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

I'm 24 and I've been a U2 fan since I first heard "Under A Blood Red Sky" when I was six.

But for some reason I'd always had problems trying to get tickets to U2 gigs. Whether it was cos I was too young, (mum didn't let me go to the Joshua Tree tour with my brother), the gigs were sold out (Zoo TV) or I simply didn't have enough money (the Popmart tour came in the midst of a student cash crisis), I'd got all the records, all the books, all the videos BUT I HAD NEVER BEEN TO A U2 CONCERT.

So imagine my annoyance when all the tickets for the British shows were snapped up in three second or however long it took. I thought the curse would last forever. UNTIL...Jim rang me up with a deal from a travel agents - Go from Leeds to Manchester on a coach, have a meal, watch U2 (best seats in the house, aparently) and get a coach back. The price? 119. Plus train fare from Derby to Leeds. I ran to the phone, told the travel agents to take everything I owned and the ticket was mine. A few tears were shed, it had to be said.

SO! Was it worth it?

Well, fast forward to the gig. Okay, not the best seats in the house at all (right at the back in fact) but we can still see everything. I'm so nervous it may as well be me that's about to go onstage. I run to the toilet and back about five times in the 20 minutes preceeding the show and would be about to go again except I'm distacted by four pesky men wandering onstage.

I stand staring vacantly as ELEVATION comes out of nowhere. Bono, in a more aggresive stance than ever, belts out his lines like never before, the band taking the weak album album version and making into a Song 2 for arenas.

BEAUTIFUL DAY chimes like I knew it would (although they should try it without all the samples; whatever happned to the back-to-basic ethic?) and END OF THE WORLD rocks like a beast. Especially the ending; the most powerful U2 song ending since "The Electric Co" or "40".

To be honest though, those first three are a bit of a haze to me. I stand there with my hands on my head, thinking, "nah, that CAN'T be U2". It CAN'T be.

I know NEW YEAR'S DAY is coming cos they didn't play it the night before. It still hits me like a train though. How many hundreds of times have they played this song? Yet it sounds fresh still.

KITE should be remembered as a great song for its sheer brilliance, not just because of Bono's current situation. And GONE is also sensational, a bone fide U2 classic and definite highlight.

I'm slightly disappointed by the fact that Edge doesn't play his stunning live guitar solo in NEW YORK (see b-side to Stuck In A Moment), especially as I'd built myself up to it for most of the song. I's great to hear OUT OF CONTROL, even though it's played a half-pace (the more casual fans take this "unknown" song as a sign to get the drinks in), and SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (and back they come, spilling their drinks in their hurry).

WAKE UP DEAD MAN was never my favourite song but tonight's performance is beautiful. Just Bono lying flat on his back, and Edge's solitary, shimmering guitar floating around his maudlin vocals. Sensational.

After a tight STUCK IN A MOMENT (nice vox Edge) comes a bit of a suprise: THE SWEETEST THING. Even better, it sounds more like the original than the spoilt '98 version.

Acoustic versions of RAIN and STARING AT THE SUN (see, these songs from "Pop" weren't that bad after all) preceed a chilling "All I Want Is You" which feature my favourite moment from the gig: Bono, again lying on his back, leading the audience into the final "all I want is - YOOOOUUUUU" over and over again as the band quietly fade out and WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME starts. What a tune. Larry (who looks bored as hell through the entire gig but hey, what more do we want) brings the beat in and all the house lights come on - just like they did on all the videos... I'm truly moved and that lump in my thoat isn't fishbones from the meal earlier. Meanwhile, Bono's still on his back - "all I want is....all I want is...." all the way through the first verse of Streets. Amazing.

MYSTERIOUS WAYS sounds massive, PRIDE is massive (sorry, my memory fades here - I'll probably remember these moments again in 20 years; I'll get back to you then) and they're off.

BULLET THE BLUE SKY is probably the highlight. Lasting for about twelve minutes, Bono goes off on one about Lennon and Chapman ("HEY JOHN, CAN I HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH JOHN, SIGN IT FOR MARK CHAPMAN JOHN") and builds it up into a frenzy.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is sublime, if a little tired. I don't think U2 need to play this anymore.

And then ONE. Bono chats over the intro and then plays a mini guitar solo and he looks like he's forgotten the words. And he has. "Did I disappoint you...or do you feel the same..." Hey it works, but they're not the right words and he knows that. He tries to start the verse again but the sequencer goes to the chorus and Bono is well pissed off. Edge and Adam are out of sync with each other and Larry looks livid. They struggle through the song, Bono drops his guitar down and almost runs offstage. The band look as surprised as us and stick around for five minutes or so, waving.

Now, Jim and I were looking forward to WALK ON probably more than anything else. The lights are down, the sound engineers still in position, the roadies are checking the guitars; it looks like it might happen. But alas, a collective groan (myself included) is voiced when the lights finally come up after ten minutes.

Selfish, yes - we'd been treated to a stunning performance and I have every sympathy and respect for Bono who was a true showman tonight. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed - at the time - with the performance of One and the tour's only dismissal of WALK ON.

But hell, I'm sure Bono was in no mood for a jubilant "Walk On" and I could just imagine him picking his coat up backstage, murmuring, "get me to Dublin, NOW".

And fair play to him.

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