The U2 Concert
That was the gift that was given me last night.
No, not the actual guitar. Being that close to that guitar. If the gift had been the actual guitar, that means that Edge and I would really have gone out for frozen yogurt. And I suppose then, to have given me that guitar, he would have had to have been really impressed by my knowledge of tone. And both of those things are of course, almost complete impossibilities. I really enjoy U2′s music; so I like to joke around about my obsession with them. But hopefully it’s clear that when I say things like, ‘I hope I meet Edge at True Tone’, I’m not actually expecting to meet Edge at True Tone. It just makes for much more fun and conversation-spurring posts. And I tend to like fun and conversation. At the very least, it’s a bit more fun (in my very humble opinion) than throwing up a twitter: ‘gearin’ up for the U2 show.’ I like to keep it interesting.
But in all seriousness, U2 is an experience. And I know that sounds kitsch and over the top if you don’t like them, and have never been to one of their shows. I’ve heard that said over and over again, and I thought I understood it. I’ve got the dvd’s of previous tours, and watch them a fair amount. But when I got there, and stood in front of Edge’s amps as he drove out perfect note after perfect note on ‘Breathe’, taking a rather normal base chord structure to levels you wouldn’t think it could go to, and as Bono quite literally sang his heart out, and 97,000 people for just 2 hours got to drop their learned inhibitions and allow songs to take them somewhere they might not otherwise be able to go……as over the top as it might sound, it is a spiritual experience.
So as much as I joke about the night not being fulfilled until security escorts me out for trying too hard to touch Edge, Bono, Larry, Adam, or even one of the stage crew, once you get there, it’s just about letting yourself go. Now, U2 is not for everybody. They’re obviously for a lot of people, but not for everybody. But I can pretty much guarantee you that if you were to go to a live show of theirs, and leave any preconceived notions at the door, you would at the very least feel something. Something you weren’t expecting. For me, U2 has a way of lending these orchestrations with the perfect mix of countering yet simplistic lines, to support a melody that aches and yearns as much as it gives joy. In fact, the joy probably comes out of the ache. And they do it with power and with passion, and it sings to people. Not to everyone, but to at least 97,000 people last evening at the Rose Bowl. To be able to sing with my wife with tears in our eyes during ‘City of Blinding Lights’. To be able to be crushed by 2490 fans in the inner circle jumping to ‘No Line on the Horizon’ as I in turn crush the 10 in front of me. To sing ‘No more!’ until you think you’re going to collapse, but it’s okay because thousands of other people from 5 years old to 65 years old are singing the same thing with the same intensity around you. And of course, to almost be able to touch Edge’s guitar when he leaned over the rail. And above absolutely everything else, to hear the untouched and pre-mic’d tone directly from his amps. Not to sound overly sentimental (as if the last few sentences didn’t take care of that already), but it was a special couple days.
So, the last post lays out everything in chronological order. If you didn’t read that one, I’ll give you the cliff notes here: we waited in a 2500 person mob for 12 hours, there was a stampede, and we ended up getting spots in the one place that mattered most. The inner circle, about 10 feet from the stage, directly in front of Edge’s amps. The sound system was incredible, but if I’m going to be there, I’m going to need some stage volume. I wanted to hear some of Edge’s tone from his own speakers. And it was glorious.
Here’s where we were, and the opening of the first song. And by the way, if you hadn’t heard, they not only filmed this concert in Pasadena for a dvd, but they broadcast it live over youtube; and as of now, you can still watch the re-broadcast. Way better quality than my little camera. But we still took just a couple videos for mementos. Here’s some pics, and the end of the opening song (and me screaming…just a little bit loudly):
(Where we were. With the amps facing us, and that’s about 15 feet from Edge…even though the picture makes it look farther. We’re almost right on the rail, but then there’s still a good five feet between the rail and he stage so that the security guards can glare at us…like the one on the far left there. hehe But they were cool. They even hit a couple beach balls back to us. Which is fairly rare amongst most of the shows I’ve been to. I was impressed.)
(And that’s what it looked like from another fan’s vantage point. Absolute craziness. Amazing.)
I have to tell you; hearing that sound and power coming from Edge’s amps…indescribable. Perfect weight, clarity, warmth, and focus. You could feel his sound rushing through your body. Seriously, people were responding to some of his guitar parts as if they were vocal parts. He sings with that thing. And to be right in front of it…an amazing experience, and a definite learning experience.
