About time we had a post just called ‘U2.’

For those of you who have never been to a U2 concert, I cannot express deeply enough how much you need to try to attend one before you die, or before they stop touring. Even…even if you don’t like them. There is just something about those melodies, those soundscapes, those lyrics, and the energy and passion of those four guys playing every show as if it was the first and last show they would ever have the privilege of playing. Not to mention the sheer musical tightness of that band. I can almost guarantee you that if you’re not a fan, you’ll either leave a fan, or leave understanding why others are. And if you are a fan, well…be prepared for one of those incredibly rare experiences that stays within you days, weeks, and maybe even years after the last line of Moment of Surrender has ended.

(My sister really is an artist with a camera. She got some great shots…and, obviously, her camera is better than ours. haha This is pretty much the quintessential shot of Edge and Bono and how they walk through my mind…uh, constantly.)

And so it was with us. Anaheim night 1, June 17th, 2011. This time, I went with my wife and my little sis. Well, she’s 20 now. I feel old. But, if I can get a little sappy here, it’s nice to share certain experiences with the girlfriend you’ve committed to spending the rest of your life with, and with your family. “Keep a light on those you love…they will be there when you die.” –Editors. Quite true, and something I’m re-learning after spending a period of time in which I now realize I was subconsciously distancing myself. Anyway. There’s your two-pence life lesson from the guy who waited 13 hours just to hear a couple Vox amps.

So we got there at 8 in the morning…

They also soundchecked The Fly, which was absolutely incredible. We didn’t get it or Ultraviolet at this show…they played it on the second night. However, we did get Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, which I had no idea but, it has some of the hugest guitar tone live that I’ve ever heard. Anyway, some highlights that did not make that reel:

  • The South Beach bling-on-a-scooter guy throwing out beanies. Okay, that did make the reel. But it was amazing, and any man who goes about spreading random joy in that way deserves a second mention.
  • I found some fellow toneheads randomly standing in line near us. One of the guys I play with every once in a while. We talked about Strymon. At a U2 show. It was stupendous.
  • That Bono impersonator? I feel really, really bad…there were still people talking after the show about how cool it was that they met Bono. Except that ‘Bono’ was still signing autographs when Bono’s voice started singing ‘Ultraviolet’ in soundcheck.
  • Yes, I did drive down there for no reason the day before. I just walked around the stadium, soaking in the atmosphere that in just mere hours would be gently enveloped by the moving soundwaves of U2. I also met another U2 fan there who was doing the same thing. He also had a favorite curse word he enjoyed. Now, I’ve worked at some group homes before, and I don’t really even notice off-color language anymore. But this guy used it like McDonald’s uses salt. Or like I use delay. ;) I couldn’t really figure out what he was saying, but I did make out the phrase ‘Achtung Baby’ a couple times. To which I smiled, cheered, and said ‘ZooTV’, which seemed to elicit the same phrases from the man, but in a much happier tone. All in all, it was a pretty great conversation.
  • Anaheim crowd? So much nicer than the Rose Bowl folks! Of course, Anaheim Stadium only holds half the people and here, there’s Starbucks within walking distance once you have your wristband and can leave the line for a while. Which tends to help the general atmosphere of the crowd. I myself achieved a personal goal of not setting foot inside of a portable toilet station.

(Adam pretty much knows he’s cool. In a ‘No I’m not, but I’m up here and you’re down there’ type of way. haha)

Also, no stampede this time. Which kind of bummed me out. I like that type of raw energy. So…I made my own. Supposedly there exists a news video of this somewhere, but we have not been able to find it ourselves…although the tales keep coming in of folks who have seen it. But at about 5 o’clock, after waiting in line for 9 hours, and looking forward to the prospect of waiting within the inner circle for two more hours before Lenny Kravitz even starts, they open the gates. It’s a magical time. And I am, needless to say, quite excited. So we start to go through the gate, and lo and behold, next to our gate is the KCAL9 news. Well, you know I can’t contain myself. So I start yelling into the camera. Like a male banshee. (Do they have those?) And the cameraman is loving it, and not turning the camera one bit. So then the reporter asks me something stupid, to which I of course responded with something incredibly witty (of course ;) ), and proceeded with my joyous utterings into the giant camera lens. At which point I also decided to try to walk in to the stadium. This proved too much for me, I got my leg caught in the little spindle/counter thing, pulled my leg out with what I considered to be a ballet-like gracefulness, and crashed to the asphalt full onto my arm so as not to harm the camera I was holding that would soon contain precious soundwaves and lightrays of untold wonder, or the water bottles that would be our only sustenance for the next 7 hours. I literally exploded into Angel Stadium to see U2. And somewhere, this was all on the news. We’ve yet to find it, but we have been told. So basically, I used up 1 of my 15 minutes of fame by falling.

