Friday, 23 September 2011

2010 June - U2 360 at the Rose Bowl DVD Review

I had pre-ordered the Deluxe version of the 360 at the Rose Bowl DVD and was surprised to see it pop through my letter box yesterday!  So last night I sat down with a glass of red wine and watched disc one.  I was a bit worried what I would think about it as I had not been that impressed by the hour long highlights shown on Sky TV earlier in the week.  I haven't mentioned every song and my review is my initial impressions, I haven't sat and thought about it, it's just the impressions and feelings I got while watching.

Get On Your Boots starts the show,  I realise that I really don't like this song very much now, it seems kind of clumsy.  Magnificent was next - this is a song that definitely should start the show, it's perfect for that.  The audience was a bit subdued to say the least and Bono worked hard to motivate them and shouted, "Get off your fat asses."  LOL! 

Beautiful Day was well received and Bono added at bit of God's Country at the end which was a nice touch.  Again Bono worked hard to get the audience going in Mysterious Ways.  He introduced the band, Larry was U2's James Dean, Adam, Rhett Butler - "Suave, sophisticated, frequently gone with the wind", a reference to Adam's problem with wind .  Edge was a "Visitor from outer space" who boldly goes where no other guitar player goes, "Mr Spock to us, the Edge to you."  He described himself as a mixture between Arnie Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, which besides the lack of height I didn't really get.

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For was a special moment, as often happens the audience took over the singing, I think that was the point the crowd finally got into the concert.  I got that warm, fuzzy feeling I often get a U2 concerts when something special is happening that is beyond the music.  Why does this song affect people so?  I think it's because it touches a nerve deep within, across all borders, we are all searching for something, we are all striving, so can relate to this song. 

Bono called out "Buzz Aldrin's in the house, the second man to walk on the moon."  2009 was the 40th anniversary of the first men on the moon. 

Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of  was lovely, a quiet acoustic version - there was a funny interchange between Bono and Edge at the beginning.

Next was No Line on the Horizon  and seeing this confirmed it is definitely my favourite song from the last album.  energetic, a bit raw round the edges, I love when Bono just blasts out a song like that.  Love the bit where the band come crashing in again at "Traffic cop...." fab.

Elevation was another the audience liked, but it is not one of my favourite U2 songs.  Liked the bit Bono put on the end,  females fans will enjoy it LOL!

I really enjoyed In a Little While though it is not a favourite song of mine.  There were views of the earth from space and the International Space Station on the claw screens which worked really well with the song.  At the end Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne recited some lines of the song, which again was very appropriate with lyrics such as "A man takes a rocket ship into the skies."  Nice.

The Unforgettable Fire was wonderful. The claw lit up beautifully, complimenting the music well.  Once more I marvelled at the talent of such young men in the early 1980's writing such a fabulous, complicated and mature song,  Bono mentioned Stephen Gateley, who had recently died, as "A beautiful spirit, a bright shining spark."

There were some great aerial shots of the claw and stadium during City of Blinding Lights,  again it worked really well with the song. 

Vertigo rocked, the screen "spinning" manically at the end.  Crazy (I can't bothered to write out the full title of the song, it's too long!) came across well, the sound cranked up on my headphones was much better than on the TV programme the other day.  I still love this version of the song, in fact I like it better than the album version.  Bono gave some clapping lessons - and said they had a "Cuban beat going."

One was another of those moments, it's a song that brings people together, performed wonderfully, throughout the concert I thought Bono's voice was excellent.

Streets was dramatic, the stadium was lit up and all you could see was a mass of people having  ball.  One camera shot was from behind the band members who had gathered together- Bono standing astride two monitors - it gave the viewer an idea of what it was like for the band to look out over that sea of people, amazing.

Ultraviolet was slightly different to the European version, the screen intro differed, though it was still orange, no poem, just the Zoo baby speaking.  The "steering wheel" was illuminated with red lights with a white light at the centre that shone onto Bono's face.  I found that much better, as sometimes UV was too dark at shows I saw last year.  His laser suit sent of beams of red light for ages, he must have been plugged in for along time! 

