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!