Sunday 24 February 2008

U23D, Manchester and Vertigo

Friday February 22nd started as usual for me, up early for work, headed to the clinic, saw my patients and did the necessary paperwork. But come lunchtime I left work and moved into another world for a weekend, and boy was I ready for that!

I picked up my friend Dawn from the station and we went for mine for a quick lunch before heading back into the city centre to catch our train to Manchester. Once there we quickly met up with Debbi and that was it, we were all together - let the party begin!

We checked in at the Travelodge in Blackfriars Street, it's seen better days and in need refurbishment, but it was clean, central and cheap so that suited us for our short stay.

Soon afterwards we headed off to Chaophraya, a Thai restaurant I knew which serves fantastic food. It was only 10 minutes walk away and soon we were in our seats. The food was lovely and the service perfect and the bill reasonable, I would recommend the restaurant to anyone visiting Manchester.

I'd checked on the map where the IMAX where we were seeing U23D was and we headed in that direction. We had to travel to Manchester to see the film as the film wasn't playing where we lived. We passed the great Manchester Wheel looking very impressive all lit up in blue and white, it must have been quite a job to erect it as it's not in open ground, there are streets and buildings all around it. Dawn, who is from a small town in Scotland, was marvelling at all the people, shops and lights of the big city, I loved it too, I've always liked the vibe of Manchester.

After a much shorter walk than expected we saw the Printworks ahead, we went in and one of the first things we saw was a stunning photo of Bono in the window of the Hard Rock Cafe, wowee!!! Here's a photo and Debbi and me (doing my Bono impression) beside it, I'm sure female readers especially will appreciate it!

Further into the Printworks there was a U2 tribute band called Rattle and Hum playing. They were ok, but I think that the Scottish tribute band NU2 are much better. Also it was a bit disconcerting to see "Bono" rather overweight and "Larry" looking more Italian than Irish! But their playing added to the U2 atmosphere and our excitement. We couldn't stay long as we had to be a the IMAX so we walked on and in.

The IMAX complex was a confusing place to get around, but we eventually found our way into the right theatre. We sat near the centre two rows from the back. It was quite a large theatre with a huge screen from floor to ceiling, the largest I have ever seen! The seats were very comfortable and there was lots of legroom. The cinema was not that full, maybe a third full I'd say. We had awful goofy 3D glasses to wear, you can see a photo of us wearing them here, not a pretty sight!

By now we were really excited and dead on 9pm the lights went down and U23D started. I'd never been to either an IMAX or a 3D film before so had no idea what to expect. When U2 blasted into Vertigo and on screen it took my breath away. I was on stage with the band, then I was in the audience dodging heads that blocked my view, then I was near enough to Bono to see individual hairs in his stubble..... I've never been that up close and personal to Bono! Being so much part of the concert was a very intense experience I was totally immersed me in the show. I would like to be able to write a balanced, objective review, but it was such an amazing experience that I'm still quite lost for words to describe it, so bear with me!

There was a lot to take in. I loved the aerial shots, especially those above Larry, you got a little glimpse into his hidden world behind the drums, saw his drink, paper hankies and just how hard he works. Watching Edge at work, clearly concentrating deeply. Often dodging Adam's guitar as he swung round and it seemed to loom into your face. I loved seeing the communication between the band , the touches, hugs, even Bono kissing Adam, the bands close friendship is so obvious and I'm sure it plays a big part in their longevity.

Highlights, wow, there were so many, but the top one has to be during Sunday Bloody Sunday when Bono looks into the camera and reaches out with his hand to "wipe your tears away", it was like he was reaching to touch me and I had the urge to reach out and touch his hand. A very personal moment in the film for everyone watching.

Sometimes was lovely, with Bono getting totally lost in it as usual. One of my few complaints about the film was here. This is a very moving and personal song for Bono and there should have been more close ups on his face so the passion and raw emotion he expresses was conveyed to the viewers more strongly.

Love and Peace is very powerful live and this came across perfectly in the film. The thumping drum beats thudding round the theatre, I felt like I was standing beside Bono at times as he beat the drum on the b-stage.

It was good to see the band left in the mistake at the beginning of The Fly, though I'm pretty sure Bono's "What the....." had been somewhat edited!

