These are the days when you wish your bed
was already made...
Things got off to a stressful start on Friday morning, when I realised I'd completely
underestimated how long I would need to get ready – I had to finish my packing in
such a hurry that it's a miracle I didn't forget anything. My walk to the bus stop was also
deeply unpleasant... the weather forecast now predicted a scorching weekend in
Twickenham (contrary to initial warnings of rain and thunderstorms), so I'd packed 7
bottles of water. It was already quite humid outside, and my bag weighed an absolute
Having struggled all the way to the train station, I met up with Coral and we successfully
caught our trains to Clapham Junction and Putney. The 15 minute walk to our hotel was
similarly awful – it was baking hot, and the city was unbelievably crowded and
dusty. The traffic was practically at a standstill as well, so we were suddenly glad we'd
decided against our original plan of driving there! After a few minutes of blissfully cooling
off in the hotel foyer, we made our way through a seemingly endless maze of corridors
to our room (easy to remember the number as it was a pair of U2 songs – "One
40"!), and were appalled to discover it did not have air-conditioning. Even worse, you
couldn't actually turn the heating off (only lower the rate at which the room was heated),
so it was a stifling 24.5°C in there. And we couldn't leave the windows open
because it was far too noisy outside and we needed to get some sleep.
Evil heat! All night long!
Since it was so important for me to be up close at the concert, I had decided to attempt
what many hardcore fans do, and camp out overnight to ensure we beat the queues. In
preparation for this insanity (and inevitable lack of sleep) over the weekend, we planned
to spend Friday afternoon asleep in the hotel. It should have been easy – I'd been
so busy trying to organise things that I'd barely slept all week, and I deliberately deprived
myself of sleep the night before, to make sure I'd be tired by the afternoon. We hit the
sack at about half past two, and set the alarm for 10pm, thinking we'd have plenty of
time to get that much-needed rest before the long weekend ahead of us...
...except I just could NOT get to sleep! My general excitement and nerves were no doubt
partly to blame (I was so desperate for everything to work out right this time), but mostly
it was the extreme heat making it impossible to get comfortable. I lay awake for at least
four hours, feeling increasingly confused and frustrated as I couldn't *quite* drop off, then
possibly managed to doze for about half an hour before finding myself wide awake again.
The whole time I was developing an absolute monster of a dehydration headache,
despite getting through three of my water bottles already – I ended up resorting to
painkillers. At 9pm I finally resigned myself to the fact I wasn't going to sleep, so we had
our showers and got ready for Saturday. As I had done for the Elevation concert in 2001,
I proudly advertised my MacPhisto fandom by
wearing gold trousers, hand-painted glittery gold shoes, a ruffled shirt and devil horns. :)
These are the days when you wish your bed was already made...
Things got off to a stressful start on Friday morning, when I realised I'd completely underestimated how long I would need to get ready – I had to finish my packing in such a hurry that it's a miracle I didn't forget anything. My walk to the bus stop was also deeply unpleasant... the weather forecast now predicted a scorching weekend in Twickenham (contrary to initial warnings of rain and thunderstorms), so I'd packed 7 bottles of water. It was already quite humid outside, and my bag weighed an absolute ton!
Having struggled all the way to the train station, I met up with Coral and we successfully caught our trains to Clapham Junction and Putney. The 15 minute walk to our hotel was similarly awful – it was baking hot, and the city was unbelievably crowded and dusty. The traffic was practically at a standstill as well, so we were suddenly glad we'd decided against our original plan of driving there! After a few minutes of blissfully cooling off in the hotel foyer, we made our way through a seemingly endless maze of corridors to our room (easy to remember the number as it was a pair of U2 songs – "One 40"!), and were appalled to discover it did not have air-conditioning. Even worse, you couldn't actually turn the heating off (only lower the rate at which the room was heated), so it was a stifling 24.5°C in there. And we couldn't leave the windows open because it was far too noisy outside and we needed to get some sleep.
Evil heat! All night long!
Since it was so important for me to be up close at the concert, I had decided to attempt what many hardcore fans do, and camp out overnight to ensure we beat the queues. In preparation for this insanity (and inevitable lack of sleep) over the weekend, we planned to spend Friday afternoon asleep in the hotel. It should have been easy – I'd been so busy trying to organise things that I'd barely slept all week, and I deliberately deprived myself of sleep the night before, to make sure I'd be tired by the afternoon. We hit the sack at about half past two, and set the alarm for 10pm, thinking we'd have plenty of time to get that much-needed rest before the long weekend ahead of us...
