As I previously mentioned, I had a rocking good time at the U2 concert in Pasadena. I trekked all the way across the country because the 360 Tour was not coming to Michigan like they did in 2005. For those who were not as fortunate, the whole concert was performed live on Youtube (an internet first!). ... Anyways, when the dates were announced in April, I made the commitment to come out to California. Since I took floor ("non-seat") tickets in 2005, I thought it would be just too exhausting to repeat that. My brother and I ended up getting tickets in the second level, the view was not as good as we had hoped, but there were plenty of much worse spots. I can't believe how much those seats cost.

We were lucky enough to have a friend arrange parking at a private residence. It was a brisk 5 minute walk to the stadium which was incredibly alive and unbelievably crowded. I think there were supposed to be over 95 thousand people in attendance! After trying to find another friend, we gave up looking and went to our seats. ... About 30 min before the opening act, you could see the stage crew still getting things set up. For anyone who has not seen pictures of the 360 stage, you really have to be there to appreciate the complexity. The stage is underneath 4 giant arms (or legs) that hold up a light tower and a completely circular display screen. The whole thing has been aptly named "the claw". I can't imagine how many people have to work to assemble and dismantle it for each show. Even with the obscene ticket prices, I read that the tour is not making much profit with such a setup.

Sometime after 7, even though the stadium still had not filled up, the opening by the Black Eyed Peas began. I personally don't think the hip hop group really meshes with the U2 demographic, but they were pretty fun to watch. I think the Peas were okay, but what really made it memorable was a surprise appearance by Slash. They played Sweet Child o' Mine (the old GNR hit) before wrapping up.

During the intermission, my brother went to grab some food while I remained seated. I had the horrible experience of having the nearly drunk lady behind me spill her cup of beer all over my right shoulder, arm and camera. This really put me in a bad mood...

When U2 finally showed up, I noticed the entire stadium was absolutely packed to the brim. The band members made a slow walking entrance (as opposed to just appearing on the stage like they did in '05). They started out with 3 songs of their latest album (No Line On The Horizon). To be honest I didn't know most of the lyrics to those songs so I couldn't sing along. It wasn't until they started "Mysterious Ways" that I got of out of my beer-spilled-dont-know-lyrics funk and was truly able to enjoy myself!

I feel like they did a great job with a selection of the older music. There were all the popular "Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby" classics. I was surprised to hear the 1984 song "The Unforgettable Fire" and it was really cool to actually see so many fans who actually knew the words to that. There was however one major downer to the music, and this may just be my opinion, but it really sounded as if Bono's voice was really strained during a lot of the songs. I felt as if during some songs, he struggled to keep up with the audience. And at times, it seemed as if he was just speaking the lyrics instead of actually singing. A letdown for me: when performing "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" off of the new album it sounded nothing like it does in the Blackberry Loves U2 commercial. I was really looking forward to that, instead they opted to use conga drums and make it sound weird. Even the 2005 opener and crowd-pleaser "City of Blinding Lights" sounded a bit off to me. Ahh well, it was still satisfying hearing it live.

As for the mix in politics, there was nothing new there. After the usual recognition of Aung San Suu Kyi, they added a special mention to the 2009 Iranian protests. I'm sure some other important people said some really important things on the big screen, but I might not have been paying that much attention.

Outside of the music and politics, the stage setup was really cool. The circular display screen was actually made up of hundreds of smaller pieces. The pieces themselves could move with the screen to make it stretch the whole height (quite spectacular). At times the screen descended completely at the base hiding the band. It was a gradual motion making it blend so smoothly with the performances. The lights and color were impressive entirely on their own.

Like I said previously the whole event was quite over the top. Lots of visual feedback that never got boring. I chose to be in the stands instead of the floor. And looking around me during the whole concert, I was disheartened to see so many people near me, not even standing or clapping or moving in any way during some of the most spirited songs. They appeared almost bored. And when I looked at the sea of people on the main floor, I could see their energy alive with the music. I'm disappointed I didn't experience that in the stands. My brother suggested next time we get on the floor, while I'm not sure I could do that again, I do envy the enthusiasm present in the heart of the stadium. No big deal.

