Friday, 16 October 2009

2005 October - Vertigo Tour Boston 2

Another beautiful warm and sunny day in Boston, apparently the weather was much warmer than usual for the time of year. We went to Banknorth Gardens and waited by the back entrance, there were about 40 fans in all I would say. We saw Larry arrive, he waved. Then Adam whose car went up the ramp and then came back down again backwards! LOL! He got out of the car and signed for fans, he was charming.

Then before we knew here was Edge sauntering down the ramp and he too was so friendly and signed lots of articles for fans, who were by this time quite excited.

Finally Bono arrived. His car stopped at the bottom of the ramp and his minder asked everyone to stand back on the kerb which they did. Bono methodically worked his way along the line of fans on the other side of the road first, chatting, signing, posing for photos - one with a fans young son (ages about 4 or 5) who couldn't wait to get out of Bono's arms back to his father's! As he got to the end of that side a Duck Tour came past , it was funny to see the recognition dawning on people's faces when they realised it was Bono there in the street, he gave them a wave.

He then came across to our side of the road, he glanced up at us as he was signing our stuff, recognised us and kind of doubled back giving a wink, he asked Julie. "How is everyone?" Then to me he smiled and said. "You've picked the good weather!" I replied. "Yes it's lovely." And that was my interaction with Bono, you meet a world famous rock star and you talk about the weather! But then in Ireland and the UK we talk about the weather a lot as it's so changeable! Dianne asked whether they would be playing Bad and Bono replied that he didn't know, they hadn't decided yet.

We went to a nearby bar called The Ruby Room and had cocktails and something to eat before returning to the arena for the gig. Our seats were very good, in the first block on Edge's side.

The set was very similar to last night's, except that they did Crumbs and an acoustic Stuck. We were close enough to see that Bono was reading the lyrics to Stuck from a sheet of paper on the floor! It was a good show and we couldn't have asked for better seats.

So that was it, our last Vertigo Tour show, it had been a great tour once more, I loved all the travelling, places, people, shows we saw. Roll on the next tour!

We only had one more full day in lovely Boston. We went to Boston Common which was lovely and then onto the Cheers bar (really called the Bull and Finch). The entrance was just like on the TV but inside it was different, still it was nice to see as I loved that TV series. We had the obligatory photo taken outside of course!

We went to the Prudential Tour and took the lift up to the 50th floor to see the amazing views over the city. It was still warm and sunny and visibility was fabulous. The river meandering to the sea, the city spread out before us, it was noticeable there was lots of green in the city and that the downtown area was compact.

That evening we went back to the Prudential to have a meal at the Top of the Hub restaurant on the 52nd floor and had a fabulous meal with that gorgeous view. It was our farewell to Boston treat to ourselves and was worth every penny. I love Boston, and hope I will be able to come back one day.

(Edge and Adam photos by Dianne Beeaff)

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

2005 October - Vertigo Tour Boston 1

At the end of September Julie and I flew over to Boston for a week's holiday combined with two U2 shows. This was to be my first visit to Boston and I didn't really know what to expect, most of my visits to the US so far had been to the West. We had a relatively short flight (compared to the longer haul ones to the west of the country). The approach to Boston was lovely very green and lots of little islands in a blue sea.

New and old in Boston

We stepped out of the plane into warm sunshine and luckily that's how it stayed for us for the entire week! Our hotel was lovely though the room was very small. I quickly decided I really liked Boston. It had a leisurely pace and for the first time on a visit to America I felt it had a history in the city. Most American cities are so new (to a European anyway!) that for me they don't have a sense of a past, but Boston did have that and I liked that.

We spent the first few days sightseeing and went on the famous "Duck" tour, our duck was called Molly Molasses and our guides proper job was a doctor and she called herself Dr Quack! LOL! The city was lovely, old and new mixed together, lots of green areas and parks and of course the ocean. The ducks are amphibious vehicles and Molly slipped into the Charles River and from there we got fabulous views of the city. The duck trip was very informative (did you know there are 81 Dunkin Donut outlets in Boston?!) and also fun.

We visited Quincy Market, Fanieul Hall, lots of shops, Boston Common and lots more, there is so much to see in the city that we did not get anywhere near to seeing it all.

On 2nd October Dianne joined us, it was good to see her again. Next day was our first U2 gig. It was at Banknorth Garden just a short walk from our hotel. I had to pick up the tickets, no problem there and we were also given wristbands and told to come back at 5pm and get into line according to our numbers. Very organised, and it meant we were free to go off and do our own thing. We decided to have a meal at a nearby restaurant before going back to the arena to wait for the band arriving. They arrived very late and did not stop - later we found out that they were late because their plane had been delayed.

Once in the arena we couldn't find any space on the barrier, and as we are both quite short we decided to stand at the sound desk where there was a little platform. It turned out to be a great place. Keane were the support band and I really enjoyed their set and they went down very well with the crowd.

U2 came on just before 9pm, the stage looked small compared with the European stadium gigs but I much prefer arenas. They started with City of Blinding Lights with the "curtain" of glistening lights around them, it looked very beautiful. The set was much like the shows we'd seen already. Miss Sarajevo was stunning when Bono sang the operatic Pavarotti part, his voice just filled the place, I could hardly believe it was him! The audience clapped and cheered. It's kind of like Bono is still trying to prove himself to his now deceased father by singing the opera he loved so much. There was a really lovely acoustic encore of The First Time and Wild Horses. They finished with 40 which was a much better ending than the high energy repeated Vertigo they did in the European shows we saw, U2 should always finish gigs low-key, that's their way and it works.

We hung around at the back for a while afterwards, the only band member we met was Larry who was very pleasant, he shook hands with people, signed autographs and even posed for photos!

I really enjoyed the show, though I always find American shows are not as exciting as European ones, or maybe it's just me. We walked the short way to our hotel and drank wine, ate nibbles and discussed the show before going to bed.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

I'll Be Back!

Sorry for the long gap in my posting on this blog, U2's 360 Tour and holidays have taken up my time over the last few weeks. But I hope to be updating this site within a week or two. So don't give up on it - come back in about two weeks and there will be more for you to read here. See you then!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

2005 June - Dublin 2 Vertigo, Smiles and Exhilaration

Another day another gig. This one started well, our seats were a lot better, lower tier about halfway down the pitch. As soon as U2 came on we realised the sound was great too, after the previous gig that was a relief.

Bono talked a lot at this concert, he said they were the worst wedding band in the world but the best rock 'n' roll band. He said it was going to be a "party night" and that's certainly what this night turned out to be. Then he said about the Irish stealing Edge from Wales and delivering him to the GAA (Gaelic Athletics Association). More seriously he talked about the "fragility of life" and how it had affected them personally recently, then he dedicated Miracle Drug to "all the doctors and nurses that keep us alive."

The set was pretty much the standard one, the only surprise in the set was the inclusion of Party Girl. Bono got a lad called Brad from Canada up on stage to play the guitar. He's held up a sign saying "I can play guitar", Bono said, "It pays to advertise!" During the song he changed some of the lyrics singing, "I don't give a shite", a reference to the 11pm curfew which they passed by around ten minutes.

The energy of the gig was brilliant, exhilarating. I felt proud of U2 and along with the rest of the crowd sang along and enjoyed every moment. The feeling of being part of something special was very strong and the love of the Irish was so apparent for their band. I felt part of that too, because I'd just discovered I had Irish ancestors, so was one of them as well, a great feeling!

Getting back to our hotel afterwards was a bit of a nightmare. We waited in a chaotic taxi queue for ages. In the end we gave up on that and got the night bus back, arriving at 4am, ahh the touring life!

This gig was a wonderful way to end our European leg of the Vertigo tour. We were going to see two shows later in the year in Boston so the Vertigo Tour wasn't quite finished for us yet.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

2005 June - Dublin Vertigo, Up In The Gods and Disappointment

The day after the Glasgow show saw Debbi, Julie and I suffering from varying degrees of sunburn. It had been cloudy when we set off for Hampden so we didn't think we needed any sunscreen, but it got out really hot and sunny and there was no shade and now our pale English complexions were bright red! We went to a pharmacy and got some great aloe vera lotion that calmed our redness down a little.

