Music has always been in my life. As a kid, my father would play old jazz records before dinner, while my mom would sing along to Motown classics. I remember finding solace in Springsteen’s Born in the USA when we moved to New Zealand, jumping around my room to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” before 8th grade dances, and breaking up with my first girlfriend while The Cure’s Disintegration played in the background. Every important moment, place and person in my life have a song attached to them, magnifying the meaningfulness of both.
I was living in New York City when 9/11 happened. I got lucky – all my friends and loved ones were okay – but I was emotionally brutalized. In the weeks following, I didn’t experience real joy or calm; there was nothing but numbness and an overwhelming sense of paranoia.
Naturally, I turned to music for consolation, but nothing got through. Being robbed of this comfort compounded my frustration and fear. For a while I thought that I had lost the healing power of song; but then I saw U2 at Madison Square Garden. I’d been looking forward to the show for months and it was going to be a special night no matter what, but that evening turned into something beyond a mere concert.
Before the first note rang out, you could sense the underlying tension in the room. No one knew whether it was okay to be loud and happy in light of the recent events. People cheered and waved their arms, but there was something forced about it. A few songs into the set, the band played “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and a sea change occurred. As Bono came to the line “We can be as one tonight,” the audience erupted into a sing along so loud that some will claim that the concrete foundations of the Garden shook. It was a cry of catharsis and understanding, a collective sigh of relief.
When the last note rang out, there was a magnificent cheer from the crowd that transcended approval – it was divine thanks for connecting everyone to something greater than themselves. In the midst of this joyous noise, I looked over at the woman standing next to me. There were tears streaming down her face, matching my own. “They take me to church every time I see them,” she said and I could only nod in reply.
That wasn’t the only time I felt close to God that night or that I cried. That concert reconnected me to my love of music and made me realize all over again why I have always used it to commune with everything that I love and hold sacred. I believe in the power of song.
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