360˚ Tour Review: Part 1 – Pre Tour and Europe
It was magical to see the tour for the first time with over 90,000 screaming Catalans, and I was blown away by the sheer size of the stage, the lighting production, and the new songs on set list – particularly Unknown Caller, I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (Redanka Remix), and Moment Of Surrender. When I first heard I’ll Go Crazy from outside the stadium the day before, I wasn’t such a fan because I thought it veered too much away from the original version. It wasn’t until I saw the song live that I finally appreciated its performance value – it was so much fun to dance and sing along to when seen, not heard.
The second night in Barcelona was even better with the very rare inclusions of Electrical Storm and an encore performance of I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (album version). These were the times when the hanging microphone at the start of Ultra Violet (Light My Way) was not yet lighted, but still impressive. Michael Jackson had just died, and Bono was singing snippets of Billie Jean or Man In The Mirror after Desire or Angel Of Harlem throughout the leg. The shows were even more special to be able to reunite with my European friends, particularly the Dutch crew, who I hadn’t seen since the Vertigo Tour. Snow Patrol were the opening act – a band I had come to admire since I last saw them as openers for U2 for many of the European shows during the Vertigo Tour. Songs like Run, Chasing Cars, and Open Your Eyes stood out for me. They were able to get the crowd to sing along and get pumped up for U2, which any good opening act should be doing.
After Barcelona, I took a brief hiatus from 360˚ for a three week backpacking adventure in the Middle East. I flew into the region and traveled overland from northern Iraq, on towards Turkey, into Syria, and eventually crossing over into Lebanon. It was my third time traveling this part of the world, and loved the challenge of making it from desert to sea. All the while, I was listening to the album No Line On The Horizon during that journey, and songs like White As Snow and Fez-Being born resonated with me because of their references to the Middle East.
From Beirut, I made my way back to Dublin for the three shows in Croke Park. I was there in 2005 for the Vertigo Tour, and I was determined to make it back to the north side of Dublin. I had made plans months earlier with my friend Carrie (NY) to get GA tickets for nights I and III and seats for Dublin II. I hadn’t seen her since the Vertigo Tour, but was nice to have a reunion in Dublin four years later. It was a festive, almost carnival atmosphere in what I would consider the Mecca of any U2 tour.
More than any other city that I had visited, it was amazing to see how many international fans made it to Dublin. I had a great time being with my British friends in the queue, as well as a host of American fans that made it out for this Irish celebration. There were of course many nationalities at the Dublin gigs, some as far away as Brazil having made it to the show. For example, I made friends with Marina (Brazil) at Barnacles Hostel where we were staying. We met up again when I visited Sao Paulo for the shows there. Making these connections with people around the world is one of the many benefits from going to multiple shows, especially a hub like Dublin. I reconnected with Amy and Abby (US) who I met in Oslo during the Vertigo Tour, and it was really nice to meet Amy’s four year old daughter Anwyn who was already a big U2 fan! Amy was 3-months pregnant when I first met her and Anwyn claimed that she remembered me when I was in Oslo – very sweet of her to say so!
I will return to Dublin on the next tour for many reasons. The distinct Irish feel to the show, the fan reunions, and the atmosphere after each show are not to be missed. We had Damien Dempsey, Republic of Loose, Bell X1, and The Script open the shows over those three days – all of who were Irish bands. At the first concert, Bono and the Edge performed The Auld Triangle, a traditional Irish song.
From Poland, I took a train to Zagreb for the two shows in the Croatian capital. There were two people I met who were sharing the same train berth with me – Nick and Bronwyn (San Francisco). Overhearing their conversation about U2, we started chatting and found out that we shared the same passion to travel and see U2. They had gone to several European cities to see the band as I had, and I learned quite a bit from them. Up until that point, I started to find myself more agitated about the queue experience, particularly at Dublin III and Chorzow. Although I was high up in the queue, my tickets failed to scan, and had a delayed entry. I was separated from my friends and increasingly frustrated with the experience. Nick and Bronwyn had a different philosophy. Some shows, they would arrive at the concert venue at 6PM and be happy wherever they ended up on the pitch. Other shows, they would queue the day before and make it somewhere on the rail. Perhaps it was their west-coast mentality, but I was really inspired by their relaxed attitude.
I jumped on the tram to go back to my hostel and felt good about my decision. Upon passing the Regent Hotel, I saw a bunch of people with U2 t-shirts waiting outside the lobby. I figured that this was the time U2 would be leaving their hotel to go to Maksimir Stadium. I got off with the hope of meeting U2. 10 minutes later, Larry came out and I was able to greet him and shake his hand. Bono then appeared and was able to get him to sign the only book I had on me – Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. Adam subsequently came around and signed my book. I was ecstatic! This never would have happened had I not left the queue, vindicating my decision to be more relaxed and to temper my expectations. I saw some of my Italian friends, including Eleonora at the hotel, and we all decided to go back to the stadium. We got there just as the run-entry started and as I got into the inner-circle, I found Andreas who was saving me a spot at the front.
The show itself was amazing. Maksimir Stadium was a relatively smaller stadium compared to the other venues I had been to, with a little more than 60,000 people attending each show (Barcelona had over 91,000 each night, Dublin had about 81,000 per show, and Chorzow had 75,000 fans). There were many central and east European fans, as well as several Italian fans at this show (since Italy is just across the Adriatic Sea from Croatia). I didn’t have tickets but Davor (Croatia) had contacted me through my website and helped me out with GAs. Zagreb was significant because it was the most proximate city for those who lived in the Bosnia and Herzegovina region and had suffered through the Balkan wars. Alma Catal, the star of Bill Carter’s documentary Miss Sarajevo, was at the show and listening to the song Miss Sarajevo was all the more touching because of the historical significance to the region. Context matters.
I was also over-the-moon to see Simona make it up on stage to dance with Bono during Mysterious Ways. She was so good that the entire stadium started chanting her name after the song, “Simona! Simona! Simona!” It was the perfect way to end her European tour. At the end of the concert, Phil fulfilled the promise he made to me at the previous show and gave me Bono’s set list – my first of five on the tour (Zagreb II, Chicago I, Sydney I, Vancouver, and Winnipeg [Larry’s set list]). The afternoon started as a nightmare, but by the end of the night, a dream of a show materialized. Leaving the queue and calming my attitude turned out to be an valuable lesson.
After Croatia, I made it back to London for the two shows at the new Wembley Stadium. I didn’t have tickets for these shows either, but my friend Wendy (London) helped secure some GAs for me at the last minute. There were two gate entrances to Wembley, so I had to divide my time between the two to see my friends. I hung out mostly with Adrian (Leeds) and it was good to have a buddy in line to talk to during those long hours. Unlike in North American and Latin American where multi-day queues are the norm, most European shows simply required an arrival time of early in the morning to have a good spot in line.
One thing I enjoyed about seeing U2 live was their banter and story telling. Just before Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Bono’s speech was as follows:
It was a funny moment and a memory that stood out from the London shows. The London Tube was remarkable in being able to ship 80,000 people out of Wembley. Mnay cities like Edmonton or Chrozow could learn from them! After the first concert, I was able to get back to my buddy’s flat within an hour for a nap before going back in line the next morning. The police were very comedic, using U2lyrics in their instructions of how to get on the Tube easily. I was sad to say goodbye to my European and Middle Eastern adventure, the European shows, and the friends I made on this leg, but was confident that I would see them again in the future.
My 360˚ Tour Review will continue with Part 2 – North America and Tour Postponement on my next posting.