Monday, 27 October 2008

2000 October - All That You Can't Leave Behind

This album was released on 30th October. I wrote down my honest first impressions song by song, so here goes!

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

2000 March - U2 Being Given the Freedom of Dublin

When we first heard about U2 being granted the Freedom of the City of Dublin we thought it would be brilliant if we could go to see them receive the honour. The only problem was getting the tickets! They were free but you could only get them in Dublin. Our friend Declan managed to get some for us, but we were still two short for Julie and Sharon. Then our friend Elizabeth told us about an offer at a restaurant – have a meal there and get tickets, so Julie and Sharon were booked in for a meal there - we were all set!

The ceremony was at Smithfield Civic Plaza, an area just north of the River Liffey. The Plaza had just been renovated; it was a large cobbled rectangle with twelve 26 metre high poles with huge, as yet unlit, gas braziers at the top. There were also wing-like protrusions about 2/3 up these poles to catch the light. At the end of the plaza was a small stage with a video screen suspended from a crane to the left of the stage. The first two thirds of the plaza was a cordoned seated area, the rest a standing area. To the left of the plaza were newly renovated buildings, on the other side old Dublin still survived, though much of it derelict. Such a contrast between old and new there.

Kelly and Ping’s (wonderful name!) the restaurant that had the ticket offer, was amongst the new buildings, in the equally wonderfully named Duck Lane. I went in the restaurant with Julie and Sharon as I wanted to see what it was like. I heard someone calling my name and some U2 people from America I knew (and had tipped off about the ticket offer) were already in there, I had a chat with them before joining Julie and Sharon. The meal and wine was good - I was official taster - and the girls felt their money was well spent.

After the meal we went onto the plaza, we ended up quite near the back and, being small, I couldn’t see over people’s heads to the stage, but I could see the screen ok. Our friends who had queued up while we were in the restaurant were further to the front.

The entertainment started at 6pm. First on was Juliette Turner who I found a bit boring, next was Belle x 1 who were really good. Dara were next, so-so, and finally Ronnie Drew who was, well, Ronnie Drew!

At 8pm the Civic ceremony began. The gas flares were lit and looked very impressive reflected on the poles’ “wings” gently lighting up the area. The moon, which was almost full, hung above O’Neill’s Hotel to the left of the plaza. The councillors, Aung Sang Kuu Kyi’s son (she was also getting the Freedom of the City that night) but was still under house arrest in Burma so he was representing her, and U2 sat on seats behind the Mayor, Mary Freehill. She talked about the freedom of the City and what it meant. She appeared very nervous and was not a good speaker.

She then talked about Aung Sang Suu Kyi and there was a film of her thanking the City of Dublin for the honour. A beautiful Waterford Crystal eagle was then presented to her son.

Then it was U2’s turn. The Mayor talked about them both as individuals and a group. When praising Bono for his tireless work for Jubilee 2000 he looked both pleased and embarrassed at the same time, shuffling about on his seat. The crowd was really behind them and cheered loudly. The band was then presented with their scrolls and Waterford Crystal Joshua Trees that I thought were ugly! Hope the band liked them.

Then each band member gave an individual speech. Edge thanked loads of people including his first wife Aislinn which I thought was rather nice. Larry started by saying something in Irish, then he got part of his speech mixed up which was funny, but he dealt with it well. Adam’s speech was short but sincere. Bono’s was long, also sincere and witty. He said U2 was for everyone not just for Dubliners, which was rather nice for us foreigners to hear! He spoke of tolerance in all aspects of life and for all people. Then at the end he said they were going to play a few songs – the place erupted, we’d all been hoping for that.

They started with a lovely low-key version of All I Want is You. Then they launched into Desire. Bono dedicated the next song, The Sweetest Thing, to his long-dead mother Iris, it was the first time it had been played live. Bono’s voice was not 100%, he found it hard to reach the high notes, but it was still a treat. The final song was One which was dedicated to “John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams and Big Ian”. There was a wonderful atmosphere, almost like a proper concert and the love of the Irish crowd for “their boys” was clear to see and feel. I wanted it to go on and on, but that was the last song and people soon started drifting off into the night.

I felt extremely privileged to have been there, and was grateful to our Irish friends who made it possible. It was an experience not to be missed and one I’ll never forget.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

1999 January - Chilly Dublin and a Larry Miracle!

Jane and I decided to have a three day break in Dublin in mid-January, not the best time to go to that part of the world, but hey, we're Northerners, we're tough!