...except I just could NOT get to sleep! My general excitement and nerves were no doubt partly to blame (I was so desperate for everything to work out right this time), but mostly it was the extreme heat making it impossible to get comfortable. I lay awake for at least four hours, feeling increasingly confused and frustrated as I couldn't *quite* drop off, then possibly managed to doze for about half an hour before finding myself wide awake again. The whole time I was developing an absolute monster of a dehydration headache, despite getting through three of my water bottles already – I ended up resorting to painkillers. At 9pm I finally resigned myself to the fact I wasn't going to sleep, so we had our showers and got ready for Saturday. As I had done for the Elevation concert in 2001, I proudly advertised my MacPhisto fandom by wearing gold trousers, hand-painted glittery gold shoes, a ruffled shirt and devil horns. :)
We had far too much time to kill, so we listened to the radio for a while, and were so bored by 11:15pm that we decided to leave the hotel just to have a change of scenery! It was still revoltingly humid, which didn't bode well for the long hours of waiting outside the stadium. We enjoyed sitting at Putney station where the platform was nice and breezy! As planned, we caught the 11:49 train to Twickenham, where we met up with Nicky (who'd travelled down from the opposite end of the country) and exchanged the concert tickets we'd bought for one another. I'd memorised the route to the stadium and it took us less than 20 minutes to walk there – it was *so* exciting when the venue finally came into view! It looked enormous, and we could see them playing around with the coloured lights as we approached. :D It was hard to believe we were actually there at last.
We had tickets for Gate F, so we headed for the entrance off Whitton Road, but the gates were locked. When we tried Rugby Road we found a sign directing early arrivals to Gate 4, and here we were greeted by two security people sitting at a table. (Poor buggers, stuck there overnight!) They pointed us towards the start of the GA line – there was only one, at the moment – and we arrived at around 12:35am to find just nine people there before us. Woohoo! One of the girls already in the queue had a strong Kiwi accent, so I guessed it was Emma from LiveJournal whom I'd spoken to earlier that week. She recognised me too – the horns rather gave it away. ;)
As you can probably see from the photos, the surface we had to sit on was horrendous – I'd been expecting concrete or maybe even grass, but instead it was dirt covered in really chunky gravel. Ouch! We'd come prepared with bin liners to sit on, but it hardly made any difference, so I ended up standing for most of the night as the ground was just too uncomfortable. Later Nicky wandered off and came back with a manky old sack that he'd dragged out of a skip, thinking we could rip it open and spread it on the ground. Unfortunately we couldn't find anything sharp enough to cut through the tough material, so we all just had to squish up onto it, but it definitely provided better padding than the bin liners!
Games people play in the middle of the night...
It was a very strange, peaceful night – I think only about two more people turned up after us. Someone had Virgin Radio on at first (we got all excited upon hearing a snatch of With Or Without You, only to find it was just a trailer!), but then the earlier arrivals all went to sleep. The three of us didn't feel particularly tired, so we stood around talking and playing I-Spy to pass the long hours! The weather forecast had predicted a muggy night, but to our surprise it actually got rather chilly in the early hours, and left us shivering – we had to keep reminding ourselves that this was preferable to the awful heat from earlier. ;)
At one point we were joined for a chat by one of the security guys, a friendly Geordie bloke who was telling us about the huge number of staff that Twickenham Stadium had employed for this weekend. He was working all the way through to Sunday night – and IIRC, he said his wife would be working up on the roof, so she'd get to see the show from above! Very cool. He would come and talk to us several more times throughout the weekend, often keeping us up-to-date with what would be happening.
We then tried to have a nap, but for some inexplicable reason I was still unable to fall asleep. Getting through this mad weekend on the 2 hours of sleep I'd managed on Thursday night was going to be interesting!!
Shortly after dawn, the first trains started running and a few more people began to trickle in. Planes were also starting to arrive at nearby Heathrow Airport, so we were playing a "guess the airline" game, which quickly grew boring as the majority were British Airways. ;p (Later there would be a constant stream of aeroplanes flying over the stadium during the U2 show, which struck me as incredibly cool for some reason – it must have been amazing to catch a glimpse of that stage from your plane window! Sadly I forgot to check whether any planes launched over us right on cue during Beautiful Day...)
We then spent quite a while playing Hangman with U2 lyrics (an old favourite from our days on Usenet!), during which time we were joined by Heather, who'd come all the way from Virginia in the USA to catch the shows. We'd known each other online for six years but never met in person – which didn't prevent her from identifying me straight away, thanks to my outfit! She sat with us for a few minutes, and we got someone to take a photo of us all.
At some point mid-morning, a security bloke came and herded us all through the enormous maze of fences, to a spot nearer to Gate H. (You may recall that our tickets were actually for Gate F... more on this later!)
