Wednesday 17 June 2015

U2 Magic in Montreal

A bit of U2 magic in Montreal last night, I've never seen so many fans on stage what an experience, great to see the band literally getting up close to fans, I missed that on the last tour. Can't wait for October when I'll be seeing them live!

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Songs of Innocence - My Thoughts

Well I've finally made myself sit down and write about U2's latest album, just six months after it's release lol! Not sure why I haven't written properly about it until now - it's certainly not because I don't like it. I'm not going to do a song by song review, there's no point now and I will not be writing a deep analysis either. I'm just going to write about what the album means to me.

Firstly, Songs of Innocence was a long time coming, over five years, which, even for the slow working U2, was a record. I must admit, though I've been a fan for over thirty years I didn't hold out much hope for this album. The band's last few albums, though good, were nothing outstanding, nothing that excited or surprised me and I honestly thought, that's it, they're in their 50's now and they have had an amazing career but they have lost that spark, that creativity. I hated to admit it to myself, but after all these years of being a fan, I was drifting away and not over-excited at the thought of a new album, I needed a U2 injection, a boost to bring me back to the fold.

The first surprise was the way it was released, we knew that we would see an album soon, but there it was, at the launch of the iPhone 6, free in your Cloud waiting to be downloaded, Songs of Innocence! Of course there were a lot of people who were "outraged" at this intrusion of their phones, But people didn't have to download it did they? I got a new HTC not that long ago and in my music there were various songs I didn't put there, I just deleted them, no big deal. But of course, the U2/Bono haters had to jump up and down about it.

Now I'm not into the corporate side of U2 that's developed over the last fifteen or so years, in fact I really dislike that side of them. I admired them when they were not into all that.  But, like it or not U2 is a business as well as a great band, that's the reality and this PR stunt really got them and Songs of Innocence into the headlines, something they probably needed as they had been absent from the scene for so long. I think in some ways it may have backfired a little as many people were talking more about the so-called phone intrusion rather than the actual music on the album. But that aside U2 were back in the spotlight.

So this surprise release got me all excited, and, once I'd figured out how to download it, I listened to it. And I listened again. For me it wasn't instantly an amazing album, but, for the first time in many years, here was a U2 album where the music surprised and excited me, it was not safe or predictable, it was, different, very different and had me both questioning and feeling a buzz inside which is always a good sign!

I quickly realised this was the album I'd wanted U2 to make for a very long time, it's an album about their own roots and influences in Ireland. They've explored other influences in their career but never the things that from their early pre-fame days formed them in who they are as people and a band. I've always felt that, besides their talent, two things make U2 special, the fact that they the best of friends and that they are Irish (or in the case of Adam and Edge grew up in Ireland) being Irish is a big part of what makes this band great. So for me it was only natural that they would one day explore that in their music.

The albums looks at both musical influences The Miracle of Joey Ramone (The Ramones) and This is Where You Can Reach Me Now (The Clash)  and more personal songs such as Iris about Bono's mother who died when he was 14, and Cedarwood Road, the street where Bono grew up, and the beautiful, melodic Song for Someone about Bono's childhood sweetheart Ali who he is still married to now. Iris especially is heart-breakingly personal and incredibly moving. I have always admired artists are able to open their heart and soul to the audience like this.

The lyrics (credited to both Bono and Edge) are some of the most honest and soul-baring I've seen from U2 and are some of the best written for many years. I've always been a fan for whom the lyrics are as important as the music and over the last few releases I felt that the lyrics were often lacking, but with this album they are up to the best U2 standard once more.

As a fan of 32 years, I feel Songs of Innocence is very much an album for longtime fans like myself. We are of a similar age, and really understand where the songs are coming from, many of us have lived through similar experiences. And we used to buy our U2 albums as 12 inch LPs, (as per SOI cover) no Internet or downloads then! There is a tour starting a a couple of months and these songs will change and develop as always on tour, so looking forward to hearing them live.

Finally, there is a rumoured follow-up album called Songs of Experience which will be a look at their experiences later in their career. To me, and many others, it feels like these two albums are a lead up to the end of U2. It's telling their story in music, and, to me, it would be a good way to say goodbye. The band are in their mid-50's now and you have to be realistic about how much longer they can go on. They will have been together for 40 years next year, and still producing good music, what an achievement - and it also would be a good time to bow out. But who knows!

Is Songs of Innocence a great U2 album on a par with The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby? I don't think so, but it is a great creative, honest piece of music from a band that still has something to say. It is also the album that brought me back into the U2 fold, even now U2 can surprise me!

Friday 7 November 2014

Songs of Innocence is Here!

Well there is a new U2 album out! In fact it's been out for two months and I still haven't got round to doing a review. I don't really know why, well yes, maybe I do know why. I love this album and its content took me by surprise, it's a step back to the early days of the band member's lives, or more specifically Bono's life. There are wonderful songs and the lyrics are back to some of the best ever written. It is a deep and very personal album.

The album is also a grower and that's another reason I haven't done a review yet. It has changed and developed over the weeks in my mind. Now I feel I'm almost at a point to do a review, so expect a post here soon!

Thursday 22 May 2014

Is the New Album Out Yet - No!

