Sunday, 14 September 2008

1997 August - Popmart Dublin, A Sort of Homecoming and Aching Feet!

August 29th saw Dianne, Jane, Julie, Sharon and I on a plane headed from Leeds to Dublin. It was great to be on my way back to my favourite city. Sharon and Julie hadn't been there before so we gave them a quick tour of the U2 places - Dockers, Principle Management, Hanover Quay - before heading to our accommodation in Dun Laoghaire. Unfortunately we hadn't been able to stay at Ken and Elizabeth's because the house was already booked, but we stayed at a really nice B & B just around the corner.

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

1997 August - Popmart, Leeds Magic and Mud

August 28th saw me in Leeds once more, I'd stayed overnight at Jane's, Dianne was already there. On our way to the venue we picked up Julie at a nearby hotel. I had known Julie since 1990, she got my fanzine and every few weeks would give me a call. She had asked if she could join us for this show, and so, this was the first time we had actually met. She is a quiet person, but very kind and caring and we are still good friends.

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

1997 August - Popmart Wembley Two

I woke up feeling rotten, that terrible pain of a migraine along with regular vomiting. I had felt unwell on the way back to the hotel from the concert the previous night, I now knew why. All I wanted was quietness, darkness and my bed. I told the others I wouldn't been going to the concert as I wasn't well enough (Jane later said that it was only then that she appreciated how bad a migraine must be if I would miss a U2 concert because of one!). the girls said they would sit in the same area and keep a seat for me if I decided to come later.

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!