Triumph & Tragedy: Two Women

Last night I experienced the two most emotional moments I’ve had thus far as a U2 fan. When we planned our trip to Dublin last fall, I couldn’t have imagined that we’d be there to witness either of them. These moments were more special than any concert; this wasn’t about the music. Or about Bono – they were about two very special women who have both made the world a better place.

We were lucky enough to have “Electric Burma” fall on one of the 7 nights we were in Dublin – the night that we were staying in the Garden Terrace Suite at the Clarence, no less. The concert was held in the honour of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi – who would be in attendance on the night and finally presented with the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience award that was announced at a U2 concert in Dublin in 2009. Little did Bono know that two years later he would be able to present it to her in person in his hometown of Dublin. 16 times I’d heard Walk On at the 360 Tour and each time helped the fans to lift her up – this was sure to be a special night, and we were truly blessed to have had it work out like this.

When we arrived at the theatre, there were crowds of Burmese people gathered waving flags – the joy on their faces far surpassing anything that I’ve ever seen at a U2 concert. Truly. Aung San Suu Kyi was very clearly the star of the night – I now understand firsthand what Bono means when he says that she is a far bigger rockstar than he.

Aung San Suu Kyi entered the theatre and passed right next to us on the aisle as we had aisle seats, in fact there was a moment in which she looked me in the eye and I bowed my head, what an unforgettable moment it was – far greater than making eye-contact with any member of any rockband I’ve ever seen. She is such an elegant and graceful woman – it was with great honour that we were lucky enough to share the night with her in Dublin.


The flowers I left for The Edge in sympathy

The fact that she was released on my birthday in 2010 has always struck me as well, and Bono’s speech made me so very proud to be a U2 fan. Here is the full text about the fans which I’ve transcribed from a recording we made.

And… the not so subtle presence of the U2′ers in your life. I’m not sure how many tonight are aware that you came on the road with our band and shared a stage night after night on the 360 Tour… that you performed to 7 million people over two years.

It was the digital version of you but you were great live. We were keen for you to meet the thing that is the most precious in our life outside our families and friends… our audience – they really are phenomenal and hungry for all the things you’re looking for – great advocates for Amnesty.

Nightly we reminded them of their potential, that their voices were louder than any tank or rocket fire – that they could be heard all the way to Burma. And we salute anyone who gets involved in these organizations – we salute activists all over the world and hope they can hear us in Burma tonight. So we’ll give it up for the U2 audience.

We have a recording of this as well as Aung San Suu Kyi’s poignant and funny acceptance speech – she is a very eloquent speaker and I could have listened to her all night.

After the presentation was the intermission – I stepped out to the lobby to have a drink and send some important tweets to update the U2 fandom. Again I was humbled to know that I was able to share my accounts firsthand with the U2 community – and was amused to see 50 more followers than I had that morning. After the intermission Angelique Kidjo lead an inspiring version of “Redemption Song” and Bob Geldof amused the crowd in true Dubliner fashion with a hilarious pre-song speech before launching into “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love & Understanding”. Several other artists performed but the highlight would be at the end. Bono would finally be able to sing “Walk On” to Daw San in person for the very first time. He performed a gorgeously poignant acoustic version with Damien Rice on guitar – something that my husband and I will surely never forget.

As joyous as the moment was, the weekend was very emotional for myself as such a fan of The Edge. I learned of the death of his mother just the day before we departed and it saddened me beyond what I can express (just now on the train to Galway I had to skip “Tomorrow” as I was off starting to cry again… I had to don the Bono sunglasses barrier…) It’s so very difficult to know that your hero is hurting, when he’s the very man whose soundscapes have lifted me up too many times to count.

On arrival in Dublin on Friday, we raised our first pint of Guinness to Gwenda Evans; believe me when I say that her memory was with us all weekend.

I wanted to do something special for The Edge and his family in sympathy – so before I left I arranged some flowers to be delivered to the hotel so that I could lay them at his gate on the Sunday after we arrived which turned out to be the day after she was laid to rest. We’d previously arranged a U2 Tour with Dave Griffith and he took us to some very special and personal sites, one of which was Edge’s home in Dalkey, as well as his childhood home in Malahide where his parents still lived. I couldn’t imagine that seeing those two sites would choke me up with anything but joy, but it was very hard at this time to see them. I was very overcome when I laid the flowers at his gate, and when I looked back over my shoulder at the solitary arrangement of white roses and lillies under his postbox, the tears came at last. Thanks to my dear husband for lifting me up when I needed it so badly right then.

The next night at “Electric Burma” after Walk On, Bono introduced the next song with a dedication. “Thank you to Damien Rice stepping in for The Edge, whose heart is broken this week – that we’ll think of him and his loss as we sing this next one…” I was completely overcome at that moment – the string section swelling into “One” as I grieved openly for the first time for him. It was, as they’d say in Ireland, a “proper cry” – the kind that you feel in your gut and chokes deep in your throat. I’ve cried tears of joy at several U2 concerts, but I’ve never experienced a moment so painful as this.

Freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi.

Rest in Peace, Gwenda Evans.