Another Time, Another Place, Live at the Marquee

This time it’s the fan club live album, Live at the Marquee Club London 1980, not the song. I received it yesterday, apparently they shipped them out in order of renewal of membership. Have to say that’s one way of doing it, not my preference. The U2.com site membership is a little screwy in that it is meant to be by the year, not by the date of membership. That gets a little messed up when you try and keep track of things, for example my membership was expiring in I think March or April, so I didn’t renew until then. They really ought to switch it to a January-December kind of thing, not basing it on the date you signed up. It’s difficult I know, because if you sign up in December what do they do, give you this year or next year? And they can’t really make it rolling, because if you go June to June do you get both years’ membership gifts? On the other hand, a society I belong to did switch from annual membership to date-to-date membership, and it works just fine. But then again they have member gifts monthly (free electronic books) so if you go June-to-June you still end up with twelve. Ahhh, but what do I know?

Way back in the day I rated the namesake song a four. I think I’m going to give the album a better rating, simply because it’s live, even though it’s really old. It’s essentially a live version of Boy, almost all of the songs on the album are on here, and vice versa. Boy I rated around average,  there are times when I feel it hasn’t aged well and times when I feel it has.

The biggest problem with this recording is that much of it is very derivative of Under A Blood Red Sky, or maybe that is derivative of this. In the early days they didn’t have so many songs of course, and this means that for the first few years they had a lot of songs in common from tour to tour. A lot of this album shows up on Under A Blood Red Sky, and it’s difficult to tell which is better, both in quality of the recording and quality of the performance. I think I have to give the nod to Red Rocks, just because of experience and performance practice. But then you get to something like Electric Co., and have to say wow, that was a great version (although I kept waiting for him to start singing Send In The Clowns).

Something I’ll give this is that it’s an outstanding recording, I don’t know where it came from (did they do it themselves?) but it sounds about as good as some of the ones that fans recorded on the current tour. Has some of the crowd stuff but not too much. Actually I think that Bono is not quite as loud as usual. I’ve mentioned before that I read they used to turn his microphone up a little to make him clearer, I’m not sure they were doing that at this point. Or maybe he was just slurring a little more than usual. Either way there are moments when he’s talking and not feeling very distinct.

Nice packaging for the album, with the vinyl included along with sleeves for them. I must admit that the last time I listened to vinyl was a very long time ago, heck it might even have been the original Boy way back when. 

My rating for Another Time, Another Place (live album): 10 / 10

Vertigo tour

I saw the Vertigo tour live twice, both times in Texas. These were the days when I’d see the Texas shows and nothing else through a lack of money and time. Now I have time and money, which is why I was able to see them four times in Chicago this year (and hopefully more next year). I dream of following them around the world someday, although that would mean more time and money that I have.

From the opening of City Of Blinding Lights, one of my favorite songs off How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, we were in for a treat. Bono showing up at the edge of the circle as the music took off. Then into Vertigo, and there was definitely a sense of things happening everywhere. It wasn’t the sensory overload of Zoo TV, but there was a feeling that if you were looking in one direction you’d probably be missing something in the other direction.

I do remember thinking at some point that they had begun turning into a greatest hits band, and not liking the feeling. Sure, there are certain standards the band must play every night, although to be fair that list can probably be counted on one hand. Streets and Sunday for sure. Probably With Or Without You and One. The thing I like about the Innocence + Experience tour is how it really is about the new album, and bringing back old songs related to the theme of the new. That’s the big difference, that you’re hearing those songs they may not have played in 20 years or more, or at least that haven’t been regular parts of the set in so long. They’re not being the juke box, playing that top 20 and the crowd being happy. No, they’re playing the random stuff, the bits and pieces, and the crowd is ecstatic. And that’s a difference to Vertigo, which like I said definitely appeared to be a greatest hits show, nothing much new, nothing that wasn’t in that top ten. Much better these days.