More long time no write. There was a little spurt in the New Year when it looked like the PR engine was revving up nicely, a (good) single, Invisible, was released, there were an appearances on TV and radio, even a performance at the Grammys. Then it all went quiet again and we heard the band was working with new producers etc. It all felt very deja vu, how often have we been here before?

So now the questions and answers are:

Is the new album out yet? No.
Is there a date for an album release? No.
Is there any reliable info about the situation? No.
Am I getting sick of all this? Yes.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Long Time No Write

I've  not updated this blog for a long time purely because U2 has been in hibernation from public view. There was a big bit of news recently though, the band's fifth member, manager Paul McGuinness, stepped down from managing the band and sold Principle Management to Live Nation. Guy Oseary takes over as manager. I can see why Paul, in his mid-60's now wants to step back.  It is a major change for a band that is a creature of habit, I'm not sure what it will mean for the future. It could mean that U2 gets revitalised, more in sync with its fans (it's a long time since they were!) and take some risks. Or, equally, it could be the beginning of the end if they band can't adapt to the changes.  Time will tell, but my feeling is that it will be the latter, the band seems to have lost it's fire and creativity over the last few years and I'm not sure they can retrieve that.

Meanwhile, fans are patiently waiting for the next album that has been the usual stop-go-stop-go palaver re release. It'll come - eventually.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

2011 Canada - Toronto, Memories, Heat and the Last 360 Show

11 July 2011

We had arrived in Toronto the previous day from Montreal. It felt very strange for me being there again. I had worked near Toronto as a mothers help for a year when I was young. And in the thirty years since then this was the first time I'd been back. Of course lots had changed since then, but there was still lots still there that I remembered too.  And at times I felt like I was that young girl for whom it was all such an adventure again, though also I did not really recognise her.

We felt refreshed and ready for anything when we got up on show day.  We decided to go to the nearby St Lawrence Market and have some breakfast there.  However, it was closed on Mondays so we found a Starbucks around the corner and had coffee and cake.  While we were sitting outside a man tied his gorgeous little dog beside us while he went in to buy something.  The dog was so sweet, chilled and loved a tickle.  When the man came out I asked him what type of dog it was and he said it was a Maltese cross and that she was a lovely dog, she was called Poops (hopefully a nickname!)  It was so sweet to see how much he loved his little dog and vice versa.  

At lunch time Debbi, Julie and I walked to the Radisson Harbourfront Hotel where we were meeting Dianne and her husband Dan (who had flown in for the show) for lunch.  It was nice to see Dan again, he's such a lovely man.  I had a delicious salad with goats cheese and strawberries, a perfect combination, just the thing in the hot weather.

We walked the short distance to the Rogers Centre which was beside the still elegant (after 35 years) CN Tower that dominates the city. We waited for the band's arrival, we only saw Bono smiling and waving from his car.  It was an extremely hot day, and Toronto was the hottest place in Canada  - at one point the mercury hit 33 degrees centigrade!  Add to that the humidity created by the Great Lakes and it was unbelievably hot, for me, an English rose from northern England that was very, very hot, I thought I'd melt, but somehow I survived it!

We didn't want to go into the stadium until the as late as possible so we ended up back at the Radisson and had something to eat outside on the patio overlooking Lake Ontario, there was a nice breeze coming off the lake so it was pleasant there. Even with the heat I was loving Toronto, it's such a handsome city, fabulous location, lovely vistas, great new and old architecture, for me it beats Montreal any day.

Then it was off back to the Rogers Centre.  It was all well organised, no Fan Jams, easy to find seats, toilets, food etc, in other words, how it should be!  We had cheaper seated tickets this time so were quite high up, but each row of seats had a metal bar in front of them so it felt safe and helped my vertigo!  The stadium was round rather than rectangular and very high,earlier in the day the retractable roof (it was the first in the world) was closed as a storm had been forecast, but it was now open as the storm hit further south.  This was one of the few stadiums the Claw didn't peek out of.  Opposite us stood the CN Tower soaring into the sky.  It was still very hot and humid and sweat stood on my brow the entire evening.

U2 started at the usual time and we were up out of our seats and bopping away only to realise most of the people around us had their arses firmly planted on their seats!  Though a U2 audience is always very mixed age-wise around us it was mainly young people and I just could not believe they were so boring!  As the seats were so steep we didn't block people's view so we just stayed stood up.  Even in the pit around the Claw people seemed not that into it.  Bono worked really hard to get the crowd going and they did improve but were not a patch on the two Montreal crowds. 

For the Toronto band intros Bono apologised for the year's delay caused by his back injury last year referred to the changes in the members during the tour. Adam "became a father for the first time." Larry was in a movie with Donald Sutherland; and Edge wanted to write a musical about a "superhero? scientist?  - being bitten by a spider and becoming a nerd." He rambled on, "Who can fathom the workings of this man's mind? A genius on guitars and everything else... very good at train sets."  To which Edge mumbled something about modesty LOL! 

During City of Blinding Lights Bono got a boy up on stage and walked an entire circuit of the walkway with him, the lad imitating Bono's stance etc. prompting him to say, "you're not a shy boy are you?"

All through the show the Claw had a rival unique to Toronto for special effects - the lights of the CN Tower.  Lights of varying colours pulsed and rippled around and up and down the tower, often in time to the music, it looked great!  The lighting on the CN tour is controlled by a computer we heard later.

