The Virtual Road – Last Stop : Back to Paris
“I don’t know how these cuts heal but in you I’ve found a rhyme. “
– Merci U2 –
The last stop on the virtual road happened guys, that final night in Paris, and I don’t know how to write about that one. It took me a few days to sort out my thoughts and feelings about this show.
This is a special one for me as many of you already know – if you don’t, I invite you to go read this one before wasting a few more minutes of your life with this.
A piece a bit more personal probably, but I can’t really write it any other way. But eh, if you’ve listened to the man, he sang in a recent album about the heart having its own mind. I’m pretty sure this post will come from that one.
So yeah, not too sure where to start guys. All I know is that I want to do that show justice, for what it brought me then, what it brought me now, and probably always will – freaking priceless.
There is so much I want to say about it.
There is so much I don’t want to say about it.
Since the announcement of #TheVirtualRoad, and when I saw that the Paris show would be closing our journey, it’s been eyeing me from the corner of the table. I didn’t think much of it, until the date came closer and I then realised how much I was dreading it. Pretty much like when that show happened five years ago, I didn’t want to go back to Paris. That’s not breaking news though. I remember that after attending the 360 tour, I watched the blu-ray probably a few millions times. I just couldn’t get enough of it, couldn’t get enough of the memories it brought. But Paris? God knows how much I loved that tour, and how important that very show is on a personal level but still, I think I can count on one hand how many times I’ve watched it since then.
I spent the 3 days before the stream just going up and down, but mostly down. At some point I even told myself I would just skip it, because why the hell would I go through all that again?
But again why the hell would I skip it? That was probably the most important show of my life. Stupid argumentative nature. A former high school teacher of mine used to say I was a walking paradox. Hell, maybe she was right after all. Time for a self kick in the arse.
Whatever happened in Paris is long gone, get a grip woman for god’s sake. You’re past it.
And I truly think I am, I truly think the terror of November 13th is gone and the wound left in me has healed. But it was a deep wound, and it was foolish of me to think that healed meant gone. No. It left a scar on my heart forever, and I guess it’s only normal that it still hurts at times.
When U2 dropped the 4 songs EP for the Paris show on the streaming platforms, my finger hovered over the play button for a few minutes. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Not from the songs no, because I knew all too well how great they would sound obviously but, I wasn’t sure what it would spur in me. My anxiety was already off the roof, would this just add to it?
So I did what I did 5 years ago when I went back to Paris. Not too sure where I was heading and where it would lead me. I took a leap of faith. And thank god I did.
Every single song they picked brought me exactly what I needed to hear, and of course, to feel.
Vertigo never felt more accurate, and left me shaking at the sudden realisation of what a great summary of it all it was.
“A feeling’s so much stronger than a thought”
“The night is full of holes
‘Cause bullets rip the sky of ink with gold”
“It’s everything I wish I didn’t know”
“But you give me something
I can feel”
“Your love is teaching me how”
Pretty accurate eh ? Funny how we can always find new personal meanings in the lyrics this band writes.
And then, good old Bono hit the nail on the head growling “Rock n roll saved our lives”. Ha.
Well, U2 sure reminded us why it was worth saving that night.
Listening back to those four songs was unreal guys. Feels like I remember every single sound, every note, every roar, every emotion, absolutely everything as if I’m still in that arena. This show is imprinted in me. It’s ‘Only words’ Bono? Nah. it’s only words til you make them yours, and then it turns into a gift you treasure forever.
These songs helped me remember how much joy these two last nights in Paris also brought. And I wanted so bad to focus on that while watching the show this time. So bad that I actually started writing after hearing the EP in the hope I could get out everything that could come in its way. Just joy. Just once. But I never managed to finish it…
It dawned on me that those few days of freaking out were not necessarily only about what led to this show. But somehow, about the show itself. I think it took me all this time to realise that damn, that show was traumatic too.
Taking the decision to go back to Paris was traumatic.
Spending the day in the GA line with the military around was traumatic.
Having to be reminded that the show included sounds of detonations was traumatic because it was such a harsh reminder of where all our minds were on that moment – definitely the right call though.
And more than anything…
Daring to live was traumatic.
Daring to feel alive after all that was traumatic.
Daring to feel joy when we were still mourning…
Traumatic joy. How about that guys. It’s mental. I don’t even know how to explain it.
So yeah, it all messed with my head a tad bit, more than usual I guess, but you know what the man says, “If there is a light” – If I may i’ll add “ If there is a light, fckin grab it and hold onto it with everything you have”, because that will save your arse more often than you can imagine.
