Saturday, 16 October 2010

2008 - February, U23D

Friday February 22nd started as usual for me, up early for work, headed to the clinic, saw my patients and did the necessary paperwork. But come lunchtime I left work and moved into another world for a weekend, and boy was I ready for that!

I picked up my friend Dawn from the station and we went for mine for a quick lunch before heading back into the city centre to catch our train to Manchester. Once there we quickly met up with Debbi and that was it, we were all together - let the party begin!

We checked in at the Travelodge in Blackfriars Street, it's seen better days and in need refurbishment, but it was clean, central and cheap so that suited us for our short stay.

Soon afterwards we headed off to Chaophraya, a Thai restaurant I knew which serves fantastic food.  It was only ten minutes walk from our hotel and soon we were in our seats. The food was lovely and the service perfect and the bill reasonable, I would recommend the restaurant to anyone visiting Manchester.

I'd checked on the map where the IMAX where we were seeing U23D was and we headed in that direction. We had to travel to Manchester to see the film as the film wasn't playing where we lived. We passed the great Manchester Wheel looking very impressive all lit up in blue and white, it must have been quite a job to erect it as it's not in open ground, there are streets and buildings all around it. Dawn, who is from a small town in Scotland, was marvelling at all the people, shops and lights of the big city, I loved it too, I've always liked the vibe of Manchester.

[007.JPG]After a much shorter walk than expected we saw the Printworks ahead, we went in and one of the first things we saw was a stunning photo of Bono in the window of the Hard Rock Cafe, wowee!!! Here's a photo and Debbi and me (doing my Bono impression) beside it, I'm sure female readers especially will appreciate it!

Further into the Printworks there was a U2 tribute band called Rattle and Hum playing. They were ok, but I think that the Scottish tribute band NU2 are much better. Also it was a bit disconcerting to see "Bono" rather overweight and "Larry" looking more Italian than Irish! But their playing added to the U2 atmosphere and our excitement. We couldn't stay long as we had to be a the IMAX so we walked on and in.

The IMAX complex was a confusing place to get around, but we eventually found our way into the right theatre. We sat near the centre two rows from the back. It was quite a large theatre with a huge screen from floor to ceiling, the largest I have ever seen! The seats were very comfortable and there was lots of legroom. The cinema was not that full, maybe a third full I'd say and of course we  had those awful goofy 3D glasses to wear!

By now we were really excited and dead on 9pm the lights went down and U23D started. I'd never been to either an IMAX or a 3D film before so had no idea what to expect. When U2 blasted into Vertigo and on screen it took my breath away. I was on stage with the band, then I was in the audience dodging heads that blocked my view, then I was near enough to Bono to see individual hairs in his stubble..... I've never been that up close and personal to Bono! Being so much part of the concert was a very intense experience I was totally immersed me in the show. I would like to be able to write a balanced, objective review, but it was such an amazing experience!

There was a lot to take in. I loved the aerial shots, especially those above Larry, you got a little glimpse into his hidden world behind the drums, saw his drink, paper hankies and just how hard he works. Watching Edge at work, clearly concentrating deeply. Often we almost moved to dodge Adam's guitar as he swung round and it seemed to loom into your face. I loved seeing the communication between the band , the touches, hugs, even Bono kissing Adam, the bands close friendship is so obvious and I'm sure it plays a big part in their longevity.

Highlights, wow, there were so many, but the top one has to be during Sunday Bloody Sunday when Bono looks into the camera and reaches out with his hand to "wipe your tears away", it was like he was reaching to touch me and I had the urge to reach out and touch his hand. A very personal moment in the film for everyone watching.

Sometimes was lovely, with Bono getting totally lost in it as usual. One of my few complaints about the film was here. This is a very moving and personal song for Bono and there should have been more close ups on his face so the passion and raw emotion he expresses was conveyed to the viewers more strongly.

Love and Peace is very powerful live and this came across perfectly in the film. The thumping drum beats thudding round the theatre, I felt like I was standing beside Bono at times as he beat the drum on the b-stage.

It was good to see the band left in the mistake at the beginning of The Fly, though I'm pretty sure Bono's "What the....." had been somewhat edited!

I found the whole bandana/blindfold part as cringeworthy on film as I did live.  Sometimes Bono takes it too far, and, for me, this was one of those times.  But that was all I found wrong with the show, otherwise it was brilliant.

All during the film the audience was amazing, I can see why they filmed this in South America you couldn't have wished for a more enthusiastic crowd and this added something very special to the film. As I watched it struck me that U2 are another generation to most of the audience (they were a young crowd), they come from a country thousands of miles away and speak another language. But none of that was a barrier, it really shows how U2's music can speak to everyone.