All during the film the audience was amazing, I can see why they filmed this in South America you couldn't have wished for a more enthusiastic crowd and this added something very special to the film. As I watched it struck me that U2 are another generation to most of the audience (they were a young crowd), they come from a country thousands of miles away and speak another language. But none of that was a barrier, it really shows how U2's music can speak to everyone.

Set List

Beautiful Day
New Year's Day
Sometimes You can't Make it on Your Own
Love and Peace or Else
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Miss Sarajevo
Where the Streets Have No Name
The Fly
With or Without You

Finally, as the titles rolled and hundreds of names drifted past at the end of the film I noticed the dedication from U2 was really nice - and much appreciated! Good to know they value us longtime fans.

"U2 would like to thank the fans, touring personnel and staff, whose long term loyalty, Commitment and support have helped shape who we are today. This film is for you."

It had been very hard not to sing or get up and dance or even just clap during the film and the silence as the lights came up was weird! All in all, it was a fantastic film and will keep us going until we can see U2 live on stage again - hopefully next year.

We were all a bit gobsmacked when we left, but by time we got to our hotel we'd found our voices and chatted, laughed and drank champagne for hours.

February 23rd 2008

Unfortunately Dawn was only staying the one night so Debbi and I saw her off home in the morning. We decided to do a little shopping before going on the Manchester wheel. I wasn't sure about it as I'm not very good with heights if I don't feel safe, but not one to not try something i decided to give it a go. I'm afraid once the wheel got higher than the rooftops of the surrounding buildings my stomach churned and I was hit with vertigo and I spent the rest of the ride with my eyes closed, I was ok then! Deb took photos so i could see what I missed !!

Once safely back on terra firma where did we go? Back to see U23D in the Printworks! Second time round I had the chance to notice other things that I'd missed before and this time and didn't find it as frustrating not to be able to dance and sing! The main thing I noticed this time was that at the very end when the audience were singing and Bono, clearly overcome by their response, he stopped singing and turned the microphone towards the crowd and let them finish the show, it was the perfect thing to do and very fitting. Bono has an inate instinct for things like that.

Later that evening Debbi and I had a meal and seat booked at the Comedy Store. We started on the wine as soon as we got there and were quite merry by time we were taken downstairs for our meal. We were very impressed with the meal, it was excellent, starters and then we both had delicious tender lamb for our main. Afterwards we got a plate of petit fours which rounded it all off very nicely as we waited for the show to start.

Later we were taken into the auditorium and had seats comfortably away from the front. The compare Richard Monkhouse was funny but the first two comedians (can't remember their names)were mediocre to tell the truth. At the interval we went for a wine and decided to leave slightly early and go see U2 3D again! That turned into not going back into the comedy show, finishing our wine and relaxing in the bar, then getting a taxi up to the Printworks. Madness I know, but we were both of the same mind and our preference at that time was to see U23D again rather than go back into the Comedy Store. A bit of spontaneity does you good so off we went into the lively Manchester Saturday night!

We could find our way easily round the IMAX now seeing we'd visited it quite a lot in the past couple of days! We settled into our seats and were blown away for the third time and again picked up new things, it really is a film you need to see more than once. At the end I felt kind of sad, at bit like I do at the end of the last gig I'll see on a tour. This was it for me, not more U23D, but I'm lucky to have been able to see it in an IMAX - three times, so I'm very happy with that. And it was certainly worth the journey and expense, and I'm glad I could share it all with my dear friends Debbi and Dawn, who I know were as impressed as me.

Sunday 17 February 2008

Red Auction at Sotherbys in New York

You can say what you like about Damien Hirst's often controversial art, but you have to commend him and Bono for putting together this auction. It raised an amazing $42 million for the Product RED charity, (all proceeds go to the charity), surpassing estimates by a long way. A combination of Bono's relentless drive and Damien's art contacts (he sent over 100 handwritten letters to other artists asking if they would contribute, 90% did) helped make this auction a massive success.

A short interview, filmed just before the auction, with Bono and Hirst was shown on Good Morning America. Watch the "Dynamic Duo" here:

Monday 4 February 2008

18 Days to U23D!

I've been avidly reading the reviews of U23D from America, heard first -hand reports from friends, and they have been, without exception, excellent. This has whetted my appetite even more for the film, but why or why does Europe have to wait an extra month to see it??? Very frustrating and I've heard no explanation as to why either. Ahh well, they say good things are worth waiting for - 18 more days and we'll see if that's true!