Tuesday, 2 April 2013

2011 Canada - Toronto, Memories, Heat and the Last 360 Show

11 July 2011

We had arrived in Toronto the previous day from Montreal. It felt very strange for me being there again. I had worked near Toronto as a mothers help for a year when I was young. And in the thirty years since then this was the first time I'd been back. Of course lots had changed since then, but there was still lots still there that I remembered too.  And at times I felt like I was that young girl for whom it was all such an adventure again, though also I did not really recognise her.

We felt refreshed and ready for anything when we got up on show day.  We decided to go to the nearby St Lawrence Market and have some breakfast there.  However, it was closed on Mondays so we found a Starbucks around the corner and had coffee and cake.  While we were sitting outside a man tied his gorgeous little dog beside us while he went in to buy something.  The dog was so sweet, chilled and loved a tickle.  When the man came out I asked him what type of dog it was and he said it was a Maltese cross and that she was a lovely dog, she was called Poops (hopefully a nickname!)  It was so sweet to see how much he loved his little dog and vice versa.  

At lunch time Debbi, Julie and I walked to the Radisson Harbourfront Hotel where we were meeting Dianne and her husband Dan (who had flown in for the show) for lunch.  It was nice to see Dan again, he's such a lovely man.  I had a delicious salad with goats cheese and strawberries, a perfect combination, just the thing in the hot weather.

We walked the short distance to the Rogers Centre which was beside the still elegant (after 35 years) CN Tower that dominates the city. We waited for the band's arrival, we only saw Bono smiling and waving from his car.  It was an extremely hot day, and Toronto was the hottest place in Canada  - at one point the mercury hit 33 degrees centigrade!  Add to that the humidity created by the Great Lakes and it was unbelievably hot, for me, an English rose from northern England that was very, very hot, I thought I'd melt, but somehow I survived it!

We didn't want to go into the stadium until the as late as possible so we ended up back at the Radisson and had something to eat outside on the patio overlooking Lake Ontario, there was a nice breeze coming off the lake so it was pleasant there. Even with the heat I was loving Toronto, it's such a handsome city, fabulous location, lovely vistas, great new and old architecture, for me it beats Montreal any day.

Then it was off back to the Rogers Centre.  It was all well organised, no Fan Jams, easy to find seats, toilets, food etc, in other words, how it should be!  We had cheaper seated tickets this time so were quite high up, but each row of seats had a metal bar in front of them so it felt safe and helped my vertigo!  The stadium was round rather than rectangular and very high,earlier in the day the retractable roof (it was the first in the world) was closed as a storm had been forecast, but it was now open as the storm hit further south.  This was one of the few stadiums the Claw didn't peek out of.  Opposite us stood the CN Tower soaring into the sky.  It was still very hot and humid and sweat stood on my brow the entire evening.

U2 started at the usual time and we were up out of our seats and bopping away only to realise most of the people around us had their arses firmly planted on their seats!  Though a U2 audience is always very mixed age-wise around us it was mainly young people and I just could not believe they were so boring!  As the seats were so steep we didn't block people's view so we just stayed stood up.  Even in the pit around the Claw people seemed not that into it.  Bono worked really hard to get the crowd going and they did improve but were not a patch on the two Montreal crowds. 

For the Toronto band intros Bono apologised for the year's delay caused by his back injury last year referred to the changes in the members during the tour. Adam "became a father for the first time." Larry was in a movie with Donald Sutherland; and Edge wanted to write a musical about a "superhero? scientist?  - being bitten by a spider and becoming a nerd." He rambled on, "Who can fathom the workings of this man's mind? A genius on guitars and everything else... very good at train sets."  To which Edge mumbled something about modesty LOL! 

During City of Blinding Lights Bono got a boy up on stage and walked an entire circuit of the walkway with him, the lad imitating Bono's stance etc. prompting him to say, "you're not a shy boy are you?"

All through the show the Claw had a rival unique to Toronto for special effects - the lights of the CN Tower.  Lights of varying colours pulsed and rippled around and up and down the tower, often in time to the music, it looked great!  The lighting on the CN tour is controlled by a computer we heard later.

At one point Bono said he had "breaking news" and the stadium became amazingly quiet and he continued to say that over the last two years two million more Africans had been saved from AIDs-related illness in the last two years.

A one point Bono was on one of the bridges and someone threw a Canadian flag at him.  He picked it up and put it in a back pocket of his trousers, "Canada shining out of my backside" he laughed.  He briefly mentioned the moon, saying we couldn't see it, but that it was, "smiling down on us."  Strangely Bono didn't mention the tower, maybe he couldn't see it from the stage.

The set was the same as the first night in Montreal, I was hoping for Bad but it wasn't to be.  It was a good show, but not a great show.  I think part of that for me was due to the lacklustre crowd around us, don't know why they pay good money to sit in their seats for a rock concert! 