The band wrapped up with the moving last number "Moment of Surrender". It felt a lot shorter than I expected and we left the stadium without much trouble. I really was looking at the t-shirts but I couldn't bring myself to spend the $40 (they were only $35 in 2005). As we were leaving some t-shirt peddler offered us shirts for $20, and we haggled it down to $15. Impressed we tried again this time for $10 but he refused. Good thing too, it turned out the shirt was xxx-small. Stupid me. It doesn't really matter though. I'll keep it as a souvenir for a crazy night of ups and downs.

I know I was really rambling with this post - there was just too much to explain. Its been over a week and I just wanted to try to capture as much as I could. In retrospect after all the money, travel and spilled beer, I had a great time. And even after just hearing the 360 tour will in fact come to Michigan in 2010, I have no regrets. It was worth it. Every moment.

California 2009

October 29, 2009 ~ 09:47pm

I got back from my trip to California last night. As previously noted I was intending to relax a bit but that never really happened. For better or worse (more of the better), I went around. A lot!. I had a different city for pretty much every day. And I really don't know what I was expecting, but the traffic and driving were too much for me. Although, I was doing much more traveling on account that I was a tourist.

I had a relatively painless flight into I flew into LAX Thursday night and right off the bat, I could see why people dread that airport. Too much traffic, crowds, commotion, police - enough to make you want to avoid it. It took well over an hour and half to get to where I was staying in Orange County with my brother.

I was on the beach Friday and later drove out to the Santa Monica Pier to watch a Cirque Du Soleil show: Kooza. It was pretty entertaining. I will have to write a more in depth review of this in the days to come.

Saturday we spent the day in San Diego. We watched the UofM vs Penn State game at the Pacific Beach Bar & Grill where apparently there is a significant number of Michigan fans. I met up with some college friends and we did some site seeing in San Diego. What a gorgeous city! The view from the top at Cabrillo National Monument overlooking the San Diego Bay was magnificent. You could see all the way to Tijuana (no I did not visit there). Lots more to do there. Sadly I did not plan enough time. Perhaps next trip?

Sunday after church, we drove up to Pasadena. I made a quick side trip to El Monte to visit someone, but eventually we reached our destination: Rose Bowl Stadium to see U2 perform. This will definitely require an additional post. Despite some drunk-thinks-she's-hot girl accidentally pouring beer all over me, I still did manage to enjoy the performance. The U2 360 Tour was just over the top, but an 100% unforgettable experience! We were lucky enough to have someone arrange free parking for us, but unlucky enough to get lost on the way back.

Monday, after a late night, we once again drove back into the mess. This time to Universal Studios Hollywood. I think this may be my first trip to a Theme Park as opposed to a general amusement park. It was really fun, with extra praise for The Simpson's Ride (did it twice!) and The Mummy Ride. Unfortunately the Terminator 3-D attraction was closed down, which was a major let down. Otherwise the park was pretty fun. I think we picked a great day to go as we never waited more than 20 minutes for anything. The people who paid double the general admission price were foolish, there is no way they got their money's worth! We had dinner at the park and I split up to catch up with a friend. We did some cruising through the nicer nearby areas. By that night I noticed my voice had pretty much given out. Probably the screaming..err..singing at the concert.

Tuesday I had lunch in Anaheim. Nothing special, just a place to relax halfway between LA and Laguna Beach. Spent the evening not doing anything special. Watched some DVD's, had some drinks and told some silly old stories. Sometimes the craziness gets a little too crazy with siblings, but all in all enjoyable.

Wednesday I flew back. I wouldn't mention the flight, but the damnedest thing happened. We encountered some unusual turbulence. Apparently somewhere near Colorado, we hit some "mountain wind" which caused the plane to instantaneously drop 500 ft in altitude. It was quite shocking and in truth, a little exhilarating. Everything flew 2-3 feet straight up (including un-belted passengers). I wasn't really scared considering I was buckled down, but the attendants were yelling at everyone to sit down. The real mess was that the passenger next to me had a full glass of wine that also flew up 2 feet and hit me in the stomach, crotch and right leg. It was a mess. I endured over 2 hours smelling like wine sitting in a wet seat. He felt terrible, but I figured it wasn't the worst thing, his wife's wine covered the seat and lady's hair sitting in front of her.

But besides that, I think I was really happy with my time spent in "Cali". I think my brother and I were a bit too ambitious when planning considering we intended to do much more with less time. Even so, I am quite impressed how much we were able to enjoy. This was a first for me visiting where everyone had their S.O. with them. Everyone was a good host (and hostess) to me, considering how thoroughly irritating I can be (was ... am ... will be).