We flew to Dublin for our last two Vertigo tour shows in the British Isles. We were staying at Bewley's Hotel in Ballsbridge, always a good place to make your base in Dublin.

Before the U2 part of the trip we visited our friends in Dun Laoghaire and also had a meal with my German friend Chris who was also in Dublin for U2 gigs. It was good to catch up with them all. That's one of the lovely things about going to U2 gigs, you get to see so many old friends again.

On the day of the gig we all had to kind of split up a bit as we had tickets in different areas of the stadium and were also meeting various friends. So Julie and I headed into town to meet Rosie, our friend from Northern Ireland. We had a meal with her before heading towards Croke Park. Once there we said bye to Rosie too as she was sitting elsewhere.

Our seats were abysmal! And yes, they were fan club seats, shame on you U2! We were at the far end of teh pitch, top tier, four rows from the back. Dreadful seats. I must say I got vertigo at Vertigo we were so high up. Plus there was a hell of a wind blowing up there as well.

I was really looking forward to seeing Snow Patrol, but was really disappointed because the sound was so bad, very muddy.

U2 took to the stage to a raptuous reception, but as soon as they started to play we realised the sound was just as bad for them. When Bono spoke it was impossible to understand what he was saying. The set was a pretty standard one, and for me the show was completely spoiled by the sound. Friends who were in other areas of the stadium said the sound was fine where they were, so we had the bad luck to be stuck almost as far away as you can get from the stage and to have the worst sound I've ever heard at a U2 concert. Shame and very disappointing.

We met up with our other friends once more and hung around after the show, only Larry stopped to speak with fans. He was very friendly and charming, obviously happy to be back on home ground.

We headed off back to our hotel feeling a bit deflated and hoped that tomorrows show would turn out to be a lot better for us.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

2005 June - Glasgow Vertigo, Magic and Fun

We flew from London to Glasgow where we were seeing the next gig, nowadays it's cheaper to travel long distances and also save time that way. We got the airport bus into the city centre and after a walk up one of Glasgow's hills checked in at the Travel Inn.

We dined in the hotel restaurant and later met our friend Alan from the Scottish U2 tribute band NU2 in the hotel bar later that evening, it was nice to see him again.

Next day Debbi and Julie left early for the stadium, they wanted to get in the queue so they would be sure to get close to the barrier as we had GA tickets. Dianne and I didn't want to do that so we took it easy and left about two hours later. When we got to Hampden we found that the queues were not long and our friends were only about three yards in front of us! Things are never as manic in Scotland as at other venues which is really nice.

As we waited the weather got hotter and hotter as the day progressed, there was nowhere to get any shade and Debbi got badly sunburned. Julie and I also got burned but not quite as badly. the suffering we go through in the name of U2!

The gates opened at 4.30pm and everyone streamed in, up loads of steps and then down loads of steps into the stadium. We got a great position right on the catwalk barrier, almost the same as in Manchester. And, one of those weird coincidences once more, our friend Dawn was right near us!

The support was Black Rebel Motorcycle Gang and Interpol, both pretty boring for me. Then it was U2, and right from the start it was clear Bono was in high spirits and full of energy. During Elevation he lay on the stage and kissed a femItalicale photographer. At the beginning of Miracle Drug Bono counted on his fingers and said. "Three notes...." then he looked at Edge who shook his head and mouthed "Four", everyone including Bono laughed.

Later Bono talked about Make Poverty History before singing One and said the band were very proud of their fans for supporting the cause. Then he said. "We're coming back to Scotland for the G8!" He was referring to a concert that was going to take place when the next G8 meeting was in Edinburgh in a few weeks time. It got a huge cheer from the crowd.

At one point he got a pretty young girl out to dance with, she looked a bit like a very young Ali. After the show we bumped into the girl who was still very hyped up. She was called Maria and very sweet. I asked her if Bono had said anything to her and she replied that all he said was. "Shhh," and put his finger to his lips when she first got on the stage, I remember seeing that. At one point she burst into tears and that was when he pulled her close and cradled her head and rested his head against hers. I told her I'd got some photos of her and Bono, she was so pleased, we swapped email addresses and I later sent her copies.

The encore started with Zoo Station followed by a really rocking The Fly. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own was sung very close to us and brought a lump to my throat, Bono was lost in the music. That song could have also been written for my mother and me, I really relate to a lot of those lyrics.

Bono added a bit of Walk On and Happy Birthday to One in honour of Aung San Suu Kyi's recent 60th birthday.

During City Of Blinding Lights Bono got a helium balloon from someone in the audience and let it go and we all watched it float up into the darkness and drift away. It was a simple thing but it felt special and drew the crowd together, Bono is a natural at those kind of things.

This Glasgow show was one of those shows, where U2 seized the moment and a huge stadium felt small and intimate, that's the genius this band can reach at times. We left feeling uplifted and elated, pure magic!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

2005 June - Hot Days, Hot Gig, London Vertigo Tour

A few days after returning home from Manchester I was travelling again, this time on a train to London. When I stepped off the train in London I thought I'd come abroad it was so hot! Got to our hotel in Kingston where my old schoolfriend Marian joined and Julie and Debbi. Our hotel was basic but fine. That evening we went to a lovely Italian restaurant close by. The "sculpture below was just by our hotel, I like an artist with a sense of humour!

We got a taxi to the stadium at Twickenham, it was three miles away, further than I thought, everywhere is further than you think in London!

The stadium was huge and we were right at the back in the middle tier, wonderful. But at least from that position you could really appreciate the huge screen across the back of the stage. I liked it especially during Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own and Miracle Drug. In the latter it started with an ECG trace in green, very effective. Bono dedicated the song to. "Doctors, nurses and scientists who keep us alive.... especially the nurses!"

The set was very similar to Manchester with the addition of All I Want Is You and Running To Stand Still both songs I love. Bono was in much better form with a lot of smiles and interaction with the crowd.

Bono got a girl up on stage at one point and filmed her, but he was holding the camera on its side. He gave the girl the camera and she continued to film sideways. When the girl gave Bono the camera back Edge walked up to him, took the camera, turned it the right way up and gave it back to him. All the while Edge had a kind of "he's hopeless" look on his face. Bono laughed and shrugged his shoulders. A funny moment.

I really enjoyed the show, despite being a million miles away from the stage. It had a lovely atmosphere and the balmy evening was pleasant too.

Afterwards we went round to the backstage entrance to see if we could catch the band leaving. After a long wait Adam came out and was his usual gentlemanly, polite self. Then Larry came out, he looked very thin, but he was pleasant and signed lots of autographs for people. A car with tinted windows came out and people thought Bono was in it, which was probably right as we did not see him that evening. Edge was the last to leave and he spent a while with the fans.

It took us ages to get back to Kingston. It was late and we didn't know the area and no taxis passed by. We eventually saw a bus stop for all night buses that stopped close to our hotel and we didn't have to wait long for a bus. The next night we realised we could have got a bus from right outside the backstage entrance of the stadium!

That night it was difficult to sleep as it was so hot, there was no air conditioning (not usually needed in the UK!), our window was open but no cool air came in, it was like being in the Mediterranean!

Next day it was 33 degrees centigrade and the highest humidity for 30 years in London! We had planned to go to Hampton Court Palace today as it was not that far from where we were staying. But the heat was draining and instead we found an air conditioned bar, cooled off and had cocktails - mine an appropriately named Alligator Cooler which was delicious!

We didn't have tickets for the second show, but, as it was a lovely day, we decided to go to the stadium and sit outside and listen to the show. When we arrived we could hear Beautiful Day drifting through the sunshine from the stadium up the road, very apt.