I still wasn’t so sure I wanted to watch the livestream after that, but I was definitely less conflicted. Stronger than fear right? That works with inner conflicts too I guess.
I needed that final gentle push though. And as always, those guys from the northside of Dublin delivered.
“Walking out on stage that night to see all those faces, those fans who came back to support us. It was an incredible feeling. We played those songs with everything we had…And the audience gave us everything they had…Paris, on t’aime.” – The Edge pic.twitter.com/hBNMXmuo0j
— U2 (@U2) April 9, 2021
To read Edge, Adam, Bono – and damn, even Larry’s afterwards – words about those shows, brought me a sense of comfort I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Of course it must have been hard for them too, we all knew that. But I’m not sure they had ever expressed it so clearly before. Maybe they did and I just missed it. Maybe they did not and just like the rest of us going back to Paris virtually, it took some time to find the words.
You were alone
And now you’re not alone
That’s the feeling I got from their words honestly. And that was one hell of a comforting hug.
Funnily enough, I’ve always wondered when hearing Bono crying out “Comfort Me” every damn show, if we had ever managed to comfort him at some point. He sure comforted us. Ha. I’ll take that as a yes. Maybe. It’s a nice thought, and hell I need nice thoughts so, definitely yes.
This show is just too much to bear for one’s shoulder, and I guess, not just for the audience, or the fans, but for the band too.
I’m always amazed by their strength. They are always so strong in face of events like that. So damn brave. And that sure inspired generations of fans. It makes me wonder what’s their secret seriously. How? And by talking about this with a friend, we came to the conclusion that it’s probably because they have each other. Stronger together. That makes a lot of sense eh?
So, maybe this show is too much but, maybe that stream was a chance to go back there, with the whole online community, and not alone. We get to carry each other.
Show time then. People have the power alright. Let’s embrace it all once more and find that joy.
This tour always felt like a multiple act. It starts with a punk rock show, goes on with a play, and if all the world’s a stage, they definitely brought us on the stage of their lives.
Cedarwood road, Iris, Raised by wolves.. moments that broke them, and stories that built them. Magically turning their most personal events into something universal we could all relate to. Those guys. Seriously. I’ve stopped trying to figure it out.
And then, they just drag you to the most eclectic night club where the party certainly sounds louder than in any other place in town. Innocence is messy and wild. But it’s also a process that all led us to where we are, and who we are. The road to Experience is a bumpy ride, but no matter how many potholes you’ll encounter on your journey, you’ll get there. And I believe that’s why inevitably, the last part of that show felt like U2. The pure U2 brand. You know, the one you crave when they do something different, and the one you whine about when they just go for it. Ha. U2 fans. Funny lot sometimes.
Excuse the little interlude, let’s go back to Paris.
Music is the best kind of time travelling, a single song can take you back in time to the very moment you heard it. You’ll hear the songs the same way, you’ll see the smiles through the soundwaves, you’ll feel the atmosphere like a breeze on your face if you close your eyes – but the problem is that you don’t get to choose the emotions it will conjure up. You can’t just take the good and forget about the bad.
I wanted it to be about that joy so bad that I just tried to close my eyes on everything else, just keeping them shut to avoid the tears from falling. What a fckin stupid idea that was. So damn stupid. Because guess what happened? At some point, obviously, it overflowed. All those other emotions came rushing at me like every breaking wave in the middle of a frigging storm, submerging me, drowning me and what had to happen, happened, I had a complete meltdown by the time we hit Until The End Of The World. Seriously, no joke.
So I just stopped. I closed every tab on my laptop, and with it the whole world. I sat back and just listened to the show, surrendering to it all and just crying every single tear I had. Just because it was the only thing I could do. I needed it all out.
Humans are weird. We just go through the same shit and we never learn. I went through that exact same process so many times with that band and yet I keep forgetting how things work when it comes to their music. You’ve got to let it all out, and then, you’re ready to receive joy. A heart that is broken, is a heart that is open. Maybe that’s not just U2 eh, maybe that’s just life.
Stranded in the vast ocean of my emotions, I just floated, feeling empty and barely conscious through a few songs, until the thunder struck me. Larry Mullen Thunder Jr, ladies and gentlemen.
That loud beat bringing back the colors in a world filled with shades of grey. The drum call summoning me back to life, like on the battlefields of old.
Start kicking your feet in the water girl, or you’ll be going down and you know too well this cold deep has no bottom.
