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

Where to start, from the beginning I guess.

I live in Kansas City, so I was a little put off by the fact that there's a large hunk of the midwest that isn't covered on this leg of the tour. If you look at a map of the U.S., there's a seriously gaping wide hole across the midwest, where U2 won't be playing. But I'm not gonna sit here and stew about that.


Monday 4/30 - Road Trip
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I thought that the half day of work on Monday morning would just drag on, but fortunately I was busy enough that it really flew by. This isn't an ego thing, but my position at work is one where if I leave for more than a day, people start to get real nervous and antsy. Let's just say that there's alot of knowledge wrapped up in my mind that others don't have there.

I did manage to hit the door flying at noon though. After running a few errands, I hit the road at 1:00. Kansas City to Minneapolis is about a 7-8 hour drive, but I really don't mind driving. I find that In God's Country and One Tree Hill can carry me for many miles.

The plan was to meet up with Elena and Susan, who are friends of mine since the PopMart tour. Susan was arriving from Milwaukee, and Elena would be coming in from Chicago. Both were traveling by bus. We had a hotel room about 3-4 blocks from the Target Center, and just across the street from the bus station, so that was quite nice.

By 9:30 or so, we had all met up, and decided to go grab a bite to eat. We found a nice little place to eat. I like to include details, so I'll say that Susan had pizza, while Elena and I had Greek and Caesar salads respectively. I had two Guinnesses with my meal (of course), Elena was fond of the Cider, I can't remember what Susan drank.

There was a U2 tribute going on at a bar (Fine Line?), so we decided to go check it out. $5 cover, but once we heard Pride being played, that wasn't a problem. By now it was about 11:45 (where did the time go?). We had a couple of drinks, listened to a few songs, and before we knew it, it was last call. You see, bars are only open until 1:00 in Minnesota. The band did a pretty cool version on ISHFWILF, bringing up a bunch of different people on stage. It was similar to what you see in R&H, but it was slightly different. It was like they had a bunch of guest stars taking turns at the mike, except these people weren't famous or anything. It was pretty cool though.

We leave the bar and go back to the hotel. Elena heads for bed, but Susan and I decide to go check out the venue, scout it out, whatever. Susan had designs on sneaking into the arena, but it was not meant to be. At this time they were setting up the stage, because there was a basketball game that night in the arena.

We met up with a few other people who looked like they were doing the same thing we were. Turns out it was a Canadian couple and three Belgian guys. The boys from Belgium were members of the U2 crew who worked on the video production during the show. It was interesting talking to them about their jobs. One of the guys has been doing it for ten years for various artists. One of the guys went by the name "Smasher". As it turns out, he's mentioned in Willie's Diary on U2.com (see the 5/1 entry).

So that's that, and Susan and I head back to the room to go to bed.


Tuesday 5/1 - Blowing the Roof Off
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Susan wakes up before any of us, and heads down to get in line at about 7:00 or so I think. The official release from the Target center said that the earliest you could line up would be 7:30, and at 8:00 they would hand out sequentially numbered wristbands to ensure your place in line. Elena and I get down there at 7:30 or so, and there's about 50-70 people in line. About 7:45 they open up the outside doors, and let us in. The release had said that we would be waiting inside the venue, in the lobby area, or whatever you call it.

Right on schedule, they began wristbanding us at 8:00. We had our own very unique identifier that we were the biggest freaks of them all. It was explained to us that at 4:30 in the afternoon, they would release us, 50 at a time, to a different area to wait, until the time we would be sent out to the heart. At that time we would be given a different wristband which would be our GA wristband, allowing us anywhere on the floor except the heart. We would be getting our heart wristbands at about 6:15 or so, just before everyone else would be allowed into the arena.

So the wait begins. Actually it wasn't too bad, because if you had a wristband, you could pretty much be assured of your place in line. So were able to take off, and do stuff. Just as long as we weren't gone for too long of a time. Everyone was pretty cool about this stuff.

We met three really nice guys who were next to us line. Brian, Rich, and Tim. Part of the fun of traveling around and going to shows is meeting interesting new people. Brian even lent me a Gear Daddies bootleg tape that I'm going to copy and return to him.

During the day, we went out, checked out the city, went back to the hotel room and showered, went on food runs, etc... Nothing too mind-blowing.

At about 3:00, we decided to go see if we would be able to catch the band as they arrived at the venue. We had no luck, and if you check out Willie's Diary on U2.com, you'll know why. It was fun though.

They had changed the time from 4:30 to 4:00 when we would be released to the "second waiting area". We didn't really know where we were going, most of us figured it would be an area just past the point where they take tickets, and before the actual arena area itself.

