What it was like to meet U2’s Bono & Edge

On Friday, June 22, 2018, I met Bono and The Edge from U2 on a sidewalk (of sorts) in Boston.

This is a moment I never thought would happen and one that I still can’t believe actually did.

Know that I’m coming it this from the perspective of a GIANT U2 fan and I’m sharing this story because it’s a lesson in never giving on your dreams.  I’m also sharing it because I think it’s amazing that Bono and Edge did this  (meet fans before a show) because they certainly didn’t have to.

How did I come to meet U2 on this particular day? Well in part thanks to Instagram. But hold that thought for just a moment and let me tell you, briefly, about my love for U2 and how it all began.

A thousand years ago in the early-ish days of MTV I saw this video and couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. I immediately bought a copy of the “Under a Blood Red Sky” EP and soon after “War,” “October” and “Boy.” My love for this band was instantaneous and immense. There’s a handful of junior high friends out there that might remember the sleepover when this clip came on MTV and I acted out Bono’s flag-raising and lip-synced along like it was the most important moment of my entire life.

The first time I saw U2 live was on “The Unforgettable Fire” tour. To this day, that first time seeing U2 live was one of the greatest night of my life. Since then I’ve seen thousands of concerts and I’ve seen U2 about a dozen times through the years. But that first time…my oh my.

Then of course there was last summer when I saw them on the 30th anniversary tour for “The Joshua Tree.” That too was one of the greatest nights of my life. You can read about it here.

OK so getting back to that moment in Boston on June 22 of this year. I got wind of the fact that members of U2 would sometimes come out and say hi to fans before shows by way of Instagram Stories. An ember started burning in my mind and since my buddy Colin and I were already going in early to Boston to secure a “good number” in the general admission floor seats line, I mentioned to him about what I had seen on social media and said something along the lines of  “Um, maybe we should see if this is happening when we go to Boston.” He was of course totally on board.

On the day of the show we arrived in Boston via the Amtrak Downeaster at around 11 a.m. and immediately acquired the all-important numbered bracelets. Then we were able to establish where to go to wait in case the miracle of the band actually stopping to say hello was going to happen.

In a medium-sized paved area by what I’ll call the “artist entrance” to the colossal TD Garden we came across about 25 fellow U2 fans. They were all very friendly and helpful and they included Rebecca from San Francisco, Maggie from Rhode Island,  Leah from Australia and Josie from The  Netherlands.

It was a bit of a downer to hear that the day before (night one of the two nights of Boston shows) that the make-shift meet & greet didn’t happen because the band was running late. But still we persisted because a. today was a new day and b. what else we were doing ? Colin and I had packed water and snacks and it was really fun trading stories with other huge fans about previous shows and such.

And the hours passed…

A few fans knew the deal from previous stops on the tour and told us that the first thing we needed to keep an eye out for was U2’s head security guy who, if this thing was going to happen, could at some point appear to survey the scene.

Somewhere around 3 p.m. he did indeed appear and this was the first moment I experienced a massive rush of nervous excitement and the first moment that I thought to myself “holy shit, this might actually happen.”

From there it was a lot of “hurry up and wait” and as the minutes ticked on I went in and out of losing hope and just staying calm and present.

More and more security personnel started assembling and some barriers were put up on either end of the  line of fans and a black rope was stretched in front of us .

And now it’s 4:45 going on 5 p.m. and there are maybe 200 of us out there. I can’t deal at all.  My new pal Rebecca and I both enabled one other’s stress and talked ourselves out of it and reminded ourselves that no matter what happens, we were going to see a spectacular concert in a few hours and all would be OK.

Then right around 5 p.m. two miracles occurred. A pair of huge black Escalades pulled up, doors were opened and out popped Edge and Bono.

As you can only imagine, I am beside myself at this point.

Here’s the moment of Bono’s arrival:

Bono arrives to say hello to fans in Boston on 6.22.18
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Bono walked right by me and made his way to the far right side of the line and Edge made his way to the far left. I was pretty much smack dab in the middle.

Everything was happening pretty quickly at this point and yet time also stood still.

