Review – Montréal 1

Seats: General Admission – Front Row Centre
“I just arrived. I’m at the door where I started out from, and I want back inside.”
I had seen U2 for the first time ever on May 1, 2001 at the Target Center in Minneapolis and I was behind the stage in the nosebleed section.  I had a blast and enjoyed every moment, but I saw everyone in the pit and thought, “Man, I want to be one of those fans.”  Very prescient words.  A few weeks later, on May 28, 2001, I was in Montreal (Molson centre) with my close friends Chris and Eddsel where we planned and queued up all day to try to get as close as possible to the stage.  We were numbers 7, 8, 9 in the queue and were lucky to get front-row-centre on our first go at the GA.  It was an epic journey and a memorable show.  10 years later, I’m back in the city where my GA adventures started can can confidently say, “I am one of those fans.”
“Where have all the flowers gone?  Long time passing?  Where have all the flowers gone?  Long time ago?”

The decision to attend these two specific shows in Quebec happened what seems so long ago.  In November 2009, after the first North American leg in 2009, the friends I was with at the Las Vegas show (Vik, Anu, and Pat) were adamant on going to a few more concerts the next time U2 re-commenced their tour here in the spring and summer of 2010.  My good friend Chris also planned to come along with a host of other friends from Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Ottawa to make the Montreal shows.  We arranged to use our U2.com membership pre-sale codes to buy a large amount of GA tickets and started to book hotel rooms and flights.  Excitement was in the air and we were ready to go.

Fast-forward to May 2010.  We get the announcement that Bono seriously hurt his back and the North American leg was postponed for a year.  It was deflating to hear the news that Bono was injured and that the tour was delayed.  I couldn’t make the return trip to Europe in 2010 because I had five weddings to attend that summer and had to satiate my appetite for U2 by going to the shows in Australia, Brazil in April, and Mexico.  The second North American leg seemed so distant, so remote in my mind during those months.  But as I look back, notably the Montreal shows, it seems like time has just flown by, hasn’t it?
“A Sort of Homecoming”

After waiting 14 months, U2 and their fans arrived in Montreal.  Several of my friends had already made it into the city on Wednesday, July 6 and got into the queue.  Jorge, Vik, Anu, Drew, Pat, Brad, Colleen, and Jana were already there.  They communicated to me all the happenings of the queue and managed to sign me up at #28.  I got in the next morning and dropped off my backpack at the Quality Inn Hotel – a 15 minute walk away from the Hippodrome.  I was ecstatic to see Anu and Vik again, as I hadn’t seem them since the October 2009 show.  Heather (Edmonton), Lor-Jo (Regina), Mark (Toronto), Lia (Netherlands), Geisa (Brazil), and Tina (Denmark) made their way to the queue as well.  Seeing the rest of my friends was a sight for sore eyes, and it was moments like these that make the trip worthwhile.  Although I was bumped further back in the queue (#67) because I missed early roll calls, it was great to be surrounded by so many friends that I met on the various legs of the 360° Tour.

“Stand Up Comedy”

We were told that the the police did not want anyone camping overnight, but there were maybe 30 of us that did so anyway.  There was a 5AM roll-call and there were several people staying in our hotel room.  It was more convenient to sleep in the queue.  I inflated my $5.00 pool mattress, unfurled my sleeping bag, slipped on my mosquito jacket to protect my face from potential bites, and had a wonderful sleep (nap)!  By 5AM, there were about 200 people in line, and over the next two to three hours, a couple more hundred showed up.  With some people being scratched off the GA list because they weren’t there for roll-call, I moved up in the queue to #47, a little better.  Security ‘pre-scanned’ our tickets to make sure they worked (ironic, because they failed to scan later on the run in), and we walked to the GA area where we hung out for the rest of the day.  We were free to come-and-go to get food and drinks, and to go back to the hotel to shower and change.  It was blazing hot that day.  Despite the humid heat and lack of shade, I tried my best to catch as much nap time to make up for the lack of sleep over the past two nights.  I was roasting; but I’ve been through this before at Twickenham Stadium (London) during the Vertigo Tour and at Maksimir Stadium (Zagreb) during this tour.  As in the past, I simply resigned to the elements and hoped that sufficient Gatorade and water would help me survive the piercing sun and sleep through it to conserve my energy for the entry.