Quite a few people had decided to do what we did and it was really pleasant sitting in the sunshine at the backstage entrance with other fans listening to the music. No one told us to move on though there were plenty of police around. At one point a nearby blackbird on a roof sang its own beautiful song competing again Bono!

The show finished and people streamed out of the stadium. A couple of girls with an Irish flag asked a policeman to pose for a photo with them which he did. There was a really lovely laidback fun atmosphere.

The band left early, not long after the end of the show, Edge first, he didn't stop. Bono came out not long after him and stopped. The crowd was bigger than last night and a bit rowdy (as they often seem to be in London). I caught a glimpse of him, he was shaking hands with fans. But the crowd gathered round him and he disappeared from sight and I got pushed back, I didn't want to be part of that melee anyway, it's so disrespectful and potentially dangerous. I was told later that a woman had asked Bono to kiss her young daughter who was asleep by the gate, he did this and ended up pushed against the gate by the crowd. He left after that and I don't blame him.

So that was our London leg of The Vertigo Tour, which I'll always remember for its hot days and balmy nights.

Friday, 8 May 2009

2005 June - Another U2 Tour, Manchester Vertigo

After the usual four years it was U2 tour time once more, and this time it was the Vertigo Tour which started for me in Manchester. The usual crew, Debbi, Dianne, Julie and I met up at our hotel, the Ancoats Travelodge. I always love the first time we all get together again. We do meet up regularly inbetween tours but as we all live in different cities, and in Dianne's case as different country, we don't see as much of each other as we'd like to. When we do get together for a U2 tour it is always exciting!

That evening we walked the short distance into the centre of Manchester and Canal Street, which is the city's gay area, always very vibrant and lively. We'd gone there not because we're gay , but because a restaurant called Velvet was recommended by a friend. It was really good and well worth the visit and we had a good evening catching up on each others lives over a couple of bottles of wine.

Next day was a dull wet day (unusual for a U2 tour in the UK which generally means a good summer! Bono must decree good weather for us LOL) as we took the half hour walk to Manchester stadium. There were quite a few people already there in queues, and as we had general admission tickets we joined one. We saw our other friends Karen, Serena, Julia and Linda already there and had a chat with them.

Then, a very odd thing happened, the security people built a 8 foot "wall" around our group of about 300 fans and gave us wristbands. We thought it meant something like we'd get into the ellipse and got quite excited.

I later left to go to the toilet and bumped into my friend Dawn and her daughter, it always amazes me how you can meet up with someone you know amongst thousands of people! Unfortunately though I could get back into the fenced off area with my wristband Dawn could not.

At 4pm the doors were opened only to be immediately closed again! People were getting annoyed as we could hear people were being let inside elsewhere. Three quarters of an hour later one door was opened which caused an awful chaos of pushing and shoving, i couldn't believe the stupidity of the security staff.

We eventually got in and saw the ellipse was full so went for the catwalk and got a good place right on the rail near the b-stage on Adam's side. It was going to be a long wait. but at least we had two really good support bands to listen to, The Bravery and the wonderful Snow Patrol. Both were excellent. By now the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm, but despite all this positive stuff I found it hard to stand for those hours until U2 came on.

U2 spared me a little extra wait time as they started at the very early time of 8.15pm (apparently this stadium has an early finish rule) with a rocking Vertigo followed by a trio of old songs, Will Follow, The Cry, The Electric Co. I noticed Bono seemed to be moving quite stiffly and didn't have the usual "spark" he normally has. I heard the next day that his back was playing up again and he'd had numerous injections in it the day before the Manchester gig. Many would have cancelled the show, but Bono and U2 only do that as a very last resort.

Initially the lighting and screens were ineffective due to the sunlight and early start. But as it darkened the lighting showed it's beauty, and I loved the images on the screen, very effective and often thought provoking. I especially loved it during City of Blinding Lights and the chorus of that song stayed with me throughout the tour (as my friends will testify! ).

We had some wonderful close ups of the band as they walked along the catwalk near us, loved their version of Love And Peace Or Else on the b-stage close to where we were.

It was really good, and a big surprise, to hear Zoo Station once more at the beginning of the first encore. The show finished with Vertigo again, which didn't feel right to me, U2 always finish a show gently, drifting away from us into the darkness. This ending, an assault on the senses, which is great for the start of the show, was not for the end of a U2 show. Later in the tour they did change this and finished with one of their slower songs once more.

Manchester was a good show, and it was wonderful to see U2 play live again, good to see mypals again, good to be on the road again - where to next?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

2004 November - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

The release of a U2 album is always a special event for us fans, and it's really nice to be able to share it, so I went through to my friend and fellow u2 fan Dawn's place so we could listen to it for the first time together. It was a miserable November night, but I got a warm welcome and we were both excited and apprehensive about the album.

We listened to it one song at a time and discussed it before moving on to the next. The truth is we were both underwhelmed. All That You Can't Leave Behind was a good, safe album, what we really expected after the shaky Pop, they had to make a safe album to get fans on board once more. But How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was yet another safe album, very much on the lines of ATYCLB, but in my opinion, not as good. It wasn't a bad album, it was okay, but a bit of a disappointment for us two fans who had wanted something that went out on a limb from the band. We were hoping to be challenged by U2, but it was not to be, it was quite predictable and Bono's lyrics were often not up to the usual standard.

To this day it is the album I've played least. I like some individual songs, but in general it doesn't excite or hold me. Later we got to hear a song that was left off the album - Mercy - and I loved it, pure unbridled U2 that , better than any song on the album by miles. But I can see why Mercy was left off, it was too different to fit in with the rest, but it's the song I've played many more times than any Bomb album track.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

2004 May - Another Meeting At HQ

Julie and I had another weeks holiday in Dublin, by now it had become a tradition to holiday in Dublin in May - which actually is usually a lovely month to go there weather-wise. We did some of our favourite things there and also went beyond the city.

One place we visited was the ancient tomb of Newgrange (it's around 5000 years old) about 30 miles north of Dublin. I'd been before but this was Julie's first visit. It's an amazing, atmospheric place that still has a mystic feel about it, almost as if that magic is seeping out from within the stone it is made from. As you walk down the passage to the inner chamber you see symbols such as wavy lines, concentric circles, spirals carved into the stone - their meaning long lost in the passing of time.

We also saw a play at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, and went on the Dublin Ghost Tour. During this we found out how Misery Hill (which then was a piece of waste ground at the western end of Hanover Quay, now it's full of anonymous glass and steel buildings) got it's name. Apparently hundreds of years ago there was a leper colony there and that's where the name came from. Lepers were secretly taken by boat up the Liffey to St Audoen's Church in the city where there was a special door where they could hear mass. They say there is a ghost with missing body parts seen on the 40 steps at St Audeon's which is supposed to be one of the poor lepers. I must say those steps feel pretty creepy, so you never know.....

Anyway, I digress from U2. On the Thursday we went to HQ and again it was a United Nations of U2 fans with Hungary, USA, Austria, Holland and the UK represented. The American girl had been there two weeks previously and had met Edge, Adam and Larry. She heard Bono was back at the studio, so she came all the way back from the US to try to meet him! Dedication or what??
Bono arrived first and went into the garage, but didn't come out. Dallas came out not long afterwards for no apparent reason and chatted with us, think he was just sussing us out. Adam arrived and then Edge. Not long after Edge had arrived the front door opened and Bono stood in the doorway and gave a peace sign and just stood there. So we went across and gathered round the door, which was a bit dangerous as the Kilsaran lorries were careering up and down the road! Soon though I forgot all about them.

The American girl flung herself at Bono and gave him at hug which he returned, he seemed really overwhelmed. He looked really tired and I remember the girl saying he must be tired just getting back home and he said he was. Around this time Edge joined Bono, they often seem to do the meet and greet in twos when there are quite a few fans. I was quite near Bono and he looked across and recognised me. "Awww, hello sweetheart." He said and leaned forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek, I was so chuffed! I had Peter And The Wolf book ready to sign but as there were eleven fans there, he was busy with someone else. I noticed Edge was unoccupied so asked him to sign a DVD a friend wanted signed. Then Bono got to me and signed my book with his usual self portrait and name.

