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.