At one point Bono said he had "breaking news" and the stadium became amazingly quiet and he continued to say that over the last two years two million more Africans had been saved from AIDs-related illness in the last two years.

A one point Bono was on one of the bridges and someone threw a Canadian flag at him.  He picked it up and put it in a back pocket of his trousers, "Canada shining out of my backside" he laughed.  He briefly mentioned the moon, saying we couldn't see it, but that it was, "smiling down on us."  Strangely Bono didn't mention the tower, maybe he couldn't see it from the stage.

The set was the same as the first night in Montreal, I was hoping for Bad but it wasn't to be.  It was a good show, but not a great show.  I think part of that for me was due to the lacklustre crowd around us, don't know why they pay good money to sit in their seats for a rock concert! 

It was also my last 360 Tour show and I felt a bit sad as I watched the band leave the stage.  360 had been a part of my summer for the last three years and it was now finally over for me.  Lots of travel, fun, highs and lows, sun, rain, wind, magic U2 moments, good friends - what wonderful times we have on these escapades.  Now I'll have to start saving for the next tour!

2011 Canada - Montreal 2 Magic Moments

9th July 2011

Edge in Montreal
Due to our very late night last night we had a lie in today.  After breakfast Debbi and I went into the city centre and met up with Michelle.  We saw Edge leave for the stadium, he signed autographs and chatted, as lovely as he always is.  I think he's taken over form Larry as the most youthful looking band member nowadays.Michelle shouted out "Play Out of Control tonight" I was amazed quietly spoken Michelle could shout like that LOL!   

We didn't have time to go back to the apartment before we needed to head for the stadium ourselves so we decided to have something to eat in Chinatown which wasn't far form where we were.  We found a place called The Jasmine Garden that did a buffet meal for $14.95, sounded perfect for us.  It was very nice, so much to choose from, some was unlabelled so some of it was a surprise, I nearly put a chicken foot on my plate but realised what it was in time!

We went back to the Metro and got the train to Namur ready for our second gig.  It had been another hot day but as we arrived quite late the worst of the heat was gone.  We walked to the stadium only to be stuck in another Fan Jam of people this time trying to get through the entry points!  I couldn't believe it, there was an ocean of people inching it's way forward. It took an hour to get to gain entry and by now Interpol were nearing the end of their set, not that I minded missing them.  We all really needed the spend a penny so we joined yet another long queue for the portaloos.  As we got nearer we had a laugh with the people around us, saying we could only have five seconds in the loo, but then we decided fifteen was a little better!  I could hear people counting out loud when I was inside!  

U2's Claw Stage in Montreal
Deb and I parted company with Michelle as she was sitting in another block of seats.  We gingerly made our way up the steps of the temporary stands which were held up by thousands of scaffold poles, it didn't look as if it could hold all theses people!  

We met Dianne and Julie at our seats, they too had be stuck in the Fan Jam and hadn't been in their seats very long.  It wasn't long until U2 came on, and the crowd was even more receptive than the previous night, they went crazy, it created a fabulous atmosphere.  This gig was being broadcast live on and Bono explained that because of that he would be mostly speaking in English - 

"This has one extra benefit,' he added, 'you don't have to listen to me mangle your beautiful language. "  LOL!

The first few songs were from Achtung Baby once more and the crowd sang along and jumped up and down (no one sat of course). The structure holding the seats rocked and rolled too, it swayed to and fro, side to side and up and down, we were constantly re-balancing ourselves until we learned to rock n roll with it lol!

The first surprise of the gig was Out of Control - Michelle would be one happy woman, maybe Edge did hear her!  It rocked and didn't sound over 30 years old.  During Get On Your Boots Bono got a guy wearing turban up on stage to sing with him and boy was he into it and knew every word!

This was followed by a full version of All I Want Is You, such a treat.  They had tweaked it a little, especially at the end, which included a bit of harmonica from Bono. Beautiful.  This was followed by another welcome surprise, Stuck in a Moment.

Prior to his band intro Bono said.
"We've taken our space station around the world, we're nearly home, we're going to have to find something else to do.  When we were kids joining U2 was like running away with the circus, maybe we need to find another circus...'

Just get down to recording another album lads!  Montreal is the home of the world famous Cirque du Soleil so Bono's intro continued the circus theme.

" Larry is a 'fire-eater, a sword-swallower, the world's strongest man." Adam? 'The bearded lady...' Edge? "Trapeze artist, high-wire act..."  

"Knife thrower," added Edge, pretending to aim at Bono.

"Thanks very much," said Bono, throwing a look at Edge, before adding, "And I will play the clown."

Again Zooropa was a highlight for me.  From our position we had a perfect view of the claw (something you don't appreciate as much when you are closer on the field).  Lights shone out through the Claw into the crowd as the static flickered, and vague words ran across the screen.  It was stunningly effective and went perfectly with the song, just as the undulating reds had when they did The Unforgettable Fire in the early legs of the tour.

During Elevation Bono got a young boy out of the crowd and carried him onto one of the bridges as he sang.  He asked the boy his name first in English, then in French he replied Paco.

During the encore Bono sang a spine-tinglingly beautiful snippet of Hallelujah which segued into Where the Streets Have No Name and the whole stadium went crazy, and I was hoping the structure holding us up would be able to cope with all these people jumping up and down!

