U2 Blues (week 2)

The long and ongoing tragedy of trying to obtain tickets to Experience + Innocence 2018 has entered its second week.  I wish I could say there was hope that with addition of shows there would be another chance to get tickets.  But Ticketmaster is employing the very same method of tickets sales as before.  The idea that this was supposed to “put tickets into the hands of fans and not scalpers or bots” seems to have failed.  A quick check of StubHub’s website shows hundreds of tickets available.  Granted, there might be some legit fans that are selling tickets, I don’t believe the Verified Subscriber/Verified Fan process has worked as intended.

The idea was that subscribers of the band’s Official Fan Club—a paid membership—would be the first to get tickets.  A paid membership allowed one to buy tickets before they went on sale to the general public.  I know I’m not in the minority when I say this the primary reason why fans join.  Membership has its privileges and this is the best one.  Yes, the annual gifts are great.  As a fan, I love getting memorabilia (rare CDs, books, Super Deluxe versions of CD/DVDs/etc.) but I joined for the tickets.  I wanna go to the show.

I’ve spent a great deal of time in the forums on the band’s official site and the anger among those that didn’t get tickets runs deep.  The fans/subscribers did exactly as U2.com and Ticketmaster recommended (as described in my previous post) with the hopes getting in on the presale.  And yes, there were those that got in and tickets.  But there were many of us that did not and had little recourse other than call/email TM, call U2.com and/or air our grievances in the forums.  I didn’t get a presale code and there was literally nothing I could do; except what I just mentioned.  I did everything I could and came up empty.

My experience with U2 fans—for 30 years now—is that we are all decent people.  There might be some that fall outside that description, but I don’t know of any.  Over the years, the camaraderie had with total strangers, other than they were fans, has been great.  I’ve also been touched by the little things that was done for me, like hold my place in line while I or my party went to the bathroom, grabbed some food, or took our pictures.  All of those things I happily reciprocated.  There was always this “We all here together” attitude that I loved.  Then there were the things that surprised, like fans selling their extra ticket for face value.  The first time I saw that I was during Elevation ‘01.  Wow.

So, it is with great frustration knowing that I have done all the things expected of me and still not get tickets.  Yes, I understand that there is always this Oklahoma Land Rush race to get tickets.  But I have always been in the race.  This time I wasn’t.  No presale code means no race.

I’ve read many fans exasperation, confusion or sheer anger at this new system.  Some have said that the days of going to a U2 show is over.  I don’t believe this is hyperbole.  It’s not just the rising cost of tickets/memorabilia/etc., which is understandable.  It’s the $50 parking, $9 beers and $11 hot dogs.  It’s the ubiquity of smartphones and social media during the show.  To now be locked out of buying tickets—and one did everything one was supposed to do—might be the bridge too far.  One can only march for so long.  While I’m still in the fight, I’m not the young guy I once was.  I make more money now, but I’m definitely not rich.  In the end, I may have to go over to the dark side (i.e. StubHub) but maybe not.  The culmination of all that I have described, plus the element of disappointment, might be enough for me to stand down and let someone else carry on.

It’s not over yet, so hope remains despite the current travails.

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When I became a fan (pt. III)

The Afternoon of the Show

I showed my mom how grateful I was by actually helping her clean the house. It was one of those rare occasions where I actually did something without being asked several times. I already mentioned that I wasn’t doing well in school; I also wasn’t so great around the house. But she let me help without pointing that fact out. Moms can be cool like that, sometimes.

RJ swung by my house around one o’clock (I was the last to be picked up) and we headed over to Oakland. Joshua Tree was playing on the tape deck in his car.   It was a warm, cloudless afternoon with no wind as we drove across the Bay Bridge. Our friends Cecca and Julie were sitting in the back seat and singing along and I kept thinking, I can’t believe I’m going to a U2 concert. Perfect moments. There aren’t enough of them in life, are there?

