The very first time I listened to a U2 record was at Chuck's house. He’s the one that told me all about Springsteen. I got on a magic kick because of him and I can still do a few really great card tricks. We were close, very close. He lived on the far end of our neighborhood so it was a long walk or bike ride, but it was worth it. I mentioned his yard in a song... It was actually Jeff Weber’s yard but it didn’t have the right cadence so I took my liberty.
We got older and moved in different directions and although we never lost contact we did let some years slip away without actually seeing each other in person. For one reason or another, the few times I could play near Jackson he was unable to attend... Until last Thursday night. The last time he was at a show of mine was when I was in a Christian band. So it’s been a while and there have been significant changes to say the least. After the show he did what he always does to sort his thoughts, he wrote. Here’s what he had to say. I think he had some pretty deep insight for such a long break.
First, what you guys are doing is very important work. When I was hearing it from a distance (and watching YouTube clips) I thought, "Well, these are well-constructed songs. They're sturdy and fine, but they don't speak to me." There didn't seem to be anything universal about them. It was more like, "Here's some shit that happened to me." Which was cool, but to me, the more anthemic, universally appealing songs make the most impact. As I just told Lisa, "being in the club, breathing the same air and feeling the emotion of the crowd, was like a revelation." I'm not bullshitting you or stroking your ego; we're way beyond that. I want to talk about what I felt last night. There was a famous review of a Bruce Springsteen show back when he was a Nobody. The critic wrote, "I have seen the future of Rock and Roll, and his name is Bruce Springsteen." The writer was a guy called Jon Landau. He said that he was feeling tired, and old, and past his expiration date, and he saw this band and this singer in a club and it was like he was reborn and that it made him feel young again and gave him the desire to keep moving forward and to find new mountains to climb. You are as good and as inspiring and as talented as anyone you have ever looked up to, and you've got one hell of a musical partner along for the ride. I fight with the English language daily because whatever you want to say, there is a perfect word for it, but sometimes the perfect word hides from you and you settle for something inferior. Which I'm about to do (sinus infection, so I'm just riffing and not worrying about being precise). I purposely strayed from the "Wingfield/South Jackson” crowd because I wanted (A) no distractions and (B) to get a cold-shot, straight feel for what you do at night. The emotion or theme (for lack of a better term) that kept washing over me through the night was "freedom." Freedom in every sense of the word. Freedom from old ghosts. Freedom from the humiliation of past mistakes; those have been addressed, accounted for, and buried. Freedom from addiction and harmful desires. Freedom from our inner voice of inferiority. The freedom to step over or walk around what Robert Johnson called the "stones in my passway." The freedom to fully embrace Life itself---setbacks and minor joys and happiness and illness and loss and all that it entails. You can't dictate to Life. It's going to happen and you never see what's around the curve, but the luxury of knowing that you've taken some blows and you are not through fighting and the next downer that life hands you Will Not Do You In is fucking powerful stuff, man. In my case, the message was incredibly liberating. The missionary work that you did was no doubt fulfilling (for a while at least). The work you're doing now is no less important. The stories between the songs are (in their way) as important as the songs. Those people came in last night, each individual with a different perspective, different fears, different mindsets, different moods, and (trust me) different degrees of sobriety (I never realized that people STILL get hammered and drive a car). And the things that you said and the songs that you two performed and the emotions you revealed and shared made an impact on EVERY PERSON THERE. However they walked in, they walked out with at least a temporarily altered point of view, a new slant on things and something tugging on their heart. And that is, again, powerful fucking stuff. So, yes...the experience spoke about freedom in all of its variations to me. I teared up a couple of times, and laughed a lot, but mostly simply absorbed what was happening, without drawing any immediate conclusion. The thing builds a momentum that the person in the audience doesn't even realize is happening. And here's the nut of it: I came away feeling that it was all free-form, that there is no gameplan or map or checklist of what to say at what point before you guys walk onstage. It struck me as being off-the-cuff and inspired by the moment. I hope that I'm right because I'm not a fan of pre-packaged or scripted messages. I'd go to church if that's what I wanted or needed, and I don't go to church. I assume the set list changes from night to night, and if that's the case, so does the experience. I want to keep going but I know your time is limited so I need to wrap it up. The acoustics in the room were horrible (but got better). There was a table of drunk chicks who were a major distraction until they got thrown out. The PA cut out in the last third of the very first song---just quit working---and I felt a real sinking feeling. But a roomful of people no doubt left the building feeling...liberated, if only for the moment. There were several stones in my passway that seemed to be conspiring against me; something desperately wanted me to miss that show. The audio issues and crowd noise seemed to be conspiring against you. But we stepped over or walked around them, and it felt like my car was three feet off the ground the entire way home. I have seen the light. You've got this. Trust your instincts and never forget that while a chunk of your audience has seen you countless times before, there will always be a couple or an individual who wandered in for whatever reason. You're playing to THAT person. Your core audience is solid and on board. It's the newbies that will be most affected by the experience. I could go on and on, but two things: thank you both for a wonderful night, and know that you are on a significant and fundamentally sound foundation. You have more of an effect with minimal lighting, shaky sound equipment and one excellent sideman, and you can move an audience more than these "big players" could ever hope to do. The fact that they charge $200 per ticket and you charged $7 last night gives them absolutely nothing in comparison---it's true grit as compared to pre-packaged show business. I'd love to talk about the future but that's enough for now. I think I'll pop this new CD in and relive it all, to an extent.
Peace and absolute love,