And then the world stood still. This is what the picture is from at the beginning of this post. On U2′s ‘Until the End of the World’, the outro just pumps my heart. It’s some of my favorite musical anything ever. (How’s that!) Edge just lets his fuzz go crazy, and he plays this killer riff around the 2,3, and 4 notes…never hitting the 5 or higher octave that is anticipated. And then just when you feel it has to go there, he hits the seventh instead, giving it this great aching and driving quality. I absolutely love it live. And then it happened. As he’s playing it, he’s on the bridge, to my right. And suddenly the bridge starts moving towards me. And he ends up playing it directly over me. And then, I don’t even remember it happening…his guitar is in my face, and he’s leaning over the railing of the bridge, looking right at me. I was about 3 feet from him. Now, the camera was in my hand. And I had pushed record. But that’s about it. So, I’ve got the video of it, but it’s just sheer craziness, and then whoa!…Edge’s guitar is right there. hehehe I laugh every time I watch it. But there are very few moments in life when you’re literally not thinking about anything. And that was this moment for me. By the time the bridge passed back over me and over to the second bridge that Bono was on, I realized that I was laying diagonally with my full weight on some guy, who was also laying diagonally, with his full weight on some other guy, and I guess the rest of the pit was just supporting us. It was awesome. Here’s the worst video ever of the best moment ever:
And some stills from the video:
So those are the things that I had to talk about in depth. And much as I’d like to go through every song, I’m sure none of you would like me to go through every song. But there was a ton to take in, and a ton to mull over, learn, and experience. So here’s the highlight reel.
- The first thing was how intimate this show was…and then at times how much it challenged your senses. On certain songs, the band was all around you…on bridges, behind the stage, on the outer circle stage…and yet they would still connect musically and facially with each other. The end of Beautiful Day with just Edge and Bono standing next to each other improvising was amazing. Could have been two guys playing in a coffee shop. And the whole band standing around each other doing Still Haven’t Found. Intensely intimate.
- Yes. I did cry. Literal tears. During Walk On, and the Amazing Grace intro to Streets. But my wife cried too, and so did a lot of other people around us.
- The sonic power yet space they create is incredible. That makes no sense, I know. You have to see them live to get it.
- Edge holds those songs together. He is doing so much…guitars, loops, backing synths, piano, vocals, and at times leading the band. The parts he chooses are just perfect for the textures of each song, whether the song needs something in the background, something structural, something driving, something to pull the band along, or to support it. And many times it’s not at all where you would expect a guitar player to go. But it’s just what the song needs. I’ve known this, but to see it unfold live right in front of you, is something else.
- They played 24 songs. And believed every one of them.
- These guys play as a band better than anyone I’ve ever seen. They play to loops and click tracks live, are moving all over the stage of 360 degrees and with an outer ring and two bridges, and yet still somehow manage to improvise. In at least 5 songs, Bono was motioning to the band to give certain dynamics and to hang on or cut out, and they followed and supported perfectly. It’s awesome to watch Edge at those times. He watches Bono like a hawk.
- The passion that pours out of Bono. Say what you like about him, and I will too. He does do some dumb things on stage. But seeing him live…he feels the living daylights out of every word he sings. It’s inspiring to watch.
- Edge’s sound is fantastic. I know, I know, I’ve said that before. But honestly, I was a little nervous hearing it live for the first time, in case it didn’t measure up. And it actually went beyond my expectations…even though I mentally prepared myself to be objective about it if it wasn’t up to snuff. The sheer weight of the tone coming from the amps…and yet still clear…but yet still warm…can tone be icy and warm at the same time? I didn’t think so, but I guess it can. Amazing.
- Adam is cool. And every bass player should take a page from him on how well he supports the melodic lines of the other instruments.
- Bono’s voice sounded incredible live! I know it’s changed from when he was younger, but last night it sounded crisp and full, and just grabbed you. He’s still got it, and in a large way. Some of the improvised melodies on With or Without You, Streets, Walk On, Magnificent…wow.
- U2 has a lot of fun. It was awesome to see them just laughing with each other, playing around, to see Edge smiling and shaking his head good-naturedly at some of the dumb things Bono said, and to see Bono laughing at himself after saying certain things. Very, very cool to see, and gave the whole night a very natural and close feel…even amongst 97,000 people. At one point, Bono even caught Edge off guard. He was saying something about some random song they did a little piece of…I think it was Stand by Me, after Still Haven’t Found. And then he just off the cuff asked Edge if he had anything to add. And Edge just kind of said, ‘Oh! Uh…no…he’s great, like you said.’ And then Bono said something like, ‘Whoa. He doesn’t speak much; but when he does!’ lol It was great, and just set you at ease.
- Larry is ripped.
- I love seeing the mistakes. On the beginning of Beautiful Day, something went wrong with Edge’s guitar. The first few harmonics were incredibly low in the mix. And the look he gave his guitar tech, Dallas, under the stage…haha. Yikes. The best look ever as he motioned with his hand to up the volume. It was very funny.