Ultraviolet had been changed slightly and we all liked this version.  I love how many U2 songs develop over the years and something new is found within them.  With Or Without You had "Shining like stars in the summer night......" ending, the one soooo many fans love so popular it was trending on Twitter!) and it's been a long time since Bono had used it.  It was so appropriate for this night too, it was one of those magical intimate U2 moments, when the huge stadium felt like a small club.  Wonderful, touching and why I love this band so much.

I read the following in a review and I thought I'd add it in here as it conveys something of what that is all about so well:
"I’ll remember helping to hold up the metal posts of the media tent as the rain blew horizontal Friday night. But perhaps the most enduring memory I’ll take from this weekend comes from the first night, when I turned to my left and saw the girl next to me had two perfect tear streams coursing down her face during With Or Without You. Going in, I’d thought the song should have long since been retired from the live show. Perhaps I was wrong. Connection, intimacy. You just have to pull focus back from the Spidercrab immensity of the stage. Which may be exactly what U2 intended. Build it up to the sky, work that much harder to reach back down and in." (Mark Lepage , Montreal Gazette)

The show finished with Moment of Surrender at the end of which Bono shouted out.
"Vive la difference, vie le Quebec."  Which went down very well with the audience.

This was one of those exceptional gigs, the band was on fire and the audience was amazing.  We felt elated afterwards and for a while didn't talk, each taking in what we'd witnessed. Eventually we returned to the reality of the trial of getting back to our apartment.  We decided to hang back a little to see if the Metro would be less clogged up.  We could see the huge mass of people flowing out as we sat in our seats as long as we could before we were asked to leave.  We then sat on the grass outside for a while until the crowd grew thinner before heading to the Metro station.  And it was nowhere near as bad as the previous night, it maybe took us ten minutes or so to get into the station and soon we were on the train home.

We were home a lot sooner and that night we had McDonalds for our post-U2 supper and only a little wine and were in bed by 3.30am as we had a five hour train journey to Toronto the next day so were sensible for a change.

2011 Canada - Montreal 1, Scintillating Show and Super Storm

Sorry for the long gap in posting on the blog, time flies. I'm going to finish writing up about the last few shows I saw in Canada on the 360 tour over the next few days.

July 8 2011

So for us the everlasting 360 tour rolled into its third summer, and for this leg we decided to see three shows in Canada and combine it with a holiday. That's how Deb, Dianne, Julie and I ended up in in a lovely apartment in the Rue St Andre in the Petite-Patrie area of Montreal for five days.  We toured the city and had some lovely meals in local restaurants and did a bit of shopping. I vaguely remembered some things from many, many years previously when I had gone on holiday with the family from Ontario that I worked and lived with for a year when I was a young girl.

We had standing tickets for the U2 360 gig today and Debbi and Julie left early to get a good position in the pit area.  Dianne and I couldn't be bothered to stand in the heat for so long and left a few hours later.  Luckily our Metro Stop, Beaubien, was on the orange line which went directly to the venue so it was a simple trip.

The Hippodrome, was just a ten minute walk from the Metro, used to be a racing track but it was demolished a couple of years ago and it was just open ground.  A special stadium was built just for the two U2 concerts.  The seats looked a bit scary, open, high and supported by thousands of  metal poles. The signage was abysmal, little to tell you which was to go and once inside nothing pointing to toilets, concessions or merchandise. There was also a distinct lack of security staff organising things.  There were lots of pointy tents that reminded me of Glastonbury and a music event called the Fan Jam going on.

Dianne and I found a really good place on the outer rail of the red zone on Adam's side of the stage.  We could see the catwalk and the main stage and the screens from there so it worked out well. It was still very hot and I was really glad I'd bought the pink floral hat lol!  It didn't do much for me but it kept my head cool. There was a good concert vibe around.

The support band was Interpol and they were as boring for me as they were years ago when they supported U2 in Glasgow on some tour (can't remember which.)

U2 took the stage at 9.15pm to the strains of Space Oddity by David Bowie and launched into the Achtung Baby songs that they opened with at Glastonbury - I was hoping for this.  It took me back to those glorious, heady Zoo days when we were even madder than we are now lol!  Great songs and an amazing vibe in the crowd.

Bono was in one of his funny moods evident when he did the band introductions after a quip, "I need another two minutes" as he tried to catch his breath.  He introduced Larry as Bonnie Prince William (a nod to the recent tour of Canada by William and Catherine).  Adam was Kate Winslet, not sure why!  Edge was "Our own Prince of Wales" and he referred to himself as a, "Chien royal" which the French speaking crowd received with bemusement, "Corgis, you know, royal dogs?" The crowd didn't get it, not the best place for that kind of joke Bono, but we found it hilarious!  He talked a lot in what sounded like a poor French and the translation in English of his words that appeared on the screens was very amusing, it seemed like another language at times.

I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking for was magical, with the crowd singing a verse themselves, all the more amazing seeing it wasn't their mother tongue.  A snippet of Springsteen's Promised Land was added at the end.