Love And Peace Or Else is one of those songs that are good, but so much better live. The way they played that on this tour was great, with Bono and Larry out at the end, singing together, then it ending with Larry leaving, and Bono drumming out the finish. I remember my wife loving that part, with Bono drumming. Then it segued into Sunday Bloody Sunday, and it did it so well, it was fantastic. Not necessarily going to say it was the best ever Sunday, but certainly the best Love and Peace (although not too much competition there). And of course by then Bono had donned the Coexist headband, one of those things I also loved.

So the whole thing about the Vertigo tour is that it was a point in time for the band, it was what they were doing back then but it isn’t necessarily what they are doing now. It’s almost like it was the last of the greatest hits tours - 360 was in some ways, but despite all the hype there was more there than you think - and perhaps a bit of a new dawning for the band. The comments like the one Adam gave, saying that they’re okay playing for their fans now, rather than trying to get new fans, that gives me a lot of hope. If they produce more I+E stuff, versus Vertigo stuff, I will be very happy with the future of U2.

My rating for Vertigo tour: 10 / 10

Chicago 4

I waited a day to have some thoughts on Chicago 4, just so I could get the June review in on the right day. Does a day add any perspective? Not much. I’m still going to say it was a great show, of course.

Chicago 4 opened with Miracle, as every show on the tour has, and followed up with Electric Co. I somehow only realized last night that the second song of the show has been very interchangeable, I have been thinking that it has been flipping back and forth between just Electric Co. and Out Of Control, but I also saw Gloria in that spot during Chicago 3. The rest of the first half of the show has been pretty stable, I think. I saw a map a couple of weeks ago of the show, I don’t know where and I don’t know if it has been updated. But to continue where I was going, I want to say that song two has flipped but the rest of the first half has had that theme, the story the band has been trying to tell about them growing up, and so the songs have stayed the same. It leads to a fairly compelling story.

FYI as we walked around Chicago today, my son alternated singing between the “oh, oh oh oh oh oh” of Miracle and some parts of Song For Someone. He is well trained now, I think. I worked on him with some of the lyrics of each as we walked, he’ll have it down by the next time we see the show (which I guess will be next year, barring some kind of miracle (of Joey Ramone)).

Our seats for Chicago 4 were in the corner, lowest level, by the e stage. I was able to see Deena (of On The Road With U2 fame), I was sat almost directly behind her, although she was in the GA. To be honest I felt the seats I had in Chicago 4 were a little better than GA, because in GA I was crowded out by arms holding up phones all show long. In the seats I was still close but could see everything over all those people. It would have been a lot different in GA if I was against the rail though.

My wife texted my sister-in-law (another big U2 fan) before the show, sent a picture of our view. She replied back that she wanted to FaceTime  with us during the show. I had half promised myself to keep my phone in my pocket this time, but ended up pulling it out and connecting with her, during the part of the set where the band is down on the e stage. And by some miracle we ended up seeing the first ever performance of The Crystal Ballroom, which once again was much better live than the recorded version. Too bad you can’t record FaceTime though. I did record Bono’s entrance, we were on the opposite side from him. Funny moment, when his microphone didn’t work as he started up Miracle, and the crowd sang it anyway.

So sadly tomorrow (Wednesday) we get on a plane and head back to Texas. I won’t see Chicago 5 live, I will hopefully watch as much as I can online, but it’s not nearly the same. If you’re watching the shows online, I can only tell you that seeing it in person is way way better. Video just doesn’t do it justice.