There was a period of time where the temperature was just right, as the sun had come up and was nicely warming us after the chill of the night... but soon it was becoming far too hot for comfort, and it was disturbing to realise it wasn't even noon yet. There was no shade at all outside the stadium, so we had to try and create our own. Sitting underneath our black bin liners didn't help, as they simply absorbed the heat, but we had more success when we fixed one to the railing behind us with safety pins. This worked fairly well until the sun climbed directly overhead, and then there was no escaping it. :/
All we could do in the afternoon was rely on the marvel of newspaper to keep us cool – it was great for fanning ourselves or holding it over our heads! Temperatures climbed well into the 30s, with no cloud cover whatsoever. After a few hours we realised we'd better apply some sunblock – Nicky had only brought Factor 8, which I feared would be hopelessly inadequate, but it must have done the trick as I miraculously escaped with only sunburnt shoulders (where I'd misjudged how far up my arms I needed to apply the lotion). My companions came away looking rather worse – Nicky and Coral both had pretty much all-over sunburn by the end of the weekend!
Nicky and Heather went to the nearby Tesco in search of umbrellas, among other things, but there was nothing suitable. Shortly after they returned, Heather went through the nightmare of discovering she'd lost her ticket (or more likely, had it stolen from her back pocket). :/ She retraced her steps and asked around, but unsurprisingly didn't manage to find it. The box office weren't issuing any tickets on the day of the event, so she had to spend the rest of the afternoon getting updates from the medical tent, to see if any heatstroke victims might be willing to give up their ticket – we found ourselves in the rather twisted position of hoping one poor guy did indeed have appendicitis! (Nicky cracked us up with a cheerful "Fingers crossed, eh!", bringing some welcome black humour to an otherwise tense situation.) Thankfully, Heather did manage to buy another ticket for face value in time for the show.
Somebody tell me what's going on
Meanwhile, the rest of us had a major scare at one point, upon discovering we seemed to be in the wrong GA line! Our tickets had said to queue at Gate F, but everyone arriving before 9am had been directed to Gate H, and we still hadn't been divided up. I therefore became extremely nervous when I heard someone say there was now an even longer queue round the corner at Gate F... it would be a total disaster if we got sent to the back of the line now, having queued since half past midnight! We'd be stuck behind hundreds, maybe even thousands of people. Nicky went to ask someone what the hell was going on, and came back saying we apparently WERE in the wrong queue – I nearly had heart failure on the spot. Shiiiiit!!! He went off to check with a security guy, and I watched them having a very animated conversation; Nicky making lots of hand gestures while the other guy shook his head grimly. The whole thing looked highly ominous. :|
They headed off elsewhere to consult the staff member in charge, and after several nail-biting minutes, Nicky returned. To my immense relief, he'd been reliably informed that we were fine – everyone who arrived before 9am was to stay at Gate H, regardless of what your ticket said. What's more, the early arrivals would be let into the stadium first! :D :D :D Thank god for that... I kind of felt sorry for anyone who believed what U2.com had said about no queuing allowed before 9am, but meh – not *that* sorry. ;)
The wristband situation was another source of unease, as nobody seemed to know when they'd be handed out. They initially promised them at some point during the morning, which didn't happen, and then we were constantly being told different times... it was incredibly frustrating, as you didn't dare leave the line for toilet or water breaks for fear of missing out on the wristbands! It was finally announced that they'd be distributed at 3pm, and that everyone who was already in line would definitely get a wristband for the inner circle – this was greeted with a huge roar of approval from the crowd. :) The security guys had suggested that we might be sent into the stadium as soon as we received our wristbands, which resulted in everyone getting ready far too early, gathering their stuff together and beginning to crowd up. When they did eventually hand out the green wristbands, we were all told to calm down as we weren't going anywhere just yet – indeed, we ended up standing around in the blazing sun for well over an hour, squashed together without any shade. Not fun. :/ We saw one girl being wheeled past us by a load of medics, and she certainly wasn't the only one suffering from heatstroke.
Thankfully the band had now begun their soundchecks, which provided a welcome distraction from the heat! The sound was gloriously loud and clear – I hoped it would sound that fantastic once we were inside the stadium. We heard them run through bits of Vertigo, Love And Peace Or Else, I Will Follow and Zoo Station, among others. Halfway through I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Bono suddenly came in with the vocals, and these blokes next to us immediately roared "BONOOOOOOO!!!" and started screaming in a manner you'd expect from teenage girls – that was hilarious. <g> We all had a good singalong, which passed the time nicely. To everyone's delight, they also spent ages soundchecking Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, which hadn't yet been played on the European leg of the tour! The middle section sounded particularly amazing, and I couldn't believe how strong and lovely Bono's voice was. (I'd been expecting a lot worse, given how strained it had been during the Elevation Tour and on recent TV appearances.) We were so excited by this point!
