360° Tour Review: Part 3 – Australia
I got into Sydney on December 10, 2010 – three days before the first show. I was able to hang out with my relatives who I was to spend Christmas and New Year’s after the concerts. My aunt seemed perplexed that I needed to leave for ANZ Stadium a day before the show, and even more confused when I said that I was going to do this for two shows back-to-back, and again in Perth on the other side of the country. I informed her that I wanted to line up so I could get a good spot on the floor since it was first-come-first-serve, and that I was going to make some new friends. It’s hard to explain to others why we queue up and see multiple shows unless they’ve been to a U2 concert through the GA before. For me, it has been about the community of other traveling fans that I’m a part of, and the desire to be reconnected with them. Although I was going to the shows by myself, and had no idea who would be in the line, I was confident that there would be people I could befriend.
The days in Sydney were characterized by a scorching sun and relentless heat, and I actually got skin burned which was rare. We had the luxury of full washrooms with running water and hand dryers (not the usual port-a-potties). There were a lot of food stands set up, and McDonalds and Starbucks nearby, so getting a quick bite to eat was convenient. At the predictable time of 5PM, we were let into the stadium and it was a full-on run to the pit. Although I had not been to a U2 show since October 29, 2009 in Vancouver, I still remembered clear as day how to get to the pit efficiently. I was lucky to make it back to front row centre again and be at my preferred spot. As mentioned before, I like being at the front because I could take some good photos and see the band’s banter and performance without an obstructed view.
Rapper Jay-Z was the concert opener for the New Zealand / Australia leg of the tour. As mentioned previously, I grew up with rap and hip-hop and I was excited to see Jay-Z. Before coming to Australia, I watched his performance on YouTube from the Auckland show, and I was pumped to see him live. Of course, having Jay-Z as the opening act was going to split opinion among rock fans, but I appreciated his effort in getting fans ready for the show. Songs like Run the Town (“Everybody bounce, come on bounce, come on bounce…”), Empire State of the Mind, Dirt Off Your Shoulders, Big Pimpin’, Young Forever, and Numb Encore were recognizable hits that got the crowd… well, bouncing!
Although I had heard it several times from the 2010 European bootlegs, this was my first chance to hear and see the introductory song – Return of the Stingray Guitar. It was a really great opener because Bono would navigate the outer circle catwalk, which got the crowd going before the jump into Beautiful Day. Each U2 concert seems to borrow a hue of the city to help illuminate the show. Bono will always make some reference to the happenings of what is going on locally to make the show more relevant to the hometown crowd. Oprah was in Sydney to film her show, and it was unsurprising that Bono mentioned the Chicago native several times and referenced her audience who were attending the gig. Oprah seems universally loved, and the crowd went bonkers when they heard she was there.
Although the band sound checked a full version of Love Rescue Me, we had to wait another night before we heard this rare song.However, we were treated to Bad – a song that is seemingly treasured whenever it is performed – along with an add-on snippet of INXS’ Never Tear Us Apart. Bad had only been performed ten times earlier on this tour, and would only be played twice more after Sydney. It was always a treat to hear this epic song.
U2 also performed a bit of Bob Geldof’s Do They Know It’s Christmas to acknowledge the festive season and his presence in the audience. For a Canadian to be somewhere hot during December was profound, and to be at a U2 concert where there were many references to the Christmas holidays was remarkable. After Moment of Surrender, I was able to get Bono’s set list from Phil (Bono’s tech) who was surprised to see me back on tour as it had been a while. It was nice of him to pass on the set list as a souvenir of the show.
After the show, it was an easy exit and return to the queue. There were fans that did not go to the first Sydney show, but had started the line for the second one. I was number 21 – not bad compared to North American back-to-back shows where the lines are so much longer for the second night. There was no stress from having to run back to the queue and compete with others to get a high number. There was no jockeying for position as is usually the case in North American lines. After getting my number, I met up with my friends, reclaimed my pool mattress that I hid in a concrete block earlier that day, and went to sleep. It was easy to fall asleep despite the noise – sheer exhaustion has its benefits. The next day, I got ready for the show and was prepared for another memorable night.
The second Sydney concert featured a full version of All I Want Is You, which was last played at the closing show of the Vertigo Tour in Honolulu on December 9, 2006. After, U2 finally broke into Love Rescue Me. We had heard it in sound check, and was great to see this song of lamentation and doubt. Love Rescue Me had not been played live since January 10, 1990 – almost 20 years ago – during the Lovetown Tour. It was evident that the band was struggling a bit with this song, but we appreciated their effort and inclusion of such a rarity. We were also gifted with a It was no surprise to hear these Rattle and Hum gems in Australia, for it was here where the Lovetown Tour began, a continent where U2 wanted to have a change of environment before they went away and dreamed it up all again.
After the Sydney shows, I left for Perth, Western Australia for the remaining two shows of 2010. I found Perth to be a lovely ocean side city. It wasn’t a massive metropolis as Sydney was, but quite the opposite. My accommodation was a five minute walk to the tram station, and another ten minute ride to the concert venue. Perth was the furthest city away from home for me (9,600 miles / 15,444 kilometers). Because Perth was the remotest city from most die-hard U2 fans I knew, there were very few people in line. I got to Subiaco Oval the morning before the show expecting to see a queue formed, but I couldn’t find anyone.