I couldn’t have written a better entrance for myself. So we join the mass of people running towards the coveted inner circle while 800 security guards scream, ‘Don’t run!’ And this is pretty much the only downside of the evening right here. For these shows, there’s usually one general admission line in which you camp out all day to get as close to the stage as possible. Well, in Anaheim, they split it into two…one on each side of the stadium, meaning one for each opposite entrance into the inner circle. Which is a genius idea for crowd control. However, we were not very far back at all in our line, and (minus my fall) some of the first people in. But when we got to the inner circle, it was so full already that it was clear that the other line must have gone in right at 5 PM, while we weren’t let in until about 5:15. So, we weren’t quite as close as I would’ve liked. However, we did still get in the inner circle, we did still get stage volume from Edge’s amps, we still had Edge play Until The End of the World right above us, Bono still sang Miss Sarajevo directly to us…okay, what am I saying! They were great seats!!

On U2′s site, they have this killer 360 degree camera thing. You can go on there and literally find us. Here’s a screenshot:

I’m about dead center, above Blue Hat with Glasses. Look how happy I am. That face of joy is pretty much exactly how I felt all night.

Here is a video of some of ‘Until the End of the World’ to give just a little taste of that joy. Our little cameras can’t really handle the bass that close to its source, but you can still get the idea. Check this video for the sheer excellence of the concert. Oh, and uh, pay as little attention as you can to the crazy deep voice yelling, ‘Edge! Edge!’ in the background. Or foreground. Who could that crazy person be? ;) See, at U2 concerts, which are pretty much complete physical, emotional, and spiritually encompassing events, I pretty much just let myself go, embrace the moment, and act on instinct. Hence, the falling into the stadium. But…I didn’t realize how it sounds when a 27-year-old male Edge-fanatic fully lets himself go when Edge is right above him. Anyway…the amazingness…

Yep, that’s me yelling quite awkwardly. Don’t even care a little bit. It was so rad! haha And if you did not watch, or turned it off because of the distorting bass, please promise me you will play it again and skip to 4:25 and watch until the end. Which is where tone…just plain, pure, unadulterated tone just sings from the guitar and amp. It’s pretty breathtaking.

And since we’re talking about tone…I have a small gift for you guys. They have now put a plexiglass top over Edge’s amps. Sound isolation for the drums mics, or something of that nature. But here’s the thing…his amp settings reflect off that. And we got it. The Edge’s Vox amp settings. I haven’t been able to find these anywhere:

Also, notice the condenser mics in front of the pedal board. Mic’d up ambient sound, as well as mic’s on the amps. Incredible. Also, 58′s on the amps instead of ’57′s. I’ve been doing that for years. Not because Edge does it, but because great minds think alike. Nope, because Edge does it.

Compare it with what I believe to be the same model, and there you go. Instant Edge tone! Well…you may need some of his priceless vintage guitars, too. Just maybe… ;) And the amps. And a bit of rack gear. Couple pedals…hehe

And now for possibly the most amazing moment of the concert…nay, my young life. The 1995 ambient album that U2 released as The Passengers, may have changed my life. And this one song, Miss Sarajevo, seems to keep within it all the angst of every dream, and every dream not realized. Maybe it’s the line, ‘Is there a time for waiting tables in the night that sets you free.’ And as I get older, some of the angst of those unrealized dreams is now meaning more and more to me. (Whoa, little bit of honesty today!) And this song, with Bono right above us, and then fading away singing his lungs out as the bridge moved slowly across the audience, Edge on piano, Larry and Adam with the smoothest groove possible…I won’t forget this:

Ya. Just wonderful. His voice…was beyond words that night. So good.

