Suffering from Boston envy

Boston after dark

The band has just wrapped up a four-show stop in Boston and I am feeling a little envy. As a San Franciscan born and raised, I am proud of my city and never felt envious of any other. There are great towns all across this country and the city by the bay is definitely one of them.

But, when it comes to the band, I always felt that they had something special with Boston. When I think of Boston, the first thing that comes to mind is Irish.   Yes, it truly is a multi-cultural city, but there’s no other city in America that I identify more with the Irish than Titletown. I have a few Irish friends from there who are now living in San Francisco that tell me that I have no idea how true that is.

Elevation 2001- Boston

It always seems like the band gives a little something extra when they play there. They do call it their second home and that is no small regard. I’ve watched my Elevation 2001 – Live From Boston DVD many times and that was a great show. The band was at peak performance by the time they hit The Garden and were in rare form that night.

So, I am green with envy when I say, the band knocked it out of the park for every one of its four shows. Bono even called it a hometown show. They showed plenty of class and heart by recognizing the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and displaying BostonStrong on the massive video screen above the stage. And when Bono sang, “Sing for the lives lost in this city, on April 13, 2013. Sing this for the survivors, so strong, so strong, that no hatred can their Pride in the name of Love. Boston so strong.” we all feel like Bostonians, even for just a moment. We are all One.

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On the second night Bono says, “Last night we had a great time, but it turns out it was just a warm-up for tonight….’cuz we’re in Boston, more Irish than any city in Ireland.” He brought a kid up on stage that was wearing a t-shirt that read I Play Guitar to play Angel of Harlem. After the song, he helped the kid take the guitar off saying, “I might have to take that back young man…on second thought…it’s for you.” Wow. That’s a memory that’s going to last a lifetime.

( Boston, MA,07/10/15)        U2 plays the Garden.       Friday,  July  10, 2015.  (photo by Stuart Cahill)

( Boston, MA,07/10/15) U2 plays the Garden. Friday, July 10, 2015. (photo by Stuart Cahill)

How many times has Bono & company done that? I don’t know. But I do know it’s too many to count. U2 shows are memorable moments for all of us and with that wonderful act of kindness and generosity; they just multiplied it by a thousand.

By the end of the fourth show, Bono says, “Thanks for the loan of your city for the last ten days. I guess we have to hand it back to you at some point. I kind of feels like our city, too. I hope we didn’t make too much of a mess.”

( Boston, MA,07/10/15)      Bono sings  as U2 plays the Garden.       Friday,  July  10, 2015.  (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

( Boston, MA,07/10/15) Bono sings as U2 plays the Garden. Friday, July 10, 2015. (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

They paid tribute to a city that has experienced triumphs and tragedies. They showed the city that they too, understood. As expected, the city welcomed its adopted sons with open hearts. It is amazing to think that this band from Ireland can feel so American at times.

The band has played there twenty-five times and if time and health permits, they’ll play twenty-five more.

The B-man bathed in green

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i+e vs. previous tours (part 3)

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So the question that begs to be answered is, how does i+e compare to the band’s previous tours? Can anything be as great as 360°?

I can confidently and emphatically say yes. They are as magnificent as ever. Even though this time around they’re playing in arenas, nothing is lost in the production. The show still excites the senses like an electrical storm (pun partially intended).

But how could that be, compared to the enormity and spectacle of their last tour? I remember thinking how could they ever be as good as this?

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First and foremost, they perform better now.  Bono sings better than before. He’s always had a great voice, but ever since his father’s passing, he’s said that he can sing in a higher register.  He’s said that his father had given him this great gift.

However, it’s not just Bono; the rest of the band also plays better. Edge, Adam and Larry have also become great musicians. Together, they sound better than now than even fifteen years ago. Most bands get better with time, some don’t, and U2 definitely has. This is a direct result of their commitment to the music.

When they kicked off the show with The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) it was joyful and choir-like in the way they harmonized only then to feel a kick to the soul as Edge’s guitar pounded our eardrums. That set the tone for what kind of show we were going to experience.

As with many of their shows, it was structured with two sets and an encore. In the first, there were four two five songs from their new album Songs of Innocence. This something they have done for a long time. After years in the studio writing and recording it comes time to test-drive their songs on the road. Like a high-performance sports car, each song screams.

IMG_0339Bono still throws himself out there like it was his last night on earth (pun definitely intended) and we all can see he hasn’t lost a single step, even if he isn’t playing the guitar. There is something very satisfying in seeing him strut and gyrate with his Billy Idol-like hair and reckless abandon. He still is, after all, a rock star.

IMG_0342By the second set, the crowd seems to have converged into a single entity. We all are in tune with them and they know it. The songs in this set are the ones we have known for years: Beautiful Day, Pride (In The Name of Love), Where The Streets Have No Name, One. We sing along because we know every song, every chorus and every stanza by heart. We sing along we because these are the songs we grew up with, these are the songs that touch us so deeply, but most of all we sing along because that’s what they have invited us to do. For those few hours we have come together with the band to collectively share in something that can only be experienced live. We feel it with every note and drumbeat. We are all smiling and cheering and high-fiving each other. And we all know, like in the chorus of Invisible, there is no them, only us.

IMG_0378By the end of the show, we all know we have witnessed something special.

As the tour winds its way through North America and then to Europe, it is guaranteed that there will be many, many more memories made and moments cherished.