With or Without You, what can I say?  Arguably the best song U2 have ever written, again at a very young age. The steering wheel was now lit up blue. I love how Bono works with this song, he always seems to bring something new to it.  At the end he took off his "suit of lights" (fame?) put it on a clothes hanger and hung it from the wheel and it was lifted up and disappeared into the claw.

The closing song was Moment of Surrender.  I still feel this song is not a good finale to a show.  I know U2 nearly always have a lowkey ending to their gigs, but they are also uplifting.  I find Moment of Surrender quite depressing, almost dirge-like and not the best way to end a show.

All in all I enjoyed the DVD, the band played and sang well and seemed to be enjoying themselves.  The sound was good via my headphones.  The whole show flowed well and there was some good use of the claw to compliment the songs.  It brought back great memories for me of the shows I saw last year, I found I often had that smile on my face that I get when watching U2.  I haven't watched the other disc yet, I hope to do that soon.

I must admit I was also very aware of Bono and what he does physically in a show, and I will be very surprised if he will be recovered enough to be able to do the European leg of this year's tour.  He has to heal, stregthen his muscles, then get fit for a tour, I doubt it can be done.  Though I suppose it might be possible to move the dates back a few weeks.  I might be wrong, I hope I am, but I wouldn't want Bono to injure himself further for the sake of a tour.

Over the past few months my relationship with U2 has been a bit strained at times for various reasons.  But I think the rocky patch is passing.  I was surprised by how concerned I was by Bono's health problems, it was almost like a friend was unwell. And watching the DVD made me realise how good U2 are at their job too.  All they have to do now is bring out a special album, and the present circumstances give them a good opportunity to do just that.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

2009 - November, Berlin, Brandenburg and U2

I'd heard about U2 playing in at the Brandenburg Gate Berlin on the radio and tried to get tickets, but was disappointed not to get lucky (as usual, I never win anything). Then, out of the blue I heard from my German friend Chris, who had a spare ticket and said I could have it if I wanted! I jumped at the chance.

Berlin was a city I'd always wanted to visit. My mother was German and when we used to go to visit my grandparents in Germany we got the ferry from the UK to Hook of Holland and there got the train to her home town in Westphalia in the then Western Germany. It always felt like an exciting adventure to me, I watched the station names pass by, Gouda - Utrecht – Amersfoort – Hengelo – Rheine – Osnabruck are some I remember, everything was so different. That train’s destination was often Berlin, to me a place way behind the Iron Curtain, isolated and divided by the Wall - in those days the Cold War was in full swing. Berlin, in my young mind was a far off, dangerous, mysterious, yet fascinating place, and in reality it was all those things. I've ended up in many places all over the world because of U2, but this was one that was really special to me.

I arrived in a grey and very cold Berlin after a rather convoluted trip from Schonefeld airport. But hey I was here, in Berlin, and so excited! It was trying to snow but that didn't dampen the thrill at all.

After settling in at my hotel, I wrapped myself up in a warm jacket, scarf and gloves for a walk. Potsdammer Platz, with it’s glimmering new buildings was ten minutes walk away. It was lively, with shops, swanky hotels, cinemas, a little Christmas market area with stalls selling food, Christmas decorations, hats and scarves, sweets, there was even a carousel for kids. I walked another five minutes and there I was on the famous Unten den Linden (under the lindens, apparently the only trees that would grow on the street) And there on one side of the Pariser Platz was the famous Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German reunification. Normally it stands there in the square in all it’s glory, but now all the preparations for the U2 concert filled part of the square, yet the Gate was still awe-inspiring even with the work going on around it.

I heard lots of English spoken with Irish accents around and a few fans stood by the hotel adjacent to the square, so U2 were probably staying there. It was too cold for me to hang around for them and I left and walked back to my hotel.