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Although we had reserved seating, RJ wanted to get there early so that we had enough time to buy a concert tee shirt. Back then, certain bands would do this cool thing with their concert tees. You could only get the real tee at the concert. The real tee had all of the tour stops on the back. I remember seeing a Joshua Tree Tour ’87-’88 tee in Tower Records long after the tour ended. There was no itinerary on the back.

Back to the show. We pulled into the parking lot of Oakland Coliseum about a half-hour later and five dollars for parking (yeah, that’s right). We all chipped so RJ didn’t have to pay. I had never been to the Coliseum before and had no idea what to expect. I did not expect to see so many vendors selling all kinds of merchandise. Concert tees were ten dollars and the lines were very long. I was determined to have a memento of the show and told our group that I wanted to get one before it started. They were all in agreement and waited with me; RJ got one as well.

The Stadium

What surprised me the most was to see so many people smoking regular cigarettes, clove cigarettes and marijuana. It’s not that I was strait-laced, but there were so many cops around. It didn’t seem like the ones smoking weed were even concerned about getting caught. I kept thinking they were all so daring. How can you not be worried about being caught?

To continue, RJ and I bought our shirts and we headed to our seats. We were in the very Upper Reserve section. There is another term for that: The Nosebleed Section. For those who have never heard of that term, the thought was that the air was so thin up there your nose would bleed. It didn’t matter because I would have gladly listened from the men’s room. The show was sold out and we had seats.

As we made our way to our section, I could hear some stagehands doing sound checks on the equipment. Let me state that The BoDeans opened for U2 (followed by The Pretenders) and it was The BoDeans equipment that was being tested. When one of them began strumming on a bass guitar, it reverberated throughout the Coliseum. The sound was literally booming. I was surprised at how loud it was.

We got to our seats and sat down, watching the crowd stream in from all around. Since we arrived early there was no one seated around us, but we also knew that would change very quickly. RJ lit a cigarette and held out the pack so each of us could take one. I looked around for the security guards, who were everywhere, but didn’t seem to notice or care that so many were smoking. Cecca and Julie didn’t seem to be too worried either. I was the only one who was concerned that four teenagers were going to get caught smoking in a non-smoking event and get kicked out. Again, this was my first rock show and I didn’t know anything.

RJ finished his cigarette and stood up, “Dude, let’s go.”

He wanted to buy four 7-Ups. My friend Cecca brought a hairspray bottle filled with whiskey she took from her dad’s liquor cabinet. She snuck it her purse and I was sure the guards who were checking people’s bags were going to confiscate it. All they had to do was smell what was in the bottle. But they didn’t. At this point it was probably safe to assume that the security staff really weren’t anything to brag about. The plan was to be sipping on Seagram’s Seven Crown and 7-Up (Seven and Seven for the unenlightened) at our seats. Mission accomplished.

I am going to skip talking about The BoDeans and The Pretenders. Both put on a great show and I was surprised how good Chrissie Hynde sounded live.

However, it was U2 we came to see and they did not disappoint. Everyone leapt to their feet as soon as the house lights dimmed. The band took the stage to roaring crowd. It was so loud that it sounded like one continuous tone. The show hadn’t even started and I felt like I was going to pop from the sensory overload.

Bono stepped to the microphone shouted, “San Francisco!” Everyone threw their hands in the air and howled as the Edge began to strum the beginning of Where The Streets Have No Name. I cheered at the top of my lungs. Suddenly lights as bright as the sun shined from the stage and Bono launched into song. All sights, sounds, even the pounding of Larry’s drums in my chest was nearly too much and wonderful at the same time.

For me, there is no better U2 song heard live than Where The Streets Have No Name. I think the long beginning gives you a sense of ascent and by time Edge’s guitar comes in, followed by the rhythm section, you are flying. Add to that the flashing lights above and around the stage and the experience was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

I sang aloud and didn’t care that I was off-key. Cecca wrapped her arms around my waist and held me so tight. The past few days were a surge towards this song and I just let it fill me up. It was like a waterfall of sound that poured right into me. I closed my eyes and let it wash the grief and sadness out of me, even if it was only for a short time. It felt like I was being purified of all of the melancholy in my body.

