It's been more than a month since our first (of four) gigs T and I saw as part of U2's 360° Tour, and I had hoped to write a proper post about it long before now. However, life has a habit of getting in the way, so before I forget the whole experience, here's a quick wrap-up of the Dublin shows we saw. I'll write a separate post about London a bit later.
Dublin July 24, 2009
First things first. Look at that stage! Or, more correctly, look at that bloody thing hovering over the stage. It's dubbed the "claw" and is supposedly the biggest set piece in rock history. It's 164-foot high and weighs 250 tonne. It looks like some giant crustacean that's fallen from the sky and it makes the stands at Croke Park look tiny by comparison.
We have great seats. I bought them pre-sale and even though we are in the stands and not down on the ground where all the action is, it means I can at least enjoy the music and the atmosphere without the backache and the pushing and shoving. There's a bar immediately behind us, which means we don't have to travel far for a drink, and there's even a set of under-utilised disabled toilets that we can use sneakily without having to queue for hours at some disgusting portaloos, as we did during the last tour in 2005. Yes, this is shaping up to be a very pleasant concert-going experience...
By 8.30pm there's a definite "buzz" in the air and when David Bowie's Space Odyssey begins booming through the PA system -- "Ground control to Major Tom" -- and the smoke starts emerging from the top of the claw and the legs of the claw, you know the band are going to come on stage at any minute...
The screams begin when the tiny figure of Larry Mullen Jnr is spotted walking onto the stage... More screams and cheers and crowd euphoria when he takes his seat at the drumkit, picks up his sticks and hammers out the opening beats to Breathe... The heart's in the throat now... Where are the others?
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, barely before your eyes can register it, there's Edge, there's Adam, and the opening bars of the song are ringing out... And when the crowd goes really mental you know Bono's arrived on the scene...
16th of June 9:05, door bell rings, man at the door says if I want to stay alive a bit longer, there's three things I need you to know...three!
You don't even have time to pinch yourself before they're sliding into No Line on the Horizon followed in quick succession by Get On Your Boots and Magnifcent before you realise you're seeing U2 live in concert. In Dublin. And you can't quite believe it. There's too much to take in.
Some eight songs wizz by before Bono even deigns to open his gob for a chat. It's the band's opening gig in Dublin, their hometown, so you can forgive him for going a little patriotic and singing The Auld Triangle and then mouthing off about Irish people being smart and sexy!
It keeps getting better. The Claw takes on a life of its own as the sun begins to set. The legs change colour in the reflecting light just like the surface of Uluru (Ayers rock). It's quite striking.
But then the opening bars of The Unforgettable Fire begin and the screen that hovers directly over Larry's drumkit changes shape: it begins to stretch...
...and descends, as if the crustacean has just eaten a rather large meal and its belly has become swollen. It dazzles, like a beautiful art installation, all golds and purples.
These city lights, They shine as silver and gold... [...] Carnival, the wheels fly and the colors spin.
It's all very impressive from here on in. It's about the music, not the politics, and I'm enjoying every moment. It all goes super-weird when they present a remixed version of Crazy Tonight that has Larry walking around the exterior runway, banging on a bongo drum he's got slung over his shoulder.
And then as the big screens show scenes from the recent violence associated with the Iran elections, it's Sunday Bloody Sunday...
... the little snippets of The Clash's Rock the Casbah have never been more appropriate.
Of course, it's not a U2 gig without a bit of politics thrown in, and this tour, instead of ramming it all down our throats and turning the whole spectacle into a kind of Nuremberg Rally, it's done with a tad more sensitivity. The band dedicated MLK, "an Irish lullaby" to imprisoned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi. They then play Walk On for her as volunteers wearing Aung San Suu Kyi masks walk onto the stage. It's relatively understated as far as U2 go...
Later they play a specially-recorded video message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which seems unintentionally funny, but all is forgiven when they launch into Where the Streets Have No Name.
The downside to the gig? Probably Bono donning a jacket with weird lights on it as he warbles Ultra Violet, a song I love from the album Achtung Baby, although it doesn't quite work in a live setting because it's too subtle, too atmospheric a song for a stadium gig.
Before we know it the show concludes. Where have the past two hours gone? It's flown by and I've loved every minute, sung my heart out and only cringed once or twice -- this must be a record!
1. Breathe 2. No Line On The Horizon 3. Get On Your Boots 4. Magnificent 5. Here Comes The Sun (snippet) / Beautiful Day / Blackbird (snippet) 6. Elevation 7. Desire 8. Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of 9. The Auld Triangle 10. One 11. Until The End Of The World / Break On Through (snippet) 12. The Unforgettable Fire 13. City Of Blinding Lights 14. Vertigo / Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (snippet) 15. O Come All Ye Faithful (snippet) / Crazy Tonight 16. Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (snippet) 17. Pride (In The Name Of Love) 18. MLK 19. Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet) 20. Where The Streets Have No Name / All You Need Is Love (snippet) 21. 40 (snippet) / Bad / Fool To Cry (snippet) Encore(s): 22. Ultra Violet (Light My Way) 23. With Or Without You 24. Moment of Surrender.
Dublin July 27, 2009
It's three nights later, it's my 40th birthday and we're here at Croke Park to see another U2 gig. We're now sitting on the opposite side of the stage, much further back, in the last row. We didn't buy these tickets: we swapped them for the two spare ones we had for the Friday gig.
I'm not quite as excited about this show. We kind of know what's going to happen. The surprises will come when we see what songs they add or subtract from the set list.
They must know it's my birthday, because after playing a whole bunch of tracks from the latest album they launch into my all-time favourite U2 song, New Year's Day.
From where we sit -- or should that be stand, no one is in their seats -- it looks like everyone's gone nuts. It's spinetingling to hear 80,000 people singing along at high volume.
Perhaps it's where we are sitted or maybe it's just a more vocal audience, but this night's crowd seems more "into" the show than the opener on Friday.
Other highlights include Sunday Bloody Sunday, Crazy Tonight, Bad and With or Without You.
The lowlights: Unknown Caller (it kills the "buzz" in the crowd), Ultra Violet (again), the idiots who are all around us and the "lip" of the stadium roof that obscures the sightlines.
But apart from that it's been another stellar performance... and to think we get to do it all again in London two weeks down the line!
1. Breathe 2. No Line On The Horizon 3. Get On Your Boots 4. Magnificent 5. Beautiful Day 6. New Year's Day 7. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Movin' On Up (snippet) 8. Stay (Faraway, So Close!) 9. Unknown Caller 10. The Unforgettable Fire 11. City Of Blinding Lights 12. Vertigo 13. Crazy Tonight / Relax (snippet) / Two Tribes (snippet) 14. Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (snippet) 15. Pride (In The Name Of Love) 16. MLK 17. Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet) 18. Where The Streets Have No Name / All You Need Is Love (snippet) 19. One 20. 40 (snippet) / Bad / Fool To Cry (snippet) Encore(s): 21. Ultra Violet (Light My Way) 22. With Or Without You / Shine Like Stars (snippet) 23. Moment of Surrender