Monday, 22 December 2008
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Nothing materialised and I went off on a short holiday to Dublin with my friend Julie. While I was there, one evening Debbi rang me on my mobile, after making sure I wasn't driving she told me that we had tickets for the Astoria gig! I was, for once, lost for words, it was only two days to the show, I would arrive home in the early hours of the day of the gig, how would I get to London (I live 300 miles away), what about accommodation, how would I get the tickets for the gig? So many questions raced through my mind along with at state close on hysteria! Debbi, bless her, said she would book my train ticket to be picked up at the station, she'd also organise the accommodation. She'd told Principle Management that I was in Dublin and they said to pop in the office.
Next day Julie and I went to Principle Management and spoke to Cecilia there. She said that my ticket would be waiting at the box office and that I would have to have some photo ID in order to pick it up. I think it was only then that I really believed I was going to see U2 play at the Astoria.
Later that day we set off on our journey back to the UK. I got home around 2am on the day of the gig. I had to be on the train to London by 6am so little sleep was had.
At 5am I threw a few things into a backpack, including my passport for ID, got a taxi to the station and caught the train to London Euston. As I sat on the train i could hardly believe what I was doing, but I knew it would be worth it.
I met up with Debbi and jackie and we headed straight to the venue. There were a lot of people millling around outside the Astoria and there were ticket touts everywhere with tickets selling for as much as £1000. There was a buzz of excitement, of something special happening – which of course was true! We picked up our tickets safely and it was then with that ticket in my hand that the excitement really built up for me.
The Astoria was a small venue, the main auditorium was reached by following a maze of corridors. The whole place looked a bit rundown, not helped by the fact it was painted in mainly in black. On either side of the small stage were two garishly coloured Doric pillars. The floor area was small and that was where the “ordinary” people were, the small dress circle above being reserved for celebrities. Among the people we recognised up there were Salman Rushdie and Liam Gallagher.
DJ Jon Carter did a set for about 45 minutes which seemed to last for hours, but when he started playing Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” we knew U2 must be coming on at any moment and the rising excitement in the small venue was palpable.
At 9.30pm to the strains of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” U2 came on stage and there was immediate mayhem! They blasted into “Until the End of the World” and the whole crowd leapt up and down, and moved around the small space. I was in the middle near the front (looking back not a wise move!) and remember at one point Bono looming above me, think he was crowd surfing which only made the chaos worse! It was the one time I wished Bono would get away back onto the stage. It scary as tall men were leaning over me and pushing me down. It was too much for me and as U2 started playing “Beautiful Day” I moved the short distance to the back of the floor where there was some space to breathe, Debbi had moved there too. As the place was so small we still had a good view of the stage.
The whole feel of this show was so different to any U2 arena or stadium gig I’d been to. It was raw, sweaty, and very high energy. It must have been a little like it had been in the early days for both the band and the fans“Elevation” was next with everyone singing along with the band, it felt like a manic party. “Stuck”, dedicated to a lost friend, followed and was very moving and beautifully performed. The next song was a surprise, it was “Gone”, always a favourite of mine. By now the crowd had calmed down a little but the atmosphere still felt electric, it was good to hear that song again. U2 cranked things up a bit again with “Discotheque” followed by “Staring at the Sun” and “New York”.
So far Bono had not talked to the crowd very much, but at this point he decided to introduce the band to everyone. He said that Larry and Ann had a new baby three days previously and that she was in the audience tonight, he appeared in awe that she was there so soon after giving birth. Bono continued, saying that Adam had the “biggest bass in the band” to much laughter from the audience. He introduced Edge as the “Zen Presbyterian”. He finished off by saying that the band was “re-applying for our job” and the job was “to be the best band in the world”, this provoked a huge roar from the crowd. Then they launched into “I Will Follow” and the crowd went mental, it truly was like the roof was going to be blown off this little venue, it was the best party I’d ever been to!
An acoustic “Desire” followed, then “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” which was dedicated to Salman Rushdie who took a bow up in the dress circle to our left. Next was “Mysterious Ways”, then a lovely version of “One” during which the gig eased into another phase.
The manic excitement calmed, and a sense of intimacy, warmth and closeness replaced it.There was a little snippet of “Unchained Melody” followed by a simply wonderful version of “All I Want is You”. Bono sang the song with a mobile in his hand, I thought maybe Ali was not able to be there and was on the other end of the line, but it turned out she had been there as she was in the car with Bono when they left the venue. He must have been missing someone else as he sang that song.
Next was the highlight of the gig for me and many other fans. As the distinctive opening notes of “Bad” rang out shivers went down my spine. Halfway through the song Bono went to the right-hand side of the stage and down into the crowd and sang the rest of the song there amongst the fans. He was illuminated by a white spotlight, I had a wonderful view and will never, ever forget it. It was so powerful and emotional, one of those moments of a show you never forget, Bono, the rest of the band and the fans were one. It was an awesome performance, showing the power of music and U2 at their best, Bono is the consummate performer and can connect with an audience in a way no other can. After a little of “Sympathy for the Devil” tagged onto the end of “Bad” the band left the stage.
Chants of “40” rung out from the crowd and soon the band were back on stage to perform – “40”. Bono changed the lyrics a little, but I cannot remember how. It was the typical low-key U2 way of saying goodbye. As in the past Bono left the stage first, followed by Adam, then Edge, and after a short drum solo, Larry. And so after one hour and twenty minutes the Astoria gig was over. It was a show of distinct moods, from a raw, energetic, rocking first half to an intimate and emotional second half. I feel really privileged to have been there.
After the show we went round to the back of the venue to wait for the band leaving. It was a bitterly cold night and on top of that it started to rain. There was an umbrella factory beside the Astoria and workers there took pity on us and gave us brollies! Debbi dropped her camera I had to pick it up for her as she because her hands were so cold. By then we were functioning on adrenalin I think.
Eventually the band came out and they all came across to the fans and chatted and signed things, though in my case my pen didn't work because it was so wet! Adam was very concerned about how cold we were bless him.
