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.