November 3, 2009 ~ 09:20pm
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.