And that was it, we were flying so high we stayed up all night and next day I got the train and travelled the 300 miles home. All a great madness, I was amazed at my stamina, U2 certainly gives you superhuman strength and determination!
Monday, 27 October 2008
Beautiful Day - A good album opener, not typical of the album as a whole. It starts slowly and then rocks. Very U2 and catchy.
Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of - Initially did not capture me musically, though lyrically I found it very moving. Sad yet inspiring, there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. On subsequent listenings it really grew on me and is a song that I really love now and it has helped me through difficult times.
Elevation - Wasn't sure about this at first and still not a favourite - some of Bono's oddest lyrics, "mole in a hole" erm, yeah..... On first hearing thought it must be the opener for the next tour and it was.
Walk On - Loved this from the first hearing, pure U2. Very emotive, powerful, send shivers up the spine. Again very inspiring, gives strength in times of need, my favourite from the album on first listen and still is to this day.
Kite - Really touched me. Bono has said this is about his children and his housekeeper who died. It's a very personal song, very touching. Later it clearly was also about Bono's father, who unbeknown to us at the time, was suffering from terminal cancer. I related to it so much because at that time my mother was also terminally ill, and I was dealing with that painful reality.
In a Little While - Didn't care for this song on first listen. It seemed to be a "filler" to me and never grew on me.
Wild Honey - A surprise, very un-U2, more Beatlesque. Joyous, upbeat, liked it initially but quickly tired of it, and never listen to it now.
Peace on Earth - Bono said this was about the Omagh bombing. Very sad, all sung on one level, no crescendo. Strangely for U2 it is without hope, after the cheery abandon of Wild Honey the sadness hits you all the more.
When I Look at the World - Struck me as a heartfelt appeal to God, a crisis of faith, a common U2 theme over the years. Bono's voice quite hoarse in this one. Not one of my favourites then or now.
New York - This has been a popular song with many people, but I didn't like it much. New Yorkers say it paints a true picture of the city. I did like Edge's guitar work in this song. it seems to be about a tussle between temptation and responsibility lyrically.
Grace - A song about God's grace and forgiveness. To be honest, to me, this was the weakest song on the album and again lyrically I wasn't impressed, "Grace, it's the name of a girl" erm, yes Bono so it is!
The Ground Beneath Her Feet - A pleasant song, but somehow it did not seem to fit on this album, it felt - to me - kind of shoved on at the end.
All in all I felt this was a good album, but definitely not a great one. U2 needed to have a relatively "safe" album after the mistakes of Pop. I liked it, but at the same time it didn't blow my mind and it didn't challenge me and i was a little disappointed about that.
Friday, 17 October 2008
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
We got some things signed and Bono was very pleasant and obliging. Rosie asked for a photo with him and he said yes, then I asked and he was the opposite of Larry, he put his arm firmly round my shoulder and pulled me in close, he smelled lovely! He looked really well, dressed in a leather jacket cap and awful orange tinted black-framed shades. He was chatty though at times he was having difficulty concentrating because of the constant interruptions by the Dutch girl who stood back the whole time, strange.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Somehow Dawn and I got seperated from Jane ( we found her agian after the gig had finished). We ended up on the barrier behind the front enclosure which we really regretted as the show ent on. We were failt close to the B-stage so it was good from that standpoint but the crush was really bad at times.
The audience were very up for U2 as they always are in Scotland. The show was good but nothing out of this world, I think we had been spoiled by the last Dublin show and, looking back, ideally that would have been the best show with which to finish our Popmart Tour. As I said the crush got really bad, and I had terrible bruising on my tummy and arms in the days following the concert. The things you go through for U2!
All in all Popmart, had been fun as all U2 tours are. Personally I could have done without all the lemon paraphranalia, I know what they were trying to do with that, but I found it pointless really. U2 don't need gimmicks like that, the music speaks for itself. I was pleased to see that for the tours after Popmart U2 dropped such gimmicks.
Saturday, 4 October 2008
The weather was cool and wet. Dianne wanted a lie in, Sharon and Julie were going into the city and Jane and I decided to join the queue. I drove Sharon and Julie into the city and ended up doing a Bono - I went up a one way street the wrong way! I found three lines of traffic approaching and at the front of one of them a Garda car. The Guard was very stern when she approached, but when I opened my mouth and was obviously a tourist she was ok with me. I turned dropped the others off and went back to join Jane in the queue. Jackie, Julia and Linda were with her. It started pouring down, and the bin bags we bought at the Spar that morning came in very useful! Julie, Dianne and Sharon soon joined us and eventually we were let into the stadium. We managed to get a nice place right along the catwalk which we were very pleased with.
U2 came on at 8.45pm and it was evident that the rain had damaged the screen as parts were out of focus, the wrong colour or just not working. At Lansdowne the screen was not protected by the stadium wall and got all the rain hitting it directly hitting it - and boy was there a lot of rain that day! The screen did improve a bit as the show went on and the rain eased off.
It felt like this show was going to be a special one for two very different reasons. There was a sadness that hung in the air about the death of Diana that felt palpable, yet this was also a triumphant homecoming concert for the band.
Right from the start there was a great energy and emotion that bounced back and forth between the band and the crowd. The set was pretty much as usual but half the time the audience was singing so loud it drowned out Bono and he'd just stop singing and stand and watch the crowd with a big grin on his face. At the end of Pride Bono was crying, and there was such a mutual feeling of love between the band and audience, it was so intense.
During Until the End of the World Bono put his guitar down on the stage in offering to Edge then he put his arm around him, held him close and sung for around a minute. Bono and Edge's "duel" was acted out right in front of us, so close we could almost touch them.
A rousing version of Dirty Old Town got everyone singing along. The acoustic Staring at the Sun was lovely, though before they started Bono got annoyed at some idiot who was shining a laser pen into his eyes, "You wouldn't want me to get angry now would you?" he said pointedly before adding something about "people's little toys." The rain was really heavy now but caught in the lights it created a lovely effect. A bit of a technical hiccup at the end saw Bono fade out with, "Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe......."
