Technology and U2 tours

I had a thought recently: has technology made going to a show better? My initial answer would be yes. From our ability to buy tickets to recording a live performance, everything has been improved upon with the advent of technology. So, that must be a yes, right?

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My own history has shown that the answer is not that simple. No one can deny how much easier it is today to learn about an upcoming tour, a new album or directly connect with band member. It’s absolutely great.

The band itself has been on the leading edge of it for decades. From its use of multimedia during the ZOO TV Tour (’92-’93) to its relationship with Apple, they embraced it instead on shunning it. So where’s the problem?

With the emergence of social media it now has become important for us to record so much of our lives and to receive approval (in the form of likes, comments and/or emojis) for it. And, when did that happen? When did it become so important to let others know what we are doing at any given moment? Sure, a U2 show is a special occasion so it would justify documenting that moment of our lives. But, that is not what happens. We tend to document both the momentous and prosaic in equal measure. Obviously, technology has much to do with that. If it were harder to do, we would most likely do less.

The sad part is that I spent so much time recording the moment, that I missed a substantial part of it. That didn’t used to happen. I can remember the tours of Joshua Tree, Zoo TV, PopMart and Elevation with great detail, all because I didn’t have a camera (no camera phones existed during these tours as well) and I simply watched the show. Beginning with Vertigo and through i+e, camera phones continued to improve and my focus shifted to capturing the event. I’m glad that I did, but it is a little different now and I can’t say it is all for the better.

Bono & Edge City

U2’s shows are fantastic now. They have harmonized skill, practical knowledge, technology and artistry to create a truly enriching spectacle. The thing is, it is so good I can’t just sit back and observe; I have to record. The very thing that makes it worth watching makes me want to do something else in addition to that.

The worst part of that is that my friends are also doing the same thing. At any given moment they’re trying to get that great shot, record a particular song or post something in real-time that it has become a less shared experience than in the past even though we’re standing right next to each other.  I can remember in older tours feeling so connected to my friends and the band at the same time when my favorite songs were being performed. There was this whole cool dynamic of completely being in the moment, surrounded by friends and fans and totally immersed in the music that it almost felt like floating.

This is not to say that I don’t feel that anymore; I do. And I don’t want it sound like I’m lamenting for days before social media and mobile phones. I’m just saying that it was a little simpler back then. I did less. As a result, I experienced more.

I remember seeing a clip on YouTube from a recent show (I can’t remember which) where Bono invited a bunch of people on stage, as he has done so many times. But during this time, many of them were concentrating on taking selfies that it seemed like they had forgotten they were on stage with one of the biggest bands on the planet. Bono did what he could to bring them back, saying, “Live in the moment. Be in the moment.” However, it was strange that he had to say that. It was strange that he had to compete for their attention. And it is even stranger that this will likely be the new normal.

I tell myself that if I were ever lucky enough to be pulled on stage, I definitely would not be taking selfies. I don’t really fault the people that do. But, I just don’t want my memory of that unique point in my life being of me trying to frame the shot with me in the foreground and the band and audience in the background, while Bono waited.

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So, does that mean will I leave my smartphone and camera at home when the next tour comes to town? No. I will be bringing them with me. My hope is that I can find the balance of capturing key points of the show and simply enjoying the rest. I want to be more present for their future shows, not less.

In a way, I just want to be the guy who went to the show and marveled at what the band had in store.

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Throwback Thursday (part III)

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As great as the first show was—and it was excellent—there was a little something missing. The crowd seemed a little subdued throughout the night and Bono even noted it during the second show. He attributed it to June Gloom, a weather pattern in Southern California marked by cool temperatures and overcast skies that may have affected their moods.

But the second show was totally different night. From the beginning the audience was rowdy but well behaved. The weather was warmer and perhaps that might have raised their spirits. I say might because I have been to shows where it was raining that didn’t dampen the feeling at all. Whatever the reason, there was an elevation (and you see what I just did there) in the energy of masses.

We also got a prime spot on the rail at about the four o’clock position. I’ve chosen this position a few times during Vertigo and found that Bono tended to linger in this area.   My always friends let me decide where to stand (I’m the show veteran) and I’ve always taken that responsibility seriously. Fortunately, I’ve made the right choices over the years and we’ve never been to a bad show.

Here’s a shot of the cameramen getting into their rigs before the main event.

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By the time the band took the stage my little Canon was working overtime.  As I mentioned in the previous post, I wished I had spent more money on a better camera.  What I quickly realized was with the camera set of Automatic, the flashing lights, the smoke, even Bono and company moving around on stage was a little too much for it.  I took hundreds of shots but far less than that were salvageable.  That was a very important lesson to learn.  Don’t be so freakin’ cheap.

Here’s the band a few songs into to the show.

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I did manage to get a few good shots.  Here’s one of Bono singing to the International Space Station.

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He was right in front of us and I was snapping away like sports photographer.  You can even see Adam and Larry in the background.

This was a great night and I was lucky enough to catch the B-man doing his thing.

I hope you like these images and I welcome your comments.

Throwback Thursday (part II)

The second show of U2 360° in Anaheim was probably one of the best shows that I have ever seen. I saw four shows during 360: one in Dallas (’09), one in Oakland (’11) and two in Anaheim (‘11). All of them were great, but the 2nd show in Anaheim was awesome.

I had general admission tickets and we got there around nine-thirty in the morning on both days to make sure we would get a good spot on the field.

The first night we were inside the runway and it was crowded. I’m pretty sure they had a limit but had I known how crowded it would get, I would have secured a place on the rail instead.

But I did get a few good pictures that night. Here’s one of screen.

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One of the most memorable parts of the show was during “Beautiful Day” when NASA astronaut Mark Kelly aboard the International Space Station recited the bridge to song. His image was displayed on the giant oval screen and he was tossing out little paper words that read, “It was a Beautiful Day” that literally floated right in front of him. You cold tell he was speaking into a video camera but the as he looked down on the crowd. It was amazing. I was so mesmerized that I forgot to take any pictures. But it is something I will never forget.

Only a band like U2 could pull off something like that maybe, only they could pull it off.

Once I snapped out of my stupor I was able to get a few good shots of Adam bring a little soul to the show.

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I like this shot of the screen, especially with Bono mugging while the others a looking quite serious.

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I like this shot of the screen, especially with Bono mugging while the others a looking quite serious.  It’s cool and gonzo at the same time.

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And finally our favorite front-man being himself.

Although it was cramped, I managed to take a few good pictures with my $79 Canon Powershot.  I realized that night that I should have spent more money and bought a more powerful point-and-shoot camera, even though I was on a very limited budget.

It was still a good night and quite memorable.

Throwback Thursday

There’s a term that’s probably been around for a while but I’ve only learned about it recently. I’ve seen it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. From what I understand, it’s a term that is used to hark back to another period in time.

For my first Throwback Thursday post, I would like to ask if anyone remembers this bad boy?
The Claw in Anaheim

Known by many as The Claw during the band’s last tour, this structure, along with the nearly 360-degree stage was an ostentatious and architectural marvel. This structure was brash, rococo and most of loud. I was fortunate enough to see four shows during their nearly three-year run and smart enough to bring a small digital camera.

The Claw

The Claw

With our favorite Irish quartet charging across Europe like a rock ‘n’ roll stampede for Innocence + Experience, one could see the influences that the 360 Tour had on the current tour. I’m not going take anything away from i+e because it is an awesome show and that was because 360 set the bar so high.

In the upcoming Thursdays, I’d like to post more images that I took from the second show at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California in 2011.

I hope you enjoy them.