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U2 Tours (formerly part of AtU2): A Comprehensive Guide To U2’s Live Performance History
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by floydbono

4 years ago, me and my friend Larry waited in line all day outside the Pepsi Arena because we had GA tickets to see U2, and we wanted to be next to the stage. And we were. And I have since said "It was fun but I wouldn't do it again." However, earlier this year I obtained two GA tickets to see U2 at Madison Square Garden this past Sat. So, at 7:30 am on Saturday, October 8, there Larry and I were getting in line outside of Madison Square Garden. We were numbers 36 and 37 in line. The first person in line had gotten there at 10:30 the night before, and spent the night on the street outside MSG.

So there we were, under an awning that mostly protected us from the wind and the rain, playing cards, chatting with other people in line, watching scores of well-dressed people bringing their cats into MSG for a cat show, and hoping my mother would conveniently forget about the terrorist threat to blow up the subways sometime in the near future (as I found out this weekend, MSG rests right atop Penn Station). However, I felt quite safe, as we saw soldiers in fatigues with M-16s stationed at Penn and Grand Central and a couple of times a NYPD officer with a bomb dog walked by, stopping once so that the dog could pee on a cement planter.

I'll skip the anecdotes of waiting in the rain and go right to 6 pm when they let us inside (although if you'd like to know how I came to acquire a pink, kiddie-size Cinderella camp chair, I'll be happy to tell you later). At 6 they let us into the building, and at 7 into the arena itself. Larry and I were not among the chosen few who got inside the ellipse, but in the end that is for the better. We got on the rail on the left side of the ellipse, just to the left of where the center point was. This was better because we could see everything, including the large screens hanging from the ceiling (when we saw them in Albany, we were inside the heart next to the stage, we couldn't see the screens, and when the band members went around the ellipse we had to turn around--not that I'm complaining about my location for that show, mind you). In addition, the distance from us to the ellipse itself was rather small. So, whenever the band members walked around it, they were right in front of us.

The show itself: fantastic. To be honest, it wasn't as good as the Albany show, but its definitley better than most other acts I've seen and really enjoyed. The main reason it was not as good as Albany is that it took me a little while to really get into it. I was into it from the very beginning, but as anybody who has ever been front rail for a rock concert will tell you, there are different levels of being "into it" and I hadn't quite reached the "really into it" stage. When Bono started singing, his voice sounded a little strained, almost like he had a cold, although it got better as the show went along.

In addition, Bono seemed rather grouchy, especially during the first portion of the show. While he began the show at the tip of the ellipse, he quickly went back to the mainstage. He came out partway during Elevation (a fantastic version--mostly sung by the audience), but that was it. It wasn't until Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own that he really used the ellipse, walking around it during the song. It was at about this point that I reached the "really into it" stage. The previous number, Miracle Drug, was the first real highlight for me (Bono dedicated it to Dr. Allen something-or-other from Columbia University), and Sometimes You Can't Make It really put it over the top, and from there there was no going back (for the most part).

Other signs that Bono was not in a very good mood:

--Early in the show he took a cell phone from someone against the front rail in the ellipse. He snapped it shut, was kind of smiling about it devilshly, and pretended he was going to put it in his pocket, but he handed it back. It looked like he disconnected the call.

--During Sunday Bloody Sunday Bono was pacing center stage and he screamed, into the mic, "Get off the f**king phone! This is a f***ing concert!" He put his hand up to his ear like a mock phone and said in an exaggerated American accent "Hey mawm, I'm at a U2 show! It's really going off here!" and then he threw his hand down and said "It IS really going off here." I'm assuming it was the same person that was on the cell phone earlier.

Now, I ask, if you are at a rock concert, how on earth are you going to be able to hear and talk on a cell phone, especially if you are right in front of the stage? Not only that, but if you paid about $60 for your tickets, why would you then talk on the phone instead of listening to the concert?

Other highlights for me:

--Speaking of phones, early in the show Bono told us it was his friend's birthday, and then asked one of the stage hands to bring him a phone. He called his friend, and then held out the receiver while the audience sang happy birthday.

--During All I Want is You, Larry called his wife, Kristy, and I called my fiancee our our cell phones and held them up to in the air so that our significant others could hear the love song playing, thinking we'd be all romantic. Now, Mandy and Kristy are friends and were actually in the car together when we called. The romantic idea that Larry and I had worked perfectly, except that Mandy happened to answer Kristy's phone. As for me calling Mandy, well, as she told me later, "I got your voice mail."

--Love and Peace or Else. This was amazing live, and the band really got into it. Bono stomping around the ellipse, singing with a furious rage in his voice.

--Bullet the Blue Sky. I always love hearing them do this song. Bono sang a few lines from "The Hands That Built America" during it, as well as several lines from the Civil War tune "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." At the end he dedicated it to the American Armed Forces.

--Miss Sarajevo. Bono sang Pavoratti's parts, and did an excellent job. Bono explained to us before hand that the song was written about a beauty pageant that a woman organized and put on in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia during the civil war there in the 1990s. At the song's end, the screens above the stage began to scroll the first 6 articles of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights, and there was also footage of Aung San Kuu Kyi reading them.

--Where the Streets Have No Name. Another one I never tire of hearing live.

--The First Time, Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses. The two opening songs of the encore. Zoo Station and The Fly were on the set list but the band opted for these instead. I'd always thought The First Time was a so-so song until I heard it last night, where Bono and the Edge did it acoustically and it was amazing. They seemed to decide right on stage to follow it with Who's Gonna Ride, as the Edge had to re-tune his guitar. They started this song acoustically, and then the bass and drums joined it. A fantastic version.

--With or Without You. A song that, honestly, is overplayed I feel, and to top it off, I've never been a big fan of most live versions of this one. However, Bono turned this around for me when he pulled a young girl on stage and slow danced with her while singing. Then he sent her back to the audience and pulled up another young girl and did the same thing. Then he sent her back, and pulled a gentleman with a bushy beard and a turban on his head on stage, and the two of them stood there while Bono finished up the song.

--Fast Cars. A great song, a lively number. Not released in the US, so it was a thrill to hear it.

--Original of the Species. I love this tune.


--One. My favorite U2 song (which pretty much makes it my favorite song). However, they brought Mary J. Blige on stage to sing it with them, and I definitely could not get into it. Don't get me wrong, she's a very good singer, but I just didn't like the way she performed it. Her style of singing didn't suit the song.

The show closed with 40. At the end of the song, Bono got the crowd singing the last line over and over: "How long to sing this song." He left the stage, and slowly, one by one, the rest of the band left, until it was just the crowd singing. The crowd continued to sing for about 5 more minutes until the house lights came up. Later, as the crowd was filing out of MSG, there was a VERY large crowd working its way through the lobby. Someone started singing loudly "How long to sing this song" and very shortly, everyone had joined in. Amazing.

So, overall, an excellent show. Despite taking a bit to really get into it, it was still amazing.

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