The next day I woke to very welcome blue skies and sunshine! After breakfast I walked to Potsdammer Platz once more to catch the sightseeing bus. I wasn’t going to be in Berlin long so I wanted to see what I could and I thought the best way to do that was to go on a tour.

One of the first things we saw was part of the Wall that remains, there are bits of it still around, there was also a small piece in situ in Potsdammer Platz. It looked really forbidding and to think there was twenty eight miles of that wall! Nearby was the well-known Checkpoint Charlie with tourists posing for photos with a “guard”.

We passed an area with lots of colourful Trabants, a reminder for me of U2's Achtung Baby and Zoo days. Berlin Cathedral was magnificent, strangely surrounded by a lot of open ground where building work was going on. This kind of thing was evident in many areas in the city, they are probably areas in the east that had decayed buildings now demolished and new ones will take their place. We passed the famous satellite-like
TV tower, another symbol visible from many parts of the city.

We drove down Friedrich Strasse and the guide told us one of the U-bahn (underground) lines ran under the street, it stayed open after the division of the city and guards on the East side made sure no one got onto the trains. It was hard to imagine that this city so divided until just twenty years ago.

Then we turned into Unten den Linden, the guide mentioned the U2 concert and I could hear music, so I think the band were sound checking at that lime. I did consider jumping off the bus at this point but sense prevailed

!We went on past the Reichstag, impressive with its glass dome representing the original cupola (the building was severely damaged by a fire in the 1930‘s and also during the war, and was not fully restored until after reunification).

We passed by the Tiergarten, a very large park. On a traffic island on a busy roundabout within the park was the column on top of which was the Siegessaule, the golden angel of victory, she glistened in the sunshine. Of course I was taken back to U2 again for U2’s video for Stay which featured the statue.

We went on to a main shopping area of the city and I saw the famous KaDeWe store. Then shortly afterwards we were back at Potsdammer Platz where I’d joined the tour and I got off the bus. I really enjoyed the tour and it gave me a good snapshot of the city.

For my lunch I got a bratwurst at one of the market stalls, it was delicious, I love bratwurst. A strange fact about Berlin is that it has a currywurst museum! Only in Germany.....
At 2.30 I set off for the meeting point I’d arranged with Chris. On the way I passed the Holocaust Memorial, dozens and dozens of coffin-shaped black granite blocks of different sizes. It was moving in it’s simplicity and a beautiful memorial.

I met up with Chris at the hotel beside the Brandenburg Gate. It was lovely to see her again, we hadn’t managed to meet up during the tour earlier this year, so this unexpected opportunity to meet up was lovely. She introduced me to her friends, a lively bunch of people who were very friendly and kind to me. We all went to an outdoor café near the Gate for something to eat and drink. Tiny bottles of vodka shots appeared from everyone’s pockets and they generously shared then with me, they warmed me up! It was starting to get dark by now and the temperature was dropping rapidly.

At 5pm some of us went into the concert site leaving the other still hitting the shots and beer. My ticket was for a different area, so after arranging a meeting point for after the show, Chris and I went our separate ways.

I could have got fairly near the front but because I’m not very tall it was pointless staying there as I couldn’t see over people in front. So I went much further back and I could see the stage pretty well from there. Time dragged and the cold started to bite. The crowd was easy going and I heard quite a few languages around me, there was a tangible excitement in the air. Floodights shone into the sky their beams hitting the very low cloud peppering it with discs of light, giving the impression that there was a grey canopy overhead.

The gig was supposed to start at 6.30pm, but that came and went. I paced about to try to warm up, no U2, it started to rain, the drops sparkled like diamonds as they were illuminated in the beams of light.

The rain didn’t last long thank heavens. Quarter to seven no U2. More pacing, I cursed Irish Time, I was so cold. At last at 7pm U2 came came onstage to massive applause and cheers from the crowd. They went straight into One, was so apt as it was created in this city. As the music swept over me I suddenly felt really emotional, tears came to my eyes and I had a lump in my throat. I think it was a combination of seeing U2 again, being in Berlin, the significance of the event and the general emotional atmosphere within the crowd. I was so moved.