Poster in Montreal
Beautiful Day had an intro by astronaut Mark Kelly in a recorded piece from the International Space Station, where he let cards with the words on float off in the gravity free environment.  The song was dedicated to Gabby Gifford, Kelly's wife, who was shot and seriously wounded at a political meeting in Arizona a few months ago.  Everyone rocked and sang along, it was certainly a beautiful night!

My favourite section of the show began with Miss Sarajevo.  The operatic part was very emotional and Bono hit all the notes perfectly, it still amazes me that he can sing like that!  Beautiful.  Next up was Zooropa which I'd been waiting for not having seen it played live since 1993.  The Claw screen stretched down until it was right on the stage with the band behind it, and like that they played the song.  It was a brave thing to do as the song is one many of the audience wouldn't know and the band was out of sight, but it was fabulous!  What a brilliant off the wall song it is and i loved the version they played as static and blue light played over the Claw screens.  What a treat!

The Claw during City of Blinding Lights was beautifully coloured.  Vertigo rocked and I like when the screen whizzes round at high speed at the end of the song. 

Good also to hear a little of Scarlet prior to Walk On which had the One/Amnesty International supporters coming onto the catwalk with white lanterns.  Bono acknowledged Aung San Suu Kyi's release but said he was singing the song for the other 2000+ political prisoners in Burma.

It was the usual encore, with a very powerful and emotional With Or Without You that had me transfixed.  I've tired of songs such as Pride and Sunday Bloody Sunday which are played at almost every gig, but With Or Without You is played as much yet I love it every time. 

The band closed with Moment of Surrender, and I still think it does not work well as an ending.  There was such a fantastic vibe at the end of With Or Without You, that should have been the point to end.
As Moment of Surrender was finishing raindrops started falling (a storm had been predicted) and Bono started singing The Beatle's Rain.  Then, suddenly, it was as if a dam had broken and a monsoon like rain fell, followed by a swirling, gale force wind came equally out of the blue.  Talk of timing, right at the end of the show the heavens opened.  I glanced up at the screen to see the band disappearing down the steps, a big smile on his face, it was ok for them!!
Dianne first put her umbrella up, it blew out one way, then the other way, no way could it cope with the wind.  We had our ponchos with us but getting them on was another matter, the wind kept whipping mine off, I couldn't find where to get my head and arms through as it flapped in the wind.  Then I got hysterical with laughter underneath the blue plastic, already well soaked.  It took ages but in the end managed to help each other into our ponchos still giddy with laughter.  All around us people were scattering, laughing, yelling, struggling with various items of rainwear, it was hilarious.

There was a sea of fans as far as the eye could see, we had arranged to meet up with Debbi and Julie , but in this mass of people being buffeted by wind and rain we knew we would never find them.  I could hear my mobile text alert going but couldn't take out the phone because it was so wet.  We peeped in a tent, it was crammed full of people sardine style and it was lovely and warm and dry!  We squeezed in and I read the text which was from Deb, we agreed to make our own way home. 

Then we braved the elements again, it was no better, huge puddles and mini rivers forming.  It was hard to know which was to go to the Namur Metro station as there were no signs, no security to guide us and neither of us could see well because our glasses were waterlogged!  Wide masses of people stretched off in four different directions so we just  took pot luck and went with the nearest one.  About half way to the Metro station the crowd of people came to a halt and for the next one and a half hours we moved forward a step at a time.  It was truly a Fan Jam!  It was still raining and thunder rumbled above.  Being in the midst of a sea of people I didn't feel the wind anymore.  It was now quite cold but the plastic ponchos helped keep us a bit warm, others were not so lucky and some and literally shivering with the cold.  It was total chaos, I've been to many, many big concerts like this over the years and have never experienced such badly organised security outside a venue.

When we finally got into the station I felt like getting on my knees and kissing the ground!  The Metro staff were well organised, people telling you where to go and which carriage to get in.  We sank into our seats with a sigh of relief, good to get off our feet after all the standing and it was lovely and warm in there too.

When we got off at Beaubien the rain and wind had stopped, it was 1.45am when we got to our apartment, Debbi and Julie arrived five minutes after us looking as bedraggled and wet as us!  We have a tradition of having champagne, pizza and a U2 quiz after the last gig we see.  It was a bit different this time, we had two gigs to go but, for various reasons we were having our celebration that night. 

Due to the ridiculous price of the Veuve Clicquot in Montreal ($68!!!) we had good prosecco instead and it was delicious!  Dianne won the quiz and we were up until 5am, we can still hack it as rock chicks LOL!

A little clip of the last moments of the gig below, gives a little impression of the rain and wind (By Cara)

Tuesday 12 June 2012

2010 Germany - Hannover, The Aliens Have Landed

All photos in this post are (c) Christine Moeller.  Thanks again Chris for letting me use them.

August 12th 2010

We treated ourselves to a taxi to get to the stadium, it actually turned out to be cheaper than if we had gone on the train and it was so much easier.

We waited where we thought the band would enter the stadium once more.  Again they arrived with a police escort, this time with sirens blasting!  I counted the luxury car convoy and got 14, but I'm sure I missed a few as I was also trying to see through the blacked out windows.  So no meetings again, during the 360 Tour U2 have definitely been
more distant which is a shame, but then again a meeting is a bonus, they don't have to meet and greet fans.