Finally, as the titles rolled and hundreds of names drifted past at the end of the film I noticed the dedication from U2 was really nice - and much appreciated! Good to know they value us longtime fans.

"U2 would like to thank the fans, touring personnel and staff, whose long term loyalty, Commitment and support have helped shape who we are today. This film is for you."

It had been very hard not to sing or get up and dance or even just clap during the film and the silence as the lights came up was weird! All in all, it was a fantastic film and will keep us going until we can see U2 live on stage again - hopefully next year.

We were all a bit gobsmacked when we left, (as we often are after seeing a live gig), but by time we got to our hotel we'd found our voices and chatted, laughed and drank champagne for hours.

February 23rd

Unfortunately Dawn was only staying the one night so Debbi and I saw her off home in the morning. We decided to do a little shopping before going on the Manchester wheel. I wasn't sure about it as I'm not very good with heights if I don't feel safe, but not one to not try something I decided to give it a go. I'm afraid once the wheel got higher than the rooftops of the surrounding buildings my stomach churned and I was hit with vertigo and I spent the rest of the ride with my eyes closed, I was ok then! Deb took photos so I could see what I missed !!

Once safely back on terra firma where did we go? Back to see U23D in the Printworks! Second time round I had the chance to notice other things that I'd missed before and this time and didn't find it as frustrating not to be able to dance and sing! The main thing I noticed this time was that at the very end when the audience were singing and Bono, clearly overcome by their response, he stopped singing and turned the microphone towards the crowd and let them finish the show, it was the perfect thing to do and very fitting. Bono has an inate instinct for things like that.

Later that evening Debbi and I had a meal and seat booked at the Comedy Store. We started on the wine as soon as we got there and were quite merry by time we were taken downstairs for our meal. We were very impressed with the meal, it was excellent, starters and then we both had delicious tender lamb for our main. Afterwards we got a plate of petit fours which rounded it all off very nicely as we waited for the show to start.

Later we were taken into the auditorium and had seats comfortably away from the front - we didin't want to be picked on by the comedians. The compare Richard Monkhouse was funny but the first two comedians (can't remember their names)were mediocre to tell the truth. At the interval we went for a wine and decided to leave slightly early and go see U2 3D again! That turned into not going back into the comedy show, finishing our wine and relaxing in the bar, then getting a taxi up to the Printworks. Madness I know, but we were both of the same mind and our preference at that time was to see U23D again rather than go back into the Comedy Store. A bit of spontaneity does you good so off we went into the lively Manchester Saturday night!

We could find our way easily round the IMAX now seeing we'd visited it quite a lot in the past couple of days! We settled into our seats and were blown away for the third time and again picked up new things, it really is a film you need to see more than once. At the end I felt kind of sad, at bit like I do at the end of the last gig I'll see on a tour. This was it for me, not more U23D, but I'm lucky to have been able to see it in an IMAX - three times, so I'm very happy with that.  Debbi ended up going to see it once more the next day with her husband!

It was certainly worth the journey and expense, and I'm glad I could share it all with my dear friends Debbi and Dawn, who I know were as impressed as me.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

2007 - November, "Bleedin' rock stars"

Debbi and I had a short break in Dublin in November. We treated ourselves to a one night stay in the Garden Terrace Suite at the Clarence, much cheaper than the Penthouse but nowhere near as grand! The other two days we stayed at Bewley's which was as nice as usual, it's always a good place to stay.

We went down to Hanover Quay on our last full day in Dublin, and luckily we managed to get parked right opposite the studio. There were a couple of girls and two young men already waiting at the studio. The second stroke of luck was that all the signs that the band were there or coming were there so we waited.

Shortly after we got there Adam arrived and stopped to talk, both Debbi and I got good photos taken with him and were able to have a little chat. Debbi told him she wasn't too well and he asked why and she said about overdoing it the previous night, he asked where she'd been and she replied the Clarence. I then asked how the recording of the album was going, and after a short pause he said, with a hint of frustration. "Well, we haven't really started on it yet!" Not what we were wanting to hear! At this point a young man came and asked for an autograph and shortly afterwards Adam went into the studio. The men left after that.

Edge and Larry arrived shortly afterwards but didn't stop, three down one to go, Bono. It was dry and not cold so it wasn't unpleasant waiting and there is always something to watch at HQ. The area has changed beyond recognition, each time we come there are new blocks of offices or apartments, shops and restaurants. Grimy Misery Hill, noisy, dusty Kilsaran Concrete, the garage with the German Shepherd guard dog up the road all gone. And soon HQ will be gone too and it will be the end of an era for us, I feel a little sad about that.