It was also my last 360 Tour show and I felt a bit sad as I watched the band leave the stage.  360 had been a part of my summer for the last three years and it was now finally over for me.  Lots of travel, fun, highs and lows, sun, rain, wind, magic U2 moments, good friends - what wonderful times we have on these escapades.  Now I'll have to start saving for the next tour!

2011 Canada - Montreal 2 Magic Moments

9th July 2011

Edge in Montreal
Due to our very late night last night we had a lie in today.  After breakfast Debbi and I went into the city centre and met up with Michelle.  We saw Edge leave for the stadium, he signed autographs and chatted, as lovely as he always is.  I think he's taken over form Larry as the most youthful looking band member nowadays.Michelle shouted out "Play Out of Control tonight" I was amazed quietly spoken Michelle could shout like that LOL!   

We didn't have time to go back to the apartment before we needed to head for the stadium ourselves so we decided to have something to eat in Chinatown which wasn't far form where we were.  We found a place called The Jasmine Garden that did a buffet meal for $14.95, sounded perfect for us.  It was very nice, so much to choose from, some was unlabelled so some of it was a surprise, I nearly put a chicken foot on my plate but realised what it was in time!

We went back to the Metro and got the train to Namur ready for our second gig.  It had been another hot day but as we arrived quite late the worst of the heat was gone.  We walked to the stadium only to be stuck in another Fan Jam of people this time trying to get through the entry points!  I couldn't believe it, there was an ocean of people inching it's way forward. It took an hour to get to gain entry and by now Interpol were nearing the end of their set, not that I minded missing them.  We all really needed the spend a penny so we joined yet another long queue for the portaloos.  As we got nearer we had a laugh with the people around us, saying we could only have five seconds in the loo, but then we decided fifteen was a little better!  I could hear people counting out loud when I was inside!  

U2's Claw Stage in Montreal
Deb and I parted company with Michelle as she was sitting in another block of seats.  We gingerly made our way up the steps of the temporary stands which were held up by thousands of scaffold poles, it didn't look as if it could hold all theses people!  

We met Dianne and Julie at our seats, they too had be stuck in the Fan Jam and hadn't been in their seats very long.  It wasn't long until U2 came on, and the crowd was even more receptive than the previous night, they went crazy, it created a fabulous atmosphere.  This gig was being broadcast live on U2.com and Bono explained that because of that he would be mostly speaking in English - 

"This has one extra benefit,' he added, 'you don't have to listen to me mangle your beautiful language. "  LOL!

The first few songs were from Achtung Baby once more and the crowd sang along and jumped up and down (no one sat of course). The structure holding the seats rocked and rolled too, it swayed to and fro, side to side and up and down, we were constantly re-balancing ourselves until we learned to rock n roll with it lol!

The first surprise of the gig was Out of Control - Michelle would be one happy woman, maybe Edge did hear her!  It rocked and didn't sound over 30 years old.  During Get On Your Boots Bono got a guy wearing turban up on stage to sing with him and boy was he into it and knew every word!

This was followed by a full version of All I Want Is You, such a treat.  They had tweaked it a little, especially at the end, which included a bit of harmonica from Bono. Beautiful.  This was followed by another welcome surprise, Stuck in a Moment.

Prior to his band intro Bono said.
"We've taken our space station around the world, we're nearly home, we're going to have to find something else to do.  When we were kids joining U2 was like running away with the circus, maybe we need to find another circus...'

Just get down to recording another album lads!  Montreal is the home of the world famous Cirque du Soleil so Bono's intro continued the circus theme.

" Larry is a 'fire-eater, a sword-swallower, the world's strongest man." Adam? 'The bearded lady...' Edge? "Trapeze artist, high-wire act..."  

"Knife thrower," added Edge, pretending to aim at Bono.

"Thanks very much," said Bono, throwing a look at Edge, before adding, "And I will play the clown."

Again Zooropa was a highlight for me.  From our position we had a perfect view of the claw (something you don't appreciate as much when you are closer on the field).  Lights shone out through the Claw into the crowd as the static flickered, and vague words ran across the screen.  It was stunningly effective and went perfectly with the song, just as the undulating reds had when they did The Unforgettable Fire in the early legs of the tour.

During Elevation Bono got a young boy out of the crowd and carried him onto one of the bridges as he sang.  He asked the boy his name first in English, then in French he replied Paco.

During the encore Bono sang a spine-tinglingly beautiful snippet of Hallelujah which segued into Where the Streets Have No Name and the whole stadium went crazy, and I was hoping the structure holding us up would be able to cope with all these people jumping up and down!

