Review – Anaheim II
Seats: General Admission – Front Row Centre
Going Back to the Queue
Immediately after the first show, Jorge, Carlos, Erick, Jennifer, and myself went back to the cars to grab some much needed water and snacks. We needed to replenish ourselves before meeting up with the rest of the fans in the GA who were going back into the line and checking in with the queue managers. Jennifer had seats with her son for the next evening and we parted ways knowing that at some point in the future we will all meet up again. I was in no particular hurry to go back to the queue knowing I had to explain to Nate, Naomi, and Brad of why we were late getting into the pit. I knew they made it to the front for the first show because their gate opened 5 minutes before ours, and I didn’t want my negativity to taint their experience. I was happy for Naomi because she was able to enjoy the front rail for the first time this tour. As I shuffled my way back to the line to check in, I filled Nate and Naomi in on the Red Zone fiasco and warned them that I didn’t want to elaborate too much in fear of dampening their spirits. In the end, I couldn’t help but unload my anger and disappointment, and it was a real shame we could not share the same positive concert experience together. The people managing the queue told us we had to return by 6AM for roll call. After grabbing a bite to eat, Nate, Naomi, and I settled ourselves in our hotel room and had a quick 4 hour rest. Although I was sleeping on my well-journeyed inflatable pool mattress, GA exhaustion will sink you into an abyss, so it does not matter where you sleep. A few hours later, we got up, showered, changed, and meandered our way back to the queue at 6AM.
When we were in our single line that morning, the queue managers asked which side we wanted to line up in front of, and unsurprisingly, the majority of us wanted to go Adam’s side (gate 4) in order to escape the the debacle of Edge’s side (gate 1) where the Red Zone people were let in first and the entire GA line had to wait for their graces to enter. I unfurled my inflatable surf board (it was California) and took a long 4 hour nap. I was told the media were videoing my sleep because it made good news coverage. I didn’t care. I was so exhausted and bummed out from the night before, I just resigned myself to the darkness of slumber. By the time I woke up, I was able to head back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes because it was becoming really hot that afternoon. It was good to see Cathal doing his usual meet-and-greet. I was able to share with him my disappointments from the night before, and confessed that I’ll accept whatever chaos might show that day. I’ve tried my best on this tour to lower my expectations, but after Anaheim I, I had no preconceptions of what may unfold. Just plan for the worst and hope for the best – Insha’Allah.
With the Die-Hards
I was number 28 in my line and in front of me were most of the die-hard American GA veterans. I had met all of them individually or in groups over the years and it’s comforting to know that I am not the only one who loves to travel and see U2 around the world. For those who had never done a U2 GA, seeing more than one show, and queuing up for that matter is nutters. In reality, there is a fairly large U2 GA sub-culture out there. For those of us who have subscribed to that sub-culture, we share norms and values about queuing up, helping each other out with accommodation, food, and tickets, and don’t judge each other for going to several U2 shows. In fact, we always end our conversations with, “Which city are you off to next?” There are some interesting dynamics that occurs amongst the ‘die-hards’. Some fans like to proclaim the number of shows they’ve seen, while others are more secretive. Some are leaders, and other are followers. There are groups, cliques, and lone-wolves. Some are more abrasive (passive-aggressive), while others like to keep to themselves and not cause a fuss. Some are very competitive and serious, while others are care-free and easy going. These qualities are all inherent in group dynamics, so none of it should be surprising. What I do know from personal experience, is that these ‘die-hard’ U2 fans is the community I am a part of, and I love the fact that when I do travel on my own, I never feel solitary at a U2 show. As a die-hard U2 fan, you’ll never walk alone.
The GA Entry – Gate 4
I had told my friends who I was with – Nate, Naomi, Jorge, Carlos, and Erick – that if I made it to the floor and doing okay upon entry, I’ll head straight to the inner circle. If things looked terrible like the first night, I’ll bee-line it to the outer rail. When 5:30PM came around, the stampede began and everyone at the front went through the security/bag check quickly. I found an open turnstile and my ticket scanned alright. Luckily, I didn’t have the unfortunate situation like my friend Nate who ran into ‘Skeletor‘ at a different turnstile and took forever to scan his ticket. Once the first few (20 or so) of us got through, we were told by security to halt and wait in the concourse. Yet again, we were facing ad hoc rules and venue security who didn’t have their act together. We stood there past the turnstiles anxiously waiting to be let go, while the vast majority were held before they could have their tickets scanned. We were telling security that the other gate was already being allowed in and to let us proceed to the floor. It seemed as though my Anaheim II experience was going to be another sour one. I was not impressed and unsurprised. After what seemed like an eternity, the security said ‘go’, we took off to the stairs, and descended onto the floor of the GA. I was doing well and sprinted towards the cattle gates, made my way through, and headed into the pit.
My good friend Brad (from San Fran) and Carly (from Melbourne) were already there because their gates opened ahead of ours, and I was lucky to be able to make it back to front row centre. Jorge followed just behind me. Carlos and Erick were not far behind and parked themselves second row just behind us. Nate and Naomi decided on outer rail. Although the GA queue experience can be a long one, it is within these few minutes of entry that can be the most intense and unpredictable. I’ve tried my best to not take for granted for the spots I get in the GA, but being back in my favoured position for that night was something I cherished. Most importantly, I was beside Brad and Jorge, and near Carlos and Erick. I was with good friends to enjoy this concert with and will never forget their company. I have to count my lucky stars and my friends for being back there.
