Words and Photos: The Joshua Tree 2017 in Buffalo

Hello, friends! Let me first say that I am glad I’m typing this post instead of trying to speak because daaaang, my voice is shot. And, fair warning, this post is going to be a long one.

A few months back, I wrote a blog post that had no name (hehehe, get it?) – my husband and I went to one of the early shows in U2’s Joshua Tree 2017 tour. I’ve been a fan of U2 my entire life – they’re my favorite band, actually – but I truly didn’t know until I finally went to a concert just how much this band of Irishmen has come to mean to me. A few weeks after that show, they added a second leg of US dates… and I got myself a general admission ticket for Buffalo. And I joined the Facebook group for the GA line. And I soon realized that what I assumed was going to be just another cool concert experience was going to be so much more.

I haven’t done a good ol’ Tumblr-style recap post in a LONG time (I remember writing wildly til 3am after I saw Steve Martin in 2011), and I have so many little – and big – thoughts I need to get out, so… here we go! Lots of photo and too many emotions? Here we go!

(Also, before I get going posting any photos: I am totally here for people sharing my photos! Just, please, give me credit. You can either link back to my website, or, if you’re sharing them on Instagram, tag me. My handle is meredithawilcox. Thanks!)

Let’s start at the beginning here. Aaand… let’s get really real, just for a moment.

Buffalo, New York, isn’t a terrifically exciting city by most standards. But, it’s a place that means a lot to me. My parents and I used to go up a few times a year and those trips are my favorite childhood memories. Then, when things fell apart for my family, my husband and I started taking our own trips. There’s a bunch of other emotional baggage I’ll get into later on this post, but for now, y’all just need to know going into this that driving myself to the city that is a sort of second emotional home to me, to see the band that saved my life? It was a big deal.

So, I got to Buffalo on Sunday night. Thanks to the dedicated people who were running the GA line, I knew exactly where to go to get my name on the list – and I got a big, red 43 written on my hand – a number that pretty much would guarantee my getting my choice of a rail spot! I got settled into my hotel (sidebar: the Sleep Inn by the Buffalo Airport is a steal and my room was absurdly big for little ol’ me) (sidebar: be ready for lots of sidebars), then took myself to a fancy solo dinner at the restaurant where Scott proposed. I have never felt more classy than sitting there, fancy dress, fancy shoes… and a sharpie number on my hand!

Monday was pretty much a free day for me. I was planning on doing some of my favorite tourist-y things and attempt to relax a little since Tuesday was going to be so long. I went up to Niagara Falls in the morning and… well, let’s get to that heavy emotional thing I alluded to earlier right here, shall we? Spring 2012 was a really bad time for me. A whole mess of things led to the lowest depressed period of my life, and on a spontaneous day trip to Niagara Falls, my wigged-out brain spiraled closer to ending everything than it ever had. It was awful and I can hardly think about that day now without my chest physically tightening, but that day turned around suddenly – and, you probably guessed it, because of U2. My iPod was on shuffle, all 8,000-some songs, and Beautiful Day came on right when I was sure my spirit couldn’t feel worse. I cried like a damn fool, took some obligatory photos of the Falls, and drove home.

SO! Let’s pick back up with what was a much better day. I went up to the Falls on Monday morning, and it was, ugh, sorry for the stupid joke, but it was a sincerely beautiful day. The weather has been so finicky lately, so I was dressed for a whole mess of conditions, but it wound up brilliantly sunny and breezy. I was marveling to myself how amazing of a change it was from that last solo trip of mine to the Falls, how great it was that I was having such a good time… and then I got back in my car… and felt an INSANE little pain in my back. Fun Meredith trivia fact: I made it 29 years and nine months without getting stung by a bee. And, y’all know how unpredictable my allergies can be. I was so, so scared that some tiny little bug had just ruined my trip for me. Thankfully, I wasn’t having any immediate bad reactions, so I drove back to my hotel to relax for a bit.

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Monday afternoon wasn’t terrifically exciting. I went to the big local mall for lunch, did some window-shopping, and bought a tiny purse (that wound up being too big to use for the show anyway, so I had to stick with my old wristlet but anyway!). Then it was back to the hotel for a bit, until my next check-in time with the GA line. I think it was when I drove to the stadium this time that it hit me that I would actually be driving back there the next day to finally see U2 up close.