My rating for Chicago 4: 10 / 10

Chicago 3

Tonight was very special for me, as I took my son to his first U2 concert. He is ten years old, and his biggest problem was getting his earplugs to fit. He didn’t seem at all nervous before the show (I was, I really wanted him to like it), he seemed to take most of it in stride. He was half falling asleep towards the end though, I don’t know how since it was so loud, but he managed to keep going until the end. Then when we got back to the hotel he had several questions about things that had happened during the show (mostly based around the events of Raised By Wolves), so I am glad he was paying attention and interested enough to remember. Overall it was great for him to be there, and will be again tomorrow night. Tonight we were in the third deck, almost alongside the main stage, so he certainly got a good overview of the show. Tomorrow it will be first level in the seats, in one of the corners by the e stage, so it might be a little more up close and personal.

About twenty minutes before the show began, I took a photo of the arena and posted it to Twitter. I checked a few minutes later and it had been retweeted a few times. That kind of inspired me a little, and I took a photo during the first song (Miracle, which has dramatically grown on me during the tour) and posted it, then posted again for the second song, Gloria, and all of a sudden I was taking a bunch of photos and posting one for each song, and getting a lot of retweets and favorites. Thanks to everyone who did that, you were all inspirational to me. It makes me realize that I should do that more myself, I often just look at the pics, but a favorite is kind of a thanks to the person who did it.

So yeah, that was an amazing show. I’ve had two shows down below (GA then first level), this was my first up in the air, and it really was a different perspective. In GA you get very little of the video board, it’s difficult to look up so much. In the first level it was a bit of an angle, but I was also close to the stage. That wide angle I got tonight was in some ways a completely different show. There was more watching the video, but also the wideness of the stage from the side kept things interesting.

Now to show notes: As I said, they played Gloria tonight, for the first time in ten years and the first time I saw it live since the Lovetown tour. Then Lucifer’s Hands, which I rated below average a week ago but may end up becoming another of those songs that grow on me once I’ve heard it live a few times. And All I Want Is You, one of my absolute favorites, a song for my wife and me, and yes, I checked and that was the first time we have seen it live together (and yes we held hands and kissed during it). All in all, a great show.

My rating for Chicago 3: 10 / 10

Chicago thoughts

And now some thoughts on the first two shows, go back the last two days to see each show individually (including my awesome high five with Paul McGuinness).

One of the things I had some worried about was credit card entry. Not because of anything specific, just random chatter on the internet telling you all the things that could go wrong. My mild worry was that I had gotten an updated card between buying tickets and the show, but I really expected that not to be a problem, as presumably they’d be working on the number not the date. But credit card entry was smooth, the guy in front of me was handing his card to the person saying “this is the card I used to pay” several times, she just took it and scanned it and was done. For some reason he was freaking a little, don’t know why, maybe it was a borrowed card or something. Mine scanned in a couple of seconds. Easy, was very happy with the process. If it works as a way to reduce scalping then good.

I was surprised at the lack of crowd, almost right up until showtime there was nobody in the expensive seats, but I remember noticing partway in during the first show that the seats were full. Not sure how that happened. In the second show I didn’t really notice, but then I didn’t get there until about 15 minutes before showtime (that was me outside scarfing down a cheeseburger, since I hadn’t eaten all day).

When I was in the GA I definitely thought that Bono was favoring the North side (the side I was on, fortunately). The others a bit too, but especially Bono. Even when down on the e stage, he looked like he was pointing toward our side and singing towards us much more. I can’t say I noticed that in the second show either, although I was alongside the stage and to be honest I wished the guys had come up to the sides and back more. I think Bono was only up there three times in total, and it was probably a similar count for the others. This is kind of a case where the middle needs to suck it up, they get the band most of the show, but the ends need to see a little more love.

Bono was clearly sick in both shows, in the first there was a point where he had to bend over and cough after singing a line, then repeat that line when he was okay. I did feel like he was talking the show a little more than singing it. When he came over and took a drink after the first song in the second show, I thought uh-oh, he’s not going to make it, but he did. Although singing One at the end, he did not sing it at all, the crowd sang the whole song (he prompted a little), so I wonder if he was out of gas at that point. It was weird, it felt like we were at a rock and roll show singing karaoke. But enjoyable. Hope a couple of days off helps him get better.