I have heard people say that going to a particular concert was a “religious experience”. I think what they meant was that they encountered some kind of epiphany and that I understood. That show was a baptism, although I feel a little guilty saying that as a lapsed-Catholic. But it did feel like I was being admitted into a body that shared a common interest. That night I became fan.

To be perfectly candid, it wasn’t as though I recovered completely overnight. I still had my bad days, but there were good ones, too.

In addition, it wasn’t the music that saved me from a foreseeable decline; my family and friends did that. Instead, it was the music that I turned to when I was alone and wanted to feel better. There were days when the pain and loneliness were more than I could have ever imagined. And there were days when the joy and comfort from loved ones were more than I deserved.

Over time, I got over it. I grew up and learned how to deal with loss. The happy days eventually outnumbered the sad ones. U2’s music stayed with me from that time on.

Finally, I am thankful for the things that I learned from that time. That solace can come from simple things like listening to a record album. Happiness can be singing along to it with friends as I drove down a stretch of open highway. The best of all, I was surrounded by people who loved me.

And during those tough few years when I was young and still innocent, The Joshua Tree was the soundtrack of my life.

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.

U2 i+e Live in Paris coming to Blu-Ray & DVD

U2 Paris.i+e

As if you didn’t know already. U2’s latest concert in Paris will arrive on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 10th, so mark your calendar. Or, you can just pre-order it.

U2 i+e

If you missed this concert that aired on HBO last December, you now have the opportunity to own it. This was a fantastic show that must be seen. Our lads from Dublin put on something a little extra for this event given the ordeal Parisians experienced. These versions will also contain behind-the-scenes extras that were not shown on television.

U2 i+e Super Deluxe

For the hardcore fans, there is a super-deluxe version includes the Blu-Ray and DVD, plus a trove of memorabilia (postcards, book, buttons, even a USB light bulb like the one suspended above the stage). It isn’t cheap at $119.88 on Amazon. It might mean saving up, but it looks to be well worth it.

U2 lights up the City of Light

U2 in Paris

Our boys returned as promised and brought with them a little something extra to an audience yearning for an escape. It is amazing how a good show can make you forget about all of the tribulations in your life for a little while. That was evident on fans’ faces as soon as the band took the stage. For a city that was marred by tragedy and paralyzed with fear only weeks before, this was still a rock show and it was treated like one.

What I find admirable is the fact that they always pay homage to the city that they are performing in. There was a certain gravitas to this show and they definitely connected with the audience when Bono declared, “We are all Parisians tonight”. Having grown up in Dublin during the British Occupation, they were all too familiar with acts of terror and violence. He was not simply blowing smoke when he offered his commiseration.

However, they knew their responsibilities well and the reason that they were there was to lift house to the rafters. The bar is always set high—sometimes impossibly so—and they always clear it. Given the temperament of Paris at the time, the bar must have been on the moon. Yet, our intrepid Irishmen confronted this challenge like seasoned athletes and played like pros. It never ceases to amaze me that after all of this time, they never, ever phone it in.

For me, U2 show is always about uplift. Their sets are arranged to start at the ground level and slowly climb over the course of two hours. The whole idea is elevation—and you see what I did there—to ascend the entire crowd into the stratosphere. It should be easy, right? You’ve got fans who paid to see your show, so they’re gonna like it no matter what, right? Wrong. I’ve been to shows where it seemed like the crowd all took Sominex. Even worse, it looked the band didn’t even notice.

The jeopardy was high because taking a too-serious tone would probably bum everyone out. But, being too happy can seem disrespectful. It’s less about taking the middle road and more a high-wire act, which is where our boys go to work.

In their favor it did seem like the crowd needed to know everything was going to be all right and getting their wish. It’s strange to think that something as simple as a concert can do that given the depth of adversity that Paris was suffering. I’m guessing it isn’t that simple. When Bono exclaims the French motto, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” (liberty, equality, fraternity) he knows that those words speak to the core values of all its citizens, especially now.

