Believing in the gospel according to U2
They are finally here, and DY Patil stadium is going to swarm with fans for life, stuck on the band's melodies, lyrics and politics
Three days before The Joshua Tree tour came to Mumbai, in an exclusive article written for Hot Press, a music and politics magazine produced out of Dublin, U2 front man and legend Bono, compared coming to India with on a pilgrimage. He said: But taking The Joshua Tree Tour to Mumbai—Bombay as it was—will be some kind of pilgrimage to a subcontinent that gave the world four major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.
As one of the world's most active and visible philanthropists, Bono who was born Paul David Hewson, also went to express admiration for India's progress. "Even with those present concerns, it's hard for an anti-poverty campaigner not to stand back in admiration of a country that has brought the most people out of poverty in the shortest time of any democracy."
Dharmesh Datta, vice president, marketing, PVR, will take the train from Andheri to Navi Mumbai for the concert today despite a broken foot. Pic/Sameer Markande
It's not very different for their fans. The trip to Navi Mumbai's DY Patil Stadium is like a journey to meet their God. Their music is like religion to so many who grew up in the 1990s, listening to their songs on repeat. When this writer, who is a not a fan, but confesses to listening to With or Without You on loop during a break up, saw them live at Madison Square Garden in 2018, New York, she was struck by the screaming fans who repeated the words, "bucket list". They had finally seen U2 perform live and they could now get on with their lives.
For Mumbai-based theatre director Quasar Thakore Padamsee, once was not enough. He first watched the band at Wembley Stadium, London, in 2009—that too, over two days. "One day from the stands, and the other from the good seats!" he laughs. The next time he watched them was in 2015 in Chicago. He is now gearing up to watch them today, even though the most important event in his calendar, his annual drama festival Thespo 21, kickstarts tomorrow. A self-confessed U2 evangelist, Padamsee is on the path to convert everyone into a U2 fan.
Theatre director-writer Quasar Thakore Padamsee at a gig in Chicago in 2015. He has seen the band perform thrice
"These days, I am battling with my 10-year-old godson, who doesn't like their music. So, I make it a point to mouth their lyrics, and if he says, 'Oh that's cool', I say, 'That's U2!'" Padamsee believes in the gospel according to U2, and has always connected with the lyrics. "Anytime I find myself stuck in a situation, I go back to them." Like any good director, he talks of the technical details. "It was U2 who decided that they wanted better screens for their live shows, and that's how LED technology was adapted to musical needs."
The band's eye for advanced technology is one of the main reasons they haven't performed in India until today. Bono was quoted in an interview, "Our shows have been quite technical over the years. It's an effort to break down the distance between the band and the audience. Transporting those technologies to [locations like India] can end up driving up ticket prices." But ticket prices haven't driv en anyone away from this show. Vice President, marketing, PVR, Dharmesh Datta, first bought tickets for the December 1 Singapore show, and now for the India concert. "Nobody cares about the money. My friends are flying in from all corners of the country. We all grew up on their music," says the fan, who is going to take a local train today from Andheri to Nerul, despite a broken foot. "I can't miss U2. I still listen to them every day."
Fans Mihir Joshi and Luke Kenny recently hosted a show where they discussed U2 album, The Joshua Tree
Like Datta, who says that their music has shaped his sensibilities for life, restaurateur Arpana Gvalani, who ran Bandra's Gostana, says that she has one U2 song for every situation. "I am a super fan, but an unlucky one. I have tried to attend two of their concerts in Australia. Once, I missed the flight, and then I lost my passport. My parents bought me a ticket to Singapore, and I finally saw them!" But it wasn't as easy as that. Gvalani found herself stuck in a bad hotel, only to be awake all night. It was then that she saw a message on Facebook, asking people to arrive at the stadium at 6 am. When she reached, she was handed a new pass. "It was later in the evening when I came back for the show that I realised that it was a special pass. We got first entry, and were right up at the front. I hung out with two Indian girls from London and a Pakistani man. We had the best time," says the 45-year-old, who calls herself a super fan because she knows the lyrics to each of their songs, start to finish. "I can tell you songs from albums like Pop, that are ideal for a break-up! They have helped me through many situations." she laughs.
Gvalani, who also used to host vinyl listening sessions at Gostana, says that the first LP she ever bought was of U2's album, Boy. Today, the fans will be listening to songs from The Joshua Tree, which has all their biggest hits. Mihir Joshi, once RJ and musician, and now host of the MJ show, recorded an entire episode on the album with Luke Kenny, right before the tour was announced. "We wanted people to be interested in listening to a whole album again, and it's such a great one to start with. It's the pinnacle of their mastery," says the 38-year-old. Joshi tells us that U2 also had a small part to play in his love story. "My wife, Neha, was a listener of my radio show, and used to call and request only U2 songs." But it's the fact that the band uses its music to spread a message that he finds special. "The way they use their songs for political activism is unparalleled."
Adam Clayton, Bono, The Edge and Larry Mullen of U2 arrive at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Thursday night. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
For now, everyone is getting ready to head to the stadium, most by the chartered train that has been organised by booking platform Bookmyshow. Padamsee says, "I remember my whole gang, including Kunal Roy Kapoor [actor], going for the Rolling Stones concert in 2003. We saw some older fans there and we, who were then in our 20s, were laughing at them. And then Kunal said, "Guys, that will be us at the U2 concert if they ever come here.' Well, here we are."
Bono's Rushdie connect
The first time Bono came to India, was when he was reading Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. The musician and writer have shared a special relationship, Bono putting melodies to Rushdie's words. In 1993, at the Zooropa tour at Wembley Stadium, Bono had invited Rushdie on stage.
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