Overall the shows were good, about what I expected them to be having seen so many clips and Periscopes from earlier in the tour. That’s actually high praise, because having seen them online my expectations were really high. What’s going to be fun is the next show, two nights from now, because I’m taking my son to his first U2 concert and he has almost no idea what to expect.

Chicago 2

Okay, let me get this out of the way: yes, I high-fived Paul McGuinness on his way out of the arena tonight. I just wrote a post a week ago that mildly criticized him (on his birthday no less), and tonight he becomes the closest I’ve been to an actual member of U2 (not counting standing in a crowd). So, yay me, right?

So I get into the arena and down to my seat, and discover that I am exactly parallel to the back of the main stage, on the south side (Edge’s side). There are three rows of seats in front of me, all empty because they wouldn’t have been able to see on the stage, then my row. I would estimate that when I stood up the back edge of the stage was probably around belly height to me. Not bad, although there was some equipment in the way a little too. I was also next to one of the entrances into the arena, one of the ones at each corner.

I sat next to a couple who also happened to be from Texas, and we had a nice conversation before the show. I kept looking back down the tunnel, and down the tunnel on the far side too, trying to figure out which side 3/4 of the band would be coming from (I knew Bono would come out the far end). Turns out they came out the opposite side to me, which is very disappointing, but it also turns out that my side was the celebrity entrance. A few minutes after sitting down, George Lucas came through with someone, I said “George” to him but he didn’t pay any attention to me (was hoping to get a Sheldon moment in there). A few other people came by now and then, and I kept looking back to see who was coming. A group that looked like a band, a couple of people I semi-recognized (I know it wasn’t Jon Bon Jovi, but who’s a singer that looks somewhat like him?). There was a dude who looked like a rapper, not sure which one.

So the show went on, and I was mildly disappointed because frankly the angle wasn’t great for the band. The three of them came over to my side a few times during the show (not enough I don’t think). I enjoyed the angle to the band less than yesterday, when I was in GA, but I enjoyed the angle to the screen much better, I was able to see it and see what was going on much better.

They played both Out Of Control and Bad, two of my favorite songs. Really happy about that. They also played the (mildly) sucky version of Sunday, it’s just a little slow-paced for my liking.

At some point, I have no idea which song it was, but Bono came over to our side, in the corner, and his spotlight shining on him also happened to shine on the security guard who had been standing at the celebrity entrance all night. She did not look around at him at all, even though he was right above her. I went down at the end and asked her about it, and she laughed and said that she’d lose her job if she turned around, although she was tempted to look up instead, she could have seen him that way. But she was happy because she knew he was there and she was in the spotlight with him. I don’t think I would have resisted that temptation, which explains why I’m not a security guard at a U2 show.

And so to the end of the show, I am watching Streets, and somehow realize that several people were just coming in beside me, and realized that Paul McGuinness was one of them (the rest were female, no idea who they were, band wives? His wife might have been one of them, there was an older lady there (sorry, lady)). I watched them out of the corner of my eye, they went over to the edge of the GA crowd. Anyway, Streets ended and One started, and Bono dedicated One to Paul, and then the crowd mostly sang One, which was great. But Paul and the ladies left before the end of One, which surprised me that it was dedicated to him and he left in the middle. But as they came down the celebrity exit, I put my arm down to high five and yelled “Paul,” and he looked up and raised his hand and grasped my hand, in a sort of handshake. Then he went on out. And I stood up and watched the end of the show, thinking that wow, that moment might just have made it the best show of my life. Hard to top that, right?

Two down, two to go. Third deck on Sunday, I doubt I’ll meet anyone famous up there.

My rating for Chicago 2: 10 / 10

Chicago 1

The thing about making plans is that they can go awry. In my case, in my post yesterday I said I was just going to enjoy the show, and not take pictures or Periscope it or anything like that. Well, I didn’t Periscope, but literally as Bono climbed up to the stage I had my phone out and was taking photos, and ended up taking 190 photos during the show. Best laid plans and all that.

