One of the luxuries of getting older is the nostalgia that surfaces from a bounty of experience. Among some of my favorite experiences are the concerts I’ve attended and a couple of weeks ago. Sharing this with Kelli, we both agree, the U2 show in Louisville may be our most favorite show yet.

I’m curious how it would feel to be in one of the biggest rock bands ever and look back upon thirty years of playing the same songs over and over again – only to find a legion of new fans as the songs echo through the years.

It was 1987 when The Joshua Tree was first released. This year, instead of recreating a new project with new songs, Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry and their legion of managers who smelled a gold mine decided to stage a 30 year anniversary tour. Not a bad idea. In fact – they had my attention when I saw their first leg of the tour and the huge screen behind the band.

The last time I saw U2 was on the Vertigo tour. They had just released “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and I bought floor tickets off eBay. My friends Danny and Tracy Strickler joined me for that show, but I learned a valuable lesson. Floor tickets are not great…especially for short people.

We were on the floor at The Georgia Dome. It was Ted Turner’s birthday as I recall Bono making the call out to a shadowy figure in the VIP suite. This was a great place to see the band, but the only time I really saw Bono or any of the band for that matter was when they came marching along the “B-Stage” into the audience. I told myself my floor days were probably over – especially in the day of oversized video screens.

The tickets to the Louisville show at Papa John’s Cardinal stadium ranged from $100 to $800 depending upon where you wanted to see the band. After a quick look on the Ticketmaster site, I decided seats on the first level just to the right of the stage would be a good place to see the show. I was right too.

As we were traveling to the show, Kelli and I were certainly concerned about security. After all, the recent tragedy at Manchester was still in the news and the frequency of bombs and guns continue to be a part of any public performance or gathering. Nevertheless, we arrived in Louisville around 4pm and checked into our hotel. We unpacked the car and were on our way to the stadium in minutes.

Our concerns about security and crowds are rightfully a concern, but this concert experience was the most organized and safe event I’ve attended lately. We had no trouble finding a parking spot, the crowds were ushered into the stadium and within minutes we were at the concession stand buying a beer and making our way to our seats. The sun was still high in the sky when we arrived and the temperatures were just right for the $8.00 draft beer.

The stadium floor was flanked on the end with a 200 foot wide screen with a Joshua Tree scrub bolting out of the top of the screen. There was a smaller stage into the crowd shaped like a Joshua Tree as well. This would serve as an opening act later in the show.

One of the coolest things about the nerd optics in the stage layout was the two-story sound booth. I’ve never seen such a massive console in the center of the field that ultimately made sitting behind this stage a 20-row desert with no-one walking around. The sound console was cloaked in a tarp from top-to-bottom and a port-o-john was center field.

The concert started at 6.30 with the opening act One Republic – one of Kelli’s favorite bands. She sang most every song despite the fact the stands were empty around us as fans were still moving into the stadium on a late Friday. We could have easily paid to see this act as an opener as songs like ‘Counting Stars,” “Good Life” and others primed the audience for the night to come. They were forthcoming in their own tribute to U2 stating their music was not only influential, but they were honored to play this special 30th anniversary event.

Our seats were just at the right location. We were able to turn left, walk down a short flight, grab another cold beer and bolt to the restroom in minutes. At the close of One Republic we were amped and ready for the main act which began around 9.00 just as the sun started to set on the City of Louisville.

At first, a sea of applause arose as Larry Mullen waved to the crowd as he strolled on to the small Joshua Tree stage etched in the middle of the crowd. He sat down at his drum set in the middle of the field and started the shuffle that sets up ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday.’ It wasn’t long before Adam Clayton, The Edge and Bono were on stage and immersed in a small crowd launching into one of the band’s first breakthrough hits.

We were seated next to a couple of older fans who had seen several shows. The guy next to me said the set list was not what was expected for the show and wondered if it had something to do with the recent shootings in Washington. Bono referenced later in the night the politics would give away to hope and that was certainly the case. No Trump bashing, no political agendas – just great music.

The band finished up a set of a few songs on the small stage. The screen had yet to come to life, but they set the stage with Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year’s Day, Bad and Pride (In The Name of Love). When the last course of Pride came to a close, the band jumped up to the main stage and the LED lights across the 45-foot high stage burned crimson red with lights surrounding the Joshua Tree and the band put the needle down and played every song from the Joshua Tree from A to the B side.

While I was watching the screen and recording a 360 degree version with my Insta360 camera, the stage was glowing orange with the black and white Joshua Tree and landscape. The Edge was strumming the opening riff to “Streets Have No Name” and to the right of the stage people began to point. I have no idea of this was pre-planned or a well-timed coincidence, but watching a 757 flyover a colelsium of 60,000 fans is both terrifying and thrilling. When we all realized that we were safe, the collective adrenaline surge was the perfect hormonal drip to lift this concert into a state of surreal euphoria. (Special thanks to the people shooting this video – you can see my hand with the 3d camera in the left. We were surprised to see this on YouTube as the camera must have been someone behind us)

After the flyover, the band proceeded to play track for track – every song on the Joshua Tree album. From a minimal stage setup, Bono moved with the Edge and Clayton towards different sides of the Papa John’s stadium. The lavender and orange skies were the perfect backdrop as one of my favorite songs “Bullet the Blue Sky” echoed throughout the Louisville skyline.

I’m amazed that Bono continues to deliver his voice with such clarity and distinction. His talent is an amazing gift and the humility which he keeps with the band certainly makes U2, the band of my own generation. And on another note, who wouldn’t want to be The Edge? Playing a guitar that loud and with effects that hypnotizing, it certainly is God-like.

The stage itself was a spectacle all night too. At moments, I would be uncomfortable with any epileptic tendencies as the screen was pixel-to-pixel spell-bounding. With real-time 4K Ultra High-Def, there has never been a better way to see a show. That was expressed best during one of Edge’s solos during Blue Sky. Between the real-time edits and multiple robotic cameras soaring across and around the stage, this was a producer’s dream show.

On another note, the guy sitting beside must have known every nuanced U2 trivia about this show. He had seen multiple tours and was helping me understand the videos and the metaphors on-screen tonight including notes about the Salvation Army band with The B-side track “Red Hill Mining Town.”

The band played well through Joshua Tree and finished the night with a multi-song set that included another favorite “Beautiful Day” against an abstract rainbow, “Elevation” and “Vertigo.”

Despite our seats, I’m pretty sure everyone in the stadium decided that standing was the best way to experience this concert. On our feet and dazzled by the stage and the music, this was certainly one of the best shows I’ve experienced in my lifetime and again – may find myself seeing the band again. Sure – they are aging. So am I. But it’s certain to me that although U2 are getting older, their music keeps them young and attracting new fans across all generations.

One final note about the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Kudos for one of the most organized events ever. Despite the volume of people here, when the concert was over, we left the arena, walked in a crowd to the parking lot and were on the Interstate in less than 15 minutes still reeling from an truly amazing concert experience.