During City of Blinding Lights, he brought this French kid on the stage. I like it when Bono brings someone on the stage with him. I never know what they’re going to do. Some are nervous and stand around waiting for direction from him. Some take to the spotlight like a fish to water. But all of them are happy and I can see myself on the stage alongside him. When he gave that kid his sunglasses and sport coat you would have thought the kid was part of the band.  There was nothing but attitude and swagger in the way he performed with the B-Man.

At the end of the night, Bono said that the band heard that Eagles of Death Metal lost their stage, so they lent them theirs.  EoDM hugged their gracious benefactors and then rocked out like a troop on a mission.

U2 could have easily kept the spotlight on themselves and share some of their own tragedies with the crowd.  Instead, they chose to share it another band who desperately needed it.

Class act all the way.

U2 Live from Paris premieres Monday (12-7)

U2 Live in Paris 2015

Just a quick reminder that this Monday, December 7th will be returning to Paris to perform their last two shows from Innocence + Experience Tour 2015.

The concerts will be held at Accorhotels Arena in Bercy.  Their final show will be airing live on HBO, so set your DVRs.  Even if you’re watching it live, you will want to see it again and again.  I sure will.

There is no doubt that the band has something special planned for these night.  Their shows are already spectacular.  And in light of recent events, I’m sure they will use the time to bring everyone at the arena, and the rest of us watching at home, just a little bit closer.

It’s gonna be awesome.

U2 announce dates for Paris shows

U2 I+E 2015

The band announced the dates for their final Paris shows.  Originally scheduled for November 14th and 15th, the band was forced to cancel their shows due to the terror attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13th.  Many venues were also cancelled as the officials took all necessary security measures to keep the public safe.  Even though they pledged to return, they could not provide a date due to the fact much of the situation was out of their control.

Bono expressed his dismay and anger on the radio saying it was the first direct hit on music that we’ve had on this so-called was on terror.

With the circumstances changing daily, it was nearly impossible for them to know when they could return.  However, they are back and ready to rock.

This is very welcome news as the band has proven again their commitment to its fans, Paris and music itself that they stand with all of us who truly believe that love is stronger than hate.  As fans, I know we can all agree that they have always put the emphasis on the music and us.

U2, Live Nations and HBO all deserve hearty congratulations for rescheduling such a large event so quickly, in what I am sure must be a very complicated and very difficult situation.  So set you DVRs for December 6th and 7th because our favorite lads from Ireland are going to elevate the City of Light.  These shows will takes on special meaning, as they will prove that nothing creates solidarity like music.

Hats off to Paris as well.  I hope these are two more giant steps towards normalcy.

#strongerthanfear

U2 pays its respect to terror victims

U2 in Paris 2015

U2 laid flowers and a memorial for the slain victims of Friday’s terror attacks.  They looked somber as the gazed at the collection of flowers, candles and signs set out near the site of tragic events.

There is still no word on when the tour will resume or when the Paris shows will be rescheduled.  A state of emergency has been declared by President Francois Hollande and many events in around Paris have been cancelled.

The band has promised that they will return but did not offer a time due to the ongoing situation.  Bono expressed their determination to return for their music fans during a radio interview with Dave Fanning of RTE 2fm.  However, their return was not up to him or the band but with French officials.

I am hoping to provide more developments as they occur.

Paris shows cancelled (11-14 & 11-15)

Pray for Paris

The band announced that their shows in Paris tonight and tomorrow night are cancelled due to the terror attacks yesterday.  There is no word yet if the shows will be postponed or cancelled altogether.  In addition, due to the heightened security status around Europe, there is a possibility that this may affect other venues around the region.

Here on this side of the Atlantic we are no strangers to these types of events.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this very difficult time.

Hopefully, in the coming days there will be more information from the band.  Obviously there are greater concerns right now and I will try to keep up with the latest announcements.