Tonight's karaoke was Whiskey in the Jar which was great fun - Edge had to read the words off the screen. He is so confident nowadays and that's so nice to see. Please once more was a pivotal point in the show and of course has great meaning to the Irish. I love the way it morphs into Streets and I love this updated version , the screen adds to the overall effect brilliantly too.
Next it was lemon time. We were right beside the catwalk and so the nearest to the lemon we had ever been. It actually stopped right beside us and the combination of being enveloped in dry ice and the sparkling of the reflective mirrors on the lemon really created a weird effect for us. All I could see was smoke and flashing lights and it was quite disorientating. It clunk to a loud stop and the band came out but I couldn't see anything of them because of the smoke which was being blown right at us by the strong wind. Didn't see them either during Discotheque and Jane and I had a fit of the giggles in amongst the smoke.
Hold Me was accompanied by the usual theatrical which I found absolutely fascinating, especially when Bono briefly turns into MacPhisto as he stares into the camera. His whole face just changes and for a short while Bono is gone and the Old Devil is back.
Bono finished Mysterious Ways on the B-stage, something he normally doesn't do. He stopped right in front of us and started to sing MLK and Diana's picture appeared on the screen. There was a respectful clapping and then almost complete silence as Bono sung, "Sleep, sleep tonight and your dreams will be realised.....". At the end Bono was crying, so was I and many, many other people.
An emotional One and lovely Unchained Melody finished the concert. As the lights came up Candle in the Wind was played for Diana (later it was re-worded and re-released by Elton John in memory of Diana). It was hard to say anything, I felt drained emotionally. It had been an incredibly happy and painfully sad show with every emotion inbetween. People have gone on about the technology and all the money it takes to put on this show, but when it comes down to it the main components of a brilliant U2 show are, the music, emotion and communication. That's what it's all about and I know of no other band that can that can combine these like U2. This night was one I'll never forget.
After the show we met up with our friends and waited for the band to leave. It was cold and windy but mercifully the rain had stopped. There were around 40 people waiting. Scott, Edge's bodyguard came out and said he would tell the band people were waiting and it was up to the band whether they stopped or not. We were told up to line up and stay like that if a band member came across. We were not to approach them, they would approach us, "Is that clear?" Scott said. "Yes" said 40 voices already neatly lined up. It was funny really, almost like being at school, but we knew the score, if you are calm and behave there's a chance to have a meeting.
After quite a while Bono surprised us by suddenly coming around the corner. there was a ripple of excitement amongst the fans, but everyone remained in line and were well behaved (gold star teacher?). Bono didn't sign much, rather he talked and shook hands with people. He got to me and took my freezing hand into his warm, soft hand and looked up at me. To my surprise a flicker of recognition crossed his face and he smiled and said, "Hi, how are you?" I said I was ok and he then leaned over, still clutching my hand, and kissed me. I'd been hoping to say how much I'd enjoyed the show, but I was now totally lost for words! He moved on, Debbi said, "Can I have one of those?" and she got a kiss too. I watched him work his way along the line-up, so patient and attentive. I realised he was wearing an anorak, what's with this Oasis vibe?
Next Edge came along next and he spent even more time with the fans, signing and chatting. I think we are very lucky to be fans of a band who are so accessible to their fans, it means a lot to us. And the smiling faces Bono and Edge left behind on that chilly, windy night bore testament to that!
Sunday, 14 September 2008
We drove into town and to Principle Management where I had to pick up the tickets that I had been allocated as a fanzine editor. Julie and Sharon went in with me. We went up the marble stairs into the open plan office. The place was in chaos, people darting about everywhere, visitors arriving, phones ringing. I gave my name at the reception desk and said we were here to see Cecilia. We were asked to sit on large comfy black leather settees nearby and wait for her. I noticed that there were large wooden beams across the ceiling and like last time I'd been here the fax was in over-drive!
Soon Cecilia arrived , she was very nice and at first said she had no tickets left, but then offered me two VIP seated tickets that were not together. She apologised profusely that they were separate, but I didn't mind. I had already bought a ticket just in case these didn't materialise so they were a bonus. As I wanted to be near the front with my friends I ended up selling these tickets for cost price to two Aussie fans who were so upset they didn't have tickets and couldn't afford the prices the tout were asking. They were very deserving of the tickets and very grateful, the girl was in tears!
That evening we went for a walk on Killiney beach which was as peaceful and beautiful as ever before going into the Court Hotel for a meal for the Library Grill there. Our friends Declan and Mary joined us and we had a lovely night of good food, good company and delicious Irish coffees!
We had decided that we would try to get into the front enclosure for this first Popmart Dublin gig so that meant getting in the queue early - we were at Lansdowne Road by 9am, we really must be mad. Sharon and Julie had to wait by another entrance so I was queuing with Dianne and Jane. We would take turns to nip off to nearby hotels to use their toilets or get some food and drink. After a few hours we were herded into "pens" and still had another two and a half hours to wait before we were let in to the stadium at 5pm.
Our wait was worthwhile as we got a great position right beside the B-stage. I looked at the clock, it was 6pm which meant there was another three hours before U2 would be on stage. It's at moments like that when you are in a good position that you can't leave because you'll never get back in, you can't sit down, or go off for food or the toilet, that you wonder if you'll ever last to see U2 on stage!
The support was Ash who I didn't enjoy (though they I did like them a lot more over the years since this gig) The stadium erupted and there was a brilliant atmosphere. The show was good, no great changes, I think they decided to play safe for their first night in their hometown. The karaoke was the Irish Eurovision Song Contest winner from the 70's All Kinds of Everything which Edge dedicated to his favourite publican Paddy the landlord of Docker's.
Bono sang a lovely version of Molly Malone accompanied by 40,000 other people! He remarked that the local residents wanted fans to keep the noise down and that he wouldn't want the crowd in his back garden!
Hold Me..... was very theatrical with Bono laughing demonically at the beginning. There was a new ending with him on the B-stage pretending to impale himself on the mike stand. He did this right in front of us so I got great photos. Staring at the Sun was dedicated to, "George Harrison and everyone at the Sunshine Home for the bewildered." Bono patted Edge playfully on the bum at the end of it. One was dedicated to the journalist Bill Graham and they finished with MLK.