Lots of fun stuff and crazy stuff. Dowsed with alcohol twice (luckily no one lit me on fire ... although some of those California girls ... ). First time doing continuous status updates on my mobile. Too much driving (almost 600 miles total!!!). Lots of talking, singing and screaming. For the people who were making the pitch I should consider relocating ... well, all I can say is this trip was a really compelling argument.

Much more things to say, but I fergit, ask me and I'll tell you. A review on the performances to follow...

The Day My Music Died

June 19, 2009 ~ 07:35pm

As of today, my trial subscription to XM Radio ended. When I got it a few months ago, I thought I would barely use it. But after a while, I found it quite refreshing to be able to arbitrarily pick between different genre's of music or news or even sports. And the best part was, that it was significantly easier than pulling out my MP3 player and messing with all the cables. Apparently the XM sales people have been calling for weeks, but I decided not to renew. Not that the thought never crossed my mind. Lately I've been trying to trim my commute so I've been spending a little less time in the car. Had my daily driving been as bad as some of the routes of yesteryear, then I think for sure I would have paid out that $10 (or possibly $13) per month rate. Convenience has a price tag!

For now, I will either have to get a new 3.5 aux cable (the old one is way too long!) or burn some MP3's to CD and pop it in the CD player. Either way, I will miss Lady Gaga being overplayed on XM 20 on 20. Bummer, I know.

U2 360 US Tour Dates

April 3, 2009 ~ 07:27pm

U2 announced their tour schedule about 3 weeks ago. The tour started in Europe but only had 4 confirmed dates for the US in September. There were also some unconfirmed locations later, but there was no Michigan location in any of the cities listed. I was a little upset at first (I still am), but then I looked at the proposed stage layout. The concept is basically that there is a full 360 degree view of the band on stage, which basically means there will be many more great floor spots to get a closer experience (in 2005, I was on the floor close to the stage). I guess I could beleive that not every venue could accommodate such a setup, but it does not make it any less disappointing.

Yesterday, the band announced 5 additional cities, as well as 2nd shows for Chicago, Boston and New York (in 2005, a 2nd show was added for Detroit as well). Most of these tickets go on sale this coming Monday (April 6th) morning. I don't think I should hold out for a Detroit date, and if I really want to see them again I need to pick a city. I have friends and/or family in almost every major spot, time to call up some people.

In other news, I did get my copy of the CD. I hate to admit that I keep clicking "Next" on majority of the tracks. I wanted to encourage fans to download a copy (Amazon had it for $4) but I forgot. Anyways, regardless of their somewhat flat album, the one thing I know first-hand is that U2 is highly entertaining on stage and sound absolutely great live. I guess that's worth the price of admission.

No Line On The Horizon

February 28, 2009 ~ 11:27am

As was announced earlier, U2's latest album: "No Line On The Horizon" hits stores this Tuesday March 3. U2.com members got to listen early to the first single "Get On Your Boots" on Jan 19. Let me say it was incredibly underwhelming! Pretty much same for their performance at the Grammy Awards earlier in February. Some of the reviews I've read basically sum up the album as "pretty good music, but not that great". I really hope that the first single is not representative of the whole album.

Anyways, I am obligated to purchase the album. I was about to pre-order it from Amazon, until I realized there are 5 different sets for this album. It comes in "regular" edition CD for ~$10, 2 LP vinyl for ~$20, limited edition "Digi-pack" for ~$25, limited edition "Magazine" version for ~$35, and finally the exclusive limited edition Box set for a whopping ~$65. All with varying extras. Unbelievable. Of course, one would hope to think that all these limited editions will become worth much more in the future.

Admittedly I have paid for a super deluxe limited edition in the past. And I do have the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Limited Edition, which apparently now costs double what it was in 2004. However if it still is available to purchase, how does it make it "Limited"? The thing about that set was all the extras were disappointing and the DVD had almost nothing cool on it, given that it was a pretty good album.

Anyways the thing that bothers me is that since I haven't heard the album in its entirety, I don't even know if I will like all the music. Does it make any sense to pay for all the extras? Also, I really like the pictures, but unless I get to flip through them once, I don't know if I will want them. And I don't know if 20 yrs down the road when the pictures become extra "cool", I will regret not getting it. Anyways, I think I will just go with the "regular edition" for now. I'm hoping it sounds great (crossing my fingers).