Wednesday 26 August 2009
Overall I would say this is a great tour, though not truly 360 degrees, they would have to be in the centre of the stadiums to achieve that and boy that would be brilliant! The claw is best viewed from a distance, you missed lot of the lighting effects if you were close to it and sometimes they are really beautiful. Willie really is a genius with his lighting effects. U2 don't really need anything like the claw, the music speaks for itself, but these days concerts tend to need to be theatrical, the casual concert goer wants spectacle as well as good music and the claw certainly was stunning.
At present I feel they do not utilise the walkway enough, in fact in the early shows if you were not in the inner circle it felt almost like a barrier as it was used so little. But gradually they are using it more and that's something they need to keep working on, it's a large area to cover but between them they could manage it. Doing a set of songs there would be nice. Also they, and especially Bono, needs to give equal "viewing" to people on all sides, sometimes he favours one side far too much.
The band were very tight musically and Bono's voice fabulously strong, I love the way his voice sounds nowadays, it has matured well (like the man himself!). His energy simply amazing, I wish I had a quarter of it LOL!
No one was taken up on stage in any of the shows I saw, though I know it has happened occasionally on this tour. I missed that because it was always symbolic, Bono had each one of us on stage with him in that person. Maybe the band felt that was becoming a cliche or something, but for fans like me it is an integral part of what U2 are all about and was missed.
The repeated theme of the show is time, clocks in various forms appear on the video screens throughout the gig, even the robotic-voiced poem prior to Ultraviolet is called Stop All The Clocks.... Time has been mentioned a lot in their most recent lyrics too. Maybe it's inevitable that when the band is approaching 50, a major point in anyones life, their thoughts would turn to getting older, change, endings, new beginnings, different pathways. It's interesting for fans like me who are a similar age and are going through a lot of the life changes the band are, we can definitely relate to it.
Each show was different, but two stood out for me. The first Dublin one for the sheer, raw emotion. The crowd showed their love for the local lads and Bono was almost bursting with emotion at being back home. It created a powerful and electric atmosphere.
The second show was Wembley 2, which is without doubt my favourite show of the six I saw. It was one of those special u2 shows that takes you to another place. There was lots of fun and chat, lots of emotion and wave upon wave of energy sweeping back and forth between the band and audience. It was one of those emotional roller coaster gigs, that leaves you stunned at the end - we all could not talk for a while afterwards, you know it's a special show when that happens!
The best sound was in Nice, it was crystal clear there. I think that is because it was a stadium with a low tier of seats and so sound was able to drift away and not reverberate back from the building. The sound wasn't bad for any of the gigs I was at (maybe lucky in where I was) but in some places there was a slight echo.
Favourite songs? Simply love No Line On The Horizon, especially the bit when they all crash in at "Traffic cop"! I love the abandon of that song, there's a rawness about it that I always love in U2's music.
The other new song I love, grew to love, was Crazy. Initially I wasn't sure about the remix version but each time I heard it I loved it more and more. To me it seems like Bono is gradually creating a character in this song, a mad, almost out of control person, sleazy, dangerous to know. He's getting badder and badder.... maybe he'll have eyeliner on in the US? Love the bit where he screams, "RIOT!"
It's heaven to hear Bad again, what more can I say? Good to hear Ultraviolet too, not too sure about the "suit of lights" though.
I miss all the madness, the gigs, travelling, friends, pizza at 2am, going to bed at 5am, up at noon, queues a mile long, being with people who know what you mean when you say, "It's not a hill it's a mountain." But, hopefully, we'll be lucky enough to do it all again next year - just get that album out on time boys!
Sunday 23 August 2009
We were renting an apartment near the Central Station which turned out to be absolutely lovely, large with everything we needed and very handy too. After a cup of tea we went out and got our shopping at a nearby Tesco's. It was spitting with rain and a lot nippier than in London, what a difference 400 miles makes! But I was glad to be in a city on a more human scale than London.
We then went to a Chinese restaurant called Ho Wong only a five minute walk away from the apartment that I had found on the Net. It was situated in a not too appealing area some of which seems to be getting demolished. Reviews had mentioned the area but said the restaurant was very good. This turned out to be true, the restaurant had a smart, modern decor and a relaxing atmosphere. The food was fabulous, full of delicate flavours that I had not encountered in other Chinese places. It was quite expensive, but worth every penny.