All in all it was a great concert and it was great to be in such a good position to see it all. I was amazed by the amount of sweat that poured off Bono, he must lose pounds during every concert.
After the show we went round the back and met up with our friends and waited. We didn't think we would get the chance to meet anyone after the chaos there had been at the RDS four years earlier. But this night there weren't that many people waiting so we hung on. My feet were killing me and my back was aching, this concert business is hard on the old body! We passed the time doing yoga exercises that Dianne taught us to ease our aching backs.
Bono came over to the fans briefly but he was quickly surrounded and didn't stay out long. Things were a bit calmer when Edge came out and he came along the line of fans chatting and signing autographs. Larry and Adam didn't stop.
After Edge left we headed home. I felt so tired and my feet were burning I couldn't wait to lie flat and take the weight off them, I don't think I have ever stood so long before or since. We got burgers at the Abra in Dun Laoghaire and I ate mine lying on my bed giving my poor feet welcome relief!
Monday, 8 September 2008
As in Zooropa in 1993 we parked the car at Jane's boss's house and did the trek down country lanes, stiles, woods, golf course, up and down hills. We sat at the cafe by the lake as we had four years earlier and had a drink. Jackie came along and said she was going for her photopass at 4pm. I thought that was too early, but said I'd meet her at the box office at that time. This time fanzine editors got one photopass which I was using here, and 2 tickets which I was going to pick up in Dublin. No hospitality passes this time.
At 4pm I took the long hike up and down hills to the box office and met up with Jackie. No one there had heard of any photopasses. So we went to the box office at gate 3, no passes but they expected some, so we waited and waited. Press passes arrived but nothing for us, a member of U2 staff said our passes should arrive soon. At 6.20 we were told to go to Gate 17 by 6.35 for the passes. This gate was at the other side of this huge venue, memories of the trauma of getting our passes four years earlier came back to me.
We headed off there as fast as we could, they knew nothing of passes there and sent us to Gate 14. We were getting well stressed by now, no one seemed to know what they were doing, including us! At Gate 14 again no one knew anything about passes and said we should go to Gate 3! There was no way we were trekking all the way to the other side of Roundhay once more, we were now getting angry as well as stressed. By now quite a few professional photographers had gathered at Gate 14 so we decided to stick with them. One of the photographer's mobiles went off and he passed on the message that we all had to go to the nearby Gate 17 for the photopasses. There were two women from RMP there, I recognised one as Sandra. At long last, and much to our relief we got our passes, why oh why is it always so stressful?
Shortly after getting the passes the heavens opened and there was a ginormous thunderstorm. Jackie and I tried to shelter under a spindly tree. Jackie who had no mac got soaked. We saw the other photographers had sheltered under a nearby trailer so we joined them. It was really funny seeing all these men bent double under the trailer. It wasn't too bad for me, I only had to bend a little, sometimes being small has its benefits.
When the rain stopped Jackie went to buy a tee-shirt to change into as she was soaked. I stood under the trailer in front of her holding up my kagoul to protect her dignity!
Later we were taken into a VIP entrance and into the backstage area. Again it struck me how unglamourous it was - especially today in its sodden state! We could stay for the first four songs and were allowed to wander freely along the front pit and the walkway half way up the b-stage catwalk. I saw Julia and Linda near the front and gave them a wave.
The show started at 8.45 and before I knew it the band were past me as they walked along the catwalk. I moved to the centre point in the front pit and snapped away. The position was not as good as last time, we were at floor level so the band were high above us and the monitors often got in the way of photos.
Before I knew if the opener Mofo was over and the band were into I Will Follow and then Even Better Than the Real Thing with Bono in his muscle shirt. He seemed to notice me at this point, he looked right at me and went into a pose. Then he got that wicked look on his face and came forward still looking at me and posed once more just two feet away from me.
He talked about George Harrison (who apparently had said something not too good about U2 recently). "Good people of Yorkshire, you're not supposed to be here, George said so!" He said and then gave the finger - I got a good photo of that moment!
All too soon our time was up and we and we had to leave. this time we weren't able to slip into the crowd at the front like in Zooropa. We had to go out of the back entrance and enter through a gate with our tickets. I had some trouble gettng in with my camera, but eventually managed and we found at good spot about two thirds up the hill on Edge's side.
This show was absolutely stunning. It had that special "magic", it was full of fun, Bono did lots of ad libs and talked a lot. He noticed someone in the crowd with flowers and said he always saw them and said that they must be "From the Internet - I can't even work the hoover - don't laugh!" He also talked about a club in Leeds called Tiffany's with it's plastic palm trees where U2 had played in the early days. Jane remembered that club and the palm trees. Bono also said, "Did it really rain?" Oh yes, boy did it rain, but you weren't in it!
Last Night on Earth was great, Bono changed the lyrics from "she" to "we" rather appropriate I thought. There was an extended ending to Streets like in San Diego which was fabulous! Please was amazing with added wails that were so pleading it brought a lump to my throat. A little bit of Whole Lotta Love was tacked onto the end of Discotheque.
By now it was cold and when Bono kissed the camera the the end of Hold Me.... it steamed up! During Mysterious Ways Bono was very touchy feely with Edge, and he added a few lines of Something and My Sweet Lord (a nod to George Harrison) on the end. The karaoke was the very appropriate Singin' in the Rain - what else could it be this night? After a beautiful One the final song was a complete and very nicely done version of the Beatles' Rain.
By the end of the show I had a big, proud grin on my face. U2 had touched every corner of this massive venue. The show was full of spirit, passion and fun, one of those magic U2 shows that just take your breath away. When U2 are at their best it is one of those experiences you never forget and this was one of those nights.
