After hours and hours of travelling we arrived in a very warm and sunny Rotterdam and we sat near the Feyenoord Stadium and enjoyed the good weather for a while. We saw all the band arrive. There were lots of fans around and Bono got out a long way from us to do a short meet and greet before getting back in the car. He was waving out of the car and enthusiastically blowing kisses as he passed us, he is such a sweetheart at times!
We listened to the soundcheck as we lay in the sun, it sounded fantastic and our excitement mounted. Eventually the gates opened and we had to climb loads of steps to get to our seats. They weren't very good, right at the top of the stadium, but at least we were near the front of that level. It was cooler up there too which was good, i easily wilt in heat
The stage was huge, there were three massive screens, four smaller ones and lots of TVs and many tall masts. Just before the support band came on the weather suddenly changed and a storm swept in with a vengeance! It suddenly got cold, fork and sheet lightning flashed all around us and then monsoon-like rain fell. And boy how it fell, everyone rushed from their seats and sheltered in the corridors and stairwells until it stopped.
We ventured back to our seat and the support band, The Utah Saints, came on, I didn't enjoy their set at all and was glad when they were finished! Then it was just a matter of waiting for U2 to come on. After what seemed like an eternity lights on the tall masts starting coming on and blinking, the screens and TVs started flickering and images appeared on then, Beethoven's 9th Symphony boomed out across the stadium - here goes Zooropa!
Eventually Bono's silhouette appeared on one of the screens, twitching and kicking out in time to the opening industrial burst of Zoo Station and then the man himself rose up on a platform and the whole band appeared and went straight into the full song, Even Better Than the Real Thing followed. I must admit the first two songs were a bit ragged, Bono struggled with his voice, but he soon got going and his voice just seemed to get better and better as the show went on. the audience was very enthusiastic and jumping up and down - this caused the tier we were on to actually move which was a bit disconcerting!
The highlight for me was the very first appearance of another of Bono's alter ego, Mr MacPhisto. He appeared at the first encore, and almost just as he appeared the storm returned worse than ever. So there was Mr MacPhisto, dressed in a sparkling gold suit, wearing huge platform shoes, white face, and wearing red horns on his head being introduced to the audience whilst all around fork lightning was flashing and thunder rumbling. Quite an entry for the old devil!
Mac Phisto was a wonderful character, sleazy, pompous, funny, sad, a bit mad, all at the same time. Bono played the part brilliantly, he just seemed to be this washed out old man, his whole persona was different. MacPhisto intoned through Desire and then after that song talked to the crowd. He used a posh British accent for MacPhisto and talked slowly and deliberately, it fitted the character perfectly. He talked about the Eurovision Song Contest and recited the inane lyrics of the 1972 Dutch winner of the contest Ding a Dong as if he was reciting Shakespeare, it was hilarious.
Then he showed of his huge platform shoes saying, "Look what you've done to me, I used to be five feet eight and now look at me, I'm gigantic," waving a leg in the air to show off the shoes. Then the band went into Ultraviolet followed by With or Without You. There was a kind of pathos about them and in With or Without You Bono sang into the camera and smeared the white make up on his face and gradually became himself again, very, very moving, like he was removing the mask of the character and bearing his own soul to us. Wonderful.
Then that was it, the end of our first Zooropa show. We tumbled out of the stadium amongst the thousands, and tramped through the mud in the cold night to our bus. But the crush of people, mud and cold didn't matter, we were still high on the adrenalin from the gig and the journey home seemed to fly by!