At the end of my brother's adolescence, he transformed into an almost completely different individual once schizophrenia got hold. It metamorphosed his brain, his behaviour, his demeanour - his quality of life. Since his first psychotic episode, the only real trip I remember him going on was the occasional overnighter to my grandmother's house with my mom; there was once a trip to New Brunswick, but he spent most of the time sleeping in the car.
The fact that he expressed interest in going to see U2 in Moncton with me was monumental. For a schizophrenic, with extreme paranoia and the inability to really socially interact with anyone, this involved him exiting his comfort zone to the extreme. The six hour bus trip from Halifax surrounded by complete strangers and the eight or so hours amongst tens of thousands of people at Magnetic Hill was probably not the easiest thing for him to do.
But what an experience it was! Arcade Fire, who Bono later said was impossible to describe because of their unique performance style and that he was honoured to share a stage with them, was on fire with energy and visual effects. To me their showmanship and music was worth the ticket price alone.
Once u2 hit the stage it was almost an emotional, dream-like experience. In addition to actually seeing a band that I had followed for so many years and whose songs I mostly all knew by heart, the fact that my brother was there sharing this experience, made it one of those prized moments, never to be forgotten.
One common symptom of schizophrenia is "affective flattening" - the inability to show much, if any, emotional expression. This is definitely something my brother exhibits. I was wondering if he was truly enjoying the experience. But, as soon as U2 hit the stage with "Even Better than the Real Thing," my brother repositioned himself to see the band square on. When he lit a ... we'll call it a special kind of cigarette... right in that moment, I knew that he was fully in touch with what was going on. While he remained motionless next to his sister who was hysterically jumping, screaming and attempting to dance, he, I believe was enjoying U2's last concert of the 360 tour.
I would like to think that my brother was thinking back to the time he attended concerts as a teen with his friends. At a Neil Young concert, he had rushed the stage and thrown up his own T-shirt so the singer could wipe the sweat off his brow. I hope that my brother was able to be in touch with the person he was pre-psychosis, immersed in the music he once loved and the life events he once enjoyed.
Before we saw Bono, the Edge, Adam and Larry walk on stage like cool, yet humble, rock stars, I was selfishly wishing that my brother was well enough so we could push our way to the front of the stage. But once we heard the music of our teen years, the rush of the entire crowd joining our praise in unison, I realized standing right there, with my brother, was perfection.
My brother and I were worried that we would miss the bus we had come up on, so we left a little early. But for me, the concert was not over. As we walked the half hour to the bus without saying a word, I could still clearly hear the music and Bono's voice to some of my favourite songs: One, With or Without You, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Where the Streets have no Name... As amazing as it was to see this band I idolized for so long or, it was even more amazing to see my brother be a part of this historic event. He is not the same person he was, but I'd like to think that a lot of what made him happy before he got sick, still makes him happy today.