After the show we happily plodded through the deep mud, scrambled up the slippy hills and slid down the other side of them, and got very muddy and wet on the trek back to the car, but it didn't dampen my spirits in the slightest, I had that grin on my face all the way home.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
I was relieved when everyone was gone and it was peaceful and dark in the room. Because it was so warm I had the window open and could hear the music from the nearby stadium. I gradually started to feel better and at 7.30pm decided I was well enough to go to the concert and set off on the relatively short walk to the stadium. The others were where they said they would be and they were pleased to see me. Although it was hot and muggy the walk and fresh air had made me feel better too. I was so pleased I didn't have to miss the concert.
U2 came on not long after I arrived. The gig was good, and again from this vantage point the effect of the lighting was really brilliant. At the end of Until the End of the World Edge played a bum note - he didn't get annoyed, he just smiled broadly. Miami menacing, the karaoke was Daydream Believer before which Edge said, "This is not rock 'n' roll, this is suicide." The final song this time was Wake Up Dead Man. A good show, but quite a predictable one, nothing out of the ordinary.
Again we went round the back after the show and met all of the band except Adam once more. Edge was very sweet, Dianne said that she thought the Bullet solo was wonderful except that it was too short. Edge Smiled broadly at her and said, "Thanks." Larry was also very pleasant and patient signing lots of autographs for people. Bono was the last out, doing the, "I'm not worthy" routine which got everyone laughing. He mostly shook hands with people. He looked well, better than he had in the US, he'd put weight on and looked more like himself once more.
We wandered slowly back to our hotel, the night air was warm and we were still high on the adrenalin from the show. Our London Popmart was over now, next stop Leeds!
Sunday, 31 August 2008
The support was Audioweb and The Longpigs, I quite enjoyed the latter band. U2 came on quite early, 8.30pm, Pop Muzik blasted out of the huge bank of speakers and POP came up in red on the screens. the band came on from the left hand side and walked through the aisle between the enclosure and the main area of the pitch. they were dressed the same except for Bono wearing a blue robe rather than a white one. The first few songs were Mofo, I Will Follow, Gone the difference from the early US shows was astounding, the band was very together. The new songs were well received by the audience.
A lovely extra in this show was All I Want Is You, Staring at the Sun was acoustic done by Bono and Edge on the B-stage, very nice. Please was just fantastic, it's a highlight of this tour for me. Hold Me.... is done very differently form in the US, very theatrical and dramatic. Towards the end Bono took off his glasses, and without make-up, turned into MacPhisto again - his face just totally changed. He looked into the camera, his gorgeous blue eyes looking straight at us on the screens, and then he kissed the camera and put the shades onto it, then a picture of MacPhisto appeared on the screens. Wonderful stuff, and brilliant performing.
The images on the screens are great and really complement the music and never over-powering it or the band. From the back of the stadium where we were we saw the full effect of these images and colours.
After the end of the show we went around to the back of the stadium to see if we could catch the band leaving. We met up with Julie, Linda, Karen, Serena, Jackie and Sharon there. I also met up with online friends Michelle, Rory and Clare there too, that's one of the lovely things about U2 tours you get to bump into old friends!
Adam was the first to leave but he didn't stop, just waved from the car. Next was Edge who did the meet and greet, very politely shaking hands and signing autographs for fans as he worked his way along the row of people. He's such a sweetheart!
Third one to leave was Bono, as he came across an Australian girl shot over the barrier like lightening and grabbed him. He didn't look too pleased and she was gently removed by security.
It just shows how fast things like that can happen, luckily this girl was harmless.
Bono shook people's hands, chatted and signed autographs. He wasn't as organised as Edge, and was going back and forth along the line in a rather chaotic manner. I didn't get too close to him because there were people in front of me but I got some photos. It was still just nice to see him.
Last but certainly not least, was Larry who was an absolute star. He signed autographs for anyone who wanted them. He was happy for people to take photos and was so pleasant! I got my Staring at the Sun CD cover signed by him. I thanked him and he looked me right in the eye and said, "You're welcome" with a dazzling smile, what a charmer! When Larry does decide to meet the fans he really can be so nice, I wish he would do that more often.
So that was the end of a long but very enjoyable day in London. We'd seen a great show and met three of the band, not bad going for the first show of the UK leg of the Popmart Tour!
Saturday, 30 August 2008
We passed through gorgeous Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon on the way south. We stopped off at Montezuma's Castle, which is a twenty room, five storey structure built into a natural recess in a white limestone cliff about 70 feet above the ground. There are steps and ladders connecting the various rooms. This was the home of Sinagua Native American tribe who farmed the this land between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. Some time after this time they moved on from the area. It was boiling hot there, the sun seemed to reflect off the white cliffs and I found it unbearable. I'd been there a few years earlier and I remembered it was mind-numbingly hot then as well.
Monday, 18 August 2008
Next morning we breakfasted on coffee and biscuits in our rooms. We checked out a route to Bryce Canyon and then set off. The weather was pleasantly warm and we headed up into the Wasatch Mountains towards a place called Brian Head and snow was beginning to appear. As we drove there was more and more snow, the road had been cleared and huge piles of snow flanked each side of the road. Then, suddenly we were met by a wall of snow at least ten feet high! We couldn't believe it! It was also very cold and all we had on was summer clothing. Later we found out that Brian Head was Utah's highest ski resort.
Next morning we had tea and the remnants of the curly breadsticks for breakfast and took our leave of Parowan. We were quite sad to leave the little town behind! We headed south on Interstate 15 for what was going to be a long day's driving. We left the main road and went east towards Zion Canyon. It was very hot at Zion and dozens of lizards darted through the scrub and around the numerous cacti. This canyon was lovely too, again a lot of the rocks were striated in shades of a rusty red. The part of Zion we saw did not have hoodoos and the delicate almost laciness of Bryce, but it was beautiful too.
We stopped briefly at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary near Kanab which was a place that offers a home to any animal that needs it. We continued on the long lap of the journey that took us out of Utah and into Arizona, the first stop being the Grand Canyon. Dianne and I had been there before but the others had not. We went to the Bright Angel viewpoint and even at 5.30pm it was unfortunately still very busy. It is a stunning place, you can hardly believe what you are seeing, shame about the crowds. For me Bryce Canyon is the place. While we were there some deer were roaming amongst the people and the biggest rooks I've ever seen were watching from on high.