They finally opened the gates just before 4:30pm. Running was strictly against the rules, but there was still a mad crush and we were overtaken by several people straight away! We had our ticket stubs removed and marked (thankfully the UK shows had no scanning or lottery of any description), then went through bag checking. This seemed pretty relaxed – I offered to let them check my bumbag but they waved me through, and I probably needn't have hidden my camera, as the only ban was on professional recording equipment. (Indeed, I was taking photos right in front of security staff all night and no-one said anything!) They even relaxed the rules on taking bottles into the stadium, allowing us to bring in our own water as long as the lids were removed first. I must thank the Twickenham staff for looking after us really well in the insane heat, providing us with free tap water from a hosepipe outside, and setting up a receipt system so you could reclaim your spot in line if you needed to take a break. Apart from the lack of communication over gate allocations and wristband timings, they did an absolutely brilliant job overall – it was very much appreciated!
We came across another huge bottleneck at the turnstiles, where people were in such a hurry that they were trying to force their way through the wrong lanes, and had to be yelled at to use the other ones! It was all a bit manic, but there was never any real danger of injury. Once we were through onto the pitch, I was incredibly relieved to find there were staff positioned all the way along, making sure nobody broke into a run. I'd been dreading the mad stampede for months, as I'm not a quick runner and my fitness leaves a lot to be desired, but I needn't have worried about a thing – it was just a case of briskly walking to the front (and the rugby pitch seemed a lot shorter than I'd expected). Another huge thumbs up to the Twickenham security crew! There had been tales of utter chaos from the earlier Manchester gigs, which a couple of Twickers staff members had witnessed first-hand, and they were keen to avoid these problems at their own concerts. (Reading later reports from Glasgow and Cardiff, it sounds like Twickenham was the *only* UK venue that put in the effort!)
Thanks to the great organisation, and the fact we were so near the front of the queue, we quickly reached the 'bomb shelter' and found ourselves with plenty of choice as to where we could stand. I couldn't believe how easy it was to get a place on the rail – the whole process had gone so much more smoothly than I'd anticipated! We were able to claim the exact spot I wanted, in the front right corner of the bomb shelter. From studying a few concert photographs beforehand, it had looked like the ideal place to be – and it was even better than I'd expected!
Our spot was really close to the main stage, which was high enough to give me a virtually unobstructed view despite my shortness, and we were right beside the sloping part of the walkway where Bono and Adam would often pose. The walkway too was quite high so we could still see the band members whenever they headed out towards the B-stage (an opportunity for close-up views of everyone except Edge, who stayed on the far side). Our only blind spot was the opposite walkway and B-stage, but this wasn't a problem as we also had a very decent view of all the screens. You could hardly ask for more... I could not believe our luck, we'd actually done it and I was so damn excited! :D (I was also surprised by how small and intimate the bomb shelter seemed in the flesh – it had looked enormous in the photos online.)
Another good thing about our inner circle spot was the glorious shade when we sat down against the rail – such a welcome relief after all those hours of oppressive heat! Nicky bought us some extra bottles of cold water, and we just sat on the floor chilling out while a bunch of good songs played over the PA system... bliss. (I was particularly chuffed to hear Blondie's 'Atomic', which I'd recently suggested as the perfect introductory song for this tour!) We also bumped into the friend who'd bought my spare ticket, plus some random guy from Poole who recognised Coral from the shop where she worked... small world!! A few Mexican waves rippled around the stands and across the pitch, but they were all a bit pathetic and deservedly got booed each time they petered out. ;p
Let's get this party started
The first support act, Doves, came on at 5:45pm. I'd never liked their singles when I heard them on the radio or performed on TV, so I wasn't expecting to enjoy their set – but they were actually really good in person, with impressive musicianship and amusing banter from frontman Jimi. (At one point he asked us to indulge him in a "rock star moment" and did a little Bono-esque lunge down the left walkway, saying it was corny but we should all try it sometime. <g>) Their sound was just so much richer in a live setting, especially coming through U2's massive fuck-off speakers! I was already in complete awe of the sound quality, it was *crystal* clear and the volume level was perfect. No muddy, echoey effect like I had to suffer at Earls Court on the previous tour (I'd been told to expect worse at an outdoor venue!), and none of the discomfort I'd experienced at unnecessarily loud gigs by tribute bands. Excellent!
Doves played for half an hour and seemed to get a very enthusiastic crowd response, despite the stadium not yet being particularly full – they got things off to a great start. And with the afternoon heat beginning to ease off into a more pleasant warmth, it suddenly felt like the most *perfect* summer's evening. :)
At 7pm it was Athlete's turn, which was undoubtedly the low point of the night. I'd always found the singer's voice really irritating and the songs weren't great either, but I went with an open mind, hoping they'd come across better live. They didn't. Even the frontman's jokes fell painfully flat. I did feel a bit sorry for them – they'd been so excited about playing a stadium gig in their home town, and they clearly weren't going down at all well with the crowd – but they were just so incredibly tedious, and their set dragged on for 45 minutes, until I was desperate for them to hurry up and leave. My severe lack of sleep was starting to hit me hard now! Still, I got a huge buzz from seeing the support acts so close up. Soon it would soon be U2 standing right there in front of us!!