I was planning on taking it easy that evening, until someone in the GA Facebook group mentioned seeing some important looking activity near one of the hotels downtown. I hadn’t figured out dinner yet, so I figured I would check out the area and eat at a local bar. Leaving dinner was a little spooky – some nasty storms were beginning to roll in, and the usually-busy downtown neighborhood I was in was eerily abandoned. I made it back to the hotel about an hour before the storms hit, and thank god I did, because they wound up being truly wicked. My hotel actually lost power for about an hour! Somehow, I fell asleep at a slightly reasonable hour… because I had to be up at 4:30 yesterday morning.

(If you’re just absently scrolling through this already-too-long post for like, a proper concert-day report, this is probably where you’ll want to start reading!)

Unfortunately, up til about 6:30am yesterday, there was a bizarre lack of communication from Buffalo’s security. We had our parking situation handled, and we were all beginning to make friends in our chilly circle of folding chairs, but there was nothing clear coming about if we would be able to get wristbands and leave, or if we were going to be lingering around all day. Some tempers flared and it got… uncomfortable for a while, but thankfully, at 7:45, we marched over to the stadium, lined up, and things fell together! A real-life cartoon character of a stadium employee came out and explained to us we’d get bands, then could leave and come back at 2:00. Literally. Perfect. (Sidebar: I told this guy I loved him and he just smiled at me and said thanks, so like… new best friend?)

There’s nothing to do in walking distance of the stadium that isn’t janky bars and Tim Horton’s (when in Buffalo…), so I got an Uber to head to one of my favorite places, the Buffalo Botanical Gardens. This driver was truly hilarious, and he had U2 on in the car! The Gardens were stunning this time. This was my fourth trip and until this one, one of the main greenhouses had been under construction, so it was so cool to see it finished. They had the room full of mist and Asian-inspired plants and lanterns. It was so beautiful! Then, I walked myself to a fantastic gastro pub for lunch. I realize that I could have (and should have, probably) gone back to the hotel to nap instead (that 4:30 wake up was starting to sink in already… and I wouldn’t get back til almost 1am), but spending the day quiet, by myself, taking in some lovely sights? It was exactly what I needed to calm myself down a bit and get ready for the evening!

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I got back to the stadium around 1:30, so I got to hear the techs doing some soundchecking. The bass in Sunday Bloody Sunday actually shook my car which like, I get it! I saw the Pittsburgh show – U2 is loud, I just didn’t realize just how loud they are! Two girls I had made friends with earlier in the day left some of their things in my car, so once they got back, we headed to the stadium for our line-up! We passed time talking about all sorts of things and it was like, a real-life version of the way I made all my beautiful friends on Tumblr. There’s something so wonderful about taking people who share one interest they’re super passionate about, and putting them together for hours. Just, the loveliest, instant friendships that I know are going to last.

If anyone from New Era Field is reading this post (hell, I’ll be surprised if anyone is still reading at this point, at all), I’ll take this time to thank you all for how easy you made the GA process. After the early hiccups in communication, the afternoon process was so easy and organized. We moved in order to a wonderfully shaded area and hung out. This was when the really cool part of being in a U2 GA line happened. I’ve been reading up on what to expect in their line for a few months, and everything was terrifically true. I didn’t know a group of strangers could make so many inside jokes in such a short time, but things like snails, yellow rope, fruit snacks, impressive phone batteries, and handcuffs are going to make me giggle for a long, long time. The two hours passed SO quickly, I almost didn’t have time for it to sink in that I was actually about to briskly walk (shoutout to security for making sure no one got stampeded) to the rail.

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I’ll jump to Beck now, because honestly, the waiting inside the stadium was pretty boring. We got our spot slightly right of center stage, ate salty pretzels, and chatted with more security guys. I was so jazzed when I saw that Beck was opening this leg of the tour. I would go to Buffalo just to see him perform! So this was such a treat on top of what I knew would be an incredible night. His lead guitarist wound up right in front of me, and I kid you not, was making ~eyes~ at me the whole time – I was dying, guys. And Beck!!! I’m having a hard time believing he’s 47 years old; his funky dance moves and just, his stage presence? He’s a sincere treat to watch. If you’re going to any shows on this leg of the tour, you’re in for an absolutely glee-filled 45 minutes of music. Unfortunately, since he moves around so much, he’s hard to get clear photos of, but I did my best.