We had good seats 11 rows up the lower tier on Edge's side (we always seem to end up on his side).  We got talking to a girl who was sitting beside us, she had come by herself from Berlin and this was her first U2 concert.

They opened the same way with Stingray and Bono doing a circuit of the catwalk doing his funny, clumsy "dance".  I just love it, such fun!  Still don't know what Bono shouts out every now and then, but he did finish with, "Achtung baby!" though. 

The show followed the same set as Frankfurt, but the atmosphere was very up, Bono was in one of his jokey, fun moods.  At one point he started talking in an alien-like voice saying that they come from a "Little green planet called Ireland".  Then went on saying they had crash landed their space ship and needed to be re-built by German doctors and nurses.  He kept laughing and saying sorry but he couldn't stop himself, still speaking in alien tones he told us one of the nurses was at the concert and it was her who stamped made in Germany on his arse.  He introduced Edge as R2D2, Adam as Princess Leia and Larry as Darth Vader.  I've never seen Larry laugh so much as when he heard that!  Bono introduced himself as "The big hairy one".  It was just so funny, I've never laughed so much at a U2 concert.  Some of the general concert goers there must have thought what a strange accent he has!  Maybe he's on too many painkillers?? 

Glastonbury seemed more defined and it was easier to hear the lyrics as the sound was clearer than at Frankfurt.  The ending to me sounded rather Vertigo-like.  "It's getting better," Bono said, "You don't mind us experimenting on you?" By now he'd dropped the alien accent .  The song didn't get as good a reception here as it had in Frankfurt.

The original video to The Unforgettable Fire was there again I was pleased to see, it just works so well.  What an amazing song that is and the band were just very young men when they created it.  Bono said something in German before the song, and even to me it sounded
terrible - my German friends confirmed that Bono's German is lousy
and they found it very hard to understand.

At the end of City of Blinding Lights Bono got a girl out of the audience and they walked, arms around each other, along the catwalk.   He took so long about it that he was late getting ready for Vertigo!  The band kept repeating the opening music and eventually Bono got in place saying, "Sorry, I was just giving her Spanish lessons  -  uno, dos, tres, catorce!"  This is the first 360 show that I have been at wher he hs got someone out of the audience.  I'd missed that because for me and most fans it is part of a U2 show, when Bono gets someone on stage we all feel like we are up there.

Crazy was more "evil" in Hannover, I think that was what I was missing in Frankfurt, the menace and rawness and that was there tonight.  Loved him yelling out "RRRRRRRiot!"

We had bought cheap binoculars at the stadium and they were great.  Now I can't remember the song but there's a point where Bono is on the bridge on our side and turns to walk back to the stage, well in complete unison Debbi and I raised our binoculars to view a tasty back view of Bono.  We looked at each other and laughed out loud!  Great minds.

Streets was a uplifting as ever it's always mind-blowing to look round the crowd when this song is being performed, so many people singing, clapping, dancing in unison, it's certainly a special tune.  At the end of the song when they were preparing to leave the stage before the encore, Edge playfully threw a punch at Bono, who jumped back and laughed.

After the encore Bono mentioned that Paul McGuinness was born in Hannover "About 125 years ago."  He then went on to lead the audience in a rendition of Happy Birthday  for the band's "Friend and mentor" Wim Wenders who was going to turn 55 in a couple of days.

Then Bono continued, "I would like" we could tell that he was distracted by something, he continued, "Just fix that speaker."  He then gave the speaker three hefty kicks before saying, "There it is!" with some satisfaction.

He then went on to dedicate Moment of Surrender to Robert Enke, a Hannover footballer who committed suicide last year.  The lights went onto Larry, he stood up and was wearing the local football team's jersey, this really seemed to strike a chord with the crowd and I actually found the song very moving that night. 

So that marked the end of 360 2010 for my friends and me. The girl from Berlin was radiant, smiling from ear to ear, she'd loved her first U2 concert.  I thought I'd be feeling sad that it was all over, but it had been such a fun, uplifting concert that we all left feeling animated and happy!

Frankfurt and Hannover had exactly the same set lists yet the shows felt very different.  The crowd were more receptive and enthusiastic in Frankfurt.  Bono was more ebullient and downright funny in Hannover and his mood transferred onto the crowd it was a real party gig.

During the Frankfurt gig I kept thinking Bono's even smaller than usual and couldn't work out why he looked different.  Then at Hannover I noticed that he had relatively normal shoes on, quite high heels, but fairly normal soles.  Maybe he had to wear those very thick soled shoes for his back problems rather than vanity.

Bono seemed back to his old self fitness wise, though Deb and I both noticed that once he winced and froze for a second when he was taking a big step up.  He also didn't run at all or get his leg over the bridge as he used to do.  He must have worked very hard to get well enough to do the tour, bless him.

We got the train back to the centre of Hannover and once back at our hotel opened the wine and nibbles and chatted about the gig.  We had our now traditional after the last show U2 quiz, it was close but Julie won.  It took us ages to come back down too earth after the gig and it was getting light by time we went to bed!

Now we are already tentatively planning our next leg of  U2 360, 2011 in Canada.  I think that we will see a very different show next year (but I hope Bono keep wearing those trousers!)

Friday 1 June 2012

More Soon

It's a while since I've updated my blog, life's been busy!  Just wanted to pop in to say I'm still around and will be updating very soon, watch this space!