At this point I pulled back and took a few photos. I noticed Bono was quieter than usual, friendly and warm, but seemed worn out and slightly distracted. His hair was a lovely auburn colour, but needed a wash!

One of the Hungarian lads told Bono about the U2 tribute band he and the other guys with him were in and gave him a CD they had made. He really listened to the lad and seemed genuinely interested. They were really nice and I took a photo with Bono and Edge and the lads from the band.

Then Bono said he would have to go as he had a lot of work to do, and he quickly disappeared into the building. Edge then kind of took over, signed everything people wanted signed, posed for photos with all who wanted them and chatted. He was so lovely! I find Edge's quiet, calm manner and touch of shyness so endearing, he's very sweet.

So another meeting over with, we had been incredibly lucky over the last few years with meetings with U2 and really appreciate the band giving their time as they did. It's also really lovely to meet fans from all over the world at HQ.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

2003 October - The Peter and The Wolf Exhibition In Dublin

My friends Chris and Andy were in Dublin on their honeymoon and they asked me if I’d like to meet up with them there for a couple of days, they didn't need to ask me twice.

While we were there, on the 1st October, the Peter and the Wolf exhibition for which Bono had done some paintings, was opening, this being the first stage of a mini-tour for the paintings, so of course we were keen to go to see them.

We walked down Dame Street to the City Hall where the exhibition was being held. It was really interesting to see Bono's pictures - which were huge in some cases, large in all cases. Some were more like practice sketches, and, though I feel Bono isn't amongst the great painters, others were good and interesting, the longer I looked at them the more I saw. His father featured a lot, in one picture he's very stern and there's a tiny Bono below looking up at him. There was a menace and darkness about the paintings in general and the wolf tends to look a bit stoned in my opinion!!! Bono’s daughters' additions of the flowers are the gentlest, softest aspect to the pictures, which I felt really worked as they offset the general harshness that came across in the artwork.

The CD of the music by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer for Peter and the Wolf was playing in the background and there was also a short film running about the making of the CD and paintings. All were being sold to support a very worthwhile cause - The Irish Hospice Foundation.

The City Hall itself, built in 1779, is a wonderful building. The exhibition was held on the first floor which was reached via a sweeping staircase. In the centre of the large room there was a circle of pillars with classical figures on pedestals in between them and high above a beautiful done in the centre. The large Georgian windows ensured the room was well lit.We were almost first in, there weren’t many other people there.

Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer arrived not long after we did and they did a photo shoot. There was also a man videoing the proceedings, and at one point I noticed him videoing us as we looked at the paintings, I tried to keep my back to him once I'd noticed! Later he approached us to say that they hoped to make a documentary about the making of Peter and the Wolf and the exhibition and as we were in some of his film and he'd like our permission to use our images. He didn't have his usual forms to sign so he asked us to say our names and give permission as he filmed us. I don’t know if the documentary ever came about.

Chris asked one of the women there if she thought Gavin would sign autographs and she said he probably would once he'd finished with the shoot, so we waited. Chris went to him first and he was really nice to her, she told him that she and Andy had just got married and he congratulated them, asked where they came from. He is so like Bono it's uncanny. His voice, his mannerisms, his humour, his clothes are all very similar. Then I went up to him giving him the auction brochure to sign. He looked at me and said.

"Aren't you buying the CD?"

I told him I'd ordered it online, he asked which website and I said the Irish Hospice one, he seemed pleased at that. Then with a grin (like Bono’s!) added.

"But you should go to the official website, that's much better!"

I told him I do go there too and he seemed chuffed about that. He asked my name (and how I spelled it – how many ways can you spell Sue?!) as he signed my brochure and looked right at me smiling as I thanked him afterwards. He also has Bono's charm!

It was really good to see the paintings in real life – there is something special about seeing the actual brushstrokes it makes paintings really come alive, I could easily visualise Bono working on them. I heard that he came to the exhibition in person later that day, but we were long gone by then. It was really good to meet Gavin, I can certainly see why he and Bono are friends, they are like two peas in a pod as they say.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

2003 May - UK Coolness, Italian Fire At HQ And A Big Surprise

May 2003 saw Julie and I taking a weeks holiday in Dublin. You may think from reading this blog that all we do when in Dublin is hang around at HQ, that's certainly far from the truth. On this visit we went for dinner at our friends house in Dun Laoghaire and met up with another friend. We visited Powerscourt House and Gardens in County Wicklow, a gorgeous place close to Enniskerry (which itself is a lovely place). The house was built around an original 13th century castle (owned by someone called la Poer which was eventually anglicised to Power) between 1731-1741. A devastating fire in 1974 reduced the house to a shell before it was renovated in 1996. The gardens were added in the 1800s.

We had a wonderful time wandering around the gardens, which lie in the shadow of Sugarloaf mountain, that apparently had been influenced by those of Versailles. There was a touching pet cemetery where much loved pets of all kinds, including two dachshunds and a cow, were laid to rest.

We also went to see the play Sive, by John B Keane at the Gaiety theatre. When in Dublin we always try to go to see an Irish play and I can say that this one is still at the time of writing this, the best I've seen. In the brochure about the film it says: "Written 40 years ago it is a rich character and social portrait of mid-century rural Ireland, a classic morality tale about the consequences of greed and bitterness." If you ever get the chance to see it, go, you won't regret it.

But this is a blog about my U2 history, so enough of the other Irish stuff! On the Tuesday afternoon we went down to HQ, there was a Dutch couple already there. We saw all the band arrive but no one came out. We left at 4pm and went out to a favourite restaurant where we had a table booked that evening, food won out over U2!

Next afternoon, after a bit of shopping we went down to HQ again, usually there were no other fans there. Not long after we arrived edge drove into the garage, not long later Bono arrived and after a couple of minutes he came out of the front door and crossed the road and came to see us. He looked well, I noticed his stubble was quite grey now. We were lucky that we got time with him on our own. He asked how we were and said he was late again and "Always running from one thing to another." I thought what a hectic life he has and how people, including myself, were always wanting something from him.

He continued to say that he was very busy and asked us to tell our friends or anyone we saw at HQ that if he didn't come out he wasn't ignoring them it was just because he was so busy.

"I have two jobs now you know." He laughed and said that the band seemed to be doing ok without him. I jokingly said.

"They don't need you now then."

"Oh no no no I'm here quite a lot!" he replied defensively, but with a smile. Bono had recognised me and said.

"You come here every year don't you?" I admitted to it! We then asked when the album would be ready.

"Maybe in the Autumn, maybe before New Year, maybe after New Year" he said shaking his head and shrugging as if he had no idea really. He said it was a "Real firecracker" and I said I was ready for some new U2 music and he smiled.

Bono then asked us what we had planned for our stay and I told him we were going to friends in Dun Laoghaire for a meal that night.

"That's nice." Bono said.

I then asked him if he would sign something for us and he said of course. I had the Irish first day cover of the Rock Legends stamp issue with U2 on it.

"Ahh, you've got the stamp, that's great!" he exclaimed. He was just going to sign it when out of nowhere appeared a very excited Italian couple. They kind of barged in and took over.

"We are from Italy!" the young man announced loudly.

"Oh are you?" Bono said with a laugh. They were so excited, the girl was hyperventilating and thumping her chest and the man was just saying. "Bon-o, Bon-o, Bon-o" over and over. It was really funny and Bono took it all in his stride. It struck me that this meeting showed the difference between the Brits and the Italians. We were excited but did not express it, they were also excited but the Italians let it all flood out!

The girl then just went up to Bono and kissed him, he seemed to enjoy that, she was very pretty. They told him that they had just got married, he asked when and where, and if they were on their honeymoon now which they were. Bono then turned to me and said.

Bono turned to me and said. "You'll have to take a photo of them." Meaning of them and him, which I said I would. He then remembered the envelope he still in his hand and said.