Even Better Than The Real Thing is probably my favorite song to hear live, and if that didn’t work, nothing would. But it did. Of course it did. Always believe in Larry Mullen Jr, guys.
Back online, fck it, that show shouldn’t be a struggle. That show is meant to be embraced.
And so I did, the best I could. Watching along on twitter, I just kept switching from English to French and French to English because the truth is, I was lost for words. In both languages.
I always thought that show was one of the best I ever attended because of where I was emotionally that day. Every song sounded louder, every light brighter, every raw emotion pushed on the verge of breaking point. A fierce desire to celebrate life and a raging love embracing the whole venue. A collective roar. A blazing fire. The power of unity like I had never felt before. One of the greatest nights ever alright, Bono.
But watching back the show after that many years, I realised that my memories had nothing to do with my own mental state at the time, but only with what actually happened. What a freaking brilliant performance that show in Paris was. Just mind blowing.
And I’ll have to agree with The Edge. They gave us everything they had. And we gave them everything we had. But the truth is, if Paris was the city of lights that night, and somehow we were those lights, I’m pretty sure it’s the band that flicked that switch in the first place by being true to their words and coming back so quickly.
Once more, they embarked us in this emotional rollercoaster, that turmoil of feelings, freeing our minds and healing our souls, leaving us drained but with a full heart.
But eh, break on through to the other side guys. There’s a lot of joy on the other side of that barricage, and that’s where I want to take you now.
The E stage guys.
That’s where the party always happened. That part was one of the true highlights of the tour, whether you were at the show or following online. You know what I’m talking about.
Gosh I miss those days so much. What a blast it was.
Remember that rush of adrenaline when you would receive that notification on your phone? ‘U2 is live’. Boom cha. Those live streams during the show were such a gift for the online community. That’s U2 for you, not leaving anyone behind, and letting us in the sound at the most convenient moment, when joy would peak because it truly was all about the fans.
I still have some crappy screenshots of different streams in my drive, and for some reason I can’t get myself to delete them. Just like snapshots of happy moments past. It’s memories. Good memories.
And what a party happened in Paris, guys. The stage crashers gang ! So much fun, so much joy, seriously it was just unreal. The U2 Fam taking over the show. What a sight. It felt like instant coffee. Except it wasn’t coffee but happiness. Take a rock n roll band from the northside of Dublin, add a few crazy fans and mix it all up. Boom instant smiles all over. No need to add any sugar to it because that was already the sweetest thing.
The best moment of it all was the hug fest that ensued. You can’t see it on the dvd because eh, edits, but it lasted forever. Everyone went home with a hug. Pretty sure some even got more than one.
It was just mayhem, a joyous mess. And I swear, you could see that this moment could have lasted all night. Fans and band. They were all so happy, and so were we. How could we not while witnessing all that joy. So yeah. It lasted for some time until Bono told everyone to fuck off when he remembered they still had a show to finish – can’t recall if he actually said those words but I think he did. Laughing his arse off in the process, that bit I remember.
And then came the magic. I already wrote about that song in my previous post about Paris, but I had quite some time to reflect on it so here’s a few more lines I want to add.
A few piano keys cutting through the emotional atmosphere of Bercy – the hell with the Accor Arena, it will always be Bercy for the French – lights going up left and right and transporting us into some unknown galaxy beyond the stars, Bono uttering a few words about uncertain meanings… And here comes what was in my opinion, the most beautiful moment of the night. Every breaking Wave guys. Just pure beauty. Pure magic. Something unexplicable that even its creator can’t quite explain. That song was a definite moment of grace.
I’m sure you’ve all experienced it at some point in your life, but you know that feeling when you’re in the darkness and your other senses seem heightened? Stuck in the dead of the night, or in a dark room, and suddenly you can’t see shit. Yet, it feels like you can hear better, your touch is more accurate, basically everything just feels enhanced.
I truly believe that the same thing happens when you’re stuck in a dark place inside your own mind. And I’ve discovered that by being a U2 fan. I listen to this band when I’m okay because I love them. But I also listen to this band when I’m not okay. Because I need them.
And it’s when I meet that darkness in me that it feels like I can truly see – Is there one time that man won’t get it right? I think not. Those songs sound so much more than what they sound like in broad daylight. I’ve always kept Bono’s voice close in times of darkness, for countless years. That voice has been my beacon of light through many storms. And it has probably something to do with the universality of U2’s songs and how you can always relate. Eh, it’s quite healing to hear your hero singing your sorrows away instead of going through it alone. Stronger together. Again. Recurring theme eh.