Thursday 9 February 2012

2010 August - Frankfurt, He's Back and it's Showtime!

All photos in this post are (c) Christine Moeller.  Thanks Chris or letting me use some of your amazing photos!

10th August

Show day, we were all excited and headed off to the stadium in the afternoon.  The Commerzbank Arena is situated beside a forest and you have to walk through it to get to the stadium, it really is a lovely setting. We waited for the band to arrive, it was a very hot day but luckily where we were in the shade of the forest and even had log seats to rest on.  We got talking to other fans which helped pass the time.  One of the security people told one of the German fans that U2 would arrive at the airport at 4.30pm and then come to the stadium.  That seemed to be true as at around 5.40pm security was increased, we were told to stay where we were and if Bono wound down the car window we could go across.  A convoy of cars headed by two police outriders arrived, and sped into the stadium.  I've never seen U2 arrive in such a convoy, it was impossible to see into the cars and no one wound down a window and anyway it would have been difficult to stop a the convoy would have been backed up the road. Of course it was too soon to have a band sound check which was a shame, I always enjoy listening to them.  Ahh well, c'est la vie!
We went into the stadium and had something to eat sitting in the lovely sunshine.  We went to our seats, great ones at the front on a small tier inbetween the upper and power tiers on Edge's side.  Kasabian were the support, they were ok.

The Claw and stage all looked the same to me, though I've heard some people saying they thought the catwalk was smaller.  It must have been difficult to erect as there was a kind of capsule suspended high up in the middle of the stadium which was held in place by horizontal cables.  One of the Claw legs was very close to the capsule and the "spike" had to be placed between the cables, it must have been a logistic nightmare, no wonder it was already nearly built on the Saturday that we arrived in Frankfurt.

I'm not going to review the concert song by song, I'll just write about aspects of it that stood out for me.

As before, Space Oddity opened the gig, but the band's entry was different, they all walked on together from behind the stage and then went straight into Return of the Stingray Guitar (typical long-winded U2 song title LOL!)  I really liked the tune, which was mainly instrumental.  Bono was doing a circuit of the catwalk during it, throwing funny Zoo-like poses.  It was humourous and yet also very touching as it was almost like Bono was showing us he was all better after his operation and we, the audience, were celebrating that with him and sending him our love.  It felt very powerful and I felt very emotional myself, we nearly lost him as a performer and I was so glad to see Bono cavorting around the catwalk in his own clumsy, inimitable way .

The next song was Beautiful Day, followed by a generally very "up" rockin' set.  I really missed No Line on the Horizon, don't know why they dropped it, it was well received live last year.  I had purposely not listened to Glastonbury on the Net so this was my first experience of it, and boy did I like it, a real rocker!  I'm so glad U2 were brave enough to play new music live, it was a new U2 experience for me and a very good one.  It was very well received by the crowd too.

Bono thanked the German doctors and nurses who treated him recently and said he now had "Made in Germany" stamped on his arse!  He likened U2 to German cars, Edge was a Mercedes Benz, Adam a BMW and Larry a Trabant.

Miss Sarajevo was brilliant, I am still stunned by how Bono can sing opera like that!  The audience clapped and cheered as he gave everything he had,  a spine tingling moment.

The video for The Unforgettable Fire had been changed.  It was more colourful and very pretty, but it didn't have the same link with the music.  The Crazy remix seemed a bit different, the chorus was more upfront, it seemed more refined, and though I liked it, I preferred last year's rawer version.

Walk On and the masks are gone!  Yay!  Instead the people carried lanterns with the Amnesty International symbol on the front to highlight their Free Burma Campaign.  In my opinion this worked well and it touched me much more than the creepy masks.

Hold Me, Touch Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me replaced Ultraviolet in the encore.  The steering wheel was now lit up in red, which was much better.  Now I'd been disappointed to hear Ultraviolet had been dropped, but I loved HMTMKMKM!   It was performed in a very theatrical way, Bono looked menacing, the red of the steering wheel reflected in his glasses added to the overall effect. I'd forgotten that I really liked this song live much more than on CD.  Loved when Bono sat on the wheel and swung on it, he'll be on a trapeze next!

With Or Without You was simply stunning.  The show finished, as last year, with Moment of Surrender, (dedicated to those who lot their lives in the terrible crush at the recent Love Parade in Germany) and I still feel it doesn't work well as a closing song.  I felt that night if the show had finished with With or Without You it would have been perfect.

General comments - Frankfurt had a great audience, very responsive, there were times when the whole field and much of the stands was leaping about, wonderful atmosphere.  There were a couple of minor technical hitches and the sound wasn't the best I've heard.  And finally, I must say that those tight leather trousers of Bono's make me glad that I'm a woman and can appreciate how they cling to his delightful arse, thighs and other bits, fabulous!

Friday 23 September 2011

2010 June - U2 360 at the Rose Bowl DVD Review

I had pre-ordered the Deluxe version of the 360 at the Rose Bowl DVD and was surprised to see it pop through my letter box yesterday!  So last night I sat down with a glass of red wine and watched disc one.  I was a bit worried what I would think about it as I had not been that impressed by the hour long highlights shown on Sky TV earlier in the week.  I haven't mentioned every song and my review is my initial impressions, I haven't sat and thought about it, it's just the impressions and feelings I got while watching.

