As the night takes a deep breath: U2 Joshua Tree Tour 2019, Melbourne




Nothing quite like working with seventeen-year-olds to make you feel every bit of your forty plus years and then some. When I mentioned to my year eleven English class, with a miscued belief it may give me a bit of street cred, that I was off to the U2 concert, I was smashed back to middle aged earth. It was like a verbal defibrillator. The lads from Dublin have a lot of years on me and surely, they are still the biggest rockstars we have?


Nup. Apparently not.


“What’s a U2?”


“Oh yeah, my nana’s going to that.”


“Seriously, like what is U2?”


“I think, like, they were like YouTubers, like, you know, back in the day”


Normally I’m not affected. This class has absolutely been one of my all-time favourites. And as they are obliquely reminding me, I’ve been scribbling on whiteboards for a while now.  But my feet are aching because the new pair of Doc Martens I just bought myself on a whim are yet to be broken in and I’ve been on my feet all day. But my wife is annoyed, says they don’t befit a man of my age, so I need to wait it out. The kids I teach were in nappies when we got married. More worryingly, some of their parents were when The Joshua Tree came out. My first vinyl. I was just a kid then, but still.


The merchandise is overpriced, but I can afford it. Zoomerang 93 at the MCG, I was finishing high school and delivering junk mail. Back then, the ticket price was a stretch. Now I’m a middle-aged man, our mortgage is under control with our variable rate at a record low. Our financial advisor  won’t mind if I buy myself a t-shirt. I get a program too. My mate, Chris, is allergic to gluten, so we really need to eat before we go in.


We’re standing where the centre circle would be. Right in the middle of Docklands, I mean Etihad, I mean Telstra Dome, Colonial, no I mean Marvel. It’s a wonderful but soulless stadium. Mainly because Fitzroy never got to play there. Still, it is roughly the spot where Michael Voss and James Hird had a private moment in front of thousands of fans after they last did battle. Vossy’s knee was stuffed. I didn’t realise it then, but the Lion’s next decade was as well.


Noel Gallagher is swearing at us, rolling out the Oasis hits and covering The Beatles. The atmosphere is more ‘afternoon barbecue with a drunk neighbour wielding a guitar’ than it is rock concert. He swears some more then he’s gone. We weigh up one last toilet run before the show. We are a dangerously long way from the loo for a group of forty somethings about to stand vertical for nearly three hours.





And then, like that, I’m not there anymore. Not at all, not a bit. I’m gone for all money. The night takes a deep breath and Sunday Bloody Sunday and I Will Follow make me thirteen again. I’m in the bungalow behind my best mate’s place. His brother is old enough to be out at the movies, with a girl and driving himself. We’ve got plenty of time to hang out here. We are watching the U2 Rage special he taped. I’m back in a time vortex, my age averse students have stopped bothering me. It’s like they don’t exist. Literally, they don’t because Bono and the boys take us back to the ‘80s. Larry Mullen Jr. looks no older than he did then; seriously, not a day older.


The Joshua Tree was my first ever album, a few years before. I’d lie on the floor of our rumpus room while it engulfed me, again and again and again. The dull rattle of the air-conditioner, the faux cork stereo speakers. Vegemite on toast and eggflip Big M’s.


I’m twelve, watching the concert movie Rattle and Hum. I hear Adam say ‘there are people who say you shouldn’t mix music and politics, or sport and politics, or whatever… I think that’s kind of bullshit.’ It’s the first time I’ve heard an adult swear over something meritorious. And later on, when Bono talks about “the glory of the revolution” his voice dripping with viscous earnestness, slamming it home with “Fuck the revolution.” I felt like a boy becoming a man. It was like Sophie Lee from The Bugs Bunny Show, but for the brain.


And time keeps dilating. It lasts forever and then it’s over like that. One Tree Hill is still the undiscovered diamond it was back then. Despite my stiff right knee and the plantar fasciitis in my left foot, I’m a sixteen year old exchange student in Auckland again. These teenage memories are begging my middle aged self for mercy. My year elevens are probably wiling the night away on group chat or Instagram while my spirit soars.




We don’t leave straight away. As the crowds disperse and the floodlights blaze we see some lucky bastard catch Larry’s drumsticks when a roadie tosses them into the crowd. We see Raymond J. Bartholomeuz who I’ve only now realised is the spitting image of Brian Nankervis. My students can never know the unbridled hit and miss pleasure of Hey, Hey it’s Saturday. The guy who is not Woodley from Lano and Woodley is talking to some of his mates too. There are clusters of forty and fifty somethings, just like us, everywhere. Some people are sprawled on the ground with St John’s Ambulance cadets massaging their cramps. We kick on to a pub for old times sake. Chris has a gin and tonic now, because of the gluten thing. I have a pint but this late in the night I’d honestly prefer a cup of tea.


I’m back at work now, correcting exams and the whole thing seems illusory. If they never come back to Australia that’s probably apt. My eleven-year-old daughter has a preternatural understanding of the importance of differentiating her musical interests from mine. It may just be grade five, but image matters. But as I was driving her home from her ballet lesson last night, the phone connected itself to the car stereo and randomly but miraculously found Beautiful Day. “Ooh I like this one…” she turns it up and starts humming along then unabashedly roars “Don’t let it get it away…” as she finishes the chorus at one with Bono. Carl Jung theorises a “collective unconscious.” He’s right and this is how. The soundtrack to my life lives within her. Thanks, lads, for a great night, and for transcending generations – even if you skipped over the truly brilliant kids in my English class, they don’t know what they’re missing.





David Wilson also wrote a report of the same concert, check it out HERE



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About Shane Reid

Loving life as a husband, dad and teacher. I'm trying to develop enough skill as a writer so that one day Doc Wheildon's Newborough, Bernie Quinlan's Traralgon and Mick Conlon's 86 Eliminatiuon final goal will be considered contemporaneous with Twain's Mississippi, Hemingway's Cuba, Beethoven's 9th and Coltrane's Love Supreme.


  1. Oh yes Shane.
    Strong recognition here with much of your story.
    Still feeling lucky & grateful for last Friday night.

    “The soundtrack to my life lives within her.”
    That is a beautiful line.

  2. Shane – great read. As a former English teacher I also know how quickly and effortlessly students can remind you of how uncool you actually are. But, I also know how great it is when your own kids, often after prolonged protests, start showing an interest in the same things as you.

    And it’s always excellent to see a reference to Raymond J. Bartholomeuz.

    Looking forward to more from you. Thanks.

  3. ER, thank you. I hope U2 return one day so I can take her to a concert. Appreciate your kind words.

    Thank you too, Mickey. It’s a noble but humbling vocation for sure!

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