(Adapted from Deborah Lindsay Williams's article in www.thenational.ae)
U2’s latest album is called Songs of Innocence, a title borrowed from William Blake, whose radical ideas frequently got him into trouble and whose genius was not fully recognised until well after his death in 1827. U2 seem pretty convinced about their own genius and although I’m sure that music critics no longer consider U2 to be “relevant”, I do know that the band made the 20,000 seat arena seem almost intimate.
As we left for the concert, my younger son told us that rock-and-roll is “music for old people”, and indeed, there were more than a few bald heads in the audience. The songs from this album seem of a piece with my own middle-aged musings about family, growing up and what the second half of a life can hold. U2’s music is embedded in my memories of growing up, from those days when people “bought albums” instead of downloaded songs and when a concert ticket set you back $30 (Dh110) instead of $200. That’s what my generation has instead of Proustian madeleines: snippets of rock lyrics that send us spinning back to our youth.
When I saw the Rolling Stones play in Abu Dhabi, I was amazed that men old enough to be my father had the stamina necessary for a rock show. Clearly, U2 must be working out with the same personal trainers.
Bono showed no signs of the intensive surgeries he had after his recent cycling accident – he never stopped moving. His scrupulously choreographed enthusiasm was infectious: the audience stayed on its feet the entire time, clapping and singing. Perhaps U2 has taken not only a title from William Blake but also inspiration: even on his deathbed (at the ripe old age of 69), Blake continued to write and draw and paint. I don’t know how Bono recovers between shows but both Blake and U2 remind me that there should be more to midlife than Panadol and sensible shoes. There will be inevitable aches and pains – my feet were killing me after two hours of concert-induced standing – but there needs to be singing and dancing and loud music, too.