A courier van drew up outside the studio and the driver asked us what we were waiting for and Debbi said "a bus", he laughed and said that this was a very "odd street". Around this time the two girls left, so now it was just Debbi and I left waiting.

I had my usually very reliable "feeling" that we'd meet Bono but time was passing and there was no sign of him. Then luck smiled on us for the third time - at about 3.30pm Bono arrived in a taxi, he waved to us as it pulled up outside the studio. He got out and after saying goodbye to someone who was in the taxi with him he came across to us. At this point I got that familiar, surreal feeling, as I watched him walking towards us. Unusually he wasn't wearing his glasses which was nice, he stopped in front of us and greeted us in his usual way,

"Hi how are you?"

We said we were ok and Debbi said,

"Fancy meeting you here",

Bono smiled and then he leaned forward and kissed Debbi and said he liked her hair (she's had part of it dyed dark pink), then he leaned over to me and kissed me. We both noticed he had no aftershave on. He was just about to say something when Debbi jumped in and said.

"Can we just say something to you," immediately she had his attention, he looked at her intently, waiting for what was coming next. She continued to thank him for what he did for us when we were in the penthouse in May. I added that it made our stay there just perfect.

"Did you stay up really late?" he asked.

"We stayed up all night!" I replied, Bono was very impressed with that and with a gesture said,

"YES, great stuff!"

He obviously approved! Debbi continued saying that we'd really enjoyed every minute there, going in the hot tub, drinking champagne..... Bono smiled as he listened. Then she said,

"Actually we were at the Clarence last night, but not in the penthouse".

"I should think not," he said emphatically, "what do you think you are, bleedin' rock stars?!"

We all laughed, he is so funny. Then Bono said he would have to go as he was an hour late, so we said our goodbyes and then he disappeared into the studio. It had been a very short but sweet meeting. We had so wanted to be able to thank him personally on behalf of ourselves and our friends Dianne and Julie, for his kindness in May. We had left a thank you note at the studio in May but we never knew if he got it of course. So we were so pleased to be able to thank him in person and we were lucky to have been the only fans there when he arrived. It was great to have a kiss from him too! He really is so sweet. I'd like to say he looked well, but he looked very tired and drawn. Later we found out that he had already been to a meeting of Irish Hunger Taskforce in Cork earlier that day. He really needs to slow down a bit.

We went to our car and were sitting getting ourselves sorted when four young and very beautiful Italian girls appeared from nowhere and came over to us. They asked if Bono was in the studio we told them he was and that he had arrived just a few minutes earlier. The girls were ecstatic, apparently Bono had told them yesterday that he would see them for autographs and photos at 6pm today. The girls were so excited, shouting repeated thanks yous and blowing kisses to us over and over as they walked away. I'd have loved to have been there when they met Bono!

That meeting was a lovely ending to our short Dublin trip and it felt like we had been able to make a perfect ending also for our May Penthouse trip by giving our thanks to the B-man.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

2007 - May, Bono at HQ and the Clarence Penthouse

Sorry for the long gap since my last post, I just seem to have been so busy with other writing and life in general. But now I'm determined to continue updating this blog regularly until I'm up to the present day, then I'll update it when there are any U2 happenings in my life. Below is one of the most marvellous U2 experiences I've had!

All our trips to Dublin are special, but this week long 2007 trip was more special than usual, we were staying in a rented apartment – but for one night we were going to stay in the Penthouse at the Clarence Hotel – we’d saved for two and a half years for it! Debbi, Dianne, Julie and I were at last back in Dublin for this holiday of a lifetime. It was good to meet up with my friends again; we always just seem to pick up from where we left off when we get back together.

On Tuesday lunchtime we went down to U2’s studio in the docklands. How it is changing there, the gritty griminess and character being replaced by large, anonymous glass and steel buildings. Even the Kilsaran concrete yard was now closed and the famous bench gone. I’m not sure about all the changes in Dublin, so many wonderful old buildings have gone, I feel they should have done more renovation and so kept some of the city’s unique character alive within the new.

We had no idea whether U2 were at the studio, but not long after we got there Adam arrived. We had a short chat and took photos; as usual he was a real gentleman. About an hour later Bono arrived too and not long after parking his car in the garage appeared at the studio door. He made no attempt to come across the road and was clearly waiting for us to come to him so we did. He looked really well and suits the short hair; also its more natural colour is much better for his pale Irish complexion.

