Saturday 28 November 2015

U2ie Tour London, Part Three - A Crisis, a Kiss and Gig Heaven

29th October

Our last full day in London and our last U2 show in London. We still had to complete our Mission to give Bono a copy of our book and decided to go into the city to try to catch him at the hotel where many fans were waiting and had meetings. However I received a phone call about a matter that I had to deal with quickly so I said to Debbi to head into the city at the time we planned and I would follow on when I'd sorted out the matter. Before I had time to get into the city centre after sorting out the problem I got a text that Debbi had completed the Mission, she'd given our draft of the book to Bono, apparently she arrived just as he was leaving perfect timing! I was pleased that she had handed over the book and got a meeting with Bono, but was a bit sad for myself at missing out on that, through no fault of my own, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

After dosing myself up with cold medication again (still felt quite rough) I waited near the Greenwich North tube station for Debbi to return and while waiting met three friends who had just arrived and who we were going to meet again later in the day. When she got back Debbi was excited and happy and had lots to tell me.

Later a young man who we had met the day before (who had become a U2 fan by listening to his mother play their albums in the car as he was growing up) had a word with us and said that there were limos lined up at Greenwich Pier which is about half way between the O2 and our apartment. There had been a rumour going round that the band were arriving by boat so it made sense, we went round. Not far from the pier we came across a throng of screaming teenage girls! Surely they weren't there for U2? Debbi asked one of the women standing at the back who the kids were there for and she said The Vamps and rolled her eyes. We battled through the over-excited hoard and into the welcome peace of the Olympian Way which runs parallel with the River Thames.

Bono and Me
Sure enough there were three cars waiting there. There were only four other women and us three waiting there which was surprising, but good. After about ten minutes a small cabin cruiser came round the bend of the river and docked at the pier. It was about five minutes before anyone got off, but sure enough we quickly recognised all four of U2 walking up the pier. Larry went straight into one of the cars but the other three came over to us right away. First Edge and Adam and then Bono, they all looked well though Edge seemed a bit tired. I gave Bono my gig ticket to sign, I had nothing else, he signed it and, as he always does, looked up at who he was signing for. Immediately there was recognition in his eyes and he smiled and said, "Aww hello" and came forward and gave me a big hug and kiss. I have met him many times over the years, but the last time was six years ago and I couldn't believe he recognised me after all that time. I must admit my knees went a little lol and he smelled lovely! Debbi also got a kiss and autograph, Bono asked in surprise how she got here (remembering the meeting in the city centre) and she said the Tube (considering it was three hours later not an amazing feat, think he'd lost track of time.) While Bono was busy with other fans I got Edge's autograph but missed Adam. The young man asked Bono for a selfie and he got a great photo. Bono was nearly ready to go but I asked if we could have quick photos too and he said, "Of course" and pulled me in close and rested his head on mine for the photo on which I have a daft grin on my face lol! Then it was Debbi's turn, however it took my camera phone a while to reset and Bono just moved away as I took the photo, so it wasn't a brilliant photo unfortunately. I've been a U2 fan for a long time and the band members are always so friendly and respectful to their fans and meeting them never seems to be a chore to them. Bono when you meet him is so different from that larger than life showman on stage, he's calm, very quietly spoken and polite and has the ability to make everyone feel important.

Everyone was very happy as we waved at the cars as they left for the short journey into the O2 itself. I had to smile to myself as the band would see that scary throng of screaming prepubescent girls to their left as they entered the O2 not knowing why they were there!

We were both very happy as we walked the short distance back to our apartment from the pier and had a drink and waited for our friend Marian to arrive, she was going to the show with us and staying over this one night. She arrived at about 5pm and we had a cup of tea and a good catch up before leaving to meet up with our other friends. We met in the Square Pie within the O2, it was cheap and ok, though the pie I got wasn't what I ordered but I couldn't be bothered to complain and wait for another.  As were were sitting and chatting it occurred to me that these people from the UK, Ireland and Canada were friends I'd first got to know through U2 (except Marian who I know from schooldays) and had been friends for at least 25 years, pretty amazing!

We went our separate ways to our seats and tonight got into the arena smoothly, no waiting this time. We were on the opposite side from our last seats but a very similar position, as many people have said there are no bad seats on this tour. We heard the guitar tech play a few notes from Bad, we were keeping our fingers crossed that they would play it. The second song played was Gloria which was a treat to hear live, what an amazing song that is. I'm loving all the new songs, they are strong live, Iris very moving and Raised by Wolves is powerful, love the way this is performed, Bono doesn't just sing the songs he lives and feels every word he sings. New Years Day was a nice surprise, long time since I've heard that live.