Everyone was on their feet by 8pm, ready for the main event. U2's intro song for this tour was 'Wake Up' by The Arcade Fire, and just as it had been with Sgt Pepper on the last tour, you could hear the excitement building as soon as that song came on – everyone in the room knew just what it meant! U2 finally hit the stage at about 8:20pm, with the whole crowd screaming the place down, especially when Bono appeared last. They kicked straight into Vertigo, teasing us with a lengthy build-up before the explosive "UNOS // DOS // TRES // CATORCE!"... and any thoughts about being tired, hot, thirsty or wanting the toilet were immediately forgotten. :) In America they had opened the shows with either 'City Of Blinding Lights' or 'Love And Peace Or Else', which in my opinion was peaking too soon, and I had always insisted that Vertigo would be a much more appropriate choice. I was so right – it worked perfectly and got everyone rocking straight away!
Bono was so up for this gig – I was utterly thrilled to see him leaping around, gyrating his hips and striking all his trademark poses, having so much fun with the audience. That's the Bono we know and love. I didn't get to see that Bono four years earlier, when he was visibly grieving... now at long last I was going to experience a proper full-throttle U2 gig! :D Everyone was bouncing like mad and singing at the top of their lungs – the energy level was unreal, with band and audience clearly feeding off one another's enthusiasm. (It was just a shame my gold shoes, which had incidentally shed most of their paint & glitter within hours of joining the GA line, were not overly comfortable for jumping in. Also I kept colliding with the girl next to me, so I ended up awkwardly holding onto the rail with one hand, which meant I couldn't dance quite as freely as I wanted to.) Our view of the band was awesome, there was only one tall bloke occasionally getting in my way, and even starting in broad daylight did nothing to ruin the atmosphere. Bono emptied some bottles of water across the grateful audience, though sadly we didn't get any on our side!
There was no time to pause for breath during the first few songs – it was one energetic song after another! The second was I Will Follow (which I'd been thinking I would quite like to hear on this tour), and then The Electric Co – not one of my favourite early tracks, but at least it kept us rocking. At one point a security guard leaned over the barrier and pushed me aside; I thought I was about to be told off for using a camera, but he actually wanted to speak to another girl. Apparently it was something to do with her being indecently dressed!
Elevation was up next. I wasn't too keen on the way it was performed during this tour – teasing the audience with lots of false starts was just annoying, plus the crowd seemed incapable of singing the "Whoo hoo / Whoo-oo-oo" bits correctly! Still, it was great fun once it finally got going. I'd been longing to bounce along madly to this song ever since 2001 at Earls Court, when I watched from my distant seats and wished I could join the party down at the front! I also loved the way Bono sang "I believe in you... and you believe in... The Edge?!" – and everyone loved it when he playfully remarked "It's OK to flirt. A married man, flirting with the entire city of London!" Cue lots of screams from the audience. ;p
To my extreme delight, the next song was New Year's Day, one of my all-time favourites to hear live. I hope they never stop playing it – that bass intro is still so incredibly thrilling! Bono's voice was on top form for this one – his "Yeeeaaa-aaahhhhh!" over the intro was excellent, and I nearly cried with joy when he hit a perfect falsetto note for "Like a chosen few". Glorious. He also did a cracking "Yea-aa-ohhh" bit going into the bridge, which I hadn't really expected! Adam chose this song to take a wander past us down the right-hand walkway. He sure is a cool customer, smiling to himself the whole time! :D
Beautiful Day followed, with a snippet of Here Comes The Sun at the end. I can't say I've ever been this song's biggest fan, and it wouldn't have appeared in my dream setlist for this tour, but it wasn't unwelcome in the end – largely because Bono's gorgeous new voice made it sound rather amazing! Whereas he'd avoided the falsetto notes on the previous tour, this time he was embracing them without hesitation; in fact he hit the high notes for "Teee-e-e-each me" twice, which is more than he does on the studio recording. 8) He also seemed to put on a funny voice (rather like Desire in the Rattle & Hum movie) for the "See the world in green and blue" section, which was pure unexpected brilliance. <g>
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For was very nice, a big crowd singalong as you'd expect, and Bono went with the "Burning like a fire / I was burning inside her" lyrics. They also did All I Want Is You as they had done for Manchester 2 (its first appearance on this tour); apparently they'd murdered it the other night, but this version sounded great! Everyone sang along with "All I want is youuuuu-uuuu!" over and over again, which had been a highlight at Earls Court and was similarly moving here. Halfway through the performance, Bono said we were now going out live on Radio 2, although in fact the radio broadcast didn't start until the next song.
