Everyone Has Their Own U2 Story

(c) 2015 Michelle Kenneth.
(c) 2015 Michelle Kenneth.

Everyone has their own U2 story…that story when they first fell in love with the music.

For me, it was just one of those bucket list moments.  I was living in Washington, DC, trying to find some direction in my 20-something life.  Fresh out of college.  Maybe I was working in politics or law during that time.  I can’t remember.  U2 came to town and I said to myself, “I have to see this band at least once in my lifetime.”

I wasn’t a huge die hard fan. I knew a few of their songs.  I mean…who doesn’t?  I still remember “Where the Streets Have No Name” being among the first music videos I had ever seen on MTV during those days when I would sneak out and go over to my neighbor’s house to watch the forbidden MTV with my friend.

20150731_010932When I went to see them play at MCI Center in DC, I had no idea what U2 would do to me that night.  I went in expecting nothing, and U2 changed my entire existence.

It was like they were making love to their music.  I could feel each note in every single cell of my body.  The energy of each note vibrated within my very being.  I became intoxicated with the rhythm and flow of the music.  It was like I was riding the waves that they bring.  [“Even Better Than The Real Thing” reference.]  They literally blew my mind.

I walked away from that concert a changed person.  It began a new adventure into discovering who I was.

From wanting to change the world, working with non-profit groups, to learning more about the issues around the world, I began to see who I was in the grander scheme of the universe.  The music opened my mind to who I am and who I could be.

I was sitting in traffic on the way to work one day and “Stuck in a Moment (You Can’t Get Out of)” came on the radio.  Bono was singing, “You’ve got to get yourself together, you got stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it.”  I listened to that over and over again and then said, “NO.  I’m not stuck.  Not anymore.”  And that’s when I decided to leave DC and pursue a different path in life.

20150731_005336I was young, not dumb
Just wishing to be blinded by you
Brand new
We were pilgrims on our way

“The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”


Behind the Lens

In due time, I would end up in New York City.  I never understood why I ended up here, all I knew was that this is where my path led.  It was while I was here that I discovered who I am and the person I will become.  I’m a writer first and foremost.  When I first started out writing for Orato.com back in 2007, they asked that I start submitting my own photos with my work.

20150730_232042My editor pushed me in that direction, because she was also a photographer herself.  That push ended up opening me up to understanding how I see the world.  Photography is one of the best ways for me to visually see how I am improving spiritually in life.  It’s not the quality of the camera that determines if the picture is a better picture.  It’s the person behind the camera.

I read this story the other day:

A photographer went to a socialite party in New York.  As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’  He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove.’ – Sam Haskins

In other words, it’s the person using the device that creates wonder, not the device itself.

20150730_235451A friend once told me that I have the ability to capture the beauty in the moment.  It’s how I look at the world.  I look for the beauty in the moment.  It’s in that moment that helps me to remember and connect to the things I’ve forgotten and will forget.  To capture the beauty of that moment, I have a visual aid as I take the steps to remembering what happened in that exact moment.

I mention the importance of remembering things forgotten because after the last tumor, I lost a lot of my memories.  I spent the next year trying to piece things back together again.  I created a 4’x4′ collage of photos of the places I had been from all over the world.  It was a collection of beautiful moments.

Each day, I would stand in front of that collage and focus on one photo trying to remember where I was, who was there with me, what I ate while I was there, the smells, and how I felt.  Who was I in that moment?  A simple photo is a beautiful memory to me and a key piece in remembering who I was.  It became a training tool to help me focus.  It was like playing a game of Memory, but matching the photo to the actual life event that had become lost in the river of forgetting.

Bono made a comment during the show about ‘photographs.’  He said we were missing the moment.  We were missing the concert because we were glued to our devices.  I beg to differ, Bono.  The person behind the lens of my camera is documenting a moment that is going to be relived again and again and again.  More importantly, any person who knows me can tell you, what you see in the final product is not just the subject. You’re seeing how I see you.  I’m able to pull out the beauty of that moment so that I can share it with the world.  Some people will see it, others won’t.

20150731_010156I can find a simple moment that may mean nothing at the moment to anyone and create a moment that means everything to everyone who sees the photo.  It creates a symbolic gesture that will take your breath away every single time you see it.  Yet, in that actual moment, it means nothing to the person being photographed.