Anyways, that’s probably what happened when I heard Every Breaking Wave that night. It shined a healing light on me through the darkness of the room and the darkness within. It was a true lifeline. Probably still is to be honest. And maybe that’s why that night it became my favorite U2 song ever – even though it took me a while to understand it.
It was truly an incredible performance. And that’s usually the one I point out when people dare say that the B man’s voice is not what it used to be. You bunch of Jon Snow. Hmpf.
Anyways, that voice, always on the verge of cracking and yet never failing, led us to the most epic segment in music history, and you can come fight me on that, I’ll never change my mind.
Bullet The Blue Sky.
Definite highlight of this tour, of this show, and I know i keep saying everything is a damn highlight but what can I say. It was just that GOOD – for those wondering, yes, iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE is still my favorite tour to this day. And no, I’m not biased. It was the best and that’s just one of those universal truths you have to accept.
That segment is a whole process. From the grieving purity of October’s notes to the exultation of the roaring joy of Streets. And in between, ha… what makes it all possible to finally choose love over fear. Remember that thing about letting it all out before being ready to receive ? Ha. Yes. That. THAT.
BULLET THE BLUE SKY.
BTBS during the IE tour went from epic to legendary.
This is without a doubt my favorite performance ever of this song. And that night in Paris, it was a free pass to access the healing process. The band was loud, the audience was loud, the anger being drained out of our hearts was loud.
Our clapping matched the power of Larry’s drums. Our shouts matched the singer’s roars, and the fighting sounds of the guitars felt like a call for arms. But not the one you’re thinking about. A call to run into their arms. Arms that comfort. And what was by the start of the song a raging fire was mostly extinguished by the time Bono ran down the catwalk. You could still see the smoke spiralling from the rumbles of our hearts, when that man softly took our hands and whispered the words we needed to hear.
Zooropa. And you take a closer look. Zooropa. And you realise that under the rubble lies love. Zooropa. And you start to believe it will be alright. Zooropa. The bridge of hope leading you back to joy.
And you hear it. And you see it. And all of a sudden your eyes open and you go for it. Dream out loud. Dream out loud because it’s salvation time. Time to take a stand. Time to choose love over fear. Time for the opening chords of Streets.
Love over fear.
Love over fear.
Love over fear.
LOVE OVER FEAR!
You think you know the feeling Streets bring but guys, seriously, that night…. YOU HAVE NO IDEA. It was a liberation. It freed us from all evil. I don’t know how to explain that feeling guys, I have no words for it.
So if you don’t mind ‘i’ll steal my own words from 5 years ago for it, because while watching it back I realised that feeling was definitely the same.
“That very moment was what I had come for.
This explosion of joy, that roar from the crowd and the power unleashed by Edge’s guitar was a true electric shock sending me right back to life. There we were standing up for everything that is good in human beings. Love, hope, art, creativity, music, friendship…
Dreaming louder than all the evils we had gone through a few weeks earlier. That was our freakin victory. That was our freakin answer. A celebration of love and life.”
It was definitely the most cathartic moment I’ve ever experienced in my life – and not only in my music fan life.
Ha guys, I’ve been writing this post for the last 3 days and I had no idea how to find the words, but it seems that I can’t stop them now. I wrote this at home, at work, while walking in the streets… the truth is, I could go on and on about this show. And I think that’s a pretty clear sign of healing.
I could tell you about WoWy.
I could tell you about that One singalong that united all our hearts forever under one voice.
I could probably write another small novel about City Of Blinding lights and how this song forever changed for me.
I could tell you about the intensity and pride of hearing Bono sing Jacques Brel and how ‘Ne me Quittes pas’ still echoes in my soul whenever I think about it.
I probably couldn’t tell you what I felt when I saw this
Because no words are needed for it.
I could tell you about the first night they returned, and about Ordinary love. Actually I will because there’s a lyric that stuck with me more than others.
“All the beauty that’s been lost before, wants to find us again”
And maybe that’s what that show was too, the sudden realisation that underneath the rubble of our broken hearts still lied beauty. Beauty of feeling, beauty of living, beauty of loving.
I could go on and on about this show and what it will always mean for me. But I’d be just repeating myself, for every single second of those two nights in Paris was a salvation.
I could tell you how while watching the show with you all the other night, I even forgot about Bad because I just couldn’t take it anymore. So many emotions. Too much is not enough? Hell Edge, too much is well enough sometimes.