Colourful graphics relating to the Wall were beamed onto the Brandenburg Gate during the song and it worked really well. Next was Magnificent which was wonderful, what a brilliant song that is! The third song was Sunday Bloody Sunday, a song I am really tired of in live shows, but for this occasion it was appropriate, Bono changed the lyrics too. Jay-Z joined the band on stage and rapped for a while, something I could have done without, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

Bono talked a little about Berlin and recalled the time the band spent there whilst recording Achtung Baby saying they “wrote some tunes, met some beautiful spirits". Another time he said - in a strong southern US drawl - “swayin’ like a field of golden corn” (or something very similar) I’ve no idea what he was talking about!

Next was Beautiful Day another very appropriate song for the occasion, again I felt very emotional and I never normally feel like that during that song. I think it again was the atmosphere and the crowd singing on top of their voices, I could only imagine how special this occasion felt for native Berliners.

Vertigo rocked, and they closed with Moment of Surrender. Short but wonderful, U2 never disappoint live. For those who have read about U2 erecting a “wall” around the gig site that’s rubbish. There was a security fence around the site which I fully expected. There were rumours of up to 100,000 people coming to listen and they needed to have some safety measures in place. Also anything that was done at that gig was nothing to do with U2 anyway as it was an MTV production.

The crowd dispersed and I met up with Chris and we went back to the café to meet up with her friends. During the gig I hadn’t felt or thought of the cold, but now sitting in this outside café it really got to me. After a while I said I’d have to go as I was so cold. So I said my goodbyes to Chris and her friends and walked back. I passed the back entrance of the hotel and a handful of (hardy!) fans were waiting for the band. I walked past, no way was I going to join them, all I could think of was to get out of the cold!

At the hotel I had a hot coffee in the restaurant before going to my room. I was still cold, had a hot shower, slightly warmer, turned the heating up as high as it would go and after about twenty minutes I felt better (I am very cold-blooded!). How I suffer for U2!

Looking back almost two years now on the trip I almost find it hard to believe it happened! It was all so quick. Berlin is one of the most unusual cities I’ve visited and I find it hard to sum up how it felt for me. Berlin is a city that has risen up from the ashes twice in 65 years, it has been ripped apart and is trying to heal itself. Much of the city I saw has re-grown into a vibrant, modern place, but there are still scars of the past, both physical and psychological. Maybe the Fall of the Wall 20th anniversary celebrations and time will help it heal.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

2009 - July, 360 in Nice

Going to the South of France had been on my wish list for a very long time.  When my friends and I saw U2 were playing a gig in Nice we decided to combine seeing our first U2 360 Tour gig with a holiday in the Riviera. We stayed in a truly French apartment close to Nice's Old Town and Port.  We quickly fell in love with this gorgeous area, the views, food, joie de vivre, no wonder this area has been a favourite of the rich for decades.

The stadium U2 were playing was quite a distance from our apartment so we treated ourselves to a taxi.   Our taxi driver, Jean Marc, (who we got to know quite well over the week as he ferried us about the city) said, "Good luck" when he dropped us off at the Charles Ehrmann Stade des Sports as it was an extra hot day in Nice. Being from the far north of England I'm not very good in very hot weather so I had been careful to drink lots of water and had my can of Magicool in my bag - thank heavens for that stuff, it really makes a difference .

It was 3.30pm and it was still very warm and l was worried I wouldn't be able to cope with the 30 degree heat. But fate was on our side and a few clouds started drifting across the sky cooling the temperatures just enough to make them bearable.

We could see The Claw, (or La Griffe as it was called in French), towering above the stadium, it looked a strange creation indeed. The stadium is situated in the north west of the city and flanked to the north by mountains and impressive cliffs, such a beautiful backdrop for the gig.