The joy isn’t just in the music and seeing U2 on stage.  For me, the joy is being able to finally photograph them and share just what I see.  While some of these photos look distorted due to the lighting, etc., that’s not what I see.  I see the energy.  I see the soul.  I see the life force.  I see the beauty in the art.  It’s how I see them.

The Music

20150730_233111U2 was formed the year I was born.  It’s a bit synchronistic how their music would follow me throughout my journey in life.  Joshua Tree.  Achtung Baby.  Rattle and Hum.  Zooropa.  All That You Can’t Leave Behind.  How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.  Invisible.  Big Girls Are the Best.  What’s Going On?

There was even a time a musician was trying to get me to forgive him and come back to him.  When he saw me walk into the club one night, he stopped right in the middle of a song he was playing, pointed to me and said, “This one is for you,” and started strumming out the chords to the song.  He knew how much I loved U2.  When I realized what he was doing, I walked right out of the club.  I wouldn’t let him bastardize U2 or equate some memory of him to a U2 song.

I won’t let anyone I have come across in this lifetime connect themselves to a U2 song.  To me, “One” is not about two lovers fighting.  To me, “One” is about my relationship with God when I’m mad at him for breaking my heart.  Some rockstar wants to make it about us?  No.  I can’t ever let him do that, because then I’d never listen to the song again.

To me, “One” is God asking me: “Is it getting better?  Or do you feel the same?  Will it make it easier on you now?  You got someone to blame.”  When I was really mad, that song would come on and it would make me really reflect deep within my soul about the relationship I have with God, the father.  I would probably not have forgiven God for breaking me if it weren’t for that song.

20150731_004603Since that concert in DC, U2’s music has become my spiritual soundtrack in life.  It’s not always just the lyrics to the songs.  A lot of times it’s just the music.  Desire is one of my favorite songs.  I have no idea what it’s about.  It’s one of the first (and only) songs I learned to play on the guitar.  Who knew that what The Edge makes sound so complicated is actually just a few chords mixed in with his genius?!  That’s what I call art.  Or how about Larry Mullen, Jr. on the drums in “Sunday Bloody Sunday?”  Or Adam Clayton on the bass in “Bullet the Blue Sky?”

If there was any song that explained my entire spiritual existence, it is “Running to Stand Still.”  What the song is really about is not what it means to me.  The song is my spiritual journey in life.  “She said, I’ve gotta do something about where we’re going…”  “I see seven towers, but I only see one way out.”  “You got to cry without weeping, Talk without speaking, Scream without raising your voice,” “She’s running to stand still.”

20150730_235405This song probably has some of the most powerful words in it.  To the band, it’s a song about a heroin-addict couple in Dublin.  To me, it represents the internal spiritual journey filled with conflicts and choices that come along when deciding what to do.  The feeling that you’re running through life only to be able to stand still…that’s the power in words.  It explains who I am.

Words mean something different to everyone when they relate to what is being said.  What one person says can mean something powerful in different ways to those who hear it.  The author of the words may mean one thing, but how the audience relates to the words is something incredible in and of itself.  They are the words that provide spiritual growth in a multitude of ways.  That is how God speaks.  He says a million things all at once.  Our simple minds can’t register it all in one swoop, but the masses together can understand every single word, because we each understand the message in our own way.

U2 is the soundtrack of my life.  When I’m writing spiritually and want to get to the core of how I feel and the message I’m trying to relate, only U2 plays in my ears.  They provide the music to every soulful piece I write.  Their music has been so much a part of my journey in life.

20150730_235834When I was in Fes, Morocco, my guide asked me if I knew who U2 was.  I laughed and said, “Of course.  They’re my favorite band.”  He then told me that they spent a lot of time here working on their music.  Who knew that the days that followed, I would end up connecting to Morocco in Mysterious Ways.  It’s a very spiritual place, and a country I hold very dear to my heart.

As I started writing about my journey after the riad doors closed and I was locked in at sunset, I turned on my computer, put my earphones on and listened to U2 as I went through my photos and wrote about my journey through this desert land that made me feel God everywhere.  He was in the broken smiles of the nomads, the sands that blew in the wind, and the mountains that called out my name.  God was everywhere.  I could feel him everywhere.  That is why Morocco is so important to me.  It changed my soul.  It is one of the most magical places on the planet.