A Show to Remember
It was my 30th show of 360° and I was hoping it would be a memorable one. In my experiences with back-to-back concerts, I expected U2 to interchange I Will Follow with Out of Control, Stay (Faraway, So Close) with Stuck In A Moment, and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me with Ultraviolet (Light My Way). It would have been a change from the string of shows we’ve seen, but a predictable alteration with the set-list. I was glad I was wrong in a big way. After the opening Even Better Than The Real Thing, Bono strapped on a guitar which was odd and out-of-place. Then the opening chords of The Fly emanated from the amplifiers and we all went absolutely bonkers! This song had not been performed live since I was at the closing show of the Vertigo tour in Honolulu and we also heard The Fly being sound checked a few times since Seattle (I assumed it was in preparation for the Glastonbury festival). It sounded so good, and it was clear the band were in top gear. Then came 3 more songs from Achtung Baby – Mysterious Ways, Until the End of the World, and One. The latter song really threw us off because it appeared so early. I loved the simplicity of One at this show. There was no Desmond Tutu or Suu Kyi speech to lead into the song. Hearing Edge’s opening chords was enough to get us excited about the song. Everyone in the first two rows held their hands in the air and swung in unison. It was a heartfelt moment. I remember after One, I turned to Brad and saying that all bets are off. We had no clue what song was coming up next and loved the surprise. Where the Streets Have No Name followed (at such an early part of the show) and we were all jumping just a little higher and screaming a heck of a lot louder. Recalling just 24 hours earlier, I had forgotten what it was like to be surprised at a U2 show. I was feeling numb. At Anaheim II, it was the opposite experience. I loved being lost in the music and feeling uncertain about the set-list. This was what first-time U2 concert goers felt – excitement in the unknown. After a mentally and physically draining Anaheim I show, I felt alive again, I felt free. “Uncertainty can be a guiding light!”
I had never jumped and sang as much as I did for that show. I can’t remember how many high fives, back slaps, and hugs we gave each other, but it was pure fun. Many people write signs in the pit asking for a guitar pick, set list, or to be invited up on stage. The night before, Jorge had made a sign he wanted to hold up for the U2fancam, “I found what I’m looking for: Ilse, Evita, and Carlitos,” his wife and two children. The sign was not for himself, but for his family. It was simple, but extremely thoughtful. It reflected Jorge’s good nature and innate kindness. During I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Jorge held out his sign for no other reason other than feeling inspired. He sung along and thought about his family. After the song, Bono spotted Jorge’s sign, read the it out loud, and had some friendly banter with him. (You can hear it on the bootleg at about the 5:30 mark on the 11th track).
Bono: “Ilse, Evita, and Carlitos? Hmm.”
Jorge: “They’re my wife and my kids!”
Bono: “Your wife and your kids? You’ve lost them here?”
Bono: “Have you got a car registration? I’m just joking with you. I appreciate you were talking about something a more metaphysical… I understand.”
We were howling at the front and felt so happy for Jorge for having this friendly exchange with Bono. Jorge never planned this nor was begging for attention. It was an innocent sign and I could not have thought of a more genuine person to have this experience.
I hadn’t seen them since the Winnipeg show, but the funkadelic, Tron-like jackets returned for Zooropa and City of Blinding Lights. Weird, yet so cool. Only a few bands like U2 can pull that off. When Bono finished singing the first verse of You’ll Never Walk Alone (after Walk On), I started to belt out the rest of Liverpool FC / Celtic’s anthem to prompt Bono to sing the rest, “With hope in your heart, you’ll never walk alone… alone… alone!” I was just missing my LFC scarf to hold up, otherwise it was a great moment. The rest of the set-list midway through the concert was more-or-less standard but it wasn’t a run-of-the-mill show. Edge was jumping and stomping more than usual, Larry was smiling quite a bit, Adam was hitting his groove, and Bono was belting out the notes. I believe the uncertainty of the opening part of the concert even excited the band, granting them license to get out of their shell and explore uncovered territory.
Moment of Surrender – my favourite song – was poignant as always. Clarence from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band had just passed away. In dedication, Bono said, “Think about one man’s saxophone. Think about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Think of Clarence Clemons. This man just carried music, and music carried him until this day.’ He then recited some of Jungleland at the end of the show. Brad and I were hoping Edge would slip into Bad as a surprise closer, but it wasn’t meant to be. No matter. It was a magnificent show. Among the ‘die-hard’ fans, and I’m sure everyone else in Angel Stadium, thought it was one of the best shows we’ve seen. The change in set-list was welcomed with open arms, hearing The Fly for the first time on tour, and the band being electric – long may this continue.
After the show, Jorge, Erick, Carlos, and I made our way back to Orangewood Drive to meet up with Nate and Naomi. On our way, we saw Jennifer driving with her son out of the stadium lot. She ran out and called over Jorge to give him a hug. She had binoculars for that show and had seen Jorge and his sign when Bono was joking around with him. She was as happy for Jorge as we were. Even from afar, friends can still enjoy the moment together. To me that is what the GA is about. Going all out for GA isn’t about the contest to the front, the pretension of getting attention from the band and crew, trying to retrieve the set list, or tallying the number of shows you’ve attended. Corny as it sounds, it’s about building friendships that can last beyond a U2 concert. I look forward to making new friends and seeing old ones at the remaining shows I will attend this tour. Anaheim was a roller coaster of a weekend, but there could not have been any other way to fully appreciate what we went through that night.
My pictures from the concert are available here.