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I figured the time between Beck and U2 wouldn’t be very exciting – a lot of hurry up and wait – but I am SO happy to report that I was wrong! I had made myself a Dalton Brothers t-shirt (if you’re unfamiliar with U2’s history: on the original Joshua Tree tour, their opening band missed a few gigs, so the lads put on country and western costumes – and some terrifically foul wigs – and went on as their own opening act), and was enjoying getting approving looks and starting conversation with it all day. Guy Oseary, U2 (and Madonna’s!) manager, had been walking around in front of the rail all evening, and was saying quick hello’s to us, when he stopped at me for whatever reason, and asked how I was. I started to say I was great, but he interrupted me to say “I like the shirt!” with a giggle, and then he ran off before I could respond. My frantic texts to my husband were full of typos (half because it was SO COLD outside), just… Guy is a big, big deal, and it’s so apparent he loves getting to interact with fans. My night was made and U2 was probably not even near the stage yet!

Thankfully, the break went quickly, and Larry came striding out in his gloriously-fitted black t-shirt. And I promptly lost my mind. Seeing this show from the very last row of Heinz Field was incredible, something I consider life-changing, but it didn’t prepare me for what it would be like to see these incredible artists so close. Watching Bono come up from under the stage was the exact rush I’d imagine it would be, and the way Edge and Adam commanded the entire audience with their walks to the stage? Unreal. I’m a little bummed that since I was at the main stage, I didn’t get to see the opening set (or a lot of Bono later on in the night) too clearly, but it truly wound up not mattering. Bono’s voice and energy were SO up last night, the people around me were a lot of fun, and just being there was a sincere dream.

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As the concert shifted to the Joshua Tree set, things got emotional and exciting as hell. I didn’t realize when we picked our spot at the rail, that Edge would be literally right in front of me the whole time he was just playing guitar. And, whenever he was there, we made eye contact and smiled and all those things that leave you feeling giddy when you leave a concert. I’ve always felt intimidated by Edge’s genius brain, so to get to study him in a way? Seeing his tiny smile when Bono would say something goofy, the concentration on his iconic solos… I couldn’t have been happier with our spot.

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My heart always will lie with the rhythm section of a band – they’re often lumped together as an afterthought, but U2 would be nothing without Adam and Larry. I was in a great position to watch Larry do his thing most of the evening – especially when Bono left the main stage, I could focus on Larry!Smash. Seriously, though, the way he drives songs into my absolute core? And Adam! Forever my favorite, forever frown-smiling, forever so smooth. And that pink sparkly bass??? There’s nothing better.

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I could very easily write an entire blog post about what Bono means to me – hell, I probably will at some point in the future. For now, he just get this paragraph. The way he just knows when to go big and belting, or intimate and vulnerable? How with simply removing his sunglasses, he became a wholly different character that commanded the stage and microphone stand in a way that the entire audience is hanging on his every breath? The way his face lights up when he gets a moment to harmonize with Edge, or step back and let the audience take the chorus? Watching him from the last row in Pittsburgh was moving and powerful as hell, so I hardly have words yet for what it was like to have his intense energy so close to me.

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I saw a tweet recently that said that looking forward to concerts is so unfair, because you want them to start so bad, but the second they take the stage… time flies by. I couldn’t believe how quickly their encore set began, and it was over before I realized what had happened. I got to cry to Beautiful Day (Edge gave me a “you okay?” sort of look when he noticed how emotional I got), jump and dance to Elevation, Vertigo, and Mysterious Ways, cheer on my fellow ladies in Ultraviolet Light, and feel so beautifully connected to all of humanity during One.

I love the way this concert opens, and the Joshua Tree album performance is so haunting, and the way they end this tour? The energy that you take home with you? That’s what I’ll remember the most. I’m sad it’s over for me, but I’m so excited for what’s to come. This morning, when I struggled to believe it was over, and packed up my hotel room, they released the first official single from their upcoming album, You Are the Best Thing About Me. It’s a letter to Ali, from Bono (and Edge), and I’m already picturing how it’ll look on tour. I love this band, these lads, Beck, and the people I met this weekend. Here’s to the next one!

Again, if you want to share any of my photos, please do, with credit! My Instagram is meredithawilcox, or you can link back to this post. 

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