The Vertigo of Bliss INTRODUCTION

I became a U2 fan in 1999, and saw them live for the first time on the Elevation Tour, at London's Earls Court on 22nd August 2001 (see @U2 Tours or for setlists and reports). It was a mixed experience for me. Of course it had its good points – crowd singalongs, meeting one of my online friends in the queue, attracting squeals of delight with my MacPhisto-inspired outfit, and so on. Sadly though, the negative aspects rather outweighed the positives, leaving me with less than fond memories of the event overall.

My seats were dreadful – I'd coughed up for the expensive 'Golden Circle' tickets, but although they were in the second row, they were also at the opposite end of the arena from the stage. Needless to say, the band looked like ants, and the stripped-down nature of the Elevation Tour meant there weren't even any giant screens to watch from the back. It was a million miles away from the spectacular ZooTV concert that I'd watched so many times on video, dreaming I might one day experience a similar show myself.

The sound in the venue was so appalling that I literally couldn't recognise some of the songs until halfway through. The new version of 'The Fly' with a revamped intro, which I'd seen people raving about, went over my head completely as I couldn't make out what Bono was singing – I thought it was a cover of some old song until I finally caught a familiar lyric during the verse. 'Sweetest Thing' was similarly puzzling at first; I couldn't hear the piano at all!

My section was half empty and nobody around me seemed very enthusiastic, so I spent the entire show desperately wishing I was down on the floor with the fans who were jumping and dancing. I was especially jealous of the people in and around the heart, who were often within touching distance of Bono. That's where I should have been. :(

Then there was the unfortunate timing... that leg of the tour had seen Bono spending each night at the bedside of his father Bob Hewson, who was losing his battle with terminal cancer. He passed away on 21st August 2001, the day before my show. I was grateful (and amazed) that they didn't just cancel the gig altogether, but obviously it was never going to be the most joyous of occasions. Bono was understandably subdued, and the tributes to his dad throughout the concert were heartbreaking.

On top of all that, the whole thing went far too quickly. I felt overwhelmed with despair when they launched into the closing song 'Walk On', and couldn't really take in the performance as I was so busy trying to get one final glimpse of the band through my binoculars. And then they were gone, and the concert I'd been looking forward to all year was over. They hadn't even played some of the songs I was hoping to hear (such as 'Bad' and 'In A Little While'), and disappointingly they hadn't thrown in any surprises for the last of their four nights at the venue. I was left with a crushing sense of anticlimax. I shed a few tears in the taxi home, I couldn't face listening to any music for the next few days, and years afterwards I still felt sick whenever I heard 'Walk On'. My first U2 concert certainly hadn't been the ecstatic experience I'd seen so many fans describing.

I could only console myself with the resolution that next time, things would be different.


I had a good feeling about the Vertigo era. After being so let down by All That You Can't Leave Behind and the subsequent tour, I kept my expectations low for the next album, and was overjoyed when How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb turned out to be a glorious return to form. It looked like the Vertigo Tour was going to kick some arse as well, so I was determined to make sure I enjoyed it properly this time around.

For starters, I decided to see two shows. That way, even if the first one went too quickly or didn't live up to my hopes, I'd still have another concert to look forward to; a second chance to get it right. There was also no way I was going for seats again, especially in a much larger venue (Twickenham Stadium) where I'd be even further away from the stage. I was hell-bent on getting GA tickets this time, and being right up against the rail – partly to get those amazing close-up views, and partly because I'm five feet tall and would be screwed if I ended up anywhere else!

Tickets were initially released via a presale on 25th January 2005. Rarely have I experienced anything so terrifying. My first attempt failed when Ticketmaster informed me I'd taken too long to complete the order (I'm sure I hadn't!), and I found myself stuck on a "please wait" screen for ages, fearing I'd blown my chance now that everyone in the world was trying to access the site. After lots of random clicking and refreshing, I eventually found my way back to the ticket selection screen, and flew through the process without bothering to check for typos this time. My nerves were shot to pieces by the time I saw that wondrous page confirming my order – four GA tickets for Saturday 18th June! To say I was relieved would be an understatement (I screamed with joy). I was finally going to fulfill my dream of seeing U2 in a stadium, and hopefully this time I'd be right up close! Two hours later I was still shaking – and starting to realise just how lucky I'd been, with thousands of furious fans missing out on presale tickets as the inaccessible website had rendered their codes invalid. It was some kind of miracle that it all worked out for me, and after only 15 minutes of panic and terror!

Of course, that was merely half the battle won. I still wanted to attend the 19th June show as well, which meant trying our luck with the public sale three days later. This was even crazier than the presale – my friend Nicky and I spent the whole day trying every ticket website in the known universe, but they were consistently unavailable or sold out. Then at last, just as I had given up hope of obtaining anything that day, Nicky struck lucky on and managed to get hold of three tickets for the second concert! Celebrations all round... myself, Nicky and my best friend Coral would be able to attend both shows together, just as I'd hoped. (I sold my spare ticket for the 18th to a local fan I'd met recently, who was equally delighted that he'd now get to see both gigs!) Everything had fallen into place, and we were all set for one hell of a crazy and thrilling weekend...

Saturday ticket