plain ridiculous considering the topic, and comparing the IRA to zombies in 2010 comes off as childish, as zombies have become mainstream and commonplace.  Perhaps because of O’Riordan’s accent a lot of the lyrics are sound slurred.  “Theme” sounds like “team” and you could easily replace “bombs” with “bongs”.  Any sense of urgency in the song is automatically lost.

In retrospect, “Zombie” seems like it was written to become The Cranberries’ version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. (Even the guitar riff during the verses uses The Edge’s trademark delays.) “Sunday Bloody Sunday” succeeded because U2 painted a grim picture of the violence contrasting it with religious imagery, and view of non-partisanship.   “Sunday Blood Sunday” is not only considered one of U2’s signature songs, it’s also constantly ranked among the best songs of rock.   “Zombie” on the other hand faded away, and remains stuck in 1994.


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