City Of Blinding Lights got a huge scream as the enormous screen finally flickered into life, although it wasn't yet dark enough to be able to make out any patterns or words. This song disappointed me somewhat on the first night. Firstly I noticed that Edge didn't sing his lovely harmonies on "Neon heart, dayglo eyes...", and then I was especially gutted when Bono didn't even attempt the high note in the second verse – my favourite note on the entire album! :( Towards the end, Bono gestured for some people in the crowd to pass him a silver heart-shaped balloon. (It took them ages to understand what he was after, and he was getting more and more frantic as the end of the song approached!) As the last piano notes played, he released the balloon and repeatedly cried "Blessings!" as it slowly floated up over the stadium... I knew the whole thing was staged (he'd done the same thing in Manchester), but nonetheless it was surprisingly moving. The balloon ascended in absolutely perfect time with the music, and I found I was almost in tears watching it drift away. Just a beautiful moment, one of those little things that gives you goosebumps.
I've seen them so many times, I feel like I must be your best friend
Miracle Drug was, as ever, dedicated to the doctors, nurses and scientists – "especially the nurses", LOL! I liked the call-and-response ye-e-eah's we did in the middle section, that was a nice way to translate the song into a concert setting. Then it was Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, with Bono performing the first verse *right* in front of us on the walkway! I was surprised I didn't freak out and feel nervous, being in such close proximity to him – it actually felt strangely natural, perhaps because I'd already spent years watching him up close on video. :p The song was as powerful as ever, though I was frustrated not to see Bono's face when he hit *that* big note – he was out on the B-stage with his back to us by then, and I didn't think to turn around and watch him on the screen until it was too late. Bah. I did get another photo as he drifted past us on his way back to the main stage, though.
And now for something completely different... "Now look what you started!" grinned Bono, as the unmistakable menacing intro of Love And Peace Or Else wafted through the stadium. HELL YEAH, here we go – my favourite track on the new album, and one of my top three U2 songs of all time! Bono was now wearing his weird red jacket which I'd previously described as "hideous", but I must say it suddenly looked fantastic when he was standing just a few metres away from me. <g> Larry made his way past us toward the B-stage, trying ever so hard to maintain a serious face, but we cheered him so loudly that he couldn't help breaking into a grin, haha! Bono then followed him out there, and everyone started to crowd around me as they tried to get a better view, but I still rocked out as hard as I could physically manage in the space available. ;p I couldn't *believe* nobody else was moving – this was easily the most exciting song they'd done in years, yet the crowd response was pathetically lame. Admittedly it wasn't quite as good live as on the album; I hated the irritating way they chose to sing the "release, release" bit, and Bono's drumming on the first night sounded completely random and daft! Nevertheless, this song was always going to be a highlight for me.
Love & Peace led into a storming version of Sunday Bloody Sunday, and I was shocked by the continued lack of movement from the people around me – I don't know how anyone can hear that classic intro and not immediately start marching on the spot! What a miserable bunch; *I* was enjoying myself, anyway. :p At least they all sang along. I was so pleased that Bono did his traditional "NO MORE!" call-and-response in the middle, which I'd been disappointed not to hear on the last tour. It must have got dark around this point, although I was so engrossed by the show that I never really noticed the transition from day to night.
The stage looked awesome for Bullet The Blue Sky, bathed in red light and smoke... I'd recently been watching the ZooTV video and lamenting the fact they no longer bothered with smoke machines, so this was a pleasant surprise. :) Unfortunately the song itself was a rather pedestrian version, with no passion at all in the verses. It was however saved by two things – the crowd singalong of the falsetto Oo-oo-oo-ooh's, and the fabulous snippets! I couldn't believe how deliciously evil Bono sounded when he sang the "Hoorah, hoorah" part of When Johnny Comes Marching Home; his voice was so like MacPhisto's that I nearly keeled over on the spot. And then he sang a bit of The Hands That Built America, which was so hauntingly beautiful... ahhh!
Bullet was followed by Running To Stand Still, which was also not at its best on this tour – the acoustic piano version was nowhere near as grand and stirring as the ZooTV performance, and the Hallelujah's at the end felt anticlimactic without Bono reaching for the heavens Sydney-style. Still, the audience singing along with the Ha-la-la-la-de-day's was wonderful. Pride (In The Name Of Love) was as anthemic as ever; and although I feel it's time this song took a break to make room in the setlist for other things, I must say that thought never occurred to me while I was there enjoying the show. You hear that familiar intro and you just start dancing and clapping! Everyone sings along, especially for the Oh oh-oh oh's – though Bono had us singing those for so damn long that my throat was beginning to hurt. :p
Where The Streets Have No Name was magnificent. For this tour they had scrolling African flags during the intro, which I had seen in photographs and thought it looked kind of ugly, but it was strangely beautiful in the flesh. I found that I didn't even notice the traditional red glow and blinding flash of light were missing – the music was enough. They actually had the screen turn red at the end of the song instead, and I suddenly felt all choked up again... how do they always manage to do that? :) I had a similar moment at the start of One, when Bono asked the audience to create a "Christmas tree" by holding up their mobile phone screens in the dark – I turned around to take in all the lights, and it was just so pretty I had tears in my eyes. (I don't have a mobile and I'm irritated by the ubiquity of them, but Bono's idea of using them as lighters did work surprisingly well! So much so, they'd do it again on the next tour.)