"I'll do this first though." And proceeded to write "Bono stamps on Pop" on it, which I thought was very witty considering he'd had little time to think.

I took a photo of the couple with him and it turned out really nice. then the couple talked to me at breakneck speed in Italian, eventually through sign language, I realised they wanted another photo taken with Bono which I did. The man himself was just laughing through all this.

He then took Julies Best Of CD cover, looked at it and said that the buffalos "Look like sunglasses." What?? Strange how his mind works sometimes. He then proceeded to draw sunglasses around them. The Italians borrowed my pen and also got an autograph. Strangely after that they seemed to lose interest in Bono and kind of talked between themselves! Bono came over to Julie and me and held a hand out to each of us and said that he was sorry but he had to go, he then kissed us both on the cheek, squeezed our hands, said bye to the Italians and went back in the studio. We left very happy women!

It was a lovely meeting very personal, and funny too. Bono has the ability to make you feel very special, that's a rare trait in a person. How many people as famous as him could you meet like that so informally and without security? I wish Bono's detractors could see things like that.

Two days later. In the morning we drove out of the city to Avoca Weavers and then Powerscourt. It was our last day in Dublin and that evening we went to the Killiney Court Hotel for a meal in the Library Grill, a favourite haunt of ours for years (no long gone unfortunately). Afterwards we went upstairs to the Coast Lounge. We ordered at the bar and looked for somewhere to sit, it was very quiet and I went to sit near the open fire, not really looking at the few people who were in the lounge. Then behind me I heard Julie frantically calling. "Sue, Sue, Sue" in a low, but rather desperate whisper. I turned and went back to her and all she could say was.

"He's here!"

"Huh?" Said me.

"He's here!" Said Julie again.

"He can't be." I said dumbstruck. But then I could hear Bono's voice not too far way, I couldn't believe he was there, it was 9pm and I thought he'd be still in the studio . I must admit I felt a bit panicked, I have no problems with meeting him at HQ or on tour, but I was worried that if he'd seen us here he might think we followed him there or something. This was his private time and I don't think fans should intrude into that and I felt distinctly uncomfortable.

We went to a table as far away from him as we could, so that if he had seen us he'd know we were not trying to eavesdrop, in all honesty I don't think he did see us. There weren't that many people in the lounge and even though we were far away we could still hear him sometimes. He was with three women who I didn't recognise. He talked and laughed a lot, part of me wished I was part of that group as they seemed to be having fun.

Initially I felt self conscious, and was texting Debbi frantically for something to do as Julie had kind of gone mute with shock! Debbi texted back saying "Buy him a drink!" LOL. But we both soon relaxed more as time passed and I told myself to stop being silly - this was a public place, we had not followed him, it was pure coincidence and we had every right to be there!

After about 30 minutes Bono left, we saw him clearly as he went out, he looked at the floor, not making any eye contact with anyone, (best way not to get stopped by anyone) most people's eyes were on him. A couple sitting near the women went over and asked them if it had been Bono who was with them and they said yes. Though people had noticed him no one had disturbed him.

It was certainly an exciting way to spend our last evening in Dublin, talk of surprises. Can't get away from the man LOL!

Friday, 10 April 2009

2002 September - Dublin, Happy Birthday At HQ

I decided to spend my birthday in Dublin this year, I travelled over by myself and met up with my friends Andy and Chris over there. We did the usual Dublin things, walked on the beach, had nice meals.

We wandered down to HQ on the Wednesday, it was soon obvious that the band were around, lots going on. We waited for a while and saw Adam arrive he waved to us but didn't come out, and we left about an hours later.

Next day was my birthday, I met up with Chris and Andy at HQ that afternoon. They gave me some cups and tea for my birthday - the cups were lovely and people often still admire them. Not long afterwards another friend of mine, Rosie, arrived - it was wonderful to see her again. She gave me some beautiful silver earrings which I still love to this day.

It was really warm and sunny so it was very pleasant sitting waiting on the bench opposite the studio. Adam was the first to arrive and shortly afterwards came out to meet us. He looked very well and was very laid back and polite. He asked who had been here yesterday and I said Chris, Andy and me and he said that he'd come out later but we were gone. I asked him if the others were coming down and Adam replied that there wasn't much going on at the moment and that they were popping in occasionally. He added that Edge might come down later.

Rosie told him it was my birthday and asked if I could have my photo taken with him, he smiled and said yes. I went beside him and he put his arm round me, he seemed very tall compared to Bono. Then the other had their photos taken with him, all the time he was friendly and chatty.

Finally Adam said what a lovely day it was and he was going to go now to enjoy it. We waited a bit longer but things were quiet there so we took our leave. This was our last day in Dublin so it was so nice to have met Adam, an extra birthday present for me!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

2002 May - Dublin, Just What I Needed.

For once I didn't feel particularly excited about going to Dublin as I'd been through a very difficult time in my life. In the last four months my mother died after a long illness, a close friend died suddenly and totally unexpectedly at the age of 55, and just two days before the trip I had to put my gorgeous dog Toffie to sleep. I was wrung out emotionally and felt numb, but I went ahead with the trip that had been arranged for months as I felt it would do me good. And it was true, once in Dublin I was able to get away from reminders that caused pain, and start the road to recovery.

On the Wednesday Julie and I went down to HQ. There were a few fans there from the US, Spain and Romania - an United Nations of U2 fans. Hanover Quay was it's usual noisy self. Lorries trundled in and and out of the concrete works which was busier than ever with the building boom in the city. Cement dust was in the air and every now and twice a bulldozer came out with water in its trough and spewed it into the street - the wave of water slammed into the door of the studio. Maybe they were trying to damp down the dust, who knows!

At 3pm Bono and Edge arrived together and shortly after their cars went into the garage the front door of the studio opened and Bono appeared in the doorway. He looked at us, we looked at him, not sure whether to approach or not. Eventually he broke the silence by saying.

"Are you going to come in?"

We all shot across the road and were allowed to enter the hallway at the bottom of the stairs of the studio. Edge was there too and did a very polite meet and greet, shaking hands with everyone as they came in. By now Bono was sitting on the stairs, he looked tired and pale, but was very warm and kind to us all. When I got to him he looked at me, smiled in recognition and said.

"Hello darling." My knees went weak! The rest of the people there kind of took over then and I stood back and took a few photos. Bono was saying.

"Don't come to close, I've got a bug." While the others were talking to Bono I got a photo and autograph from Edge. Eventually I got my time with Bono, he was talking about the Slane video and said it was coming together well and was affirmative when I asked if it was going to be released.
Edge took his leave at this time saying he wasn't well either. He looked rather flushed.
"Have you all got the cold?" I asked.

"Yes." he replied, "I'm going upstairs to get some Aspirin."

The Romanian lad was in a U2 tribute band and asked Bono if he could swap glasses for a photo, he obliged, saying afterwards. "I'd give you them but I can't." When asked why, for once he was lost for words! Bono then took a guitar the lad had and played it a little and sang a few lines.

I was last to get a photo with Bono, as usual he put his arm around me and pulled me close. He gently rubbed my arm soothingly as he held me, it was almost as if he knew I was fragile at the moment and needed some TLC. He is a very intuitive man and maybe he did pick up some of my sadness.

And that was it, We all said our goodbyes and we left and the studio closed behind us. Bono is my favourite (as you've probably guessed!) and meeting him and having that soothing hug really did make me feel better. He'll never know how such a simple gesture helped me. And over the next few months I was to get strength from U2's music which helped me to gradually heal.

Friday, 20 March 2009

2002 March - The Meteor Awards In Dublin

Julie, Debbi and I attended The Meteor awards in Dublin in early March, U2 were receiving awards so we were really looking forward to it and hoping the band would play a song or two. We'd bought quite expensive VIP tickets and got all dressed up to look the part.