Video Screen
And yes, we got Bad, shivers went down my spine at those opening notes and I was in heaven, this is the quintessential U2 song, that could not be performed by any other band.  I'm not ashamed to say it made me cry. It segued into Patti Smith's Gloria then someone with log grey hair came out with no announcement to join the band to sing it. It was none other than Patti Smith herself, and she launched into a live version of People Have the Power (the song that plays just before the show starts.) It was absolutely fantastic, it really rocked and Patti's voice was strong, Bono joined in on the chorus but most of the time he looked in awe of her and said at the end that she was one of the reasons U2 were around in the first place. It was a great ending to a very good show.

We met with our friends briefly outside, Sharon had that stunned look on her face that Debbi and I had after we'd seen our first show. Once home we had a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate the end of the London leg of our U2ie tour, and what a leg it had been, wonderful shows, a posh afternoon tea, great times with friends and a kiss from Bono, what more could a woman ask for?!

Goodbye London

Wednesday 11 November 2015

U2ie Tour London Part Two - Up Close to U2 and a Posh Afternoon Tea.

26th October

Today we had general admission tickets, our only standing show and I wasn't sure I'd manage to get through it, as well as having to stand for a long time we both also had nasty colds. We decided not to go early to queue, we're past that nowadays lol, and wandered up to the O2 at about 5:30pm. Again we had to wait ages to get in, about an hour, which was tedious, this venue certainly is a pain regarding the time you have to wait to get into the arena, even when you have a seat.

When we got in at around 6:30pm we saw that there were no free places on the rails so decided to stand just behind some small women who were at the barrier of the e-stage. The back of the e-stage close to us was kept free of fans as that's the way Bono would enter the arena, we knew once he was on the stage the security let fans round there and our task was to move quickly when that happened and get on the front barrier. There was a lovely security guard by us and he said he would drop the rope (that kept the fans back) as quickly as he could when he was given the ok by his boss.  At 8:15 the show started and Bono walked right by us, soon the rope dropped and Debbi and I linked arms and dashed to to free area and got right on the barrier. We could hardly believe we had managed it, especially as we hadn't queued for ages to get a good place, I thought the days of seeing a gig so closely were long for gone for me.

And what an amazing experience it was to see the band just a few feet away at times, plus we could see right down the catwalk to the i-stage as well. The only downside is that you cannot see the video screen from there. This show had a more playful feel than the previous night, Bono talked a lot and three times he got fans on stage. Whilst the band were on the e-stage Bono noticed a poster being held up just to my left, he squinted hard and then read it out , turned out two Angel of Harlem with the band, so Bono asked them up on stage. Edge looked worried and said words to the effect that they couldn't have two guitar players on stage as they only had one spare guitar (we were close enough to hear this off-mike.) Bono took absolutely no notice and just said, "Edge gets a bit nervous when this happens." He gave the guitar to one lad and told the other to stand back and "look useful." Meanwhile the crew were in a tizzy trying to find another suitable guitar which they did remarkably quickly. Both brothers played well and it was really good fun and Edge ended up with a big smile on his face.
During City of Blinding Lights Bono got a young man up onto the catwalk and at the end of the song gave him his glasses and jacket and then put on the lad's jacket, which was way too small for him. Once he was on the main stage one of the crew had to pull it off him as it was so tight!

As well as Angel, songs new to the setlist included Out of Control, Desire and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. The latter was the final song and Noel Gallagher joined the band to perform it, seemed to impress the crowd, but I would have preferred U2 to do the the song themselves.

It was wonderful to be so close to the e-stage, there's something about seeing the beads of sweat run down Bono's face lol. But you also see the energy and little nuances and communication between the band members, you feel part of the show as you are so close. The show once more was wonderful, more playful tonight, but I must say I did miss the video wall, it is such a stunning and interactive part of the show that it almost has to be a part of seeing this particular tour.

After the show wandered off home via the Olympian Way, weary, still sniffling  but happy.

27th October

I had been full of good intentions to explore Greenwich a bit today which was a free day. But I was so weary and full of cold that I had a very long lie in and just chilled, Debbi did the same. We needed to recover and recoup and give our colds a chance to ease.

That night we did go out to eat, we went to the Greenwich Kitchen near the O2. I fish and chips which was lovely and the fish huge, washed it down with a refreshing Pimms and lemonade. I'll do a full review of this at a later date.

28th October

Today we were going into the city centre for afternoon tea at Claridge's. Months ago we tried to book an afternoon tea at The Ritz but it we couldn't get a slot anywhere near the time we wanted. So we went to the next poshest Claridge's. We dosed ourselves up with cold remedies, put on our glad rags and got the Tube to Bond Street which is the closest stop to the hotel. Unfortunately we took a wrong turn and ended up walking down a heaving Oxford Street, we turned back and then found the right street and it was only a couple of minutes from the Tube. We went in through the revolving door, inside was very grand with a huge chandelier. We were greeted immediately, we first went to the ladies, very posh, the woman in there insisted on filling the sink for me! We were a bit early for our afternoon tea in The Foyer but they let us in anyway. The room was beautiful, art deco style with high ceilings and ornate stucco work and the most amazing flower displays I'd ever seen, the server took our photo beside one.