We went back to our apartment just in time for the arrival of our friend Alan, along with a friend of his called Doreen who we'd met briefly in London. It was especially nice to see Alan again, we don't see him very much now that the U2 tribute band he sang in has split up.
Next morning our friend Dawn arrived - Glasgow was to be her first U2 360 show and she was very excited about it. We got the train to Mount Florida from the Central Station close to our apartment. The journey to Hampden Park took ten minutes, then it was five minutes from the station to the stadium. The first thing we had to do was pick up our red zone tickets. Then we looked for where the band might arrive as we were going to wait for them as Dawn had never met any of them. She did know it was unlikely that would happen there, but there was no harm in trying.
The wind became quite strong and there were intermittent light showers. At one point the wind blew over part of a nearby merchandise stand, people tried to re-erect it in vain, the wild Scottish weather was the winner!
We had no luck seeing the band arrive, in fact they had not arrived (so no soundcheck) by time we were allowed into the red zone area. We got a really good place near the front end of the zone, just where we wanted to be. Dawn went to the toilet at 6.15pm and saw U2's cars arrive with a police escort, that's pretty last minute! The toilets, by the way, were lovely, no scummy portaloos in Glasgow. We had a portacabin with separate male/female toilets, and proper toilets too, with lots of toilet paper (VERY important!), nice handwash, and the best bit of all - it was deliciously warm! So we went along regularly to warm up as well as use the loo as it was a cool evening.
U2 hit the stage at around 8.20pm. After Magnificent Bono sang part of Flower Of Scotland which the whole audience joined in with patriotically. During Get On Your Boots Bono and Larry faced it other and belted out "Let me in the sound, let me in the sound" at each other. For some reason the screen stayed up during Vertigo and so the "spinning" effect wasn't as good.
The audience sang along to Still Haven't Found.... and Bono turned the mic to the crowd and said, "They can hear you at Celtic Park!" Referring to a football match with one of Glasgow's teams, Celtic, taking place the same evening.
Crazy was absolutely fabulous once more, think it's my fave song from the concerts (if Bad isn't played). The band used the walkway more than most shows I'd seen, but not as much as at Wembley 2. I feel that is something they need to work on, how to best utilise the walkway.
Once more Bono praised Great Britain saying that "What makes a country great is how it treats the poor and Great Britain treats them with respect."
During MLK things started to go wrong technically big time . For some reason the bass became almost unbearably loud and deep. It was actually physically uncomfortable where we stood, our bodies vibrated with each note, it felt horrible.
The next song was Walk On and the technical problem continued. The bass was still as painfully powerful and instruments kept cutting out and starting again, then finally there was no sound. Maybe Joe had turned the sound off as it was such a mess, I don't know. The band continued playing and singing and at first the audience sang along too, supporting the band. But as the silence went on and on and the band kept playing a the crowd started to jeer and whistle, which I felt was a shame as it wasn't the bands fault there was a problem like this. But maybe Bono should have used his front man skills and encouraged the crowd to keep singing, but he didn't, I think that was an error, but he was probably panicking inside so I'll forgive him that. It did seem a bit odd to have the band playing on like that as it lasted quite a while. But of course they don't know if the sound has come right again if they aren't playing do they, so maybe that's why they continued. At one point Bono looked round at Edge and didn't have a very happy expression on his face. Some people have written that the band didn't know the sound was off, but I'm sure they did, as when the sound came back on Bono punched the air with a fist and a big cheer rose up from the crowd.
The sound wasn't quite right for the rest of the show but at least the fillings weren't being rattled in our teeth anymore! In Ultraviolet the smoke machines went a bit mad, there was far too much smoke! There was a lot of emotion in With Or Without You, and, it seemed, also anger. Rather than the usual ending Bono added, "It's over, it's over" then adding vehemently, "It's not over". Not sure what he meant with that. As usual they ended with Moment of Surrender which I still think is not the ideal closing song.
It was a good show, not a great one. There were a few funny moments like when Bono, who had his glasses on top of his head for a long time, couldn't see and kept wiping the glasses on his tee shirt, then he pretended to be blind and staggered towards Edge with a grin. The technical mishap they couldn't help, I think Bono should have said something about it afterwards, but he never mentioned it at all, except saying "Let's hope they don't have a match the same night next time, we might have better luck." which could have referred to that or the fact they were so late arriving (probably stuck in traffic heading to the match and concert).
