It's cool to hate U2, but that's so wrong

I went to see U2 on the weekend. I say this with some trepidation because at least fifty per cent of you reading this right now will groan, roll your eyes, cast judgement and immediately log off in disgust.

There’s a fair chance you have “opinions.” Loud opinions. Opinions you’ll most likely feel the need to share with me in the comments when this story is posted on Facebook. Opinions you may have ALREADY hate-tweeted last week when I excitedly announced I was going to see the band perform their seminal '80s masterpiece, Joshua Tree, in Melbourne on Friday night.

Bono from U2 performs in black outfit on stage
Why Clare Rigden known people think it's cool to hate U2, but they're so wrong. Photo: Getty Images

You bloody “can’t stand them”. “Hate them!” You think “they’re smug; entitled”. Their ridiculous wealth irks you and you reckon they’re “hypocritical” because they bang on about the environment and saving the world while simultaneously flying around it in a customised Boeing 757, their 390-tonne stage setup trailing separately in a massive cargo aircraft.

Fair call – you’re allowed to be uppity. That’s a very large carbon footprint. But cool ya jets, haters, because U2 remain one of the very best bands in the known universe. And I’m about to tell you why.

So, around thirty years ago I met my friend Hannah. It was high school orientation and we bonded over our mutual love of scrunchies, Reeboks, bike pants and oversized Country Road t-shirts. We also had another thing in common: a shared love of all things U2. We listened to their albums, had posters of them in our rooms and doodled their names on our pencil cases – regular teenage girl stuff.

Bono was our Harry Styles, and we couldn’t get enough.

Clare Rigden and her friends at U2 in Melbourne
Clare and her three schoolmates heading to see U2 in Melbourne. Photo: Supplied

Fast forward three decades and when we found out the Irish band, who’ve sold an astonishing 175 million albums worldwide, were coming to perform Joshua Tree, an album we’d listened to on repeat since that first year we met, it was a no-brainer – we had to go.

We enlisted two of our other besties from school, Eliza and Kath, also ardent U2 fans from waaaay back, and it was decided that the four of us would rendezvous in my now-home-town of Melbourne to catch the gig. For Eliza, that meant travelling from Sydney. Hannah came from Adelaide, and Kath schlepped it all the way over from Perth.

There was a lot of organising – all of us have demanding jobs, numerous kids, and not a great deal of time to get away. Taking three days out of our lives to celebrate a band whose members are all pushing 60 seemed, to more than one of our husbands I suspect, like a flippant waste of money.

Clare Rigden and her friends at U2 in Melbourne
The concert was a leap into the past for the four women. Photo: Supplied

But there was no stopping us – we had our sights set on General Admission at Marvel Stadium, and bloody hell WE WERE GOING TO BE THERE IF IT KILLED US.

Fast forward to Friday night, and we’d made it! We were too-many-heads from the front to really see much at all (thank god for that enormous screen), but happy as Larry Mullins Jr to all be together. In one place. With still so much to talk about after all these years.

OK, so we were mashed into that geriatric mosh pit like sardines. And it was raining. And we were all tired. And this dude standing next to us literally dropped his pants and did a wee RIGHT at our feet (who does that – SERIOUSLY!?), but it mattered not. Larry, Bono, Adam and The Edge had brought us together. And as those first opening chords of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ rang out across the stadium, I realised why U2 are still so great – they had brought us all together.

This band gets so much flak for being a "nostalgia act”; for touring an album that’s thirty-odd years old – but what's so bad about that? Being nostalgic and maintaining ties to the past is so important. Especially when the present day can be so bloody hard. And as I can now attest, there is literally NOTHING better than catching up with old friends, riffing about your shared memories, reminiscing about a life that seems a million years ago... all while singing full tilt to ‘In The Name Of Love’ while standing in a puddle of wee.

U2 stage in Melbourne Australia
U2 performed all the greatest hits from their Joshua Tree album. Photo: Supplied

Joshua Tree is the album that brought us together. And being with 60,000 other people who were also happily tripping down memory lane, joyously singing together in shared voice, is the closest this non-religious 41 year-old has come to actually GETTING why people like to gather together in a church and praise a man in the sky.

In this case, we were all together praising a man on a stage. But the feeling of togetherness we had; the love that was emanating out of that fetid wee-pit left of stage, was something I will never forget. We all shed a tear as we held up our phones in ‘torch’ mode, as Bono sang a touching tribute to our firies, singing a stunning rendition of Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms.’

It was literally “One love”, and we got to share it… and for that I will be forever grateful.

So yeah – hate all you like. Bang on about how U2 haven’t “had a good hit since 1986” – I don’t care. Nostalgia isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be darn-right restorative.

Also, side note: if looking back to the past is such a terrible thing to do, then how come scrunchies, Reeboks and over-sized Country Road t-shirts are everywhere in the shops right now?

Yeah, see? Gotcha.

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