We were given the menu to choose which tea we wanted, there was a choice of 22, we went for their own blend which was delicious. We had chosen the champagne afternoon tea so the first thing we got was a generous glass of that. The sandwiches were fantastic, scones still warm and cakes beautiful, everything was perfect and it was very leisurely. Claridge's was posh, but didn't feel snooty which was nice, it was a wonderful experience. I will write a detailed review separately.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

U2ie Tour, Part One - London, The Tour Madness Has Started!

Saturday 24th October

I know I am guilty of neglecting my blog recently, but I'll make up for that in the next few weeks as the U2ie Tour shows have started for me - at long last. We got the tickets almost a year ago and it seemed so far away, and in a strange way, it also felt unreal, even when my friend Debbi and I arrived in London on October 24th. We had rented an apartment a ten minute walk from the O2 with a glorious view across the river Thames, which turned out to be perfect. We explored the area and got shopping in and had a relaxing evening really looking forward to the concerts to come.

Sunday 25th October

We got up late and had a leisurely breakfast. Later we wandered up to the O2, what an amazing building it is, like some huge white flying saucer. We had a Mission this tour. My friend Debbi and I have collaborated to produce a book of her writing and my paintings. We have put together a first draft and wanted to give one to Bono, and we were determined to fulfil The Mission!

We hoped to see the band arrive but didn't so we had a meal at the nearby Cafe Rouge, I had Garlic Mushrooms and Chicken Breton and a glass of very nice champagne. I will write a full review of the meal at a later date.

Afterwards we sat by the river watching a beautiful sunset then it was time to go into the O2 and find our seats. We got in the queue and waited and waited and waited. It was at least one hour and a half minutes before we got in, never have I had to wait that long to get to my seat at a gig. We found out later that the scanners had broken down. Technology is great when it works.....

Our seats were wonderful, in the lower tier almost directly opposite the e-stage, I certainly was glad I wasn't in the upper tier, very, very high up and scary. At the other end of the floor was the rectangular i-stage which was connected to the round e-stage by a long catwalk. I will be seeing a few shows and won't be reviewing them in detail here, I'll just pick out certain bits.

At around 20:15 Patti Smith's People Have the Power rang out and Bono entered the arena via an entrance just below us, he clapped and ambled along in his inimitable way and walked up some stepa and onto the e-stage. Then the opening chords of The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) thundered out and Bono walked the length of the catwalk and onto the i-stage to join his bandmates and the song started properly. Great start.

I was kind of overcome at the beginning of the concert, it had been a long time coming and right until that moment it had felt almost unreal. Then suddenly there was the band I've been a fan of for 32 years doing what they do best, playing live, and it was REAL!

Photo by Christine Moeller
The sheer power and energy of the opening set of songs, The Electric Co, Vertigo and I Will Follow was stunning, and it was just the four band members playing on the i-stage, no gimmicks just four musicians giving it their all. It really showed how good they are.

The mood changed with he next song Iris, a song about Bono's mother who died when he was fourteen. A huge video wall (almost the length of the catwalk) descended and it showed various images including including his mother. It was incredibly emotional. He said when she died she left him an artist. He was singing about himself in that song, but the gist of it can apply to anyone who has lost a loved one.

This was followed by Cedarwood Road, the street where Bono grew up. Wonderful images on the video wall of the street and images from Bono's youth that it conjured up. At one point Bono got into the video wall and was walking along within the video, very clever. I found the songs from the new album stood up very well live, especially Raised With Wolves which was amazing live.

There was a short interval when a virtual Berlin Wall completely separated the two sides of the audience. Then, one of my favourite new songs, Invisible, began. Then there were areas where the wall disappeared and showing glimpses of the band members inside the wall. It's hard to explain really, but it was very cleverly done and so in tune with the song. I think initially some of the audience thought the images of the band were part of the video, not humans within technology/
Photo by Christine Moeller

Bono got a woman up for Mysterious Ways, Trish from Canada, whose vintage style must have caught Bono's eye. She was really good, she danced well and flirted with Bono but didn't go too far. She was given a phone to film the audience which apparently was being broadcast live all over the world.

A few songs on they did a reworked  Bullet the Blue Sky, which was absolutely amazing! At one point Bono argued with his 19 year old self who said he sold out and had private planes and lots more. At the end Bono said wearily, "I know,  I know." We are all very different people from when we were 19. Edge's guitar solo in this song was wonderful.

After this the final segment of the show they did a run of some of their most popular songs, including
Streets, Pride, With or Without You. Streets was so uplifting, the audience sang most of it with Bono looking on in wonder. They finished with One. 

Photo by Christine Moeller
In conclusion for me it was a stunning, powerful gig, the sound was good, video screen was amazing. They used the catwalk and stages very well and the setlist was well put together. All in all a brilliant concert. U2 are definitely not past it.

As Debbi and I walked home we hardly said a word, the show just blew us away and we initially couldn't find words to describe the experience. One home we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the start of our U2ie Tour.