It was getting dark as we left the Grand Canyon and headed south for Flagstaff where we were staying for the next two nights. Once darkness fell I noticed the sky was incredibly clear because of the lack of light pollution and we could see the Hale-Bopp comet clearly visible just above the horizon.
Our hotel at Flagstaff was nice but right beside a railway line so there was a regular cacophony of train noise and hooting. But we'd had a long day and were exhausted and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
Next morning we set of early once more and headed towards the Little Painted Desert which is 20 miles north of Winslow, Arizona. As we entered Winslow we had Take It Easy by The Eagles blasting from the car stereo, "Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona..... " this is what an American road trip is all about! We drove along a straight, deserted desert road and pulled into the empty car park for the Little Painted Desert.
It was absolutely beautiful there, very hot but a cooling wind blew regularly taking the heat off a little. The site consisted of small multi-coloured cliffs and canyons arranged in a horseshoe shape, in the middle were little colourful hills. It did look like someone had taken a paint brush to the landscape, I'd never seen anything like it. We all wandered off in different directions and enjoyed the beauty and complete silence. Little purple, white, orange, yellow and white flowers growing everywhere.I don't follow any religion, but in places of such natural beauty like The Little Painted Desert, I feel a spirituality, a connection.
It is in the middle of the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the mesas of the Hopi Reservation were visible to the north. In the distance to the east I could see the snow-capped San Francisco Mountains that surround Flagstaff. It was an ethereal place and I could have stayed for hours. We eventually tore ourselves away, and as we left the car park another car arrived - good timing!
We went into nearby Winslow for a meal. I noticed a large percentage of the people there were Native American, there were also a lot of stores selling their traditional art and jewellery.
There was so much to see in that area but we couldn't do it all and we had to give The Painted Desert a miss which was a shame. Our next stop was Meteor Crater, somewhere I have always wanted to see ever since my childhood when I wanted to be an astronomer! The crater was created around 50,000 years ago by a meteor 54 yards across made of nickel and iron. It's landing would have created a cataclysm that affected all of the Earth. The crater was bigger than I expected - it is 4000 feet wide and 570 feet deep. It was so weird to see this huge crater suddenly just being there in the middle of the flat desert plain. It was also an incredibly hot place, the sun was unrelenting and I was soon wilting, so we went into the museum to cool off and learn more about the crater.
Our next stop was to be Walnut Canyon, close to Flagstaff, but it was late afternoon now and it was closed. So we headed back into Flagstaff, washed the desert dust off, and went for a delicious meal and cocktails in a Thai restaurant right beside our hotel.
I'd absolutely loved these few days of travelling, discovering the stunning sights of Utah and Arizona. I loved the feeling of freedom, driving along those long, straight roads, stopping off where we wanted along the way, and seeing the most amazing things. So, our tour madness really paid off big time!
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Mike then got out a bottle of thick brown liquid that he called a Mudslide and insisted that we try it. We tried it while glancing around for the police, it was quite nice really, God knows what it was!
The stadium was small by US standards, 39000, well organised, lots of women's toilets and polite well-behaved fans - there's something to be said for Mormons, Mudslide Mike!
I was surprised there were no songs from Zooropa so far in the tour, maybe some of them will come later. In my view some of the songs from Pop such as If God Will Send His Angels and If You Wear That Velvet Dress do not transfer well to the live situation and usually the opposite is true of U2 songs. But that could change as the tour progresses and the songs develop.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
We drove on through the wide open spaces of California's desertland, roads as straight as the Romans would have built, seemingly going on forever. For someone like me from a small, green island this was a totally new experience, with its seemingly endless horizons and unyielding landscape . The sky was pure blue and you could see the shimmer of the heat haze as the sun shone relentlessly, it was not a place you would want to break down in.
You could drive for miles and see no hint of humanity, which I thought was great! Nature still rules in the desert. Well, that is until you drive over into Nevada and see Las Vegas shimmering like a strange, colourful anomaly in the brown desert, but that is only a small blip of human encroachment in this big country, we by-passed the city and continued heading north.
As we drove into the north western corner of Arizona the landscape changed, now there were lots of red hills and mesas. We passed through the impressive Virgin River Gorge (photo to the right) which took us into Utah. The peaks of the Wasatch Mountains rose to our right, they would continue until we reached Salt Lake City. The landscape now was less desert like and south western Utah proved to have a varied countryside.
We pulled off the I15 at Cedar City, we'd driver over 400 miles and decided to have a stopover here. We looked for accommodation but nowhere had enough vacancies to take us in. One hotel though was very helpful and found out there were vacancies at the Swiss cottage best Western in the town of Parowan twenty miles north. So we got back onto the I15 and drove the short distance north - Parowan turned out to be a small, sleepy town. The hotel was expecting us and we soon settled into our rooms.
We were really hungry so Sharon and I set off in the car looking for some food. Parowan was a nice little place but it seemed to be "shut" we could find nowhere to buy something to eat. So we drove to the nearby town of Paragonah, but no luck there either! Back in Parowan we eventually found a garage that sold pizza and snacks that you could heat up in a microwave. So we bought our stuff, heated it and rushed back to the hotel before it got cold. It turned out to be quite nice, especially as we washing it down with southern Comfort!
Next day it was another early start, before we set off I stood for a while on the open corridor looking out over Parowan, horses were grazing in a field close by, it was so quiet, peaceful, I really liked this little town. Also for the first time since being in the US it felt cool, that was nice to feel.
The landscape was more alpine now. It was a pleasant journey, Utah I realised was a very beautiful state. As we passed Provo it looked really lovely surrounded by jagged snow-capped mountains. We closed in on Salt Lake City, which was flanked by huge mountains.
