Celebrating a Pearl Anniversary

Company Culture Posted Oct 19, 2017 by Bryan Grillo

In 1987, I saw my first concert: U2.

Seven friends, including CHEN Partner Kev Kosh – we’ve known each other since grade school – and I drove to New Haven and descended upon the (now defunct) Coliseum.

It was Wednesday, September 23rd – a school night, mind you. And U2 was on tour to support the release of The Joshua Tree. Although CDs and cassettes were the dominate formats at the time, I bought the album on vinyl.

That summer, the eight of us had purchased tickets in pairs. Several of us bought floor seats and resorted to standing the entire show. No matter, later on that evening, Kev, two other friends and I converged on the same pair of seats, watching the rest of the show together.

Sign of the times: I bought not one, but two concert shirts. And tickets only cost $17 (!).

It’s hard to remember many specifics of the show all these years later, but there are several things that I’ll never forget: They kicked off the show with “Where the Streets Have No Name” (in my opinion, one of the best videos from the MTV era); they played a cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”; and Bono’s arm was in a sling as he had dislocated his shoulder a few nights earlier when he slipped on the stage at (now venerable) RFK stadium.

Fast forward to last month. U2 was finishing up a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree.

Charlie, a high school friend of Kev’s and mine, called me with, as he said, “a proposition.” He had purchased tickets for the September 16th show in St. Louis, but it was subsequently canceled due to safety concerns around the protests occurring in the area.

Since he wasn’t able to join us for the New Haven show three decades prior, Charlie wasn’t going to be denied again and asked if I’d join him. In Phoenix. On September 19th – a work night, mind you.

Did I mention this conversation took place on September 17th?

Thanks to the tremendous support of the CHEN team – thank you again gals and guys! – Charlie and I quickly made plans and I flew out the next evening. We both weren’t sure what the setlist would be; we only knew they’d play The Joshua Tree in its entirety.

Emerging onstage to The Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon,” U2 set a blistering pace with “Sunday Blood Sunday,” “New Year’s Day,” “Bad” and “Pride (In the Name of Love).”

Chills.

Larry Mullen Jr.’s signature snare was resonant; The Edge’s riffs and effects were driving; Adam Clayton’s bass was at times understated, at others powerful; and, to me, Bono’s voice remained unchanged 30 years later. I was air-drumming and air-guitaring right along with the lads.

Then they launched into The Joshua Tree.

Chills again.

Since I still refer to the album by its sides, I remembered the first four songs in order: “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “With or Without You” and “Bullet the Blue Sky.” But I couldn’t recall the remaining sequence.

I turned to Charlie and remarked that the (underrated) second side is arguably better than the first. He agreed.

After the conclusion of “Running to Stand Still,” Bono welcomed the crowd to “Side 2.” Then in succession: “Red Hill Mining Town,” “In God’s Country,” Trip Through Your Wires” and “One Tree Hill.” Several deep cuts, all favorites. “Exit” and “Mothers of the Disappeared” closed out the album.

I hadn’t listened to The Joshua Tree in years, and the reintroduction was wonderful.

After a break, the encore consisted of select tunes from the band’s post-Joshua Tree catalog, including “Elevation,” “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” and “One.”

The stage was impressive with the Joshua Tree that graced the album’s back cover and gatefold lending to the shape of the video screen.

And the visual accompaniment was stunning, never more so than when the photos and names of some of history’s most influential women were prominently displayed during “Ultraviolet.”

Sign of the times: Neither of us bought concert shirts. And our tickets cost $300+ (!).

It was an(other) incredibly memorable night, and I’ll look forward to reminiscing 30 years from now. I’m glad Charlie will have the opportunity to as well.