And here’s some of the other video highlights. Mostly intro’s, because of that distorted bass on the little cameras. But, some great memories for us:

Ah, just watching and typing this is making me relive it all over again. (And I’m pretty sure that long, long girl scream at the beginning of the video is me. I have no defense.) As if I hadn’t stopped living it this whole past week. hehe You knew with a post called ‘U2′ that it was gonna be gushy, right? ;) Well, here’s some things, both good and bad that didn’t make the reel. (Okay, almost all good…haha) I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. And if you believe that, I’ve got an analog delay with tap tempo to sell you. Oh wait, those actually exist now. hehe Eh, funnier in my head.

And keep in mind that that tone on the intro’s is live, from a little tiny camera, and then uploaded to youtube. And it is still just flooringly amazing. Edge’s rig and touch sound better than anything pretty much ever. The rest of the band, and the mix…awesome as well. Wish our cameras were better at bass, because the mix, even that close, was awesome.

Amazing Moments

  • Starting with Even Better Than the Real Thing.
  • Hearing Zooropa live, which I thought I never ever would.
  • Stage volume from the amps of ever.
  • Edge’s tone and command over the guitar.
  • Getting a show right after a week-long break, so Bono’s voice was in incredible form.
  • Bono actually hitting all of Pavarotti’s part on Miss Sarajevo.
  • Discotheque weaved into Crazy Tonight. So rad.
  • Scarlet.
  • The tone that blows your head off on Hold Me Thrill Me.

And okay…get this:

Edge winked at me.

No, seriously. Other folks confirm it. Right before the second encore as they were all waving to us before they left the stage, and I was probably screaming ‘Edge! Edge!’ in that very frightening voice……he looks right at us, gets this huge smile on his face, and winks at me. It was by far, one of the best experiences of my life. Although not as far-fetched as you might think. When the rest of the band is running around the outer stage, and Bono is literally right behind us singing and all the other fans are almost fainting trying to touch him, and me and my wife and sister (they know what they’re supposed to do at a U2 show with me ;) ) are still staring at him? He’s gotta notice at least the one crazy guy who’s never taking his eyes off of him and screaming ‘Edge! Tone!’ constantly. And he was thankful. It was splendid.

Musician Moments

  • Edge’s tone. You just can’t say it enough.
  • Edge holding that band together with his harmonic genius.
  • Larry walking out looking like a stud from 1952.
  • The incredibly innovative arrangement of Even Better Than the Real Thing, as they realized how important the drumbeat over the drum loop actually is. Larry starting with that, and then Edge going into the solo first. Beautiful.
  • Watching a band, with 50,000 people watching them, and a click track, loops, and count-off’s going on in their in-ear-monitors, improvise as a unit. Bono would literally direct the band with his hand, up or down, and they would follow as a unit. Or he would improvise different lines, and I would watch Edge play a half a beat behind in order to get the right chord under what he was singing. A couple times on All I Want is You, Edge would be already into the F#m of the chorus, hear Bono go back to the verse, and seamlessly hit the A again. Not a huge deal, but pretty huge for a band like that to still be reading the crowd and playing the moment.
  • Edge’s tone on Hold Me Thrill me Kiss Me Kill Me rips your head off. In the best way possible. Don’t know what he is using on that song, but it is the largest guitar sound I have ever heard.
  • The saxophonists for Lenny? Ya, they can play. Actually, Lenny’s whole set was pretty rad.
  • Bono taking his in-ears out on whole pieces of songs to sing with us as a group. And not just in quiet ending parts. He’d flip them out at big parts where he was still singing pretty heavily. Huge smile on his face as he heard us.
  • Bono nailing the high vocals on Moment of Surrender. Last song of 23 songs, and he nailed it better than the cd. Not my favorite song, either. But live? Ya, it was pretty spectacular to close the show out.
  • Edge listening to how the infinite guitar notes were ringing out on With or Without You, and if they started to spin sharp, he’d pull them back with the trem bar. No matter how you look at it, the guy’s a true musician.
  • Pretty much…the entire show was a musician moment.

(Don’t let anyone tell you Bono’s not a musician. Ya, he does some stupid things and gets involved a lot of places. But first and foremost, when you see them live, he knows what he’s doing musically. You can’t write those melodies with those lyrics with that passion and not know. Sure, he’s overly-famous these days, but the man is pretty amazing.)