Get On Your Boots starts the show,  I realise that I really don't like this song very much now, it seems kind of clumsy.  Magnificent was next - this is a song that definitely should start the show, it's perfect for that.  The audience was a bit subdued to say the least and Bono worked hard to motivate them and shouted, "Get off your fat asses."  LOL! 

Beautiful Day was well received and Bono added at bit of God's Country at the end which was a nice touch.  Again Bono worked hard to get the audience going in Mysterious Ways.  He introduced the band, Larry was U2's James Dean, Adam, Rhett Butler - "Suave, sophisticated, frequently gone with the wind", a reference to Adam's problem with wind .  Edge was a "Visitor from outer space" who boldly goes where no other guitar player goes, "Mr Spock to us, the Edge to you."  He described himself as a mixture between Arnie Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, which besides the lack of height I didn't really get.

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For was a special moment, as often happens the audience took over the singing, I think that was the point the crowd finally got into the concert.  I got that warm, fuzzy feeling I often get a U2 concerts when something special is happening that is beyond the music.  Why does this song affect people so?  I think it's because it touches a nerve deep within, across all borders, we are all searching for something, we are all striving, so can relate to this song. 

Bono called out "Buzz Aldrin's in the house, the second man to walk on the moon."  2009 was the 40th anniversary of the first men on the moon. 

Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of  was lovely, a quiet acoustic version - there was a funny interchange between Bono and Edge at the beginning.

Next was No Line on the Horizon  and seeing this confirmed it is definitely my favourite song from the last album.  energetic, a bit raw round the edges, I love when Bono just blasts out a song like that.  Love the bit where the band come crashing in again at "Traffic cop...." fab.

Elevation was another the audience liked, but it is not one of my favourite U2 songs.  Liked the bit Bono put on the end,  females fans will enjoy it LOL!

I really enjoyed In a Little While though it is not a favourite song of mine.  There were views of the earth from space and the International Space Station on the claw screens which worked really well with the song.  At the end Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne recited some lines of the song, which again was very appropriate with lyrics such as "A man takes a rocket ship into the skies."  Nice.

The Unforgettable Fire was wonderful. The claw lit up beautifully, complimenting the music well.  Once more I marvelled at the talent of such young men in the early 1980's writing such a fabulous, complicated and mature song,  Bono mentioned Stephen Gateley, who had recently died, as "A beautiful spirit, a bright shining spark."

There were some great aerial shots of the claw and stadium during City of Blinding Lights,  again it worked really well with the song. 

Vertigo rocked, the screen "spinning" manically at the end.  Crazy (I can't bothered to write out the full title of the song, it's too long!) came across well, the sound cranked up on my headphones was much better than on the TV programme the other day.  I still love this version of the song, in fact I like it better than the album version.  Bono gave some clapping lessons - and said they had a "Cuban beat going."

One was another of those moments, it's a song that brings people together, performed wonderfully, throughout the concert I thought Bono's voice was excellent.

Streets was dramatic, the stadium was lit up and all you could see was a mass of people having  ball.  One camera shot was from behind the band members who had gathered together- Bono standing astride two monitors - it gave the viewer an idea of what it was like for the band to look out over that sea of people, amazing.

Ultraviolet was slightly different to the European version, the screen intro differed, though it was still orange, no poem, just the Zoo baby speaking.  The "steering wheel" was illuminated with red lights with a white light at the centre that shone onto Bono's face.  I found that much better, as sometimes UV was too dark at shows I saw last year.  His laser suit sent of beams of red light for ages, he must have been plugged in for along time! 

With or Without You, what can I say?  Arguably the best song U2 have ever written, again at a very young age. The steering wheel was now lit up blue. I love how Bono works with this song, he always seems to bring something new to it.  At the end he took off his "suit of lights" (fame?) put it on a clothes hanger and hung it from the wheel and it was lifted up and disappeared into the claw.

The closing song was Moment of Surrender.  I still feel this song is not a good finale to a show.  I know U2 nearly always have a lowkey ending to their gigs, but they are also uplifting.  I find Moment of Surrender quite depressing, almost dirge-like and not the best way to end a show.

All in all I enjoyed the DVD, the band played and sang well and seemed to be enjoying themselves.  The sound was good via my headphones.  The whole show flowed well and there was some good use of the claw to compliment the songs.  It brought back great memories for me of the shows I saw last year, I found I often had that smile on my face that I get when watching U2.  I haven't watched the other disc yet, I hope to do that soon.

I must admit I was also very aware of Bono and what he does physically in a show, and I will be very surprised if he will be recovered enough to be able to do the European leg of this year's tour.  He has to heal, stregthen his muscles, then get fit for a tour, I doubt it can be done.  Though I suppose it might be possible to move the dates back a few weeks.  I might be wrong, I hope I am, but I wouldn't want Bono to injure himself further for the sake of a tour.

Over the past few months my relationship with U2 has been a bit strained at times for various reasons.  But I think the rocky patch is passing.  I was surprised by how concerned I was by Bono's health problems, it was almost like a friend was unwell. And watching the DVD made me realise how good U2 are at their job too.  All they have to do now is bring out a special album, and the present circumstances give them a good opportunity to do just that.