We found our hotel, the Olympus, easily and were soon phoning ticket brokers searching for U2 tickets! One had four good tickets which cost $150 (expensive in those days - how times have changed!). We went for it and walked the short distance to the broker's office. When we got there Sharon started panicking about getting the tickets and if they would be genuine. I couldn't believe it! We'd driven over 750 miles, agreed to buy them after the phone call and now she wasn't wanting to buy the tickets! The rest of us wanted to go ahead and in the end Sharon was happy to as well, sometimes you have to take risks in life. We felt elated to have tickets for the show in our hands.
Salt Lake City was a very clean, neat and organised city. Less frenetic than many other US cities and it felt very safe. Even our hotel was really quiet. We had an early night as after all our driving we were tired and we went to bed excited at the thought of seeing another U2 show the next day.
Monday, 11 August 2008
Sunday, 10 August 2008
The back garden was beautiful, it had a pool and jacuzzi. There was a towering saguaro cactus that woodpeckers had bored into and made their nests. There were lots of cacti (I'm a big cacti fan and Arizona's the place to see them!) palms, mesquite trees and colourful flowers in the garden. Bird treats hung in the trees attracting a plethora of feathered friends. Hummingbirds came to nectar feeders, tiny, luminescent, swift birds that could disappear in the blink of an eye. I'd never seen hummingbirds before.
There were little hidden areas to sit all over the garden and it was really relaxing to sit there once the heat of the day was over. We met Dianne's husband and her grown son, both very welcoming and friendly. I felt very at home there.
Next morning we were up early ready for our drive to San Diego. We put The Joshua Tree on the car stereo as this was true Joshua Tree country and much of Outside It's America was filmed in this area. As we passed Picacho Peak (an unusual rock formation by the highway between Tucson and Phoenix) In God's Country was playing just as it had in the TV programme, magic U2 moment!
Like U2, we stopped at Gila Bend (founded 1872) - there was nowhere else to stop! It was a very small town in the middle of this amazing barren landscape. I found I loved the desert, stark and unrelenting, jagged mountains, it was nature in charge, and had a awe-inspiring beauty about it.
Gila Bend was a one street town, you could almost think you were back in the old Wild West! It was hot, dusty and run down. We wanted to go into the bar U2 had ten years earlier, of the two bars that we saw, one The Owl, was boarded up, the other, Shelby's was open so there was no choice, Shelby's it was! We walked in and it was full of men who all seemed to turn to look who had arrived, I suppose you don't get a Canadian and three Brits walking into a bar in Gila Bend very often! It wasn't the bar U2 had been in and we drank our Cokes, and left and headed on towards San Diego. (Picacho Peak - Photo © by Jeff Dean)
The landscape became more boring as we approached Yuma which seemed a God forsaken place and we were glad to leave it behind. Eventually, we arrived at San Diego, it was cooler there and I immediately liked the city, not too big, flowers everywhere. We checked in our hotel and then decided to find the Jack Murphy Stadium as we had no idea where it was! We found it quite easily and got talking to two fans Milton and Chelsea. They were really nice and suggested we go to the world famous Hotel Del Coronado (known locally as the Hotel Del) for a drink. As we had nothing planned for the evening we said yes. Chelsea said she would guide us and just to follow her. It was my turn to drive that night and it seemed miles and miles to the hotel, Chelsea drove fast and I spent most of the trip verging on a panic attack as I tried to keep up with her and not cause an accident! I was so relieved to arrive at the hotel!
The Coronado opened in the early 1890's and has been popular ever since with the rich and famous. It has featured in quite a few films over the years. It is a rambling, many turreted hotel with white walls and red rooves situated right beside the Pacific Ocean. As we arrived at night we couldn't see it in all it's grandeur, but our approach was lovely enough, with the old building floodlit giving it a fairytale appearance and the sound of the Pacific's waves crashing on the shore nearby.
It was very grand inside and we found some seats in the lobby and ordered extremely expensive coffee, we couldn't afford anything else though we were hungry! The building's history was well preserved which was good to see.
After a while, Dianne and I went downstairs to where we could hear music playing. An Eagles tribute band was on stage and we really enjoyed listening to them. I never forget when they played Hotel California thinking that yes, I was in the grand old lady of hotels in California, it was so appropriate, it was one of those magic "moments" you get in life that you never forget.
We also went outside on a walkway facing the Pacific from which there would have been a glorious view if it had been daylight. Smelling the salt in the air and hearing the waves break on the shore was still very pleasant though. I vowed then that one day I'd come back to the Hotel Del as a guest. I haven't managed that yet, but maybe during U2 Tour 2009?
After an enjoyable time at the Coronado we headed off for our hotel. Chelsea was going to guide us back there as we had no idea where to go! Luckily Jane was driving on the way back so my nerves were not frazzled and I got the chance to appreciate San Diego at night and it looked wonderful, I really liked this city.
Next day April 28th was show day! We weren't sure what to expect of the second show of the PopMart Tour after the near disaster at Las Vegas. But we needn't have been, right from the start it had the magic! Bono seemed driven, probably smarting from negative reviews from Las Vegas.
Last Night on Earth rocked. Bono dedicated Pride to his daughters "Jojo and Evie" which I thought was sweet. It was a night of dedications as "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was for all the fans who had stood by them all through the years and through all their "mutations". We all smiled at that, nice to have our dedication recognised by the band.
The set list was much the same as Las Vegas except that "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" wasn't played - phew no hugging a dress on a stand! The new songs were performed much better too, they must have been rehearsing like mad over the last few days.
At the end we all looked at each other and smiled, the U2 we knew was back and I felt that familiar high after a good U2 show. We were relived they'd got it together after the shaky start to the tour. The U2 magic and passion was back in a big way!
Sunday, 3 August 2008
As we stepped off the plane we were hit by the desert heat, a bit of a shock to the system. We got a taxi to our hotel, the Flamingo Hilton on the Strip, all typical Las Vegas, flashing lights and gambling in the lobby. It had lovely gardens with palms, exotic flowers and flamingos.
We met up with Dianne there and then had an easy going evening and an early night to give us a chance to get over our jeg-lag.