(Yep, Larry’s a stud. I’m now dressing like that.)

(Bono on the outer circle, singing to us.)

(Having fun, singing their guts out.)

Awkward Moments

  • Lenny Kravitz trying desperately to get the stadium to repeat together a chorus we didn’t know.
  • The middle-aged stocky gentleman in front of me who evidently waited as long as I did to see U2, and then did not show one sign of enjoyment the entire night. He just stood and stared, as I jumped and punched and yelled and fell all over him.
  • When Anaheim Stadium sent a pizza vendor into the packed and  crushed inner circle. Poor dude.
  • The people who think that getting to the inner circle means that your spot is now somehow marked for you, and you can leave and go get food or beer or sit down in a seat somewhere and then come back to your same spot once U2 goes on. Sure, in theory. But that theory presupposes that the thousands on the outer circle and the two thousand in the inner circle, are all nice people. Let alone the fact that even if they were all nice people, you leave a bowl of 2,000 people? Ya, your spot is resorbed instantly.
  • The people who sat down next to us while waiting in the pit, and then decided that was the time to take pictures of each other. And of course, with nowhere else to look, I end up staring down at the photos on their iPhones. And in every photo of the guy next to me, in the background it’s like, ‘So…that’s my crotch.’ Awkward.
  • U2 cutting a good portion of songs from their newest album since the last leg of the tour, but never mentioning it. I think they’re getting it.
  • Me constantly tweeting, and then talking about how dumb twitter is. My wife and sister got a kick out of that.
  • When I fell (yep), I scraped up my hand pretty good. That was awkward. However, my wife…as if she knew something like this would happen…had brought bandages. So she said that on the song ‘One’, I had my bandaged left hand raised in the air, with the U2 wristband, and one finger up. She said it was quite poetic. If you didn’t think about why my hand was bandaged in the first place.

And this. This is Lenny Kravitz, who did a great job, just not on this song. This is when minimalism goes bad. On a cowbell. I kept waiting for something else to happen with the cowbell. Nope. Just very rhythmic clanging:

Awesome. And ya, that one distorted more than the U2 videos. Because the kick drum for Lenny’s set was obesely loud. I really like bass. But I also want to hear, you know, everything else. They fixed it eventually.

Crying Moments

Okay, I saved this for last in case you want to skip it. But these are the literal crying moments. As in, yes, there were tears in my eyes.

  • Stay, the acoustic version. Not only are the lyrics haunting and made even more haunting by just Edge and Bono on stage, but that was one of the songs I awkwardly sang for my wife on acoustic the first week we were dating. Wonderful memories. I wish I had some video of that song, but I was too in the moment to care about the camera.
  • Miss Sarajevo. I have no defense. I just cried through the whole thing.
  • City of Blinding Lights. That one’s to be expected, though. My wife and I walked back down the aisle after saying our vows, to this song at our wedding. So it’s a pretty great moment for us when we’re together and hear it live.
  • Walk On. No idea why. The Aung San Suu Kyi getting freed from house arrest? Incredible. But still, not quite the reason for the tears. Something about this song when played live. Maybe it’s Edge’s deft switching between pickups for each phrase of the anti-solo. ;) Not sure why, but got me at the Rose Bowl, and got me here.
  • And With or Without You. I just kind of stared, closed my eyes, and held on. I was thinking that, there is a sad possibility, this will be the last time I get to see them live. They’re getting older and you never know. So it was a nice, finalizing moment with that beautiful song.

(Look at Edge feel those notes. So awesome.)

I think that may be about all there is to say. It was a beautiful night.


Postscript: Thanks to everyone who followed me on twitter for that day; that was a lot of fun! I’ll leave the twitter feed on a for a little while longer in case you want to go back and read my awkward tweets of that day. :) But I’ve now switched my phone back to my KVerkadeMusic account for twitter. Yes, I have a ghetto-old phone, and it can only do one twitter account at a time. So, guitar4worship will go back to tweeting just updates from this site so as not further annoy the folks who signed up to follow it just for that reason, and all tone musings, gear pics, awkward life musings, and music project updates will go back to being on KVerkadeMusic. I guess for now. We’ll see where that goes.

Splendid again? Ya, U2 can have two of them.

(Yep, that’s Streets. :) )