I looked to my left and saw Edge approaching and I looked to the right and Bono was getting closer. With my heart in my throat I started snapping photos and here’s a collage of the scene unfolding right in front of me of their approaches as well as some pics I snapped when they were literally RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME along with a”I couldn’t help myself” selfie once I had had my moment with them:

u2 and me collage
U2’s Bono and Edge in Boston on 6.22.18
Photos by a very excited Aimsel Ponti

If I never take another photo for the rest of my life I think I’ll be OK because I managed to get this one:

Edge and Bono
U2’s Edge and Bono are all smiles as they greet fans in Boston, MA on 6.22.18.
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Colin and my new friends and I all shared photos with one another and I’m very thankful because otherwise I wouldn’t have these two to share. The first one is the moment I shook Bono’s hand. I knew full well that if I was able to speak with him at all it would be very brief. I also knew that an autograph wasn’t something I needed to ask for. Honestly, I just wanted to shake his hand.

And so the moment came and I said hello and asked if I could shake his hand. He said hello and something like “of course” and we did indeed shake hands. I had not planned what I was going to say to him. What came out was “Thank you. I guess I’ve waited for this moment for 35 years.” This was for me all I needed to say to one of my heroes. I also got to say thanks and get a handshake with Edge.

bono handshake with ALP
The moment of shaking hands with Bono after just doing the same with Edge in Boston on 6.22.18.
Photo by a fellow U2 fan

This other photo I couldn’t believe when it was texted to me. Someone (was it you, Colin?) managed to get this shot of the back of me with Edge and Bono smiling at me and honestly, I can hardly look at this without my heart growing about 1,000 times bigger and I get a little teary too, such was the gravity of the moment.

Edge and Bono
Edge and Bono smiling at yours truly in Boston, MA on 6.22.18.

A few minutes after all these photos were taken I called my spouse Tracy back in Maine and told her, with my voice shaking, that I had just met Edge and Bono and then, for real, I started crying.

I thought about it later and realized the tears came from many places but were mostly because I have loved this band so much for so long that it was almost an existential moment to actually meet them. Along with David Bowie, they are a primary reason that my life has centered around music for so long. They’re one of the reasons why I am a music writer. They’re one of the reasons that music is essential to both my happiness and sanity.

So in as much as Edge and Bono are just humans like the rest of us, for me they’re also something else. They represent  what it feels like as a 14 year old kid to love a band’s music so much that you know  that you’re going to feel that way forever.

When I stood there in Boston and shook their hands I was 14 again. But I was also 40-something me. And as I sit here and finish this post nine days after the moment happened, I’m again overcome with emotions. And that’s the crux of it isn’t it? Feeling that emotion, acknowledging that despite years of being a writer, at the end of the day I’m still a fan who loves music and really loves the band from Dublin, Ireland called U2.

As for the concert later that night,  it proved that they’re still the best live band out there.

Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. of U2 performing live in Boston at the TD Garden on 6.22.18.
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Thanks for taking the time to relive this moment with me. It truly meant everything to me and if you’re a music fan at all, I know you get it.

Ponti out

Anatomy of an unexpected 7th row experience at the Boston Roger Waters show

So I saw Roger Waters in Boston on Sept. 28, 2017 at the TD Garden.  It was the second night of his Beantown visit and a stop on his Us + Them Tour which began in May. The concert was insane and I’ll tell you more about it in a minute but first this story deserves a moment of backstory which begins with my love for the band Lucius. They’re a four-piece indie-pop quartet with I’ve been all about since their debut full-length album from 2013 called “Wildewoman.  Last year’s “Good Grief” is also tremendous and so is their latest single “Million Dollar Secret.” Lucius is vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig,  guitarist Peter Lalish and drummer Dan Molad.  When you’re done reading this, go check them out. Trust me on this. But what does my love for Lucius have to do with Roger Waters? As it turns out… everything!

I got wind of the fact that Jess and Holly would be touring with Waters  several months ago and have been following the Lucius posts on Instagram  (in particular Instagram stories since rehearsals started and especially since the tour began in May. BTW, do yourselves a favor and follow them post haste @Ilovelucius because their Instagram stories are pure gold. Lots of backstage footage and quick looks into what it must be like to be part of a monumental tour such as this. And once the tour started and I knew there was a Boston date on it, the embers started burning in the back of my mind. But the tickets went fast and ones being sold by scalpers were way gross amounts of money.  Plus, I’m a bit of a seat snob and knew I wouldn’t be happy in nosebleeds at the cavernous Boston Garden. I decided it was OK to miss the show. I was fine with it. But still the embers burned, especially after footage became readily available and I saw JUST HOW BRILLIANT Holly and Jess were singing with Rogers. Again though, I let it go. I just can’t go to EVERY show.