I was sad at the end of the gig, that was U2 360 over for me. But I also knew I was very lucky to have been able to see six gigs, visit three countries and even meet Bono during the five weeks I was on tour - and we might have it all over again next year if the guys get that album finished!
We headed for the train station and were diverted by the police to the biggest queue I have ever seen - it took fifteen minutes just to reach the end of it! The showers started once more, strangely it had stopped raining for all the time U2 were on and then started again after the show..... spooky! But, mercifully, the queue moved fast and we were at the Central Station in the city centre by midnight (passing a pair of incredibly high, black patent leather stiletto shoes whose owner had stepped out of and left behind on the concourse, on our way out! Her feet must have been kiling her LOL). We were back at our apartment five minutes later.
Our night was just beginning, we had decided to have a party and buffet, so we got that ready, we washed it down with wine and champagne. We also had a U2 quiz with questions we each had prepared, that was fun, Debbi won and I was second. It was nice to end our tour with a party and toast to U2 and the next tour! We rolled into bed at 5am once more.
So, looking back what was my favourite show? Well, it is a close run between Dublin 1 and Wembley 2. In the end I have to say the winner is Wembley 2, it was an absolutely stunning gig, one of those unique shows that transcends just being a concert and moves to another plane. So those of you who still have concerts ahead of you, enjoy, you'll have a ball!
Saturday 22 August 2009
Debbi and Dianne just wanted to chill that day, but Julie decided to come along with me. As it was Sunday the Tube wasn't too busy which was a relief, I'm really not a big city person. We got off at Piccadilly and walked the short distance to The Royal Academy. It was an amazing building, approached through ornate gates and a beautifully decorated archway. There was a internal courtyard, one side colonnaded, it reminded me a little of our favourite square in Nice. There were fountains and a cafe with seat outside. People were enjoying the beautiful sunny day there.
We entered the building which was fantastic in it's own right, highly decorated with marble steps. We got our tickets and made the mistake of taking the stairs to the Sackler Wing where the exhibition was being held - they seemed to last forever! The paintings were fabulous, there is something so awe-inspiring about seeing the actual brush strokes in a painting you love, it somehow brings you closer to the art and the person who produced it. I saw my two favourite Waterhouse paintings from my teenage years up close and it was such a thrill, they were as beautiful in real life as in the reproductions I'd had. I especially loved his chalk sketches of female heads for various paintings.
There was a first edition of Tennyson poems owned by Waterhouse in which he had done beautiful little sketches in. I knew he was influenced by the Greek myths, but learned from the exhibition that he was also influenced by contemporaries such as Tennyson and past poets like Shelly.
There were around 40 paintings, not too big an exhibition, and I just loved it! The pictures are very beautiful and well painted, Waterhouse's depiction of fabric of all kinds is stunning. It was such a treat to be able to see this exhibition, it's on until the 13th September, try and see it if you are in London, it's well worth the trip.
Friday 21 August 2009
Thursday 20 August 2009
The fans were well behaved and formed a line which Bono went along chatting and shaking hands with people. He looked well, dressed in denim shirt and trousers and a black tee shirt. He stopped when he got to Debbi and I, he recognised us which was lovely to see. He said hello and shook our hands, his hand was warm and very soft, his eyes very blue through the gently shaded glasses (they look really dark in the photos).
Debbi said that his voice was really good at the moment to which he replied, (something like this
anyway)"Thanks, I thought I was singing good." He then asked us how the sound was "Because the sound was bouncing back at me". We told him that it was good where we sat. He asked whereabout we were, Debbi said that we were in seats to the side of the stage to which I added, "On Edge's side in the lower tier." Bono nodded and said he was glad the sound was ok for us because he "Was worried about that." He then shook Julie's hand and waved at people above who were shouting down at him, before going back inside.
I looked round at my friends and, like me, they all had big grins on their faces. It's amazing what an effect Bono has on people! We were thrilled to meet him again as it had been quite a while since our last meeting and there haven't been a lot of fan meetings so far on this tour, so we were very lucky too.