This is where it gets good. First off, they flat out told us, "small cameras are ok". Now if you've ever gone through the anxiety of trying to hide a camera in your bag, or like I've done in the past, cram it down your pants far enough so they won't feel it when the pat you down, you'll know just how sweet it was to hear those four words. Needless to say, we were surprised and relieved this was the policy.

They released us 50 at a time into the "second waiting area". Being #'s 31-33, we were in the first group. So they led us down a hall after tearing our tickets (there was absolutely no pat down or bag check). And where do they take us... TO A BAR!!! It's the club bar, or whatever, that's actually inside the venue. Air conditioned, tables, booths, and barstools... They designated separate areas for each of the groups of 50 to sit in (there were 300 people admitted to the heart), but you could mingle as you saw fit. They opened up the bar, the DJ played ATYCLB, and we had a pre-show party. It was a blast, they had free popcorn for us, and the atmosphere was so relaxed. It was a great time. And in case you were wondering, I had a Guinness (and couple of other cocktails).

At 6:15, they got us up, and led us in our groups of 50 to the heart. Once inside, we had to line up to get banded and then you were free to take up whatever position you wanted. Elena, Susan and I opted to go outside of the heart, right at the tip. Elena had been to five shows, so I put my trust in her when she said that this was the place we wanted to be.

Talked to a nice couple behind us from Rapid City, South Dakota. This was their second Elevation show, the first being Denver. Also met a couple of nice girls from Minneapolis right behind us also.

PJ Harvey takes the stage a couple of minutes before 7:30. I only know two of her songs, "Man Size" and "Down by the Sea", and she played both of them. I really wasn't too into her music. The live version of "Down by the Sea" is really good though, much different than the studio version. She only played for about 40-45 minutes, and the final wait began. As it is for most opening bands, the arena was about half full while she played.

The techs were doing their thing. Elena is amazing, she knows all the tech's names, as well as the big shots for U2's security team. I should rephrase that, she knows the faces that go with those names. I know most of the names, but I couldn't place faces with those names.

Someone came and put towels and water under the ramp right in front of us at the tip. He also taped up a piece of paper down there. I thought it might be a set list, but nobody would see it down there. I asked the security guy if I could have it after the show was over. He said something to the effect of "ask me after the show, and we'll see." More on this later.

The background music grew louder, and before long, they were playing the remix of Elevation. I hope they release that as a b-side in the future. As expected, the band walked out from the left with the lights up. The place went wild, and they kicked into Elevation. Hearing 20,000 people singing wooo-woooo at once is an experience. Crowd participation was excellent throughout the show. Much more than I expected. At times throughout the show, I looked up into the stands, and everyone was standing up. Sitters suck.

At this point, let me talk about the sound quality during the show. I had heard the acoustics in the Target Center weren't the greatest. I suppose that may be true for parts of the arena, but where I was, the sound was fantastic. Everything seemed a little bit turned up during Elevation, so it was a little bit distorted, but everything was fine after that.

In Elena We Trust. She was dead on right about our location. It's easily the best spot in the house. Unless of course you want to focus exclusively on Edge, Larry, or Adam. Bono spends probably about a third of the show at the tip of the heart. It's kind of like his home base during the show. Not only was I at the tip of the heart on the rail, I was at the absolute center of the tip. If the point of the heart where extended out, it would have gone directly through my chest.

On the rail, directly in front of me, was one of the square platforms attached to the top of the rail that Bono jumped on. There were about 3 or 4 of these platforms up the rail on each side of me, spaced about 4-5 feet apart or so. So when I leaned over the rail, I rested my arms on this platform (when Bono wasn't on it that is). I was so close to the platform that I could reach over, and place my palm flat on the heart platform. This was definitely cool.

Back to the show. UTEOTW with the bullfight routine was cool. Edge is a God. Desire, Stay, and IALW were excellent. Streets was great. In the middle of Streets, at the tip, Bono kneels down and says a prayer, blesses himself, and takes of for a nice run around the heart. As it turns out, he was reading the prayer off a piece of paper taped to the platform. As it turns out, this was the piece of paper taped underneath the platform that was placed there before the show. When the show ended, Elena managed to convince the security guy to give it to her. Later on, knowing how much I coveted that paper, Elena gave it to me. This was so kind, and I thank her greatly for it. She is such a sweetheart. What the paper says is exactly as follows (note that the word "god" isn't capitalized on the first line, that's how it was typed):


Streets Prayer Psalm 116

What can I give back to god
For the blessings he's
poured out on me

I'll lift high the cup of
salvation
A toast to God

I'll pray in the name of God
I'll complete what I
promised God I'll do
And I'll do it together with
his people


During Mysterious Ways, Bono sang the first verse laying on his back on top of one of the video screens behind the stage. Later in the song, he crawled up into the stands, or at least up the stands. And interacted with the fans there. After he got back to the platform, he repeatedly apologized to those fans. I've heard varying accounts of what happened up there, but whatever happened, Bono knows that whenever he does things like that, anything can happen.