Senses working overtime
"See you in a minute!" smiled Bono as they disappeared for the interval – a refreshing change from the usual pretence of saying goodnight, and presumably for the benefit of the radio listeners. Keeping us entertained during the break was an absolutely brilliant video sequence involving a giant fruit machine... which finally came up with a row of Zooropa space babies, repeatedly squealing "Mama!" :D I'd already heard some mention of that logo being used again, but I hadn't imagined it would be quite that cool – you should have heard the cheer from the crowd. <g> I had no idea just what an unbelievable experience was about to begin, though. I have always been a ZooTV girl at heart; the early days of my fandom were spent obsessively rewatching the Sydney video (the peak of their career), and I could never stop agonising over the fact I didn't get to see that tour in person. Indeed, as U2 went through a phase of stripping their live shows back to basics, I feared I would never get to experience that kind of sensory overload – so I was thrilled just to see the ginormous screen and the smoke machines they were using this time around. But oh, there was *so* much more to come!
I'd heard other vague whispers, that Bono had revived his Fly character for this tour, but I didn't entirely believe that rumour. I thought it would be something new that didn't bear much resemblance to ZooTV at all. Was I ever in for a shock! The familiar crunching guitar of Zoo Station ripped through the stadium (which was orgasmic enough in itself – to say this song's live resurrection had been a pleasant surprise would be an understatement)... and I could not *believe* what I was seeing on the left-hand screen. It was only Bono's silhouette staggering around exactly like the opening of a ZooTV show!! Holy hell, this couldn't possibly be real – it was like my ultimate U2 dream coming true. I must have been grinning my face off, I can't even remember what was running through my head just then (probably because it was something along the lines of "gwjkarhfslgh!!!11"). Before I knew what was happening, this NeoFly was standing directly in front of us on the walkway, getting up close and personal with a handycam – it really was 1993 all over again! We were absolutely engulfed in smoke, which was fun (unless you accidentally inhaled a huge lungful of it, which I did at one point). ;p Some girl cheekily muscled her way onto the rail beside me, which left me with pretty much no room to move, but I sure as hell danced as best I could! (Again I seemed to be the only person going crazy for this song – what is wrong with some people?!) I hardly knew where to look, with Bono goose-stepping around the B-stage, and the most awesome graphics in the history of the world EVAR blasting their way across the screens behind me. OMFG. I was in my element!!
As if that wasn't breathtaking enough, The Fly then took things even further into ZooTV territory, with rapid-fire slogans (way too fast to read at times) and gorgeous swirling colours all over the screens... oh my. It was *so* mindblowing that I actually began to feel a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. This was too much to take in all at once – I just couldn't absorb it properly, there was a real sense of "This is happening RIGHT NOW and if I blink I'm going to miss it all". Perhaps it was so much like an amazing dream that my brain couldn't quite accept I was really there, and I spent the rest of the show feeling slightly dazed and disconnected.
After The Fly they played a sexy little version of Mysterious Ways, which I danced all the way through. I'm normally frustrated when they perform this song because I really miss Bono's killer falsetto vocal from the original tour, but I didn't particularly notice its absence this time, as we were distracted by the girl Bono pulled out of the audience (Anouska). She spent ages filming the band and crowd with a handycam, failing to notice she was holding it sideways the whole time! Edge looked really sweet with his smiling face projected onto the big screens. :)
The penultimate song of the evening was Yahweh, by far the biggest disappointment of the tour. It's such an upbeat, vibrant song on the album, I always thought it would make a glorious show closer that would have people crying with joy – but instead they chose to go with a hushed, neutered acoustic version. They didn't even play the best part of the song, the crescendo of "This love is like a drop in the ocean"! What a tragic waste... I can't imagine what the band were thinking. The performance wasn't completely without its charms; I quite liked the PopMart-esque animations on the screen, and it was sweet how Bono changed the lyrics to "Take this city's heart / London town, now keep it safe". (Kind of chilling, given what happened a few weeks later.) But thank god they didn't then finish with "40", another slow number, as they had done on the North American leg – that would have been such dull and anticlimactic way to end the show! This watering down of Yahweh was only acceptable because we knew it was building up to one last round of Vertigo... :D
Before I saw the shows myself, I was among the fans who wondered what the hell U2 were playing at, repeating Vertigo in the encore. I thought it was cheating people out of an extra song, and why would anyone want to hear the same song twice in one concert? But once I was actually there, I completely changed my mind about it – Vertigo was *all* I wanted to hear at the end, I was really looking forward to one last familiar explosion of energy! It was so much fun, especially with the dizzying visual effects they put on the screen for the late-night version. I can't think of any better way to end the show, than with a good hard YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!