We went back to our hotel and had a meal, we were all giddy and over-chatty, I wonder why? LOL!
We had three hours to kill before U2 were on. We sat for a while, went to the toilets set aside for the red zone (two portaloos). We chatted and time passed. The support bands came on, first was The Hours who I really enjoyed. Then Glasvegas who sounded very like Elvis Costello and were not very impressive in my opinion.
Another early start - 8.15 - David Bowie's voice rang out and the show was blasting off. Being close to the stage in the red zone, we felt part of it as the dry ice flowed out of the claw's legs and from under the stage. Kingdom rang out, the green ticking clocks appeared on the video screens, Larry came on stage and sat at the drums, then played the intro to Breathe, Adam, Edge and Bono came onstage and the show was on!
Bono seemed very relaxed and talked quite a lot during this show. He told a story about Joe O'Herlihy visiting Wembley when the new stadium was being built, and while there he placed one of Edge's plectrums in the foundations. So now Edge is always part of Wembley. Sounds a bit of an Irish tall tale to me, but it got a good reaction from the crowd!
It was noticeable that the band used the walkway more tonight, which was exactly what we felt was needed. Hope they keep that up, that will stop it being a barrier to a "connection" between band and audience.
Bono sang much of The Unforgettable Fire on one of the bridges that was close to us. At the end he put one leg over the bridge as if he was going to jump over, but of course he didn't. At one point, as the bridge was moving he looked round for Edge who was a long way away on the other side of the walkway. Bono could not see him, he shaded his eyes and you could see him saying "Where is he?" as he peered round and laughing. He got off the bridge, took a deep breath and in his own ungainly style ran halfway around the walkway and hung onto Edge for a while before finishing the song. It was very funny and the look on both their faces was hilarious. That Edge is making Bono run for his money!
Actually when you are so close it does make you realise that the walkway is a very big area for a person to cover, and that could be one reason that it has been underused in the shows I had seen previously - except for this night. But it did mean the guys covering large areas.
Bono was very gracious towards Britain, saying we were a generous country, "You stand up for right things, you should be proud of it." It was nice to hear that for him, as in my experience any compliments he gives the UK are usually negated by some comment he adds on the end. But it is true that the UK has been generous in the fight against poverty and has been a pivotal force in leading that fight and influencing other countries. Good to see Bono acknowledge that, we need to hear something good about ourselves in these difficult times.
He also said that it just occurred to him that U2 was older than Wembley Stadium, "130 years or whatever it is...." He used the quip he had used in Dublin, only changed the wording slightly, in another statement "You're a good looking crowd - in your own way." Again he got a big laugh with that. There was a lot of fun in this show, a lot of energy, so powerful it swept over you in waves, it was amazing.
They played Bad, I have always wanted to hear Bad at Wembley because it was seeing that performed at Live Aid that captured me and put me under U2's spell. And here I was 24 years later hearing Bad being performed in the same place. The song was changed slightly, but it was as wonderful as ever. I felt really emotional I wanted to really cry, sob my heart out, but I just shed a few tears, why does that song make so many people cry? It's pure U2, no one else could ever sing that song. And even here, in London, the crowd sang each word along with Bono.
Vertigo was great, with the screen coming low and spinning relatively close to us, a great effect! It's not a particular fave of mine but this performance of it is stunning.
Where we were you could feel the bass in your chest, I haven't felt that anywhere else so far in this tour. Also it was great to be close and not in a crush, there was no shoving and pushing which was just wonderful!
Bono thanked the fans as usual for "Giving us a good life" and then thanked people in the U2 organisation. He also said that once the tour is over London could negotiate to buy the claw for the Olympics! LOL!
It was just one of those special shows that happen with U2 every now and then. It's a spiritual, emotional thing, beyond the music, it takes you to another plane, it's so hard to explain, but any of you U2 fans that read this will know what I mean if you've experienced the same magic. It left us emotionally drained, but happy, U2 at their best are simply THE best. Maybe they did come from another planet in the spaceship claw? They certainly take you somewhere out of this world with a show like this.
I met up with Debbi at Euston station and was relieved to hear that it had been sorted, she'd been liaising with a very helpful Ticketmaster customer services person, phew big sighs of relief!
