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.

#BostonStrong

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

Advertisements

Technology, business and the band

IMG_0030There are times when technology can be a real pain the in neck. And, there are times when it is truly a marvel. In the case i+e, technology is definitely in the latter. I can remember a very long time ago that cameras weren’t allowed into U2’s concerts. It actually read that on the ticket: no alcohol, bottles or cameras. The alcohol and bottles always made sense to me, but I didn’t quite understand the No Camera Policy. Back then, my friend told me that freelance photographers would take pictures of the show and then sell them. Over time, two things happened. One, the band grew in prominence. And two, the number of photographers grew in abundance. In addition, the band received none of the money made from these sales and consequently, prohibited them. IMG_0102Mind you, this was years before the World Wide Web and I had no idea how these people made money selling their photos. I remember seeing ads in the back of certain music magazines and in the classified section of the newspaper, but how much did they make doing that? To this day I don’t know, but it was definitely something the band and its managers were concerned about. I remember a compelling argument that they made about unauthorized photographs. It took me a while to understand the necessity of that business decision, but I did. The biggest downer of that was if you ever wanted a picture of a show, you had to buy it. I had no problems with that, but I never bought pictures, either. The biggest reason was I couldn’t afford it. IMG_0117 As the years passed, I noticed the policies were loosened further. Disposable cameras were now allowed into the show, but that’s it. I used them in the past and the pictures were decent but nowhere near the quality of a real camera. However, I was happy that I could now take pictures. Once mobile phone-makers started building digital cameras into their devices, instead of barring them form shows, the band welcomed them.  This is another reason why I admire them.  They have the remarkable ability to see the future and recognize the opportunity.  Because mobile phones were allowed, there was no way to stop people form taking pictures.  Granted, they could still take them and sell them–and I’m only guessing–but the band no longer cared.  The overwhelming majority would not sell them.  But, the would share them with friends and family and most important, online.  The band literally had millions of free marketing and all they had to do was let it happen.  Brilliant. I’m sure this is not unique to U2, but it is still very smart.  By welcoming something they once refused, they’ve only grown in popularity.  And who benefits the most, us. IMG_0213 For i+e, I’ve read that SLRs are disallowed again, but I saw a guy in the GA floor with one and the lens looked like a tank barrel.  I’m not sure what the rule is but I intend to find out.  If the band comes back to the Bay Area, I’d love to shoot the show with one.  It would be great to have high-quality images for this blog. I welcome your thoughts.

i+e versus previous tours (part 2)

IMG_0033

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.

IMG_0007

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.

IMG_0077

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)

ie_logo_700

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 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 2.01.35 PM

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.