On our second day, our only full day in the city, we went into the city and walked to The Ferryman for lunch. We were going to meet my friend Rosie at HQ later that day. Then I saw someone who fitted Rosie's description walking past I ran out into the icy pouring rain and shouted "Rosie!" and the woman turned and came back. I'd got to know Rosie, who was from Northern Ireland, through my fanzine and we'd arranged to meet for the first time here in Dublin.

We had a lovely chat in The Ferryman, she was so nice, very softly spoken and gentle with a great sense of humour, we all got along really well immediately. Rosie is still a very good friend of mine to this day.

We braved the weather and ventured out and walked the short distance to Hanover Quay. It was cold and damp and it is at these times that you ponder on your sanity! there was one other fans there a Dutch girl who talked incessantly and was a bit of a pain to be honest.

Luckily we didn't have to wait long for the first arrival, it was Adam, who smiled and waved but went in without coming over to us - we never go to band members, we leave it up to them and so we know that when we get meetings it's because the band members want to meet us not because they have been forced into it.

Next came Edge, he posed for a photo by his car when he saw Rosie with her camera, what a sweetie! In those days they didn't park their cars in the garage like they do now.

Next arrival was Bono, on the phone with the car windows all steamed up. He sat in the car chatting and as he did so Larry arrived. He stopped near us and was happy to sign autographs. Rosie had old records that Larry had asked for in Propaganda. He carefully looked through them all and said he had them all but very politely thanked her for bringing them.

Jane then congratulated him on the recent birth of his daughter and said. "Can I ask you what you've called her?" Larry smiled and replied. "You can ask but I'm not going to tell you!"

At this point Bono got out of his car came across and said jokingly to Larry. "What's this Larry, Christmas?" We thought he was probably alluding to the fact that it is very rare for Larry to stop for fans.

Larry completely ignored him, then looked at me and said. "Are you wanting a photo?" I was stunned into silence for a few seconds, Larry asking me if I wanted a photo?! "Er.... yes please." I said and gingerly walked across to him. He stood like a statue beside me no touching, Jane took the photo, then Rosie also got a picture with him. I'm pretty sure Larry did that to piss Bono off because he's made that quip - we hadn't asked for a photo. He looked stunningly handsome on the photo - I cropped myself off because it's such a terrible photo of me!

I must admit that I was quite glad when Larry left because I wanted time with Bono, but of course couldn't ignore Larry when he was being so sociable! The Dutch girl talked at Bono constantly (she'd said nothing to Larry) mostly about Gavin Friday. We could hardly get a word in for her and she often rudely interrupted too. She did ask Bono a U2-related question, enquiring what they were doing in the studio and he replied. "Knitting, embroidery, a bit of weaving......."

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.

After he left we went back to The Ferryman to warm up and reminisce. Rosie left at 4pm to get her train back to Northern Ireland but we stayed on to meet up with our friend Declan later. We hadn't seen him since his wedding so it was great to catch up on things with him. He was keen to hear about our meeting and we had a long chat before we went our separate ways.

Next afternoon Jane and I flew back to the UK. It had only been a short visit so we had been incredibly lucky to have those meetings. And to this day it's the only time I've met Larry and had my photo taken with him at Hanover Quay!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

1998 September - Dublin, The Sweetest Thing Video Shoot

It was the 20th September 1998 and my friends and I were on the second day of our weeks holiday in Dublin. I remember the date precisely because it was my birthday! We listening to the radio as we were having breakfast when something caught our attention. The DJ said that U2 were making a video with Boyzone somewhere in Dublin NOW! Well, breakfast was forgotten, and we were out of the house and in the car in in record time having no idea where we were going as the location of the video shoot had not been mentioned.

In the city we picked up our friend Declan and just cruised the street looking for any signs of action. We first went down to the Docklands area around U2's studio and office, nothing there. So we just decided to drive all around the city centre hoping to strike lucky. As it was a Sunday the traffic was lighter than usual so that made the driving a little easier than it usually is in Dublin! We drove around manically (not that you'd notice that amongst Dublin traffic that’s the norm!) and the wrong way through a few one way streets for about an hour then suddenly Declan shouted. "There's Shane from Boyzone getting into a van, follow it!" That was the bit of luck we needed, I'm a bit embarrassed to say we followed a van with Boyzone in it round Dublin, but we did, and by doing that we found U2 and the video shoot.