We got the Tube to Wembley Park. The trip took an hour because we had to travel to Waterloo south of the river to get to Wembley way north of the river! It takes so long to get everywhere in London. It was around 5pm by time we arrived at Wembley Park and a lot of people were around. We asked a policeman the way to our hotel, he directed us a way that avoided the crowds but it was a lot longer walk. It was hot and we were getting weary, but eventually we found the Wembley Plaza hotel which was right beside the stadium, perfect!
Julie was already there, and other friends Dianne and Sharon were in another place nearby. We left quite late for the stadium as we had seats, these turned out to be very similar to the Dublin 1 seats, so were really good. The new stadium is massive and very nice.
U2 came on at 8.15, very early, curfews are getting earlier and earlier nowadays! As usual the first four songs from the new album were brilliant, I just love No Line so much! During Still Haven't Found there was one of those magical moments that sometimes happen at a U2 concert. Bono sang the first line and a half with the crowd singing along, he stopped singing and the audience just kept singing at the top of its voice, it was beautiful and moving and you could see the band found it amazing too. It reinforced once more that special spirituality that comes from some of U2's music, a feeling that binds, warms and crosses barriers. Simply beautiful, and strangely not long before that moment Bono said he thought "Something special is going to happen tonight" - he must be psychic.
Crazy rocked, Edge pogo-ing as he played, just love that version now. They had changed it a little I thought, the chorus of the original was more obvious, which was an improvement. Bono was very strong vocally all night.
The claw and Wembley arch
Debbi amazingly sussed what is being said by the robotic voice at the beginning of Ultraviolet, it's the poem Stop All The Clocks, Cut Off The Telephone by W H Auden. Very in keeping with the theme of clocks/time that runs throughout the show. During Ultraviolet Bono was hanging onto the mic with one arm and walking along the very edge of the stage, then spinning on it like an acrobat.
Bono dedicated Moment of Surrender to Brian Eno, saying "Get well soon" and that he was a "National treasure."
I've read reviews that said the sound was really poor at this show. Well, where we were there was a slight echo, but no more than that, the sound was fine, seems it depended whereabouts you were sitting how you heard the gig.
We hung around for a while after the show, meeting up with other friends, but there was no sign of the band. It was great to walk just minutes along the road to our hotel! We ordered room service food - pizza - and washed it down with wine. Got to bed at 4am-ish.
Wednesday 19 August 2009
I'm knackered at the moment, but I hope to write up my experiences soon. Meanwhile here's a little stream of consciousness list of things that pop into my head when I think back to the tour, will enlarge upon them later......
A spiritual moment during Still Haven't Found at Wembley 1
Pizza at 3am
Meeting and chatting to Bono before Wembley 2, blue, blue eyes and soft hands
Five women with big grins on their faces
Red Zone at Wembley 2, truly magical show, wave upon wave of U2 at it's best
Bad made me cry
Crazy made me bop
Bono made me laugh
Pizza at 2am
A day off from travelling and gigs, Royal Academy to see J W Waterhouse "The Modern Pre-Raphaelite" exhibition, gorgeous
Tube, train, plane, taxi from London to Glasgow - hot to cool
Best Chinese meal ever at Ho Wong restaurant, mmmm
Gig day at Glasgow showery, cool, windy....wait at Red Zone entrance - wind blows one of the merchandise displays to bits!
No soundcheck with band
Great place in Red Zone, friend goes to the loo and sees U2 arrive at 6.15
Good show, lively crowd
Dreadful equipment malfunction during MLK and then total sound off during Stay
I'm sad at the end, no more gigs.....
Join the longest queue EVER for the train back into city
U2 quiz, buffet (no more pizza yay!) and party until 5am
Goodbyes and home.....
Wednesday 12 August 2009
So we had a lovely leisurely weekend and by Monday I was raring to go again. Once more we got the bus from Bewley's Hotel to Croke Park. Our seats were cheaper this time and in the top tier, I thought I'd never get there, trudging up flight after flight of steps - I'd forgotten about all those! Our seats were a bit vertigo inducing initially, but once people sat in front of us it felt better. We still were quite near the claw, kind of looking down on it this time (yeah that's how high we were!).