So that was the end of night 1 at Twickers – and boy, was I suddenly feeling confused. It had clearly been a fantastic gig. The band (and especially Bono) were at the top of their game. I'd heard nearly all the songs I was hoping for, and thoroughly enjoyed even the ones I wasn't that fussed about. This concert hadn't flown by like the one I'd seen at Earls Court – I kept checking my watch and being amazed that there was still so much to come! And yet... something just didn't feel right. It had been difficult to know what to focus on – should I try to follow the action out on the B-stage, or turn around and enjoy the dazzling graphics on the screen? Should I sing along with everything, or shut up and listen to Bono? When a band member is standing right in front of me, should I take this rare opportunity to get some incredible photographs, or put the camera away and appreciate the moment before it's gone? It was all a bit bewildering at times, trying to figure out how to get the most out of the experience.
Furthermore, I'd gone there fully intending to jump and dance as much as my heart desired, but I'd still ended up feeling awkward and restrained a lot of the time. I was beginning to worry that I simply wasn't *able* to be myself around so many people... maybe I would never feel completely at home in a U2 concert. And then there was that weird disconnected feeling. Sometimes my emotions had to be forced, because it almost seemed like I wasn't really there... even when Bono was standing inches away from me, my brain couldn't seem to muster anything more excited than "Oh look, there's Bono". What was wrong with me? I knew how lucky I was, so why the hell didn't I appreciate it more? Of course, unlike my gloom after the Elevation show, this time I at least had the comfort of knowing I would see them again tomorrow.
We made our way sloooowwwwllly out of the stadium, tripping over a veritable carpet of bottles and assorted crap. It was so dark that I'd actually forgotten we were in a stadium, and was convinced there was a roof over our heads. My hearing was a tad muffled at first, but amazingly it was back normal within about 10 minutes – most pub gigs had left me deafened for hours, so I was very impressed by the sensible volume of this show! I thought about visiting the ladies' room, but the queue was really long and I wasn't desperate enough to bother waiting, so instead we went in search of a merchandise stall outside. (Some random bloke stopped me on the way, to say something like "Nice trousers... really nice!" with slightly too much enthusiasm. That was odd...!) As usual the "queue" for concert souvenirs consisted of a disorganised mob with no concept of first-come-first-served, so I had a rather frustrating wait to buy a programme and T-shirt, and then I was rushed into buying a large shirt which I felt afterwards was too long for me. Bleh.
I was then hoping we'd be able to try and meet the band, but when I asked Nicky if he thought they would have left already, he said definitely, as he'd heard people cheering at the side of the stadium. Gutted. With all these niggling disappointments, that was just the icing on the shit cake. (We later discovered that only Bono had left straight away, apparently with back trouble.) The three of us were unsure what to do now – we'd originally planned to start queuing up for Sunday as soon as the Saturday gig was over, but there was still litter everywhere and it was clear that nobody had begun a new line yet. My head was just spinning by this point; I couldn't even think straight, let alone decide the best course of action. Coral and I decided to use the portaloos, which was a barrel of fun as we had to try three different cabins before we found one with running water, and then it didn't have any paper towels! (I was quickly reaching the stage of just wanting to kill myself.) There was another merchandise stall nearby – a larger one without many customers – and I ended up buying the same T-shirt in a medium, just in case the first one looked ridiculous.
Nicky reckoned it was pointless queuing all night, as the masses probably wouldn't arrive until the trains started running, and we'd be better off popping back to our hotels for a shower and change of clothes (which was unlikely to be possible in the morning due to the time restrictions on leaving the GA line). I agreed to an extent, although I was concerned about ending up well down the line if we weren't at the stadium early enough, and I wasn't too sure about returning by night bus in case we missed our stop and got lost. Anyway, we staggered off to the train station, with my feet absolutely killing me and my head all over the place. When we got there, it was completely packed with a vast sea of U2 fans. Nicky didn't think we'd have a chance in hell of making the last train, but the first night bus direct to Putney wasn't for another hour or so. Greaaat! We slumped indecisively onto a bench; I was starting to feel like a zombie as my lack of sleep caught up with me. Eventually (just after midnight) we saw that the queue on the platform had gone down significantly, so Coral and I managed to catch the last train without any problems. Meanwhile Nicky changed his mind about travelling to his hostel, and headed back to the stadium – only to discover a group of people who were waiting to meet the band! Thankfully he was at the wrong exit and ended up missing both Larry and The Edge signing autographs... I would have had no choice but to murder him if he'd met half the band after telling me they were already gone!! :p
Myself and Coral decided to grab a couple of hours' sleep at the hotel, then shower and head back around 4am. All I could think about was how badly my feet were hurting! The room was again like an oven (now up to 25.5°C), but I just flopped on top of the duvet and passed out instantly.