I invite you share your experiences with me. I hope to add them to these posts. Thanks for reading!

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i+e versus previous tours (part 2)

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Now that I have talked about what my first impressions of i+e and how is it that they remain in top form for over thirty years, I’d like to talk about the show itself.

I deliberately did not visit their website days before the beginning of the tour because I did not want to catch any sneak peaks. I like to go in unspoiled by preliminary images or photos of the first shows. There is something very special about walking into the arena and seeing the stage, sound equipment and video screen for the first time.

It is always impressive because there is the sense that we are seeing professionals coming to work. With the house lights on, seeing their set and maybe a few of the stage crew, I have always said to friends, “these people really know what they’re doing.” They move about with a sense of purpose. I can see that they take the duties seriously and they are devoted to helping make the band look and sound great.

The first time I saw the stage it reminded me of their ZOO TV tour in 1992 – 1993 where there was a runway to a B stage. This time around, the runway nearly bisects the entire general admission floor and terminates in a B stage. This is brilliant because it allows so many on the floor to be as close as possible to the band as they perform. And, in keeping with the band’s idea of making the best tickets in the house also the cheapest tickets in the house, fans on a budget can still afford to go. GA ticketholders may have stand all night but they are closest to band. That is so awesome.

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Above the runway is a colossal video screen that it almost as long as the runway. Since ZOO TV, the band has taken video enhancement to the next level with each and every tour. It may seem counterintuitive, but the video screen actually enriches the experience. The band does not have to compete for our attention with the screen; instead the screen allows us to focus on the band even more. It’s strange how that works.

The best example of this is when Bono invites the audience to come with him to the street he was supposed to grow up on, before launching into “Cedarwood Road”. As he speaks we walks up a ladder into the video screen. On the screen is a video rendering of a street and he enters into the screen the city block becomes animated and begins to move. Slow at first but then faster with what looks like wind and rain. It is an amazing scene and cannot be described with words. I’m going to post a recording of it that I took with my iPhone.

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The screen, the lights, even the mirror balls all seem like gimmicks when recounted in a narrative like this, but when experienced you realize that they are not. The performance has activated your senses and you truly connect to the band. Bono has often said that they write and perform their music to get closer to the audience. After seeing a U2 show, you realize that it’s not just idle talk. You do feel closer to them. The good friends that were not fans that I have invited to come with me have always left extremely impressed. They admit that they had no idea how great the band was until seeing them live. None have left unimpressed or bored.

Going to a U2 show is a life event for me. I’ve had others, but the best thing about this particular one is that it is recurs. I only wish it was more often.

U2 conquers San Jose

The Irish rock machine pummeled SAP Center during a two-night attack.  On the first night the band from the north side of Dublin opened with The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) announcing to the crowd that this was beginning of their U.S. adventure.  I+E 1st night

The band went on the offensive achieving their version of shock and awe with two sets and an encore for a total of twenty-three songs that nearly blew of the roof off the arena.  Here is a set list from the first night.

Set 1

The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)

Out of Control

Vertigo

I Will Follow

Iris (Hold Me Close)

Cedarwood Road

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Raised by Wolves

Until the End of the World

Set 2

Invisible

Even Better than the Real Thing

Mysterious Ways

Angel of Harlem

When Love Comes to Town

Every Breaking Wave

Bullet in the Blue Sky

Pride (In The Name Of Love)

Beautiful Day

Without Without You

Encore

City of Blinding Lights

Where the Streets Have No Name

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015

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With U2’s 2015 Tour less than a month away, here is a link to their full schedule.

It’s a good time to talk about Bono’s health. For those that don’t know—and I don’t know who among us that would be—Bono suffered serious injuries while bicycling in New York’s Central Park. They were so severe that it required surgery and he now has metal plates in his arm. There have been reports that he may never be able to play the guitar again.

At the beginning of the year, Bono wrote a long blog (A-Z) while in recovery. He even posted an X-ray image of the metal plates and screws in his arm. I’m guessing he was also suffering from cabin fever and just needed some kind of creative outlet for all of that pent-up energy as his blog was very long. In addition, he stated that his blog would be the last time he would talk about it.

It has been over three months since his post and one has to assume that he is getting the very best medical care and physical therapy that money can buy. I’m not trying to be glib; I’m saying if you’re a multi-millionaire and you have an upcoming tour to prepare for, you will spare no expense.

Back in 2010, Bono & company were supposed to start the second leg of their North American Tour only to have to cancel it due to emergency back surgery for him. I was very disappointed because in that leg, they would have a show in the San Francisco Bay Area. I didn’t want to be insensitive, so I was glad that he had the surgery and was in recovery.

So here it is five years later and Bono is once again on the mend. From everything that I know, he is smart about his body and does whatever it takes to be healthy. Aging rock stars fall into two groups: those who still act like they’re in their twenties and those who don’t. For the former, Father Time can be unforgiving. But, I don’t know of many who still do the sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll thing in their fifties. With that in mind, should we have nothing to worry about?

I was comforted by the fact that the band had added more shows to the tour. You don’t do that if you have doubts on whether you can sustain the long and strenuous span of a world tour. So, I’m having faith that they will do what they always do: put on an amazing show.

I’m ready to have a Yabba-Dabba-Do Time and am just counting down the days to May 18th & 19th.