[Photo & tweet by Scott Barnes.]
Originally published September 10, 2017 to honor my dear friend Scott Barnes and our journey together. I am also please to share the news that I made it to Cannes this winter to complete a trip Scott and I had planned. Now all of this goes into #ShineThroughtheNoise series and Davanti Thriller. ~Akasha Lin
I have never been a fan of Labor Day weekend. It signifies the end of summer and there is just never anything interesting to do on Labor Day. As far as holidays go, this one depresses me. But I discovered a great way to change that: Do something different for Labor Day. And this is how Akasha Garnier persuaded me to fly to Detroit to see a U2 concert.
I should tell you this: When I was young, I loved U2. I really, really loved U2. In high school, Boy, War and The Unforgettable Fire are three albums that helped me figure out who I am. And The Joshua Tree is one of the pivotal albums of my lifetime. But I’ll confess that I have not purchased a U2 album since Achtung Baby. After that, I felt like the band’s music became more mainstream and less interesting.
As far as live-like-a-jet-setter experiences, this weekend will be hard to top. We arrived at O’Hare around 2pm on Sunday, had a quick drink at a bar and were airborne by 3:10pm. We landed in Detroit around 5pm and checked into our hotel suite.
Detroit, by the way, is experiencing a bit of a resurgence. It was once one of five America's great cities but in recent years, it's become a dangerous ghost town. The hotel staff took great pains to tell is that downtown Detroit is "safe now." They assured us that we could walk back to the hotel after the concert and not be concerned.
By the way, we had a lovely dinner at Round Bar in our hotel. Located in the corner of our hotel at ground level, it is an open and airy space. Windows on two walls let in tons of daylight and offer soothing sidewalk views. We had a fun and attentive server, and we enjoyed the jolly and helpful restaurant manager.
U2 opened with “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which is was one of their first songs I ever heard. They played three other songs (all from War or The Unforgettable Fire) and then went into music from The Joshua Tree. This is the purpose for the tour -- to honor the 30th anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree. U2 performed the entire album in order.
The stage was somewhat V-shaped and when the band members walked down to our end (and each of them did at least once), it was like they were right there, no more than 60 feet away.
Patti Smith appears on stage, unannounced, to sing "Mothers of the Disappeared," the last song on The Joshua Tree, with Bono. When she walked on stage, I thought I recognized her. But I didn't say anything for fear of being wrong and looking like I don't know my music. But then Akasha turned to me asking, "Is that Patti Smith?" Patti finished the song, hugged all of the members of the band and slid out of sight, just before the band left the stage for a break.
After a few minutes, U2 returned to the stage for a fairly long, 6-song encore. This set included another of my favorite of their songs, "Mysterious Ways."
Bono talked about the band’s love for America, calling it their second home. He touched on his feelings about Detroit and how inspired he felt to see the city starting the process of rebuilding and rebranding itself. Bono encouraged the audience to keep doing whatever it is that we’re doing to make the world better.
This is what I enjoyed most about the concert: Bono's uplifting energy and the positive wave that washed over us. I've read before, mostly when the band was younger, that Bono can be standoffish at times and even sanctimonious. But he lives a life of gratitude and he gives back to the world like few others. He walks the walk, there's no denying that. U2 boosted my creative energy and reminded me that good people can make a difference in the world. I still feel it.
Full set list.
After the concert
I looked on Google maps and found a bar that calls itself "stylish Art Deco bar offering late night bites and a range of martinis." Akasha and I enjoyed half of a drink each before a crowd of about 10 materialized from upstairs, chests puffing and insults flailing. We retreated into a corner after one of them nearly pushed another through a glass wall and into our table. This went on for several minutes while the bartenders pretended to see nothing. I finally said, "Is anyone going to call the police?"
Detroit is still Detroit, it seems.
We had a wonderful concert experience and a much-needed adventure, regardless.
Yes we did! Scott, it has been great to know you can call you my friend, I appreciate all of our conversations and adventures. You were in a great creative place for the rest of the week after this show, and I will always remember you.
Scott died of a heart attack, 9/9/17, during a birthday celebration at Six Flags Great America.
This summer we did volunteer projects with Bono's charities: RED, to help end AIDS and ONE to give equal access to education. Scott and I sat with the ONE volunteers in Detroit. Bono came to our section many times and it felt like he was singing directly to us. Right...he's good at that!
Scott, we will toast you once more under sail...on the lake that you loved.
And have dinner at Nando where we shared the great food and discussed what we wanted to do with our lives.
Yes, I will remember what we talked about at Drumbar. Of course I will still take the trip to the French Riviera we planned and capture the light that inspired Monet, Renoir and Picasso. I am grateful for all the time we had together.
Scott, you taught me about more about your first love: authentic photography. I put that into practice this week. It went well, with the musicians and Teen Cancer America asking to share my photos from our benefit show on 9/13! The song ties in nicely: "Can you see the real me?" And you could.
"Can you see the real me?" during "Quadrophenia" Chicago show
with Pete Townshend, Eddie Vedder, Billy Idol and Alfie Boe (100% of ticket sales went to Teen Cancer America).
Top: Eddie Vedder
Bottom: Billy Idol, Pete Townshend
Photos: Akasha Lin
In celebrating this chapter and your life, I will close with your favorite quote, from your email signature:
"Live up to your potential."~Katharine Hepburn
Yes. I will.
Rest in peace and power, dear Scott. Your smile, impact and art will live on.