At 5.30pm the doors opened, and to my despair (but not surprise) the Magicool was taken off us - the security woman laughed as we had one last spray before discarding the tin. We were in the very cheap non-reserved seating, which really was only large concrete steps, you sat on one step and put your feet on the next. We chose seats that soon would be in shadow and were to the right of the stage. It was quite a good position and we had unobstructed views, except for a leg of The Claw. It certainly is a massive structure and on first sight in real life and daylight isn't exactly pleasing on the eye.

Time passed and gradually our bums got numb from sitting on the hard concrete. We got up shuffled about, sat down, got up again..... no wonder these seats had been cheap! The music being played was rather boring, a lot of it I didn't know which would not have gone amiss playing in a lift.

At 8pm Snow Patrol came on and instantly we realised what a great sound system lay within The Claw, it was crystal clear. I love Snow Patrol, I really like Gary Lightbody's voice and think they have written some fantastic songs including the classic Chasing Cars. They played a wonderful set of mainly their most well-known songs. Run gets to me every time, I could feel the emotion build up in me, I simply love that song. The band went down well with the audience too which was good to see.

9pm came and went, bums got number, but the rest of our bodies cooled down a little as the sun dipped lower in the sky. We speculated on what U2's entrance would be like. A helicopter was flying very low overhead and we joked that maybe they would parachute down and each slide down a leg of The Claw!

Finally at 9.30pm David Bowie's Space Oddity boomed out (one of the few decent songs played) and we knew this just had to be the start, and it was. Larry came out and played the drums and the band exploded into Breathe. It worked well live and was an ok starter, though I think Magnificent would have been much better to start the show. The sound was the best I'd heard at a U2 concert and Bono was in good voice. He also looked very slim, where were those thighs and bum??!

Next was my favourite from the album No Line On The Horizon. I dialled my friend Dawn's number on my mobile and she was able to listen and enjoy it many hundreds of miles away in Scotland, the wonders of the modern world! The performance was stunning. The Claw almost seemed to come alive during the performances, puffing smoke, lights creating different effects, 360 video screen had very clear pictures of the band and videos and even stretched out at times.  The Claw is definitely more impressive at night with all the lighting effects.

Loved Magnificent, those opening notes are so distinctive and it went down extremely well with the crowd.
Desire was followed by snippets of two Michael Jackson songs in tribute, the last of which was Don't Stop Until You Get Enough. Bono repeated the last line over and over his voice getting softer each time until it was a whisper. I thought that was very effective, signifying how Michael slipped away from this life.

Stuck In A Moment.... was next dedicated to, "Another Michael". It was really good to hear this song again and it was performed so well.

Next was Unknown Caller complete with karaoke-like lyrics on the screen. I didn't like that and I don't like that song any better now I've heard it live either. 

The screen then had a metamorphosis and lengthened downwards until it was just above the bands' heads, it was like The Claw was coming alive, I almost expected it to start kicking out its legs to the beat next! Impressive.

A real treat came next, The Unforgettable Fire. And it was excellent, the video screens echoed the song with swirling reds and Bono remembered all the words (which can't be said of some other songs at this gig!). It made me realise just what a complicated, mature song that is both musically and lyrically, such an achievement for the then (1984) very young band.

A more recent tune was next in the set, City Of Blinding Lights, and the expanded screen created beautiful effects to go with this song and everyone was singing along to the "ooooohs". Great fun.

At first I didn't recognise I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight as it was so different from the album version, much more dancey. I'm not sure whether I liked it or not. Part of me was disappointed because I really like the album version, but part of me liked the risk the band were taking by doing this version. I needed time for this one.

Zzzzzz for me next, Sunday Bloody Sunday and Pride. "I'm so sick of it!" But having said that the crowd erupted when both were played, they are crowd pleasers and U2 are almost trapped into playing them. But I do wish they would be brave enough to drop more of these songs they play at almost ever concert.

