Review – Montréal 2

Seats: General Admission – Front Row Centre
After a two hour nap, those of us sharing the same hotel room at the Quality Inn – Vik, Anu, Patrick, Chris, Lia and myself – shuffled ourselves back to the queue like zombies for the 5AM roll call in the GA queue.  Unsurprisingly, there was chaos in the queue.  There was a GA list circulating for the second show at the same time as the GA list was developed for the first show.  I’m not a fan of such a system.  How can one line up for a second show when the first has not even started?  This kind of system was tried and failed in Dublin for the multiple shows there and it was unfortunate that an advanced list was taking place in Montreal.  Brad (B) and I lamented the days of old fashioned queuing in which your place in the queue was determined by when you exactly got there and (for the most part) you don’t leave except for food and washroom runs.  In any event, that early Saturday morning, a different list had superseded the previous list and there was a commotion at the front.

I was way back – number 71 in the queue – and was too tired to jump in the debate. Someone called the police who came down and basically wrote the numbers down on the fans according to where they were in the queue at that exact moment.  Several fans moved themselves up in the melee while our group – me, Chris, Vik, and Anu respectfully stayed where we were.  That was a bit unfortunate, but people maneuvering themselves to the front happens whenever there is chaos in the queue.  Admittedly, I’ve done it myself in places like Chorzow and Chicago.  In my mind, if chaos breaks out, better to adjust to the conditions than to idle and do nothing.  At any rate, I was shaking my head at the ensuing comedy and decided my body was better off in energy-conservation mode in preparation for the run later that day.
I had been to several shows where venue security were unhelpful or disinterested in aiding the queue process.  Montréal 2 was the first time I found the security to be a tad oppressive.  Initially, the fans were told we were able to leave the queue to store our belongings (i.e chairs, blankets, mattresses) later in the day and were allowed to bring in food provisions like the day before – seemed reasonable.  Once the line was moved onto the venue grounds at 7AM and led into the holding pens, the fans were told we were not allowed to leave the line.  If we left, we would lose our spot.  We were told that no water or food were allowed in the queue.  When asked if we could leave the line to get food and drink, security threatened that it was at our own risk of losing our spots and having to go back of the line.  Furthermore, when we asked when the food and water vendors would come by the queue, security told us later in the day.  Astonishing.  Water, by the way, was being sold at an extortionist price of $5.00 for a 600mL bottle.  Given the scorching heat and lack of shade, water was essential for the fans, but none to be found.  After my confrontation with security, I left despite his ridiculous threats because I needed to out my stuff away and more importantly was desperate for some water.  My friend Lori-Jo had joked that conditions were better in Darfur.  I had suggested to Cathal that U2 should have an Amnesty International petition going around the concert for all the GAers locked in the pens and are in need of basic necessities like water and bread.  I learned later that the fans who were deprived twitted their conditions and the in-sensitivities of the security policies, leading to a relaxing of the rules.  Fans were able to come-and-go from the queue to get food and bring water to the queue.  Re-entry into the queue was conditional upon showing your numbered hand to the security guard.
As 5PM approached – the time when security prepares the queue to enter the venue – the line was broken up into groups of 50 to control the entry flow.  I was a bit nervous because I was in the second group (being #71) and had to wait our turn as the first group went through security check and ticket scan.  Luckily we only had to wait 10 seconds before being released and I sprinted towards an open ticket scanner.  Unluckily, my ticket failed to scan a few times.  I watched anxiously as dozens of people passed me.  After what seemed like an eternity, the staffer passed my ticket to another scanner to be checked and it finally registered.  Ding.  Like a race horse (rather appropriate considering we were in the Hippodrome – a horse race track) I took off and probably passed about 40 people in the three hundred meter dash to the cattle gates.  About 20 others in front of me headed to the outer circle.  I circled into the pit to find Brad and Vik there and took my spot beside them along the front rails.  Colleen joined us too and it was a real comfort knowing some of my close U2 friends were there with me to enjoy the show.  We lost Jorge earlier in the day.  He was refused entry that morning and didn’t come back after the policy change.  Jorge is one of the best people to have with you in the show because of his jovial and kind nature, so with him missing from our group, I resented security for their earlier buffoonery.