The shoot was in the Fitzwilliam Square area of Dublin. We parked close by on Leeson Street and walked to where the action was, not sure what to expect, or even if we would be able to get close or stay to watch. It turned out we could just hang around to watch, and so began a long day, but the weather was lovely, warm and sunny, and it was such a unique opportunity to be able to watch U2 make a video. The first thing that caught our eye were three banners strung across the road saying "I'm sorry", "I'm really sorry" and "I'm really, really sorry". At the time there was no sign of U2 but we knew we were in the right place. There were lots of young girls dressed in Irish dance costumes, and also an elephant that was very patiently hanging around with it's keeper. There were lots of people milling around that were involved with the video shoot but not that many members of the public.

We saw a carriage coming down the street with cameras and lights attached to it and as it got closer we realised that Bono was in it playing to the camera in front of him. Boyzone appeared out of nowhere and jumped onto the back of the carriage, then shortly after Boyzone got off the three other members of U2 (who had been in a hotel on the street) got on. They also sometimes drove in a car alongside the carriage. The Irish dancers, a chef, a boxer and the elephant also took their turn to do their bit near the carriage. Through all of this we were free to wander about and watch as long as we didn't get into shot.

At one point a TV crew arrived and wanted to interview some fans, Jane, Dianne and I shrunk back to avoid that, but Declan answered some questions - afterwards when we asked what he'd been asked he couldn't remember! And so it went on, hour after hour, on a now very warm day, repeating the scenes, the dancers were getting a bit frazzled and I felt sorry for the poor elephant who was very patient. Bono had it hardest because he was needed for all the scenes. But the other three band members regularly disappeared into a hotel on the street inbetween their takes. It must have been quite tedious for the band going over and over the same stuff, but we found it quite exciting, though it did make me realise that making a video is not very glamourous and takes a lot of work.

Then Bono gave an interview for the TV same crew, I was quite near, but due to the hustle and bustle of people around him I couldn't hear much of the questions being asked or what he answered, though I did manage to get a few close-up photos. Bono took it all in his stride and wasn't phased by the commotion around him, just another part of the job for him. The other band members didn't give interviews, they were very focussed on the job in hand, (especially Edge) and inbetween takes stayed in the hotel.

After the interview it was back to work. We saw Ali come out of the hotel (looking as lovely as ever with minimal make-up) and walk up the road, and when the carriage came down the road the next time she was in it with Bono.

The next time Larry came out of the hotel Declan plucked up courage and stopped him and asked for a photo, surprisingly, the often camera-shy Larry said yes. Declan had photos of himself with all the band members, but not with his favourite Larry, so this picture was very special to him. I was the closest to Declan and Larry so I got the job of taking this long awaited photo! I was so nervous as I knew this was important for Declan and didn’t want to mess up, I took ages, Declan was nervously saying "Come on Sue", then Larry said. "Take the photo Sue" with a smile. I took it and it turned out fine (phew!) and it made Declan a very happy man!

By around 7pm things were starting to wind up, Bono ended up surrounded by fans as he sat in the carriage, he looked really tired, but was patient and signed autographs and chatted. The other band members were milling about too. I didn't ask for anything to be signed I just stood back and watched.

We then realised how tired, hungry and thirsty we were ourselves. We hadn't finished our breakfast that morning, and had nothing else to eat or drink during the day as we didn't want to leave and maybe miss something! But it had been worth it, we had been so lucky to stumble on this video shoot, and lucky that we could just stay and watch it unfolding. It was so special to see it on TV afterwards and think "I was there! It certainly was one of the very best birthday treats I've ever had!

1997 August - Popmart Edinburgh, The End of the Tour for Us

Jane, Dawn and I drove up to Edinburgh for our final Popmart show on September 2nd. The show was at Murrayfield stadium which, thanks to Dawn, we found easily.

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

1997 August - Popmart Dublin 2, U2 Love and the Death of a Princess

August 31st. I was woken up by knocking on my door, it was Jane, I opened the door and looked at her with bleary eyes (I'm not good in the mornings). She told me that she'd heard on the radio that Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed had been killed in a car crash in Paris. We were all stunned, especially as more news trickled through that they were being chased by the paparazzi at the time. I wasn't a massive fan of Diana, but as Bono said later that day sometimes you are surprised just how much an event can shock you.

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!