There wasn't a lot of talking from Bono but he did talk at this point about Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Oh no, I thought, please don't say put on the masks..... He didn't, instead people who obviously had been picked form the crowd came out onto the walkway with masks on sticks in front of their faces and stood there as Bono sang Walk On. All the sticks were the same so they had obviously been given the masks to use by crew members. It worked quite well, better than the other idea, (maybe U2 had seen the opinions on the Net?) though sometimes you could see where Aung Sang Suu Kyi's eyes had been removed so the person could see to walk and that looked a bit weird. I didn't see anyone in the crowd put on a mask.

A heartfelt speech from Desmond Tutu about Africa was a prelude to One after which the band left the stage.

The encore started with fabulous Ultraviolet sung by Bono using a microphone that looked like a small steering wheel suspended from high within The Claw. He used the mic as a prop almost swinging on it and swinging it back and fore and catching it. I can see him missing one day and getting hit in the face! It was absolutely wonderful to hear that song again, very, very underplayed over the years. It is very strong live.

With Or Without You (Bono got no one on stage) followed by Moment Of Surrender close. It is a powerful song but I really think it is not the best song to finish a concert with.

And so that was the end of our first 360 show. The show is a barrage of music and vision, and we felt a bit over-awed at first and didn't say much.  I had been very skeptical about The Claw, I really feel shows are about the music, emotion and communication not "effects". The Claw's "effects" are spectacular, stellar and even beautiful at times, most bands would be drowned by it. Though at times it was close,  I think the band by their sheer power, pulled it off.  It was lovely to hear some rarely played songs again, though I would have been happy for there to be more rather than some of the over-played regulars.  Maybe that will happen in time.

So we walked out into the balmy night of Nice, cicadas "singing" in the early hours (the show finished at 11.45pm). We risked the portaloos which were scary but not as scary as some I've been in! We now had sore feet from all the standing, the arses had improved a little, dust and grit stuck to our sweaty, sunscreen covered bodies, we were hungry and thirsty, but happy, U2 had delivered.

Already battalions of cleaning trucks and men with witches broom-like brushes were starting the big clean up. Dozens and dozens of coaches had whisked away the people from right beside the venue into the city centre, excellent organisation. The crowd had been great, good mannered, enthusiastic and we didn't see one person drunk, the Brits could learn a thing or two on that last point! We walked up the road to the police station where we had arranged to meet Jean-Marc to take us home. As reliable as ever he soon arrived and whisked us off across the city, we hoped we didn't smell too rank in the confines of the taxi after our strenuous day. We arrived at our apartment at 2am. Jean-Marc joked Bono was waiting for us inside - he'd brought him in his taxi earlier.

Showers, then we had a pizza, followed by meringues Chantilly from a fab patisserie up the road (the best meringues I've ever had!) washed down by Moet champagne. We felt human again and the concert adrenalin was still flowing, we chatted until 5am when we thought that maybe we should go to bed.......

Friday, 7 January 2011

2009 - January, Get On Your Boots

Well it was the video that never was premiered that most of us got to see! The official premiere was cancelled, an official statement on the Irish Independent website saying the video wasn't quite finished. Then a friend sends me a copy of the video, huh? And I look online and it's all over the place, as fast as it gets pulled from one site it appears on another.

The eagle eyed fans amongst us noticed that on a few clips there are Getty Images watermarks, was that why it wasn't released, copyright restrictions? Who messed up there? Then other people noticed, shock, horror, an uncovered nipple, maybe that was why it bit the dust? Of course it could also be one of their now famous "leaks," just that this time it was video instead of music. We'll probably never know, but whatever the reason it was a big mess. You don't expect something like this to happen with a band like U2.

Having said that I LOVE the video! You could watch it a hundred times and still see something new. I love the colours, the Hubble-like images at the beginning, it's artsy, clever, without being pretentious and celebrates women in all their guises (which is what Bono said the song is about though I'd never have guessed!). The band look great, especially Bono without his shirt!!

When it first came out I quite liked the song, but looking back now it certainly wasn't the best song for a first release from the upcoming album, Magnificent was the one that would have worked best.  Now Boots is not amongst my faves from the album.