Next day was another restful day, we spent most of it relaxing in the hotel's beautiful gardens or swimming in the pool. That night we decided to explore the Strip. I'd been to Las Vegas before, but it had changed a lot since I was there only three years earlier. We walked into the lion's mouth entrance of the MGM Grand, gawped in amazement at the New York skyline (complete with the statue of Liberty) of New York, New York. We passed the fairytale castle of Excalibur and on to the huge, glistening pyramid of Luxor laser beams shining into the night sky from it's peak.
Las Vegas is like falling into another dimension, a fantasy world. Much of it is tacky, it's noisy and flashy and there's nowhere else like it. I'm not at all interested in gambling and after a few days there was glad to get away from the noise of the machines. But, for me, for a short while it's a fascinating place to visit, you feel like a child again, full of wonder at the over-the-top place Vegas is.
Next day was show day and we were really excited at the thought of seeing U2 play live for the first time in four years. We got a taxi to the Sam Boyd Stadium, it was a long way, stuck in the middle of nowhere surrounded by harsh desert which in turn was fringed by brown jagged, cracked mountains.
We sat out at the back of the stadium as there was really nowhere else to go. It was very hot but luckily there was a gentle wind blowing which cooled things down a little. We sat in the shade of some spindly trees and waited. U2 were doing the soundcheck so we listened to that as we waited.
While we were waiting a guy that Sharon nicknamed The Queen of Las Vegas came up to us and started unzipping his jeans and began putting tubes down them! Noticing our astonished looks he told us they were glow sticks and he'd been told that for some reason the authorities would not let him take them into the stadium and he was determined to take them in. He stuffed quite a few down his jeans then did them up again and asked, "Can you tell?" Surprisingly considering how many he's put down them we couldn't tell there was more than, erm, himself down there. He then tried to pick up something he'd put on the ground, "Oooh, oooh OOOH!" he shouted with dramatic gesticulations. We just fell about laughing hysterically, he was hilarious. To ease his suffering we picked up the things for him and he said goodbye and wandered off glow sticks and all. Later during the concert we saw lots of glow sticks and wondered which were those of The Queen of Las Vegas.
We made the mistake of going in to hear the support act Rage Against the Machine (sorry Rage fans!) Every song sounded the same and were all peppered with frequent four letter swear words, horrendous. We avoided them on the other gigs we saw in the US.
The PopMart Stage was much as I'd expected from the rumours we had heard. A huge yellow arch reminiscent of the MacDonald's symbol. What was a bit like an orange supermarket trolley within the top of the arch. There was a red "stick" with an "olive" on the end (I never did work out the relevance of that!). Behind the arch was a massive screen. To the far right was the large lemon.
The 70's hit Pop Muzik by M blasted out really loud and we knew this was the start, but it went on and on and nothing happened on stage. then we realised by the commotion in the crowd that the band were entering the stadium from the back through the crowd. But it wasn't U2 as we knew them - Edge was all in black with rhinestones and cowboy hat, Adam in an orange boiler suit and gas mask and hard hat, Larry was Larry and Bono the fighter throwing punches in the air, in a white silk boxer's robe with it's hood up. All a bit bizarre and I never saw the point in it all.
They went straight into Mofo which worked well as a starter. Next was I Will Follow which surprised me initially, then I realised they were linked, they were both primarily about the loss of a mother - as seen from different eras of a man's life.
Next was Even Better Than the Real Thing and I did a double take on Bono, at first I thought he was naked on top and had suddenly got a really well toned body! Then I realised it was a flesh coloured tee shirt. Do You Feel Loved was very ropey to say the least, they really struggled with it. Last Night on Earth and Gone were performed fairly well, but the audience didn't seem that interested in them.
On the b stage they did a stilted version of If God Would Send His Angels. Then Staring at the Sun went disastrously wrong, Bono stopped the song and they all had "words" with the others, especially Larry who Bono lunged towards pointing a finger almost in his face. Bono said to the audience that they were having a "Family row". They started the song again and just managed to get through it.
Please was performed really well (one of the few new songs that was) and it gained a new life in the live situation, fabulous. Bono put all he could into it and the symbolic colours of green and orange flashed on the screen. After that the screens turned red and of course it was Streets, which was wonderful and the crowd erupted!
After the short interval smoke started seeping out around the giant mirrorball lemon (it's yellow cover now having been taken off). It moved slowly forwards then stopped with a loud clunk and the top half opened. Inside were the four band members standing in a line arms folded. They did a military-type salute which just looked stupid to be honest - I never saw them do it again thank heavens! They came down from the lemon via steps and then launched into Discotheque. They struggled a bit with this song too but managed to get through it. All the while the lemon was rotating and the lights being shone onto it reflected back into the stadium like hundreds of sparkling diamonds, good effect.
The next song was If You Wear That Velvet Dress. It didn't work live at all, too low-key. At one point a sparkling white dress (couldn't tell if it was velvet!) on a stand was plonked on the stage and as Bono approached it I though, "Oh my God he's going to hug the dress!" And he did, it was truly cringingly embarrassing to say the least. We all just looked at each other with our mouths open, what were U2 doing? This was another thing we never saw again in a live show on this tour, so they must have realised the error of their ways.
A beautiful With or Without You followed and we were whisked into U2 heaven for a while as they performed a few U2 oldies. They finished with One, but, for me, that didn't seem the right song to finish with.
And that was it, the end of the opening show of the PopMart Tour. For a while we were unable to say anything to each other - we'd never been to a U2 concert that was well below par and this certainly was that. We were disappointed. As it was an opening show of the tour we expected them to have some problems, but this was more than that. It was clear that they were under-rehearsed, it was mainly the new songs they struggled with. I actually was quite annoyed with them! What I expect them to give me are good albums and good live shows, that's the deal, anything else is a bonus, but I don't expect more. At this gig in the warm desert night they didn't fulfill the good live show part and that annoyed me - and my friends. Years later they did admit to being not ready for this tour and I think this extremely shaky start was the cause of the poor ticket sales for some US stadiums later in the tour. But I'm pleased to say this is the one and only time I've been disappointed in a U2 concert - they usually exceed my expectations.