Fast forward to the morning of September 28th. This was a particularly unusual morning as it was the first time I decided to walk to my recently moved office at the Portland Press Herald (day job). It was just under seven miles. For the first half hour or so I had a headlamp on and a bunch of reflective gear. About six miles into my walk and a lifetime later, the sound of a text momentarily interrupted my music. I looked at my phone to see a message from my friend Mary Allen (correct spelling, I know you’re wondering) Lindemann. She had two tickets to the Waters show THAT NIGHT and did I know anyone who might be interested? I didn’t really off the top of my head  but did offer to help her sell them. The tickets were WAY out of my price range (like WAY WAY WAY out).  But then something entirely unexpected happened. She told me she didn’t want them to go to waste. She GAVE them to me. I am going to pay her something soon for them but she took a HUGE loss on these. But that’s just how she is; kind and generous. It was more important to her that the tickets weren’t wasted then to recoup what she paid. I’ll forever be in her debt. I scampered the rest of the way to work, in a state of shock, and reached out to my friend Lee. And when I say “reached out” that means I basically told her she HAD TO go to this show with me.  She realized that resistance was futile and later that day, off we went to Boston.
There’s a difference between seeing on your ticket that your seats are good and actually having an usher bring you to them. At a venue as large as the Garden, which can hold just under 20,000 people for concerts, having a seventh row seat that was, and I’m not making this up -dead center- is insane. It’s incredible. It’s other-worldly. Lee and I looked at other and didn’t really know what to say.  How did this happen? Said more succinctly; What in the actual fuck?

And when the clock struck eight and the show started, Lee and I experienced a concert that, two weeks later as I sit here and finally write, I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It was stupendous. It was powerful. It was everything. Roger Waters was RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Holly and Jess were RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Songs like “Time,” “Welcome to the Machine,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Pigs” “Dogs,” “Money,” “Another Brick In the Wall (Part II & Part III,” “Us and Them,” “Mother” and god almighty, “Comfortably Numb” were performed RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.

RW hand on heart
Roger Waters in Boston on 9.28.17 Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Here’s a montage of the clips I shot put together by my tech savvy pal Shamus:

It was one jaw-dropping moment after another all night long for two long sets of music.

The giant, remote controlled inflatable pig that hovered above the crowd and circled the arena during “Pigs” was amazing. The local kids who were on stage during “Another Brick in the Wall” were amazing. The entire band- including guitarist Jonathan Wilson who sang lead on a number of tunes- was amazing. Holly and Jess were amazing. Their vocals blew the roof off the building.

Oh and Waters’ hatred of Donald Trump; that too was amazing. Here’s a collage of photos I snapped of Trump quotes projected onto a massive screen behind the stage with the words “Trump is a Pig” as the finale. I might add that Rogers also took a knee eliciting a wave of boos but an even bigger wave of approval.

trump collage

And when the show ended at 11 p.m. with “Comfortably Numb” we were all showered with pink confetti with one vital word printed on it:

Resist confetti.JPG

I don’t know if I’ll ever really believe that I went to this show. Many of these songs are ones I’ve known and loved most of my life. I mean who doesn’t love “Comfortably Numb?” Who doesn’t love pretty much the entire “Dark Side of the Moon” album? Who didn’t, at one point or another, go through a phase with the soundtrack to “The Wall?” Who hasn’t sung “WE DON’T NEED NO EDUCATION!” at the top of their lungs?  Who isn’t a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl for god’s sake?

As a music lover and writer, this was a night that left me fairly speechless. I had pretty much no time to even get excited about it because it all happened so quickly. There was no build-up. Somehow I woke up extra early that morning, walked to work in the dark, got the text to end all texts and ended up getting home at 2 a.m. after one of the most tremendous concerts I’ve ever seen. It took me three days to fully recover.

Holly & Jess show start
Holly Laessing and Jess Wolfe blowing my mind with Roger Waters in Boston on 9.28.17. Mediocre iPhone photo by Aimsel Ponti

You just never know what’s going to happen. I’m sad my friend couldn’t make the show herself and had to sacrifice her tickets. But I’m sure glad I was the lucky recipient because this show was on a scale I’ve rarely seen. If you’re able to catch a future date of this tour RUN, RABBIT RUN to it.

As for Holly and Jess, they should probably write a book about their experience at some point when their time on the tour is over. And maybe someone’s been shooting a documentary? Here’s hoping. Congratulations to them both for CRUSHING this gig, a truly great gig here on earth.

Ponti out.