Tears of pain. Tears of joy.
So much I want to say.
So much I don’t want to say.
But I should probably stop now.
Let it go.
It’s time to let it go, and embrace the miracle that night was.
I woke up at the moment
When the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense
Out of the world
Everything I ever lost
Now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard
Merci pour tout.
I went back to the EP this morning. And it couldn’t have been a more different listen. There I was, smiling from ear to ear listening to those songs. Because they did it again. They lifted me up.
You know what, that scar on my heart… it’s just another proof of survival i’ll bear proudly. What matters is that smile on my face, and that guys, that is priceless.
I’m so grateful that this band gave us the opportunity to go back to Paris with this livestream. It made me realise how much I’ve grown since then, and how much I’ve healed. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for all this, for everything. It’s a night I’ll never forget
It’s also a night I won’t have to write about anymore. I think I‘ve finally let it all out this time.
I know some of you tiptoed around me these past few days about that show, maybe because I’m so vocal about it. It took a long time for the words to come out about it, but that’s something else that whole tour taught me. Words are freeing. Don’t be afraid of what you feel. Nothing is ridiculous if you’re feeling it. “Don’t fear the world, it isn’t there”. Deal with it. Confront it. Because no matter how fast and how far you run, it will catch up with you. That’s how you’ll free yourself, and the man is right – again, always – it will be the only way to be yourself.
So whenever the Paris show will come up in our convos, because it will – it’s too freaking epic to be forgotten. Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t pity me. It happened. And I know too well, I’m the lucky one.
That’s just life. And what is life but a succession of events, some better than others, but never in vain if you learn something from it. We all have our stories, we all have our battles, but eh, in the end, another U2 truth, I’m just glad that we’re all still here.
So now, take this show, and make it yours, because that’s probably the best companion you can ask for when the world gets too much.
And when you’ll look back, maybe it will still hurt, but when you’ll see how far you’ve come, you’ll have a smile on your face, and that guys, that smile, will be priceless.
We’ve reached the final stop of the virtual road, and what a joyous journey we’ve all had. It was such a great gift to the online community seriously. Just like in Paris, I’m convinced we’re stronger together, and those four livestreams gave us just that, the unique opportunity to be together in those times of social distancing.
But coming to the end of it hits hard. The last notes of 40 hadn’t died down that I was already overwhelmed by the legendary post tour depression. If you never been through it, I’m not sure if you’re lucky or if I’m sorry for you. It’s quite a unique feeling. More of an instant melancholy and longing for those days past, than sadness really. How could we be sad when it happened. The time of our lives, every single tour. The best memories to keep forever.
But what’s funny here, is that it was all virtual, we didn’t actually go there right?
And yet, that feeling hit pretty much the same way. And I know I’m not the only one experiencing it so for once, you can’t call me crazy. Maybe it has to do with the days we live in. Maybe it’s just the legacy of the past year, teaching us to embrace every little joy that comes our way, for it is more fleeting than ever before. Or maybe we’re just starting to be tired of it all, and the ultimate truth when you’re a U2 fan – and that’s prob true for any other fandom as well – is that live music, community, all this complete madness that makes us fans, is not something essential to living – life would be freaking dull but we would survive it for sure – but it’s definitely something that make us thrive.
Over a year that we’re all just standing still when all we aspire to do is running. I say our legs are getting more and more restless, as are our minds, and our hearts. And it is well known that the closer you get to the resolution, the more unbearable the waiting becomes. Is it why the end of a virtual tour hits so hard? Maybe, maybe not. There must be a reason for sure.
Or maybe it’s the simplest of all..
Maybe we did go there in a way. Because ‘when I go there, I go there with you’. And you know as much as I do, it’s all we can do. Being together, carrying each other, with this band that created the soundtrack of our lives, maybe that’s where the joy really is U2 Fam. Would any of us have enough of that ? Heck no.
Stuff to think about, stuff to dream about. This band will never cease to push us forward. And even if the future better hurry up, it was very nice to stop and look how far we’ve all come. Sometimes to know where you’re going, it’s necessary to remember where you’ve come from.
I say let’s just keep going down that road, wherever it leads us, because eh, it never disappoints. I think we’re on the right path y’all. And I strongly believe that we’ll meet again at some point – and that’s probably reason enough to keep going.
Uncertainty can be a guiding light anyway.
Keep dreaming out loud U2 Fam.