As we crossed the East Link bridge Walk On was playing on the taxi radio, so fitting! We were dropped off at the back of the Point Depot. There was a special entrance for the VIP guests, complete with red carpet, though I must say the waiting photographers put their camera down as we approached LOL!

We were given wristbands and went up the escalators to the champagne and wine reception. It was all quite low-key really and I didn't recognise anyone there.

We went to our seats which were quite good and opposite the real VIPs. We saw Paul McGuinness arrive and noted that there were four empty seats beside him.

The opening act was a band called Kila, and as the lights went down U2 took their seats to a big cheer and applause. As the people in that area were getting up and down to go for awards etc there was always dim lighting on which meant we had a good view of U2 opposite us.

Patrick Keilty presented the show which included Enrique Iglesias, the Cranberries, Gabrielle, Six, Westlife. But I must say we spent most of the time watching U2! Bono talked a lot and couldn't sit still for long. People kept coming up to him (he had an aisle seat) and talked or asked for autographs and he always responded to them. It was nice just to watch him, what patience he has. How strange it must be to know so many eyes are upon you, that you are never anonymous.

U2 were nominated for seven awards and won them all, so they had many visits to the main stage. When Walk On won the Best Song category Adam thanked Daniel Lanois as he had saved the song being dropped during recording.

Bono spoke about the Slane concerts and thanked the crowd for keeping him going when all he could see in the audience was his father's face. He admitted it was still a difficult time for him, his honesty about his grief was really moving.

We fully expected the band to play at some point during the show but they didn't. We were very disappointed, as I'm sure were a lot of people.

It took us ages to find the buses that were taking up to the after-show party at Cafe en Seine. It was a wickedly cold night and the wind whipping up the Liffey from the Irish Sea chilled me to the bone. I had high heels on and not being used to them my feet were starting to ache and I was so glad when we found the bus!

Another red carpet awaited us at Cafe en Seine Flanked on either side by two 14 foot inflatable "waiters". Beyond was a heaving mass of people, queues for everything, nowhere to sit, music so loud you couldn't speak, my idea of hell! On top of that my feet were now agonisingly painful, all I wanted a seat.

The place itself was amazing, Debbi had been before but it was my first visit. Massive golden chandeliers hung from the ceiling, there were palms everywhere, two floors of galleries with balconies, the floors were tiled with Victorian tiles, very beautiful.

We got our food and found some backstairs to sit down on to eat it as it was a proper meal not finger food that you could wander round with. anyway my feet were glad of the rest!

The only people we recognised were Stephen Gately and Craig Doyle, of course the A-lister party was elsewhere. Gradually the place emptied a bit and we found seats which was much better. We were determined to make the most of the night and stayed until 3am before getting a taxi back to our hotel. I was so relieved to get those damn high heels off!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

2001 September - Elevation Tour, Glasgow - The End Of Our U2 Road

The 28th August saw Julie and I sitting on a plane en-route from Ireland to Newcastle. We picked up my car there and drove back to my place in Cumbria, had lunch and then set off north to Glasgow - ahh this jet set lifestyle of U2 fans eh?

We arrived at the SECC at 3pm and one of the first people we saw was our friend Karen. She told us that the queue for the heart enclosure was just up the hall and that we could still join it. I said that we only had seated tickets and she said they were selling standing tickets now at the box office. We didn't have to think twice, we bought tickets and quickly sold our seated tickets for cost prices to grateful fans.

We joined the very organised heart queue. One of the things I love about the Scottish shows is that they are always well organised and most of the more obsessive fans who are at the front of every queue tend not to get that far north!

We were let into the heart at 6.20pm in an orderly manner. After going in we couldn't go out into the main hall, but there was no need to as there was a merchandise stall, refreshments and toilets just for the heart crowd, absolutely brilliant almost like being VIPs!

The support band was a local band The Cosmic Rough Riders which I enjoyed and who the crowd loved. Then it was U2 and the audience went wild! There was plenty of room to move about and even though we are both small we could easily see everything on stage.

Bono seemed very tired, I think all the physically and even more the emotional and psychological strain of the last few weeks were catching up with him. But he still put all he had left into the show. The crowd were great, you can always feel the special Celtic bond between the audience and U2 when in Scotland. Glasgow was a last minute addition to the tour as well and I think the crowd really appreciated that too.

It was quite a short show, no New York or In A Little While. The song that really got to me that night was With Or Without You. Bono said, "This is for my dad - and this is for you" to us. Later he said that the audiences at shows during that time helped him get through those difficult personal times, and by singing that song at Glasgow he was telling us that. It was a very emotional performance and there were quite a lot of tearful people in the crowd including me.

Mysterious Ways was special that night, it wasn't playful and earthy like in London, it was spiritual, that's the only way I can describe it. Bono totally lost himself in the music. He had said earlier in the tour that music is magic, well we saw a bit of that magic in Glasgow that night.

It's always a bit sad at the end of the last U2 show you are going to see on tour. This UK leg of Elevation had been very special because of the illness and death of Bono's father. I was quite emotional myself and related a lot to Bono, because my mother too was terminally ill at the time and died a few months after his father.

Bono shared stories about his dad with us and gave us an insight into what he was like, and it struck me that in many ways Bono was very like him. All this created an intimacy about these shows, a closeness, as we supported Bono emotionally as he poured his heart out to us in each show. It could only happen at a U2 show and I feel really privileged to have been part of it all, they were truly special times that I will never forget.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

2001 August - Elevation Tour, Slane, The Long Trek!

Julie and I were driving along the motorway that encircles Dublin on our way to our next gig at Slane Castle. Bono was being interviewed on the radio, it wasn't a very nice day and he'd made up a little poem. "The rain in Slane falls mainly on the ..... crowd. We'll be dry, but they'll be cool". We laughed, Bono is so funny! We'd decided not to go to the show for the full day, but wanted to see Coldplay and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, so it was mid-afternoon when we got there

We parked in a field that was one of the many being used as car parks. Only later we realised that we could have driven on and found parking much nearer the venue. We set off to walk to the gig site. We passed dozens of buses, coaches, cars following a snakelike line of people up and down hills. When we got to the top of a hill we hoped to see where the show was being held, but no, on we went up another hill and trekked on and on and on. Eventually we crossed a bridge over the River Boyne and saw an impressive stone archway which was the entrance to a leafy lane - little did we know that we still had a mile to walk! As we got close we heard Coldplay, we'd missed them, so disappointing.

Eventually we got into the venue, which was a huge natural amphitheatre. Slane Castle stood to the right of the stage, I'd never been to such a huge show. We stayed high on the hill not too far from where we had come in. The stage was a long way off but there was a big screen that we could see fine.

It was now a pleasant, warm afternoon. The Red Hot Chili Peppers came on and I found them disappointing.

U2 took to the stage at 8.30pm. There was a massive cheer and the crowd went crazy. Bono's father had died a few days previously and had been buried the day before this show, and it was obvious Bono was naturally a bit fragile and emotional at times. When he dedicated Kite to his father thousands of lights came on, lighters, bits of paper, plastic cups - it was very moving and magical. Bono said his father was now free of his illness and would live on in him and his children and their children. During One Bob Hewson's picture was put up on the screens, it was like we were all paying our respects to him and saying goodbye.

A big surprise was the band playing A Kind Of Homecoming. They didn't perform it all that well, Bono forgot the words but it didn't matter because it was the sentiment of the song that was the most important thing. U2 also played a little of Thin Lizzy's Dancing In The Moonlight.

Being so far from the stage we found the sound wasn't that good and we did feel a little bit away from the heart of the concert. I'm not sure I'd go to another concert at Slane, it is just so big and unless you head there really early you are going to be a long way from the stage and so lose some of the atmosphere. Plus there are huge queues for everything and the toilets quickly descend into a health hazard!