Today was my GA day, I’ve done GA at U2 shows before but this one was different. First of all there was a limited amount of GA available, they have balanced it very well to get good numbers without crushing people in. Second, we were split into two sides of the stage (North Side rules!), and even though I didn’t get to the show until 7pm, I was in a really good spot. I was along the center rail, just about where it turns into the e stage, and about five people back from the rail. I got to see most everything, everyone was up and down the stages so we saw them all (if I had a criticism it would be for Adam, I’d tell him to get all the way down to the e stage more). My biggest problem with the show was the number of people using their phones (myself included), it was at times difficult to see the main stage through the forest of arms holding up cameras. And then of course the standing for hours, but that’s to be expected. And I didn’t have a great view of the video board either, I could see it fairly well but I had to stretch my neck up to see it. My neck is sore right now because of it.

The show itself was really good, pretty much what I expected from all the videos I’ve seen of it. Even better live of course. A guy about five people to my right caught the first book that Bono threw, although I didn’t see what it was. And all the paper falling from the ceiling was landing closer to the main stage, so I didn’t get any of that. Oh well.

They mostly played what I wanted to hear, at least for one night. They can fill in the rest over the next four nights, songs like Out Of Control, Bad, and The Troubles are high on my list of want to hears.

I heard that Bono was sick before the show, and he clearly struggled at times. I saw him wipe his face and take a drink several times on the e stage. There were a couple of points in the show where he missed parts, or had to sing them again, because of his voice. There were a couple of places where he was encouraging the crowd to sing, and I thought it was because he wanted to not have to sing it himself, to rest his voice for a second.

Only irritant was after the show, when I came out to large crowds at the bus stops, and on the streets (that did have names), and not a cab in sight. I ended up walking back to my hotel, not quite three miles I think. I was walking with a lot of other people, who slowly peeled away into the night. I was probably two miles into the trek when I saw the first available cab, and by then my pride (in the name of love) made me walk the rest of the way.

Show 2 tomorrow, I’m going to be in a seat with a decent view, so it should be good.

The rating below reflects the fact that it is impossible for a U2 show to be anything but perfect. Yeah, that’s just the way I roll. I have to say that Zoo TV remains my favorite show, I think. Innocence + Experience looks like it’s going to be a pretty strong contender for second place though.

Sometime soon I will cull through the photos and post the best. There should be at least one of each band member that isn’t terrible, right?

My rating for Chicago 1: 10 / 10

Innocence + Experience initial thoughts

So U2 opened the Innocence + Experience tour on Thursday and Friday night. If you read my report from Thursday you would have seen several comments about the show, as I watched and listened while I wrote that night’s post. I was excited to be able to see and hear as much as I did, most of each concert, thanks to both iHeartRadio and various online versions.

Thank you to Periscopers who broadcast the first two nights, it isn’t as good as being there but I’ll take it any day. It is a marvel of technology that we could not have imagined even just a few short years ago. You think about U2 and the early days, and the documentation of what they did back then, all the gaps in the story. Now think of today, when any bunch of kids forming a band can record every single one of their sessions, learn from them all, and save them so that we can look at them thirty-five years from now. Oh yeah, and now extend that to every part of your life…

The other place to thank is @U2, who posted huge chunks of the show on YouTube the last day or two. I went back and watch all of their videos, it is like I said something you would not have seen even during the last tour. I wonder what effect that is going to have on the music business, are people going to stay away from shows if they can see them for free online? I will tell you what I know from history, which is that when television came along and began broadcasting baseball, people said it would be the end of crowds in the ballparks, but since then television coverage has blossomed and so have the crowds. It turned out that watching on tv pushed people to want to see games live. I hope and expect that to be the case for music as well, although a band like U2 probably won’t see any benefit, since they already pack the arenas when they tour. It’s the up and comers who should benefit the most.