Ultraviolet had been changed slightly and we all liked this version.  I love how many U2 songs develop over the years and something new is found within them.  With Or Without You had "Shining like stars in the summer night......" ending, the one soooo many fans love so popular it was trending on Twitter!) and it's been a long time since Bono had used it.  It was so appropriate for this night too, it was one of those magical intimate U2 moments, when the huge stadium felt like a small club.  Wonderful, touching and why I love this band so much.

I read the following in a review and I thought I'd add it in here as it conveys something of what that is all about so well:
"I’ll remember helping to hold up the metal posts of the media tent as the rain blew horizontal Friday night. But perhaps the most enduring memory I’ll take from this weekend comes from the first night, when I turned to my left and saw the girl next to me had two perfect tear streams coursing down her face during With Or Without You. Going in, I’d thought the song should have long since been retired from the live show. Perhaps I was wrong. Connection, intimacy. You just have to pull focus back from the Spidercrab immensity of the stage. Which may be exactly what U2 intended. Build it up to the sky, work that much harder to reach back down and in." (Mark Lepage , Montreal Gazette)

The show finished with Moment of Surrender at the end of which Bono shouted out.
"Vive la difference, vie le Quebec."  Which went down very well with the audience.

This was one of those exceptional gigs, the band was on fire and the audience was amazing.  We felt elated afterwards and for a while didn't talk, each taking in what we'd witnessed. Eventually we returned to the reality of the trial of getting back to our apartment.  We decided to hang back a little to see if the Metro would be less clogged up.  We could see the huge mass of people flowing out as we sat in our seats as long as we could before we were asked to leave.  We then sat on the grass outside for a while until the crowd grew thinner before heading to the Metro station.  And it was nowhere near as bad as the previous night, it maybe took us ten minutes or so to get into the station and soon we were on the train home.

We were home a lot sooner and that night we had McDonalds for our post-U2 supper and only a little wine and were in bed by 3.30am as we had a five hour train journey to Toronto the next day so were sensible for a change.

2011 Canada - Montreal 1, Scintillating Show and Super Storm

Sorry for the long gap in posting on the blog, time flies. I'm going to finish writing up about the last few shows I saw in Canada on the 360 tour over the next few days.

July 8 2011

So for us the everlasting 360 tour rolled into its third summer, and for this leg we decided to see three shows in Canada and combine it with a holiday. That's how Deb, Dianne, Julie and I ended up in in a lovely apartment in the Rue St Andre in the Petite-Patrie area of Montreal for five days.  We toured the city and had some lovely meals in local restaurants and did a bit of shopping. I vaguely remembered some things from many, many years previously when I had gone on holiday with the family from Ontario that I worked and lived with for a year when I was a young girl.

We had standing tickets for the U2 360 gig today and Debbi and Julie left early to get a good position in the pit area.  Dianne and I couldn't be bothered to stand in the heat for so long and left a few hours later.  Luckily our Metro Stop, Beaubien, was on the orange line which went directly to the venue so it was a simple trip.

The Hippodrome, was just a ten minute walk from the Metro, used to be a racing track but it was demolished a couple of years ago and it was just open ground.  A special stadium was built just for the two U2 concerts.  The seats looked a bit scary, open, high and supported by thousands of  metal poles. The signage was abysmal, little to tell you which was to go and once inside nothing pointing to toilets, concessions or merchandise. There was also a distinct lack of security staff organising things.  There were lots of pointy tents that reminded me of Glastonbury and a music event called the Fan Jam going on.

Dianne and I found a really good place on the outer rail of the red zone on Adam's side of the stage.  We could see the catwalk and the main stage and the screens from there so it worked out well. It was still very hot and I was really glad I'd bought the pink floral hat lol!  It didn't do much for me but it kept my head cool. There was a good concert vibe around.

The support band was Interpol and they were as boring for me as they were years ago when they supported U2 in Glasgow on some tour (can't remember which.)

U2 took the stage at 9.15pm to the strains of Space Oddity by David Bowie and launched into the Achtung Baby songs that they opened with at Glastonbury - I was hoping for this.  It took me back to those glorious, heady Zoo days when we were even madder than we are now lol!  Great songs and an amazing vibe in the crowd.

Bono was in one of his funny moods evident when he did the band introductions after a quip, "I need another two minutes" as he tried to catch his breath.  He introduced Larry as Bonnie Prince William (a nod to the recent tour of Canada by William and Catherine).  Adam was Kate Winslet, not sure why!  Edge was "Our own Prince of Wales" and he referred to himself as a, "Chien royal" which the French speaking crowd received with bemusement, "Corgis, you know, royal dogs?" The crowd didn't get it, not the best place for that kind of joke Bono, but we found it hilarious!  He talked a lot in what sounded like a poor French and the translation in English of his words that appeared on the screens was very amusing, it seemed like another language at times.