Sunset Over The Claw
We caught the support band The Script's set. I really like quite a few of their songs and wasn't disappointed in them live. The singer has a great voice and many of the songs were familiar. They were incredibly popular with the audience and seemed overcome by the reception they got. It's good to see U2 giving a new, young Irish band a chance to support them, with all the publicity that gives them.
U2 took the stage at about 8.45pm and launched into the usual quartet of songs from the new album that they starts the show with. I'm loving No Line On The Horizon more and more. My only complaint during this song is that there is too much of "horizons" on the video screen, we need to see the band more as they play this song.
That night they did New Year's Day which was good to hear once more. They also did Stay a favourite of mine but unfortunately Bono was struggling with his voice a bit during it. Unknown Caller was in the set again, and again it just leaves me cold - except for Edge's wonderful guitar solo at the end which is amazing!
I have finally decided I really like the remix version of Crazy, though I would also love to hear the album version played live too.
The video screen was different for Vertigo, it compressed and came down very close to the stage and by the end of the song was spinning, or the image was spinning should I say, at breakneck speed giving a great effect. Anyone close to it would feel dizzy I think if it was that effective even from our viewpoint.
At one point Bono asked how many foreigners were in the stadium at least half the crowd, including us four, put up their hands! "There can't be that many!" Bono exclaimed then he started reading banners he could see, "Brazil, Germany, ......" It just shows that a U2 concert in Dublin is truly an international get-together and shows how U2's music crosses borders of countries and differences of language.
We got Bad again a real surprise! The encore was excellent again the screen came very low for Ultraviolet and Bono tested the mic lead by almost swinging on it. With Or Without You was once more done very theatrically with Bono being drawn by the movements of the hanging mic. The closer as usual was Moment of Surrender.
The cameras stayed on the band members as they left the stage and walked down the steps to the backstage area, a nice touch.
Once more Bono didn't get anyone on stage which was disappointing. It always seems like he has the whole audience up there when he does that, which instigates a closeness, a connection that feels very real, and I miss it.
I am not sure about the stage set up either. The outer walkway has not been used that much in the three concerts I've seen. Sometimes it's like band member go on the bridges, maybe go onto the walkway do a few steps then go back on stage. They don't seem to be using it well. Maybe it's because it is so big? But I felt that it almost is like a barrier around the band rather than something that makes band and audience feel closer as intended. If they used it more or there was a B stage attached to it that might feeling we have might change. Also, perhaps it feels different if you are nearer to it - we'll be able to test that theory when we are in the Red Zone.
This show was not as emotional as Friday's, I didn't feel dazed and drained when I left. Also it was a little spoiled for us by what Dianne called "Upper stadium annoyances." The crowd around us sat a lot (yeah I know it's hard to believe!) and complained when we stood up, so we spent quite a lot of the show sitting. Luckily at some points during the show people in front of us stood up so we did too and no one could complain as it was the only way we could see then. We had aisle seats and so people were going back and fore, back and fore for the entire gig which drives me nuts!!
So, all in all, a good show, but in my view it wasn't anywhere near as touching and special as Friday's.
Tuesday 11 August 2009
Saturday 8 August 2009
We had lunch at Bewleys and then drove to the house we had rented for the eight days we were in the city. It was a lovely house close to Lansdowne Road Rugby Ground (which is being renovated at the moment, looks like it'll be an amazing venue when it opens next year).
Whilst at Bewleys we noticed that you could get a bus from there to Croke Park which was really handy for us as our house wasn't too far from Bewleys either. We piled on the bus with all the other fans and headed off.
Croke is in a very residential area and so the crowds thronged the narrow streets as they made their way to the stadium. It felt almost like a market with sale people shouting out what wares they were selling - you could buy almost anything. We passed a pub close to the stadium and it was heaving, standing about 20 deep outside so God knows what it was like inside! What a nightmare.
We got to our seats, Hogan stand right opposite the claw, great seat. We'd arrived after the support bands had been on, the vibe in the stadium was electric..... "Ground control to Major Tom....." here we go!
Larry did the Breathe intro and suddenly U2 were on stage. The song rocked, but I'd love to see them try opening with Magnificent I think the long intro of that song would work brilliantly to open a show. The second song was was No Line which was fantastic, I just love the part after Bono's soft singing where the whole band crashes in at "Traffic cop...." This is still my favourite song from the new album.