At the end of the concert there was a wonderful firework display, which we watched as we headed out - we were near the exit and we wanted to get quickly. Even so it was a bit hairy at times with all the pushing and jostling, especially along the narrow way out. The walk back didn't seem as long as the walk there, but it must have been three miles each way. We initially walked past the field where our car was but soon realised and doubled back. Once in the field it was so dark we had difficulty finding our car but eventually discovered it by getting the lights to flash by pressing the remote! We were really hungry and devoured some croissants we'd pinched from breakfast at our bed and breakfast and washed them down with Coke. As we had got out of Slane quickly we avoided the worst of the traffic jams and were soon on our way back to Dublin.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

2001 August - Elevation Tour, London 2, Into The Heart And Soul

Next day we said goodbye to Marian and Julie who had to miss the today's shows due to other commitments. Dianne, Jane and I had standing tickets this time so we headed to Earl's Court really early as we hoped to get into the front heart enclosure. All venues had different ways of organising this and we had no idea how it would pan out.

The whole queue was being organised by one staff member, a chatty Cockney guy, who did a brilliant job of keeping everything in order. We were given wristbands mine was 159. We had to wait in the queue because later we would get our "proper" heart wristbands. It was ok waiting, I spied my German friends Chris and Jenny and chatted with them for a while. The time went fast, at 12.30pm we were put into pens and by 2pm we had the precious heart bands. We were told we could stay where we were in the queue so we could get good places or we could go off and come back later and still get into the heart. We decided to leave, we'd had enough waiting that day and were hungry.

After having a meal we went back to Earl's Court and waited for the band to arrive. The first three Mercedes cars that the band come separately arrived but none stopped. Quite late the last car arrived and it stopped, as the cars had blacked out windows we had no idea who was in this one, it turned out to be Bono. He looked tired and initially sat side on in the back seat with the door open, I had the urge to hug him as he looked so weary, I also felt a bit guilty wanting something from him at this difficult time in his life (he was still returning to Ireland after every show to be at his father's bedside). But then, if he didn't want to meet fans he wouldn't have stopped. Eventually he stood up and just like in Birmingham steadily brightened up as he chatted to fans.

As he signed my CD he looked up, he recognised me and said. "Hi," and gently touched my hand. My heart gave a jump! It was busy and I moved back out of the way to let others have their time with him.

After he had gone into the arena we headed inside our selves. we easily got into the heart by showing our wristbands. It wasn't very crowded in there and it was easy to move about, no crush or pushing and where ever you were you wouldn't be far from the band. We were thrilled to be in there!

P J Harvey was the support, she was ok, but I was impatient for U2. I'd found a great place about four yards from the stage where there seemed to be lots of small women so I could see the stage easily.

Come 9pm U2 were on, and right from the beginning Bono was lively and chatty, so different from the weary man we'd met a couple of hours earlier. He spied an Irish flag near the catwalk.

"Throw the flag down". He said a few times but the fan just kept waving it. Bono smiled and shook his head. "Aren't them Paddies thick?" He said.

He also talked about his father, saying that for most of his life they he and his dad did not get on well, but that in the last few years they had made "a kind of peace" and he was glad about that. It was very moving, then he sang Kite and there were many tears, including mine. Being so close it was easy to see that Bono was choked up too and at times struggled to compose himself. It was both difficult and fascinating to watch. Difficult because I felt almost voyeuristic watching this man's personal pain. But it was also fascinating because few performers can be so open and honest about their emotions as Bono, he laid his heart and soul bare for us all to see.

Having written that, the show was generally very "up", celebratory and full of fun. During Mysterious Ways he tried to belly dance and entertained with pelvic thrusts when the dancing failed. Someone handed him a fiver and he stuffed it down his trousers, more money was offered and Bono took it laughing. He then teased the crowd as he played with the zip of his trousers. All good fun.

At one point Bono took a drink from a bottle of water and then threw it into the crowd. There was a mad scramble for it and suddenly it slithered in my hand - and I wasn't even trying to get it! An Italian man pointed at his watch and said. "I give you my watch, I give you my watch!" I turned him down .

Inside the heart it felt separate from the rest of the audience, it felt that U2 were playing just for the small amount of people in the heart. There was a lot of eye contact with band members and the heart crowd, especially from Bono and Adam. It was also so good to be able to see all the facial expressions of the band, and the communication between them during the show.

The star constellations projected during With Or Without You seemed to envelop you within the heart, you became part of the show. The lighting on this tour has been spectacular. During the final song, the rousing Walk On a similar thing happens with the handwritten lyrics that spread out over the audience.

It was one of the great U2 shows, it was a U2 party and we'd been right in the centre of it!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

2001 August - Elevation Tour, London,

August 18th saw me in London along with my friends, Dianne, Jane, Julie, Sharon and Marian. It was really nice to see Marian again, she is an old school friend of mine and we hadn't met in person for years.

Marian, Sharon and I got a taxi to Earl's Court followed by Julie, Jane and Dianne in another taxi. We got there fairly quickly and waited for the others. We waited and waited and they didn't arrive. We were starting to get really worried when they turned up, apparently their taxi had been involved in a minor crash! They were all ok though thank heavens.

We went to the stage door area and waited and it wasn't long until the first band member arrived, it was Larry. He was very pleasant to all the fans there and willingly signed autographs. Not long afterwards Adam arrived and again met with the fans, it was raining heavily by now and Sharon held her umbrella over him as he signed autographs.

As we had seated tickets we didn't have to queue up so we went to eat nearby before going into the venue. The show was good, once more Bono dedicated Kite to his father and the support for Bono could almost be felt. I really enjoyed Mysterious Ways once more, I love the way they did it on this tour. Edge's guitar is amazing and Bono really prolongs the ending and ad libs a lot which really add to the song for me. The audience was very responsive, sometimes in London the crowd can be a bit unreceptive but that night they were great and very enthusiastic. This show was a bit like the Birmingham show we saw, good, and well worth seeing, but it was not one of U2's great shows.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

2001 August - Elevation Tour, Birmingham, Deja Vu and Meetings

Immediately after the last Manchester show Dianne, Julie and me headed north to my home, as I had to work for one day. Then on the following day, 14th August, we got the train to Birmingham for the next show of the tour. It was hectic to say the least! But I love all the madness and travelling involved when on tour.

It was a lovely, warm summers day and, after dropping off our luggage, we headed to the NEC Arena close by. We wandered around the back to see if we could catch the band arriving, there were already quite a lot of people there. I got a touch of deja vu - nothing much had changed since we had last waited there, met the band and got into the sound check during Zoo TV in 1992. It was hard to believe that was nine years ago it didn't seem that long ago, how time flies.

Our timing was impeccable, we'd barely got settled and then the first band member arrived - Larry. He came across to the fans, he was very quiet and did not seem at ease, he also looked unhealthily thin. But he spent quite a long time signing things for fans.

Adam and Edge arrived in separate cars at the same time and they too came over to the fans. They started their meet and greet at opposite ends of the line of fans. Both were charming and patient, Edge sweet and gentle in his manner, Adam the perfect polite gentleman as ever. They signed things, chatted and posed for photos.

It was quite a while before Bono arrived. He must have just arrived in the UK from Ireland as he was going back home after every show and staying by his father's side in hospital. I didn't expect him to come across, but he did. The airport was only about three miles from the venue so that made it convenient for him.

Two excited Italian fans came around the barrier shouting. "Italy Bono, Italy."

Bono's security man smiled and said. "Italy, behind the barrier." The young men complied.

Bono started dealing with fans at one end of the line and worked his way along. He looked tired and had deep lines etched in his face and he was quieter than normal, he didn't look at people as much as he usually did. It amazed me that he had time for fans at this difficult time in his life. But as he moved along the line of clamouring fans he gradually became more effusive, it was as if he was taking on the energy from the fans and it was pumping him up. He started talking more and even chatted and joked to someone on a fan's mobile!

After dealing with the main group of fans he headed back towards the arena, he stopped by a small group of people that were beside a car park station pay point. He chatted to those people and paid special attention to a lady of very advanced years - who probably had no idea who he was. We could see her absolutely beaming as he chatted to her, his Irish charm obviously working. He kissed her on the cheek as he left leaving her with a huge smile on her face.