I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking for was magical, with the crowd singing a verse themselves, all the more amazing seeing it wasn't their mother tongue.  A snippet of Springsteen's Promised Land was added at the end.

Poster in Montreal
Beautiful Day had an intro by astronaut Mark Kelly in a recorded piece from the International Space Station, where he let cards with the words on float off in the gravity free environment.  The song was dedicated to Gabby Gifford, Kelly's wife, who was shot and seriously wounded at a political meeting in Arizona a few months ago.  Everyone rocked and sang along, it was certainly a beautiful night!

My favourite section of the show began with Miss Sarajevo.  The operatic part was very emotional and Bono hit all the notes perfectly, it still amazes me that he can sing like that!  Beautiful.  Next up was Zooropa which I'd been waiting for not having seen it played live since 1993.  The Claw screen stretched down until it was right on the stage with the band behind it, and like that they played the song.  It was a brave thing to do as the song is one many of the audience wouldn't know and the band was out of sight, but it was fabulous!  What a brilliant off the wall song it is and i loved the version they played as static and blue light played over the Claw screens.  What a treat!

The Claw during City of Blinding Lights was beautifully coloured.  Vertigo rocked and I like when the screen whizzes round at high speed at the end of the song. 

Good also to hear a little of Scarlet prior to Walk On which had the One/Amnesty International supporters coming onto the catwalk with white lanterns.  Bono acknowledged Aung San Suu Kyi's release but said he was singing the song for the other 2000+ political prisoners in Burma.

It was the usual encore, with a very powerful and emotional With Or Without You that had me transfixed.  I've tired of songs such as Pride and Sunday Bloody Sunday which are played at almost every gig, but With Or Without You is played as much yet I love it every time. 

The band closed with Moment of Surrender, and I still think it does not work well as an ending.  There was such a fantastic vibe at the end of With Or Without You, that should have been the point to end.
As Moment of Surrender was finishing raindrops started falling (a storm had been predicted) and Bono started singing The Beatle's Rain.  Then, suddenly, it was as if a dam had broken and a monsoon like rain fell, followed by a swirling, gale force wind came equally out of the blue.  Talk of timing, right at the end of the show the heavens opened.  I glanced up at the screen to see the band disappearing down the steps, a big smile on his face, it was ok for them!!
Dianne first put her umbrella up, it blew out one way, then the other way, no way could it cope with the wind.  We had our ponchos with us but getting them on was another matter, the wind kept whipping mine off, I couldn't find where to get my head and arms through as it flapped in the wind.  Then I got hysterical with laughter underneath the blue plastic, already well soaked.  It took ages but in the end managed to help each other into our ponchos still giddy with laughter.  All around us people were scattering, laughing, yelling, struggling with various items of rainwear, it was hilarious.

There was a sea of fans as far as the eye could see, we had arranged to meet up with Debbi and Julie , but in this mass of people being buffeted by wind and rain we knew we would never find them.  I could hear my mobile text alert going but couldn't take out the phone because it was so wet.  We peeped in a tent, it was crammed full of people sardine style and it was lovely and warm and dry!  We squeezed in and I read the text which was from Deb, we agreed to make our own way home. 

Then we braved the elements again, it was no better, huge puddles and mini rivers forming.  It was hard to know which was to go to the Namur Metro station as there were no signs, no security to guide us and neither of us could see well because our glasses were waterlogged!  Wide masses of people stretched off in four different directions so we just  took pot luck and went with the nearest one.  About half way to the Metro station the crowd of people came to a halt and for the next one and a half hours we moved forward a step at a time.  It was truly a Fan Jam!  It was still raining and thunder rumbled above.  Being in the midst of a sea of people I didn't feel the wind anymore.  It was now quite cold but the plastic ponchos helped keep us a bit warm, others were not so lucky and some and literally shivering with the cold.  It was total chaos, I've been to many, many big concerts like this over the years and have never experienced such badly organised security outside a venue.

When we finally got into the station I felt like getting on my knees and kissing the ground!  The Metro staff were well organised, people telling you where to go and which carriage to get in.  We sank into our seats with a sigh of relief, good to get off our feet after all the standing and it was lovely and warm in there too.

When we got off at Beaubien the rain and wind had stopped, it was 1.45am when we got to our apartment, Debbi and Julie arrived five minutes after us looking as bedraggled and wet as us!  We have a tradition of having champagne, pizza and a U2 quiz after the last gig we see.  It was a bit different this time, we had two gigs to go but, for various reasons we were having our celebration that night. 

Due to the ridiculous price of the Veuve Clicquot in Montreal ($68!!!) we had good prosecco instead and it was delicious!  Dianne won the quiz and we were up until 5am, we can still hack it as rock chicks LOL!

A little clip of the last moments of the gig below, gives a little impression of the rain and wind (By Cara)