- The sound system was amazing! Everything was so well balanced. You could hear the backing vocals…but not too loud. You could hear Larry’s toms…but right where they should be. That was cool, and very refreshing, too.
- I hate to harp on it…but what a ride on that wave of emotion, fueled by sound and melody. It was so rad to see Edge feeling that same thing too. I’d watch him as he played parts, just gaze across the enraptured audience, and then just close his eyes as he finished out his part, allowing the sound to come over him as well. Feeling like you and the band are one, and feeling the same things…now there’s an experience.
- No Line plays really well live.
- Being in a crowd like that, everyone just screaming the songs and throwing their bodies at the songs…wow. Humbling to be a part of something that big. I yelled constantly.
- Their songs simply moved me. To a place I’ve never been before.
- And get this. Tone is hugely in the hands. Gear is really, really important, too. Don’t get me wrong. But right before U2 came out, Edge’s tech Dallas came out and tested a few of his guitars, and all his different effects for each song. And I almost had a heart attack. The tone, from Edge’s exact gear, was thin, brittle, a little harsh, and yet also very unclear. It was still good tone, but it was far from the best I’d ever heard. And that’s nothing against Dallas, either. I’m sure he’s a great guitarist in his own rite. But on Edge’s gear, it just wasn’t Edge’s sound. And then Edge came out…and whoa. Immediate touch difference. It was a softer touch…almost as if he was coaxing the sound out of the guitar. And suddenly there it was. Edge’s sound. I also noticed this waiting in line outside the stadium when they were sound-checking his guitar. Through that awesome sound system, his sound just wasn’t that great. But…once he starts playing…there it is. Very interesting.
- The live arrangement of Moment of Surrender is way better than the album version. Album is decent. Live is goosebumps and open-heart surgery.
- Like I said, Bono does some odd things for showmanship. And I have most of their live dvd’s. I know his antics. But live? This is gonna sound weird…but they work live. It’s almost as if he turns off the filter of thought, and just acts on sheer adrenaline and emotion from the particular song, and just goes. And some of the stuff that watching back looks dumb, is actually really, really fun live. And it really gets the crowd engaged. Even if it’s laughing and hooting. Definitely something to learn there.
- Larry is the tightest drummer I have ever heard. Perfect.
- On City of Blinding Lights, towards the end, something must’ve gotten bumped on Edge’s delay setting. Because it was ever so slightly off. (Or maybe I’m just crazy.) But he realized it, and started playing off the beat ever so slightly to compensate. It was amazing. And that is a beautiful song.
- I almost lost it so many times. The soul on the solo of Unknown Caller, the candor of In a Little While, the love of Streets, the ambience of Magnificent.
- Oh, Edge’s sound.
- Not even joking, earlier this year, my wife asked me what were the songs that I hoped they’d do but that I was sure they wouldn’t. And both Ultraviolet and and Unforgettable Fire were on my list. And they did them both. It was incredible to be there with her.
- U2 is not perfect. (Much as I’d like to think they are.) But I tried so very hard, and ended up succeeding, in just for one night, turning off my critical mind, and allowing myself to be taken somewhere. It’s extremely therapeutic to allow that to happen to you every once in a while. The trouble is finding something worthy enough to have that happen with. So I didn’t notice too much bad. And I watched back most of the youtube broadcast afterwards…and there really wasn’t much bad anyway! Just a special, special experience. But the little things, mics not being on, Adam on the wrong string for a couple notes, most of that was absolutely lost on me, and the rest of us in the pit. I was way too busy just singing my heart out, jumping on people, yelling loud enough to scare myself, and letting the music take me. I highly suggest it. Just for a night. I’ve never felt better.
- And if you’re looking for some bad reviews, feel free to check the internet. There’s plenty. They don’t run around enough/they run around too much and it’s not intimate enough. The crowd wasn’t into it enough/people were too into it and squished me. They played too many songs from x album/they didn’t play enough songs from x album. Bono’s not a good enough showman/Bono’s showmanship annoys me. It’s too loud and muddy/it was too soft and tinny. We’ve all got opinions, and many of them are valid. But this whole post was more so about letting go and feeling the music. Some incredible music.
So…as is my regrettable custom, I start off by saying something is beyond words; and then I use a ton of words to describe it. So I should probably stop now. But here’s the rest of the pictures and videos. Terrible quality video, but it’ll be out on dvd soon.
And lastly, my favorite picture of the night. It’s like, the perfect personification of how Edge exists in my mind:
hehe Just a brilliant white light. lol This was not planned…it’s just an extremely oddly symbolic picture. haha
I am so sorry, but nothing else does this evening justice: a spiritual experience.