U2 takes Manhattan

U2 in NYC subway

Our four favorite chaps from Dublin began their eight–that’s right eight–show stop in Madison Square Garden this past weekend (July 18th & 19th).  The shows are sold out by the way, but there are still ways to gets tickets.

With one foot firmly planted in the past, the band performed October and Gloria with all the verve and energy of a punk band just starting out.

U2 [2015.07.18] Madison Square Garden - On stage

Bono said to the crowd, “When we first played a club called The Ritz in this great city, about a century ago, we thought ourselves a punk band…and you know what?  In all the ways that matter, we still do.  Still getting into trouble for doing things different.  A band of equals…with an audience of equals…an audience of betters.”

He’s right.  They’re still putting the music first and still themselves out there.  It’s only out there where they find out if the music is any good or not.  Fortunately for us, it always is.  By the end of the night, the crowd is hanging from the rafters.

After all these years, their performances still kick me in the chest not matter where I am in the arena.  Yes, I’m a fan, but it’s more than that.  They rock better than any other band I know.

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The band ended the show with a declaration from its front man, “To answer the question why this band is refusing to give it a rest, we offer you this song.”  With that, they closed the night with I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

I hope they never do.

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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

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.

How does Innocence + Experience compare to previous tours? (part 1)

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So now that is has been three weeks since the two shows in San Jose, I want to take a moment and write about it. My first instinct was to simply register my thoughts but I really wasn’t crazy about that idea. I started to think about i+e in contrast to some of their past tours and does the band still set the standard for live shows?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. U2 still sets the bar—and sets it high—for how a band should perform and engage the audience.

For those of us who went to 360°, we were treated with a spectacle that remains their biggest, most-successful tour to date. Although, it would be difficult to predict the success of the current tour, i+e is definitely a smaller and more stripped-down endeavor. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome, because it is.

I plan to go into previous tours in more detail, but that will be on a different post.

So what makes i+e so awesome? First and foremost: imagination. The band never ceases to amaze me when they tour because they constantly innovate. As artists, their first priority is to hold our attention for as long as they have asked for it. You might say that is pretty easy to do at a rock concert. I wouldn’t disagree. But, I’ve also been bored at concerts, which I didn’t think was possible.

The band knows that we’ve spent our hard-earned money (and their tickets aren’t cheap) to see a U2 show. That means something to us and that means something to them. I’ve read so many books and articles on the fact that they place the highest importance on their audience. The band knows that it must not only live up to our expectations, but also exceed them. So, how do they do that so consistently?

I would say talent, but not just talent. They have the most brilliant people to imagine, to problem-solve, to strategize, to create an experience that lasts long after we leave the show. It takes skill, hard work and an army of dedicated people willing to help achieve that vision. And, it also takes a sincere earnestness by the band and the company to make a show special for us.

I’m biased, because I’ve loved all of their shows. But, I’m not ignorant. I can see the sheer amount of effort it takes to put on a tour like theirs and know it’s not easy. It’s not easy to sing at the top of your lungs night after night. It’s not easy grind your guitar or to batter your drums for over two hours night after night. It’s not easy to make each song sound great, night after night. But they do. I see them try. I see them throw themselves out there not just demanding our attention, but commanding our attention.

I guess that’s why I love them so much, because they’re doing it for us. They’re leaving everything on the stage and know that we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Bono honors longtime tour manager at 2nd L.A. show

Bono speaking

U2 front-man took a moment during their show to memorialize their tour manager of over three decades, Dennis Sheehan. As previously reported Mr. Sheehan was found unresponsive and not breathing in his hotel room early Wednesday morning.

Although it cannot be known how deeply this has affected the band, it can be summed with Bono’s comments to the audience, “It takes a lot to put a show on like tonight and last night we lost a member of our family. Dennis Sheehan is his name. He was U2’s tour manager for thirty-three years.”

Ever the professional, Bono spent a few minutes recalling a time when the band dressed up like member of Led Zeppelin to surprise their tour manager at his birthday party. He told a story that was both touching and funny and quite appropriate for the show. Then, the band broke into “Iris (Hold Me Close)” a song about Bono’s mother who died when he was 14.

I never doubt that Bono would commemorate the moment with sweetness and class.

U2 longtime tour manager dies

Dennis Sheehan was found dead in his room at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood early Wednesday morning.

“We’ve lost a family member, we’re still taking it in,” said Bono in a statement on the band’s website. “He wasn’t just a legend in the music business, he was a legend in our band. He is irreplaceable.”

Sheehan had been involved with the band for over 30 years. He was 68 years old.

The band has just begun a five-show stretch in Los Angeles. This is only the latest tragedy in a series of setbacks the band has encountered, including Bono’s bicycle accident in New York’s Central Park last November and Edge’s fall of the stage in Vancouver at the beginning of the tour.

Here’s to hoping that this will last adversity they will have to experience during their six-month tour.

Rest in peace, Mr. Sheehan, you truly are a legend.

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 invades San Jose

Ireland’s most powerful rock force will occupy Silicon Valley on May 18th and 19th.  Attendees will have their senses assaulted on both nights at SAP Center in San Jose, California, home of the San Jose Sharks. A spectacle is sure to be witnessed as the band has honed their tactics over three decades to truly become one of rock music’s last superpowers.

The shows have been sold out for months and a quick check of fan forums confirms some desperate seekers still scouring the web for tickets. This is the dilemma every time the gang from Dublin comes to town: demand far exceeds supply. With every tour, the price for a single ticket nearly doubles. While this may be a by-product of the high cost of touring in the 21st century, it is also a glowing testimony of their staying power. But I will admit that it gets a little harder for me to see them every time they come.

Long time official fan club subscribers—like yours truly—know that there are benefits to membership. One of them is the ability to buy tickets before they go on sale to the general public. This in itself is definitely worth the annual fee. It is the only way I can sleep soundly knowing that I have secured seats to both performances. And yes, I would lose sleep if I didn’t have tickets. It’s all about having a plan… and enough room on my credit card. Fortunately, I have both.

As the band has already set up camp in downtown San Jose, we all patiently—and agonizingly—bide our time until tomorrow.

The countdown to the invasion has begun.

Edge falls off the edge

U2 kicked off their i+e Tour 2015 in Vancouver, BC on Thursday night.  During the end of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Edge could be seen strolling along the stage and then tumbling right off.  A few seconds later Bono walked by the same area, singing the chorus and didn’t look like he even noticed.  In his defense, his back was to Edge.

Good news is that Edge was a little banged up and bruised but more than able to continue.

Nice job, guys!