20150730_232007If there’s any album I’m closest to, it’s “Achtung Baby.”  The song “Mysterious Ways” makes my soul dance.  “Love is Blindness” is the song that explains the love of my life.  The dark, eerie emotion you truly feel when you are still in love with someone who is six feet under and your heart refuses to move on.  Some say the song is about committing the violent act of suicide.  The love of my life put a bullet in his heart.  Loving him has been like my “Love is drowning in a deep well.”  Part of me knows that is how he felt as well.

This album defined those teenage years of my life.

Seeing U2 in concert in 2015 comes at the right moment.  Post-op, I have felt lost and empty.  Who I was prior to that surgery has been gone for some time now.  Trying to figure out who I am after the surgery…that is the journey I am on.  Just who is that person looking back at me in the mirror?  What is she supposed to do with the rest of her life?

Every dream I had before the surgery died that day.  I don’t dream anymore about being anyone or having a certain life.  The things I wanted more than anything, I look at with disgust now.  The question these last two years have been, “Just who are you now?”

20150731_005318That’s where filling that empty cup comes in.  Seeing U2 in concert is like refilling that cup that had long gone dry.  They’re not reminding me of who I was.  They’re reminding me of who I am and who I can be.  I am not my past.  I am only my present.  Who I choose to be in this moment is a writer and a photographer sharing a part of my life with you and what U2 means to me.

Using Fame to Better Humanity

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned from watching Bono was how he was using his fame to better humanity.  Using his work as a model, when I’ve interviewed hockey players over these last seven years, I am always curious to hear what they are doing to give back to the world.  How are they using their fame to better humanity?

Bruce Springsteen joined U2 on stage during Show #8 of the NYC run at Madison Square Garden. July 31, 2015.

The people I am most disappointed with are the ones who embraced their fame and fortune and gave back so little.  A visit to the hospital or showing up at a kid’s hockey practice is such a huge thing for them.  But they could do so much more.

Then you look at Bono.  This guy worked towards getting AIDS patients the drugs they needed to help them.  He’s working on getting water into homes so kids don’t risk their lives walking miles away to get clean water to bring home.  Those kids risk being killed, kidnapped or raped just to get clean drinking water.  While those of us complain about getting no 4G on their phone, there are people that don’t even have running water in their homes.  When we don’t finish our meals and just throw it out, I’m always reminded of how there are people that would kill to have the scraps from our tables.  There are kids out there that go through the dump just to find rotten food to eat.

20150730_232346There is so much we take for granted.  We don’t know how lucky we are.  That luck all depends upon where we were born on this planet.

If anything, the work Bono does is meant to not only educate the masses, but it is also designed to help inspire each and every single one of us to our own greatness.

When God gives you fame, you have a choice.  Use it for good or use it for evil.  Those who use it for good aim to change and inspire humanity to help them evolve into their own greatness.  Those who use it for evil use it for their own selfish needs and concerns and give little or nothing back.

When I changed this site around, I wanted to focus on the needs of the many.  What could I create that could help benefit humanity?  That’s when I came up with the angle that I would share the stories of people out there who are living their dreams in order to inspire others to live their own dreams.

20150730_233952Choosing that path has led to some very incredible things and incredible moments.  I’ve met people along the way who are not only just like me, but we are also inspiring each other to our own greatness.  There are people I’ve met over these past few months who not only inspire me to work harder and to be wiser with the words I choose, but I am also inspiring them to do the same in their own field.  Those are the people you keep close.  Those are the people you support.  They are part of your journey just as much as you are a part of their journey.

You don’t have to be a mega-rockstar to change the world.  You can change the world by starting in your own world wherever you live.  You can inspire others to their own greatness.  I can tell you right now, there is no better gift you can give to someone than to help them on their journey in life.  I’ve never met U2, but they have helped me in this lifetime in ways I can’t even explain or thank them enough for.  They set the example of what it means to inspire the masses to be greater human beings.  It should also inspire each and every person to do the same.  Go out and inspire the people around you to be amazing.

Change begins within you.  If you want to make this world a better place, you have to be the change you seek. Do what is right in your heart and follow it at all costs.  That’s the journey you were always supposed to be on from the get go.

The Photos

The photos in this post were all taken by me during the July 31, 2015 U2 concert at Madison Square Garden.  These pictures join the Rockstar Collection I’ve been building up for the last few years.  That series also includes photos of Constantine Maroulis and Pete Yorn.  U2 was the final piece that was needed for the collection.

The collection will be released in the upcoming months, as well as the never before seen photos from the Pete Yorn concert.

Certain photographs in the series will be available for sale.  Details will follow.