I don’t feel I need to fully discuss Interpol here, as my feelings about their performance was spelled out in the previous review.  I did feel bad for the slagging they took from most fans.  Their recorded material, particularly the song from the album Turn Off The Bright Lights, is amazing.  But the change in band members over the years perhaps had an effect on their new material, but more so, Interpol is just not a suitable opening act for U2.  Opening acts need to get the crowd going and pumped for U2 and Interpol is not that kind of band.  If I want to feel contemplative or stoke my melancholy, I’ll tune into Interpol.  In the meantime, acts like Muse, Snow Patrol, or Lenny Kravitz would be able to get the blood flowing before U2 come out.
Many of us were speculating guest performers to come out with U2 during the show – Arcade Fire or Danial Lanois were some of our preferred guests – but that didn’t materialize.  No matter, U2’s performance was still top drawer.  During Get On Your Boots, our friend Amp was invited up on stage by Bono.  We watched with hilarity as Amp literally kicked in a speaker (or amp) in his attempt to get up on stage.  His third time up on stage, Amp was rather entertaining to watch as he sung Boots with Bono with an aggression I usually don’t see in our friend.  We were all proud at the front for Amp’s conquest of the 360° stage.  He’s one of the few people I know who doesn’t have to wear make up to get up on stage with U2!
Later, at the start of I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, Bono whispered Rio… (inaudible city)… Sao Paulocha cha cha… to give the song a bit more samba flavour.  Although it was a small gesture, those words brought me back to my time in Brazil to see the U2 concerts there.  With that in mind, I danced my heart out like no other time.  Psychologists have written on the effects of music a cue for our vivid memories.  The heat of the evening, combined with the dance beats of I’ll Go Crazy transported me back to the southern hemisphere in April when I was with Jana, Colleen, Martijn, Flavia, and Amp at the Sao Paulo shows.  When I first heard the remix version of Crazy Tonight on June 29, 2009 outside Nou Camp in Barcelona during their dress rehearsal, I wasn’t a big fan of the song.  A day later, after seeing the song in person, I fell in love with it.  Crazy Tonight (Redanka Remix) is a song that needs to be seen to be believed :)  That second evening in Montreal profoundly connected me to Brazil.
After One and before Where The Streets Have No Name, the snippet that Bono sings had become one of my favourite moments during the show.  Classics like John Newton’s Amazing Grace or Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow occupied that interlude between those two U2 anthems.  That evening, Bono innocently sung Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Cohen is from Montreal, which may explain why Bono chose this song to sing.  I loved Hallelujah after hearing Jeff Buckley’s epic version.  It is a heartbreaking song, littered with biblical references to Samson and Delilah, King David and Bathsheba.  I was happy to be in the city where Hallelujah made its debut on the tour.
The last highlight of the show – yet another snippet – was the inclusion of the Shine Like Stars coda at the end of With Or Without You.  My friend Cathal often wonders why most die-hard fans go bonkers after hearing this extra lyric.  I think the best explanation is because of its rarity.  It had only been sung 5 times up until that evening. I had heard it twice on the 360° Tour before in Dublin III and Zagreb II – so it is a treat to hear it again, “We’ll shine like stars in the summer night / We’ll shine like stars in the winter light / One heart, one hope, one love.”  With Or Without You is paradoxically a song about a troubled romantic relationship.  A paradox because some people associate it as a love song.  But the inclusion of the shine like stars coda gives the song a gloss of hope in the troubled relationship – that the love is almost as eternal as the stars in the sky; that the unifying love can withstand the change in season for centuries on end.  It is a beautiful lyric and I am unashamed to belt it out loud whenever it makes a rare appearance.
By the end of the show, we shuffled our way back to the hotel.  We didn’t have to deal with the rain, but there was a bit of mud and 80,000 people deal with.  We eventually met up with Jorge who looked upset for not coming back later in the queue to meet us.  He still made it into the pit, but I can empathize with Jorge, a show is nowhere nearly as special as it is when you spend it with good friends.  We also connected with Amp and Drew.  I also met some new people on our zombie shuffle back – Val and Kristen and their group of friends – who seem to share the same spirit of U2touring as we do.  Everyone seemed intent on heading to the next show in Toronto.  I had a ticket, ride and place to stay, but opted to go to Ottawa instead to relax and hang out with my old Edmonton friends – Dan, Davin and Lorie – who I hadn’t seen in 8 months.  I was really run down and exhausted from the multi-day queue.  One night sleeping outside, the subsequent night indoors, but both evenings with less than 3 hours of sleep.  I needed to get away from the queue for a little bit in order to recuperate and prepare for the grand finale – Moncton.
Thanks to Heather for lending me a few of her photos for this post.
My pictures from this show is available here.

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