He was chatty and asked us various questions including what we had been doing so far on our holiday, we told him about our trip to Brittas Bay the previous day and he said he loved it there. We all got autographs and photos taken with him. We hadn't been sure whether to tell him about our stay the penthouse at the Clarence later that week. Debbi quietly asked me. "Shall we tell him?" H heard and said. "Tell me what?" His eyes going back and for between our faces. Don't know why but I quietly said to Deb ."Ok." (As if he wouldn't hear me!) Debbi then shared our plans with him. Bono asked what we were celebrating and we told him it was a special birthday for Dianne. He was too much of a gentleman to ask how old she would be, I jokingly told him she was 30! To which Diann said. "It's a long time since I've been 30!" I added that we'd be saving to do this for ages as I didn't want him to think we were rich fans who could do something like that whenever we wanted. He said we'd love it in the penthouse, and after wishing Dianne a happy birthday and saying goodbye he went back into the studio. It’s always so good to meet Bono, he has the ability to make everyone around him feel special and important and we were certainly full of smiles as we left Hanover Quay that day!

A couple of days later and it was our big day at penthouse at the Clarence Hotel; I was wide at 6.30am, very unusual for me! We spent the morning getting ready, we looked like different people in our lovely clothes, we felt like different people too.

The limo was a bit late, the chauffeur couldn’t find us! After I gave directions over the phone he was soon there. It was a white stretch limo, black leather seats, yet let down by plastic glasses for the “champagne” which tasted more like Cava to me. It was all rather over the top for my liking, but still, it was special and that was what this day was all about. We sat inside watching a U2 DVD and drinking champagne as the driver took us on a tour of the city. I really just wanted to get to the Clarence!

When we did get to the hotel we were treated like royalty and shown round the ground floor of the hotel (as if we'd never been there before) before getting into the lift up to the penthouse. We were so excited it was hard to remain calm! The staff member showed us around the two floors of the duplex penthouse before leaving us on our own. It was then we could let go and just explore.

The penthouse was fantastic, much bigger than it looks on photos and everything of the highest quality. We had welcome cocktails waiting for us as arranged, but there was also a bottle of champagne in a very expensive looking Alessi cooler on ice with 4 glasses which wasn't part of the deal. We checked with reception and were told it was complimentary, so we popped the cork, the champagne was wonderful!

We spent the after just enjoying the penthouse. On the lower level was a sitting room, dining room, two bathrooms, a kitchen and two bedrooms. Along the entire front of this was a balcony overlooking the River Liffey and Dublin. The upper level was reached by a stylish oak and stainless steel spiral staircase. This level was open plan at one end a seated area the other end had a baby grand piano and a very well stocked (and expensive) bar. There was a balcony at the back where the hot tub was. There was also a small balcony at the other end of the loft that gave you a lovely view onto the city.

We relaxed in the hot tub with our champagne, we chatted as we watched DVDs on the huge TV. We could hardly believe that after over two and a half years of saving we were finally in the penthouse.

In the early evening we started getting ready to go down to the Tea Room for our meal. We had bought special outfits and I must say we looked so glamorous – we barely recognised each other!

At 8pm we went down for dinner, we were greeted by a lady who said, “You are looking very beautiful tonight ladies” and we were shown to our table. There was an envelope on the table that the waiter handed to Debbi. She opened it and for a few seconds just stared at it. We all guessed what it was even before she read it out and then passed it round it said "Happy Birthday, love Bono”. Before we had a chance to say anything the sommelier was there pouring champagne. Debbi asked if it was from Bono and we were told yes. We were so surprised and touched that he'd done this we were nearly crying! For a while we were speechless (which doesn't happen often) and it was a while before we got ourselves together and were able to look at the menu and order (which also doesn't often happen!!)

The meal was wonderful, excellent quality and service. We'd planned to have a very special expensive bottle of wine with our meal so we still had that too. It turned out that we didn't have to pay for that either, all our drinks that night (including the champagne that had been waiting for us on our arrival at the penthouse) were on Bono. Even now I can hardly believe he did this for us, going to the penthouse was exciting enough, but for Bono to do this made it perfect, it was so thoughtful and kind of him.

After finishing the wine in the Study we went back up to the penthouse. We stayed up all night chatting, drinking wine, having a laugh, making a video and watching DVDs, we didn't want to miss a minute of our stay by sleeping. Sometimes we went out onto one of the balconies to look at the lovely view of the lights of Dublin at night. It felt like we were in another world high above those lights and, really, we were. We were in the rarified world of the rich and famous, sampling their lifestyle for 24 hours and we were loving it!

We watched a beautiful dawn break over the city from the balcony which signalled that our stay in the penthouse was nearly over. I felt sad that it was coming to an end, yet I also felt lucky. Lucky that I could afford to do something like this - even if it meant a lot of saving. Lucky to have three special friends in Debbi, Dianne and Julie to share this with. And lucky to be a fan of Bono, whose thoughtful kindness made our stay at the penthouse at the Clarence Hotel absolutely perfect.