“Running to Stand Still”
By 5PM, security got everyone to stand and line up to prepare themselves to go through security check, ticket scan, and entry (walk or run not yet known).  There was a lot of nervous anxiety in the air.  We were armed linked 10 across and I was in the fifth line.  There were several security check points, and I headed for one that was open and went through very quickly since I just had my ticket in one hand and my camera and iPhone in the other.  I hustled towards an open ticket scanner and had to wait a few seconds for it to be validated, which seemed like an eternity.  When I was told ‘go‘, I broke from the gates like a race horse and sprinted without hesitation towards what seemed like an opening to the GA floor.  No security stopped me from running, so I kept going.  It’s always tricky when you’re one of the first on the run/walk in because there are usually no directions on how to get to the floor.  Brad told me later that I was about 40 yards ahead of everyone else since everyone’s tickets failed to scan.  At the time, I just looked ahead and continued to navigate the floor to get to the back of the stage.  I think I must have ran about 350 meters or so before I got to the cattle gates at the back.  Security were oddly cheering me on and yelling, “You’re the first one!  You’re number one!”  They were good sports and I high-fived Raymond – the security person – who was on guard at the front of the stage.
I was elated that I got there okay and was able to save spots for Brad, Vik, Anu, Pat, Jorge, and Chris – everyone I was traveling and staying with on this trip.  We lost Lia (from Holland) on the run in, but she made it along the rail – Edge’s side.  People always ask me where is my favourite spot, and I have to admit that I do like front-row centre.  Since I self-identify as a short person, being at the front gives me an unobstructed view of the band, can see their banter up close, and have the chance to get the set-list at the end of the show as a keepsake and memento of the concert.  I am usually around the friends I hung out with in the queue for the past two days, and it makes the show all the more enjoyable to be around those you care about.

“Turn on the Bright Lights”

Interpol was the opening act.  I’ve always liked their recorded material, particularly their album Turn on the Bright Lights.  Their music are in tune with my pathos; my brooding-side.  NYC, Hands Away, Leif Erikson, The New, and Pace is the Trick  are stand outs for me.  I saw them in concert once before at the Pemberton Music Festival in 2008 and I thought they were terrible live.  What a let down.  Back in 2008, I thought Interpol performed disinterested and without spirit because it was the end of their tour and it was a festival among casual and non-fans.  Nope.  Their numbing performance hadn’t changed and I felt bad for them and the fans who had to endure their opening act.  Some bands are like that I guess – great in the studio, but terrible live and vice-versa.  It’s a shame but c’est la vie.  One highlight was watching Brandon Curtis (keyboardist) perform.  He seemed the least rock-and-roll out of the bunch and found some amusement in his nonchalant attitude.  Who am I to judge?  At least he has the cojones to perform in front of 1000s of critical fans and be on the 360 stage!

With Hope In Your Heart

It had been two weeks since I last saw U2 at the roller coaster shows of Anaheim.  I love back-to-back shows because you are guaranteed different songs (certainly for the second show), which means a lot to us traveling fans.  The first show was a standard set-list.  That was not surprising for those of us who follow the set lists.  That is not to suggest that the concert was without any special moments.  It was a nice touch to hear a bit of Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Arms Around the World after Mysterious Ways.  I’m all for having anything Achtung Baby related to these shows.

I’ve also enjoyed the snippet of Where Have all the Flowers Gone?  after Until the End of the World.  Bono references the cities that are part of the so-called Arab-Spring – the series of civic protests in the Middle East.  Mentions of Damascus and Tehran are touching for me.  In the summer 2009, I once again backpacked a few countries in the Middle East.  I originally planned on going to Iran (this was just prior to the contentious presidential elections), but it took too long to get a visa, so I opted instead of backpacking Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.  After seeing the opening of the 360° tour in Barcelona, I left for Sulaimaniyah, Iraq to begin my overland journey and adventure.

I crossed over from Iraq into eastern Turkey, bused and walked overland into Syria, and then made my way to Beirut in Lebanon.  I stayed there for a few days before catching a flight back to Dublin for the three U2 shows at Croke Park.  I love traveling the Middle East because of the history, culture, food, and interesting people.  I’ve gone back to the Middle East on several occasions, so references to that region by Bono strike a deep chord in me.  Next summer, I plan to backpack Iran.  As with most of the other counties I’ve visited, many of the orientalist stereotypes and fears the ‘Western’ media and governments make of the people (as opposed to governments) will probably be as unfounded.

UK’s Prince William and his new wife Kate were visiting Canada at the time, and it was funny to hear Bono introduce the band as members of the royal family.  Larry was compared to as Prince William, Adam like Kate, Edge as the Prince of Wales, and Bono as one of the Queen’s Corgis (herding dog).