Just before The Fly began, a security guard came up behind me and said that when he tapped me, I should move to my left because "We've got a surprise coming down here." At first, I thought they were going to bring someone or something up to the stage, but it soon became apparent that Bono would be coming down to the floor. Halfway through, I was tapped, and did as told. Initially, the security guy was holding his arms outstretched in front of us, but he figured out that I was just as adept at holding the people back behind me, and focused his attention elsewhere. Sure enough, Bono got on the platform that was directly in front of me before I moved, we all had arms up, I placed my hand on Bono's thigh (insert your own joke here). Actually, it was more of a support thing, as Bono was leaning over the crowd. Then Bono leaps down onto the floor, and in a flash, he was gone down the makeshift aisle that was created for him. A couple of security guys immediately followed Bono. It was kind of funny, Bono was gone in a flash, and those security guys flew over the rail after him. This happened really fast. I really like "The Fly" live. It's always been one of those songs that just sounds fantastic live, and this was no disappointment. The only bad thing was that I was so preoccupied with the whole jumping into the crowd thing that I didn't get to focus in on the song as much as I would have liked. Next time...

During the band introductions that Bono does, Larry was first, and he came all the way down and walked all the way around the heart. Just before he got Bono, he reached down and slapped my hand. He had been looking at the crowd the whole way down, but decided to reach down and slap MY hand. While I'd like to think that he just simply "digs me man", it was probably due to the fact that I'm 6'2'' and have pretty long arms. Either way, it was cool to lay five with hands that provide the backbone of this amazing band.

Adam walked halfway down the side of the ramp during his introduction, then walked back up to the main stage. I can't remember how far Edge came down, but I know he didn't do a complete lap around the heart.

During With Or Without You, rather than pick a pretty lady from the crowd to dance with, Bono sang a good portion of the song into a cell phone that was handed to him from about 5-6 rows back from the tip of the heart. It's great being so close to him that you can see the emotion he puts into that (and all other) songs. It's great seeing every drop of sweat on his face. He truly is a great performer who works his ass off to put on a fantastic show.

Going into the show, I had a pretty good idea of what songs would be played, but I made it a point to not pay attention to song order when reading accounts of previous shows. About the only thing I knew was that Elevation/Beautiful Day would open the show, and that One/Walk On would close the show. Other than that, I had no idea which song would be next. That was kind of cool. It's alot different than Zoo/PopMart, where I knew the exact setlist going in.

I snapped about 65 or so pictures during the show. I had to. How often are you close enough to Bono that his sweat drips on you. When I get them developed, I'll scan them and put them on a web page. I have a really good feeling that there's going to be some real beauties in the batch. After the lights came up after the show, one of the girls behind me had a 5 dollar bill out, and a pen, and was going to write her e-mail address on it, so she could get prints of my pictures. I turned down the money, but I did get her e-mail address.

After the show, we tried to pinpoint the location of the band, but had no success, and after getting a bite to eat at the death-threat cafe, Susan, Elena and I went back to the room and eventually went to bed.


Wednesday 5/2 - The Calm After the Storm
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As it turns out, there was some pretty nasty weather around Minnesota on Tuesday. At 5:21, a tornado warning was issued for the northern part of the county that Minneapolis resides in. I remember looking out the window while we were at our "pre-party" in the bar, and it was raining very heavily and it was quite windy. That was probably at the same time the warning was issued. Normally I stay on top of the weather, because I actually chase storms. Not professionally mind you, but as a hobby. But on Tuesday, my mind was focused on U2. If you read Willie's diary on u2.com, you'll see that the weather across southeastern Minnesota that day nearly caused the band not to arrive at the venue on time.

Elena was up and gone before either Susan or myself had woken up to catch her 7:30 bus. And Susan had a 10:00 bus to catch, I hung around the hotel room until about 11:30, when I left to have lunch with a high school friend. He works only about 3-4 blocks from the Target Center. He told me that he had heard on NPR (National Public Radio) that there was a problem with the computers that assist in the sound production of the show, and they had to call in a local company called The Geek Squad for assistance. I guess this Geek Squad does consulting in the Infomation Technology field up in the Twin Cities, and they actually dress in a Geek-type uniform, with a black tie and everything. I have no idea if this is actually happened, but it's worth noting. I'm going to do some research and see if this actually happened.

At 1:00 I hit the road, and drove back to Kansas City. Of all the Zoo and PopMart show I've seen, this was easily the most satisfying. I think the boys are in top form right now, and it would be a shame if you didn't see them. I'm going to be in Chicago to see two of the four shows, and I can't wait.

~ian

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