But what about the shows? There was much online debate about which song would start the show, I was on the side of Cedarwood Road, but they went with Miracle instead. A very good choice. The theme of the show is clearly the early days, at least the first half is, and it worked really well. It did seem like they were telling a story about the early days in Dublin, through Miracle, Cedarwood, Iris, Wolves, all songs from the new album, which was also something surprising to me, how many of those they played off Songs Of Innocence. But they had the narrative down just right, mixing them in with some of their older songs, like Sunday (still don’t like the acoustic versions of Sunday as much as the full versions). 

Other notes: Fantastic video show. It’s no Zoo TV with the sensory overload, but it looks great. Really happy to see Bad show up on night two, hope it stays. Not happy to see Out Of Control dropped for night two though, hope it stays. Surprised to see Hands That Built America in there at all. How does Bono not cry as he introduces Iris? Glad to see them play When Love Comes To Town, it was a nice tribute to BB King. Odd that Still Haven’t Found closed night one, I don’t think it works as the last song, and note it was dropped for One on night two. I love The Troubles, hope it sticks around.

Overall after just two shows it’s hard to tell, they had originally said that the first and second nights would be different, but later said they wouldn’t. It’s not really possible to tell which way they’re going, in general the structure was mostly the same. It might take a while for the show to settle down, as they try different things and see what works. But overall, looking really good so far.

Don’t think I can give it an official rating, because I didn't see it live, and there’s a simple rule that U2 live is a natural 10.

U2 at the Superbowl

I love the Superbowl. I watch it every year, both for the game and for the commercials. As a Seattle Seahawks fan, I’ve had little interest in the outcome of the game most years, but I will be screaming loudly come game time this year, as I was last year. My memories of most games fade into nothingness so many times, and it takes something special to remind me of a game.

Of course I refer to the Superbowl in January 2002. The halftime show - normally pretty lame - was special because U2 were appearing. I can’t tell you who the two teams were that year, but I can tell you it was in New Orleans. The show is too short of course, getting 15 minutes or less each year, so that you only get a taste of the band that is appearing. They presumably play their greatest hits, or most well-known songs. In 2002 U2 played Beautiful Day, the hit song from their currently-touring album, then MLK and Streets.

Why MLK? Well, if you hadn’t guessed from the date, it was just a few months after 9/11, and this was the band’s tribute to that moment. I’ve talked before about them paying tribute during One and Walk On, and how emotional that was. Apparently they decided to use MLK as that emotion point in the Superbowl, with the banner raising in the background reflecting names of victims. A powerful moment once again, although I must admit that it did not bring the emotion that I had experienced in the arena during the Elevation tour.

I wonder to this day if the families of victims knew if that was happening in concert, or if it was going to happen at the Superbowl. I hope so, because I can’t imagine how shocking it would be to see without prior warning. I am even bothered by it a little now, as I read some of the names and wonder that question. 

I was surprised in watching the video on YouTube to see the banner collapse at the end. I had totally forgotten that had happened, and looking back now it looks to me like one of the twin towers collapsing. I don’t know if that was accidental or intentional, I hope it was an accident because if it was done on purpose then it was in bad taste (of course now I google it and the suggestion is that it was on purpose, and the purpose was for the names to shine across the crowd and the roof, like in the concerts. Hmm, still not sure about it).

U2 returned to New Orleans after Katrina of course, to do the show to reopen the Superdome, along with Green Day. I’ll cover that later in the year, but that performance was perhaps even better than the Superbowl itself. I want to say that it was somehow much more emotional, but that idea might detract from 9/11. Can I say that I’d already had that experience in the U2 concerts before the Superbowl, so it didn’t have as much impact as the new performance with Green Day did?

And one final thing I have to say today: Go Hawks!

My rating for U2 at the Superbowl: 8 / 10