After Walk On, I always get a kick out of singing You’ll Never Walk Alone (Liverpool and Celtic’s anthem), and to boot, sing it (arms in the air) with Anu and Jorge who are Manc fans ;)  Good thing Bono doesn’t sing Glory, Glory, Man United!  It just would not fit anywhere in the set list or with U2.  As a Liverpool fan, I’m certainly biased as I write this (and am sure I’ll get stick from Mancs), but You’ll Never Walk Alone is far more touching and in tune with U2’s ethos.  The song is about never giving up hope despite the trials and tribulations we face.  It’s no wonder that Bono had added these lyrics to the end of Walk On in tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi:

“When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

This desperation; Dislocation; Separation; Condemnation; Revelation; In temptation; Isolation; Desolation.

Near the end of the show, the skies started to drip during Moment of Surrender.  By the end of the song, it was an apocalyptic, torrential downpour.  This prompted Bono to appropriately snippet The Beatles’ Rain before leaving the stage.  It was a good thing I had my rain jacket with me, which kept my head and top dry, but my shorts and shoes were drenched.  I’ve never been caught in such rain after a U2 show before. The rain was so bad, that it seeped into my iPhone, damaged a circuit, and burnt out the LCD back light.  But U2 is worth shorting my iPhone.

It was almost comical trying to leave the show.  80,000 people trying to navigate themselves out of the ad-hoc concert venue.  I remember crossing ropes, shrubs, long-grass, and climbing a high fence that was sharp at the top.  It was raining, and therefore slippery, so trying to clear the fence was perilous.  Leaving the venue was an absolute joke, and security were nowhere to be found to help us out.  The lack of help from venue staff seemed to be a recurring situation and most GAers would agree with my frustration.  We eventually ended up back where we camped out and found the place where the GAers were trying to get their names in the GA book and getting a number for the queue.  It was ridiculous.  Here were were in the pouring rain, trying to sort ourselves out for the next day’s queue.  Poor Vik took on the task of communicating with the Montreal couple in the tent of assigning numbers and writing down names.  There was a lot of yelling and a  few angry people jockeying for as low a number as possible.  It never used to be like this in North America.  Places like Australia and Latin America were better organized than it was here.  Maybe there is a larger sense of entitlement and competition in the queue?  Some parts of Europe where there were multiple shows can be competitive too, like it was in Dublin, but others were more relaxed like London and Zagreb.  Reading this, it must sound like I have a chip-off-my-shoulder, but I do try to be reflexive in my writing.  I can be unnecessarily competitive as well, and it has gotten the better of me.  Nevertheless, I have seen back-to-back queues in other countries where it was a lot more easy going, particularly Australia.  That fact alone is enough to bring me back down under on the next tour because of the relaxed atmosphere in the queue.

In any event, we walked back to our hotel to get dry, order pizza, and take a nap before heading back to the queue for roll-call at 5AM.  Such a routine is punishing on the body, but looking back at it now, I would have it no other way!  It’s funny to reflect on, memories are much more stronger, and it forges a togetherness with your friends in the GA.  If I just did seats, or showed up late in the day, I know I would miss all the action, drama, and excitement that happens in the GA – all feelings I’ve come to associate with from attending these shows.  It’s GA or no way.

My photos from this show is available here.

2 comments

  1. Joe - reply

    Hey Dale,
    You’re right about the GA collapse later in the day – I was told about that much later – so sorry you and everyone else having to go through that. It only adds to argument that the security was lax that day! They somewhat remedied that the next day, with an extended taped-off line that stemmed after the initial pens.

    Nevertheless, I’m glad you got a chance to meet some wonderful people in the queue, saw U2 up close, and be a part of the extravaganza. Hope to run into you at a future show!

    Cheers,
    Joe

  2. DaleRM - reply

    Another great post Joe. Montreal 1 was my first GA – like you, I had seen them from seats the first time ( TO 2009) and said “next time I’ll be down there !!!”. You didn’t mention the 2:30 GA line collapse and crush which I was in the midst of for 2 hrs – glad that didn’t affect your position. Had hoped to meet you but the line collapse made it impossible. I had planned my GA for 21 months. With thanks to your guide it was awesome!! Even better than expected. Met wonderful people, saw the band up close and felt part of the event. I agree 100% with your comments on Interpol – too bad they are the opener for all three of my shows. Had (scary!!) seats for Montreal 2 and tonight’s Meadowlands shows, but all tix in future will be GA :-)

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