The show was a good one, but in all honesty not a great one. There's nothing special I remember about it, after all the heightened emotion of Manchester every one's senses needed a rest I think! I do remember Bono joking about Adam's legendary problems with wind!! I wasn't disappointed that the show was just "good", and it was still worth going to.

After the show Dianne, Julie and I went back to our hotel and had a drink in the bar which was full of other U2 fans so there was a good atmosphere. It was a good way to end the day.

Next morning it was back home for me, working for three days before picking up my suitcase once more heading south on the train to the next gigs in London - what a jet-setting life being a U2 fan on tour is!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

2001 August - Elevation Tour, Manchester 2, The Dark Energy

This was the gig that I had a photopass for. I had actually recently produced the last issue of my fanzine Eirinn - I'd always said I'd stop doing it when it became too much work and it had now got to that point. Also, the Internet was now the place for fansites and paper 'zines can't compete with that. But, luckily I was still able to get a photopass. I met up with Mick, who was the husband of Jackie who along with Debbi did a fanzine called The Real Thing, who was using their pass as Jackie was unable to do so for health reasons.

We went to the Box Office as we had been told to, no one knew anything about photopasses - here we go again! The staff there did call Amanda from RMP, U2's publicists, and we were told to go round to the backstage entrance. We got in surprisingly easily and were told to sit in a small waiting area. Time passed and passed and passed. It was surprisingly quiet in this area, we could faintly hear Kelis on stage, it was hard to believe there were 20,000 people only a few yards away. Kelis finished and eventually Amanda returned with our passes, she was very nice and helpful, told us where we could go where we couldn't when we were in the pit - basically we could wander anywhere within the gangway around between the catwalk and "heart" enclosure.

Amanda left and another Irish girl called Louise took her place, she was very sweet and chatted away to us, there were only two other photographers that night.

At 8.35pm she took us the short distance into the arena. As we left the peaceful sanctuary of the backstage waiting area the noise and heat increased and as walked under the catwalk into the arena proper and the gangway area the energy from the audience was a physical sensation, amazing. I have no wish to perform on a stage, but that experience of walking into an arena full of people gave me some idea of the buzz it must give the band.

We wandered around the gangway, I saw my friends Serena and Linda in the heart area. The heart looked a great place to be, close all the action and not too crowded. There was black material covering the area under the catwalk, this was attached by Velcro - as I found out when I got stuck to it! I saw the drum kit Larry used in Desire underneath there. I was surprised at how much the catwalk sloped, it was quite steep where it met the main stage. I stood at the tip of the heart and looked out over the crowd and up the steep banks of seats all around - what a marvellous sight it was!

Marvin Gaye, the Stevie Wonder came over the speakers - Next it would be U2 live! Elevation started with the house lights still on. It was wonderful to be able to wander freely and be so close to the band - I had to remind myself to take photos instead of just dancing and singing along!

Next it was Beautiful Day, then Until the End of the World. The "duel" between Bono and Edge happened right in front of me. Bono "fell" quite heavily and lay on his back, he was so close I could have easily touched him but I resisted! Edge looked menacing as he stood over Bono playing his guitar solo and Bono's kicked out at the guitar with real force, he seemed really angry. Finally he stopped the guitar by putting his hand and mic over the guitar strings, causing it to make a horrible noise. Edge tried to get him off, but he hung on, all very theatrical but effective. It felt almost like a private show for me as I was just beside them and I kind of forgot there was also an arena full of people there!

Unfortunately that was it and we had to leave. It was really dark after the song and we were led out following the beam of a torch to the backstage area - again it was so quiet there. I could hear New Years Day being played as Louise led us up some internal stairs and out onto the main concourse.

I found the seats where my friends were and settled for the rest of the gig. It soon became obvious that Bono was quite wound up. After Gone he kicked the mic stand and it flew into the crowd at the front of the heart. During an amazingly powerful Out of Control Bono's fingers were tapping the mic ferociously, he paced around like a caged animal seemingly ready to explode, never was a song more appropriate!

Wake up Dead Man was entirely sung with Bono lying on his back on the heart catwalk. He lay completely still as he sung, very moving and powerful in its simplicity.

Bono and Edge sang The Beatles' Rain very nicely, saying that it had been raining so much that we'd "Have to get the buckets out soon." Manchester is the wettest city in England and boy was it living up to that today!

Again there had been technical difficulties at times, during One, after singing for a short while Bono stopped, went to the side of the stage and shouted at one of the techs. The others played on and he eventually came back to the centre of the stage and sang more of the song, then said. "Thank you, goodnight" and almost ran off the stage. The others continued playing for a while before also saying goodnight. No Walk On, a very strange ending to the show that left you waiting for more.

It had been a strange show, driven by Bono's anger, it felt like he could explode at any moment, he was like a coiled spring. Wh yhe wa slike this who knows? Maybe because of teh technical problems, maybe the more personal stress of his father's terminal illness. All I know is that it gave the gig a dark energy and an almost scary power, that for me was fascinating to watch, yet at the same time also felt intrusive.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

2001 August - Elevation Tour Manchester 1, Humanity and Communication

The start of the Elevation Tour for me! Dianne, Julie, Jane, Sharon and I had met up in Manchester the previous day, lovely to see them all again. That evening I also met up with my German friends Chris and Andy (who the others didn't know) and went for an Italian meal with them and caught up with all their news too. One of the things I love about U2 tours is seeing all my U2 friends once more.

On 11th August we went to the Evening News Arena, which conveniently, was only a five minute walk from our hotel at about 7pm. Due to the very steep seating in the arena we could see very well from our seats. Unfortunately we had to endure Kelis who seemed to scream through every song, we should have gone in later!

U2 started the show with Elevation, it was very powerful, and though never a favourite of mine, it was a good song to open the gig with. Beautiful Day, Until the End of the World, Discotheque/Staring at the Sun followed in quick succesion getting the gig off to a rousing start. Next to be performed was Kite and Bono dropped a bombshell before he sung it.

"I want to sing this song for my father, it feels like he wrote it" he said, continuing, "I thought I wrote it for my kids but I think he wrote it for me and he's only got a few days left in this world - this is for Bob Hewson."

The surprise in the arena was palpable, Julie and I just looked at each other speechless, we 'd heard a while ago that Bono's father was very ill, but had no idea of the severity. Bono went on to sing the song so beautifully, so full of emotion, tears ran down my face. At that time in my life my mother was also very ill (she died not long after Bono's father) so it really resonated with me on a personal level, as well as feeling for Bono. You could feel the sympathy and caring of audience towards Bono, it was such a highly charged performance, I think we all just wanted to give him a caring hug, but I think in a way, that's just what we did.

After that emotional song I didn't think I'd be able to come "up" again, but such is the power of U2's live performances that the show did reach highs after this. It was fabulous to hear Bad again, still my favourite so rarely performed nowadays, but always a highlight when it is.

Streets was exhilarating, the red stage, the lights, the crowd jumping up and down, Bono running a circuit around the "heart" front enclosure before starting the song, full of vibrance and energy.

The Fly made a welcome comeback, completely re-worked. Initially when it started I wasn't sure what song it was as it was so different. But I loved the new version which ended with Bono racing around the heart again and then crashing hard into one of the yellow screens at the back of the stage, staying there for a while, The Fly drawn to the light and splattered against the screen, very effective and quite funny.

The show ended with the beautiful Walk On, the perfect way to end the show and we left the arena in silence, completely emotionally wrung out. This show had taken us on such an emotional journey we were lost for words.

It may not have been the best show technically (there had been some problems), but it was a triumph of humanity and communication. Bono bravely bared his soul and shared his pain and that brought him closer to the crowd on a very personal level. I think he needed to do that and needed our response to give him strength. In later interviews he did say that continuing to do the shows and having the support of the fans when his father was dying helped him cope. And that's exactly one of the things that makes the relationship between U2 and their fans so special.