Life as seen through my lens…
U2 – Me too :-)
November 10, 2005Posted by on
Last night I attended my first big stadium concert in over 10 years (and my first in the US), and all I can say is my head won’t stop rattling and I can’t stop humming U2 songs now! 🙂
I’ve been a long time fan of U2 – being from the UK and having lived through some of the pain caused by IRA in their fight against the UK government before they realised that terrorism wouldn’t work, U2’s thought provoking lyrics and edgy guitar work had me hooked from an early age. I’ve grown and developed my musical tastes as they have grown and developed their musical style, and they’ve maintained a place in my virtual playlist!
For various reasons I’d not been able to attend previous concerts, so when shortly after I moved to the US I heard that they were adding extra dates to their sold-out Vertigo tour, and more importantly the location was about 20 miles from where I was going to be living, I decided that this time I would make an effort to get there. As the tickets for the Oakland dates went on sale via the web, I was there along with many thousands of others on tickets.com trying to get mine.
After about an hour of frustration (system unavailability because of high demand, and some particularly naff seating allocations because of the way tickets.com allocate seats), I eventually got a block of 4 high in the upper level, but placed to get a good view of the stage and the venue as a whole. I had decided to take my daughters (the two who moved with us anyway!) to the show, so as buying tickets for 4, I couldn’t really justify buying the best seats in the house as the cost would have been somewhat prohibitive given our family circumstances.
All that was months ago, and while I kept in the back of my mind that the date was getting ever nearer, it was really only this week that I started really getting excited about things. The concert was due to start at 7:30 with doors opening at 6:30, a supporting band (Damian Marley [one of Bob Marley’s sons]), and then U2 themselves on at 9pm. Based on my previous UK stadium concert experiences, I decided we should aim to be there early, and so we arrived shortly after 6pm to find a largely empty parking lot, and confusion as to where to stand in line!
We took advantage of the parking situation, and parked right by one of the parking lot exits (paid massive dividends later) and trudged across the lot with a light sprinkling of rain and some spectacular lightning in the distance to what looked to be the line of people waiting to get in to the show. After 10 minutes in line we found out it was the line for the standing ‘pit’ in the middle of the arena, and as we had reserved seating we could go up to one of the upper level entrances, so thankfully we headed up the access ramp and in to the Arena out of the rain.
With a stop at the concessions stand on the way, we were in our seats 10 minutes before the doors were even supposed to have opened, and we sat patiently (well OK, some of us were patient but my daughters were excited and very impatient) for the start of the show. The arena was amazingly empty at this stage. The ‘pit’ was filling but only really about 30% full, and the seating was at best about 5% full and we were up with the clouds (or so it felt) looking down on it all and thinking "this is really a sold-out concert?"……
Over the next hour, we watched the standing area fill, and the seats get to about 50% full, and slightly late, Damian and his band came on stage and for the next 45 minutes or so we were listening to a new but familiar mix of new and old from him and some of the works of his father. While not what I was expecting as a warm-up performance for U2, it was none-the-less good and at the end of the set I was left wishing for more.
The lights went up and the tour crew swarmed the stage like ants, and the stage went from being very cluttered to being almost empty. The stage itself was a small oval nested in one end of a bigger oval that took over a large chunk of the centre of the arena. Lighting crews were all over the array of spots, and as everyone cleared the stage, a steady influx of people filled the audience. By the time the lights went down, there was hardly an empty space to be seen anywhere in the audience.
The performance that U2 put on was brilliant. It totally lived up to expectations. There is enough published out there in web-land that I won’t go into detail about the set here, but it was a mix that spanned the years from their earliest work up to the current album (which obviously was the focus of the show). The stage and lighting was excellent, with animated lighting all around the main stage and the extended oval catwalk, and some very clever use of suspended lighting to give a visually simple but stunning backdrop to the performance. The opening number, "City of blinding lights’ set the crowd going right from the first opening bars, and apart from some of the slower numbers, the crowd was on it’s feet for the night.
The catwalk around the larger ellipse was used to good effect not only for some of the lighting displays, but also to allow Bono and others to move around during the performance, and twice Bono pulled people out of the crowd to be focal points for songs (those people must have felt so great).
Intermixed with the music was the ‘world peace and end world poverty’ message that we have come to expect from Bono, and there were a number of very touching introductions and dedications made throughout the set. The main set ended with ‘One’, and the subsequent encores were a mix of acoustic and rocky numbers that had the hairs on the back of my neck raised. The final end of the show came around all too quickly, or so it felt. In reality though we’d had over 2 hours of one of the best live performances I’d seen in a long time. Just 4 people and their instruments, some simple but very effective lighting, but a show that more than delivered on its promise.
U2 – they’ve still got it!