So I left to Cottosloe beach to swim and sunbath. I absolutely loved that open, expansive, quiet beach that was easily accessible by tram. While lying on the beach in the late afternoon, I got a text from my friend Cathal informing me that the line had started already. I made my way to Subiaco and was only number 10 in line.
Some friends I met in Sydney made it to Perth – Shannon (Perth), Daniel and Simon (Perth), Chris (Sydney), Kara (Adelaide), Martijn (Netherlands) Marty (UK) and Jana (Sao Paulo). Steve, Djundi, Wendy, Emily and Wayne were new friends I had made while waiting at the easy-going Perth queues, and it was good to see Jillana (one of the famous ‘Three Sisters’) there too. There was a big grocery store and many restaurants near the Oval, so getting provisions was an easy task. Although Perth can get as hot as 35°C during the day, it can get fairly cold at night because of the wind coming off the ocean. The first night I slept in the queue, I was freezing, which made it a very uncomfortable sleep. The second night, Simon was kind enough to lend me his sleeping bag as he opted to crash at home for the night. The sleeping bag saved my life! U2 friends are the best.
Speaking of friends, I had seen Jana in the Sydney queues and she made it up on stage for In A Little While for its first show. I didn’t get a chance to really chat with her until we were in the pit for Perth II. Upon chatting with my mates along the front rail, I sat down beside her and made a new friend. I was really impressed that she started a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) in Africa that worked toward reintegrating former child soldiers into society. Jana started this initiative at the grass roots level and the commitment to such a cause was something worth noting. I asked if she had spoken to Bono about this project, and she said yes, when they crossed paths at the Brisbane concert earlier in the month.
I spoke about my doctoral studies, and my work with a NGO in Edmonton that researches social policy issues like poverty reduction, homelessness, housing, health, etc. It’s amazing whenever we met people in the queue who have similar interests and becomes friends after. Colleen, another friend I met through Jana, was initially inspired to form an Amnesty International group at her school in New Jersey, went on to the field of Russian Studies, and continued to do some amazing work with Amnesty International while in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. All of my U2 friends had met as equals, as fans that are passionate for the music, but as we get to know each other, a variety of lives and backgrounds are revealed.
Getting to know Jana started a thread of new meetings that eventually wove into a network of great U2 friends. She invited all who could make the trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil for the three shows there. Martijn and I made it down to South America, and some of their friends made the trip too – Amp (NY), Flavia (Buenos Aires), Colleen (Vermont) and Nick and Brad (California – who I had known previously). I got to hang out with Amp quite a bit while in Sao Paulo, and I convinced him to come to the first Mexico City show to meet up with Pat (Arkansas). While at the Mexico queues, Pat introduced us to his friends Jorge (San Fran) and Drew (Philly) and we all hung out together.
Throughout the rest of North America, this growing group of GA gypsies met up at various cities and helped each other out with tickets, accommodation, transport, and food. By the time we reached Moncton, the majority of us were together, but had a bittersweet end to the tour. We were forming strong bonds, but the end came too soon. Before getting to know them, I often drifted comfortably on my own from show to show. Yet these were the friends I came to rely on and looked forward to throughout the last leg of 360°. These special friendships formed with this group would not have happened had I not sat down with Jana at Perth II with the invitation to come down to Brazil.
Getting back to Perth, the shows themselves were special (but weren’t they all?). The last time U2 played in Perth was on February 17, 1998 during the Popmart Tour. At Perth II, U2 played Love Rescue Me and All I Want Is You again. There was a palatable Christmas / year-end mood in the air given that the holiday was only 6 days away. Bono sang a bit of John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over) which was an epic stadium sing-along. It was also great to hear Desire which I hadn’t heard for a while, not since Europe 2009.
The one moment that really stood out was Bono’s speech before I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, “Happy Christmas and may 2011 bring you all you want it to bring. And for all those important journeys, our prayer is that you don’t get there too quickly.” I remember tearing up as he spoke those words because it struck a deep chord within me. I was away from my family during Christmas for the first time in my life. I was literally half way around the world, and I missed them and my hometown friends dearly. Also, flashes of my past backpacking journeys in some difficult places and the challenging road of my PhD were on my mind. Bono illustrated an important point that maybe there is virtue in the struggle itself — that the long journeys are the ones that have the greatest value. The drawback of going to so many shows is that it is easy to lose the spontaneous excitement associated with going to your first concert. However, it was a special moment like that which made the show outstanding for me.
Near the end of the show, a very loud Irish fan beside me kept yelling to Bono to sing Party Girl in lieu of the festive spirit. Bono turned to the Edge and he shrugged his shoulder and wasn’t sure. To get a decisive call, Bono looked at Larry and he scowled and wagged his head “No”. Always the diplomat, Bono didn’t ask the band to play a full version of Party Girl and instead sung an a capella version. This is very telling – you know you who wears the pants in the band – it’s Larry! Since then, I discount any pronouncements made by Bono of any new U2 albums or songs coming out. If you want the real deal, ask Larry!
It was a wonderful way to end the Australia tour and 360° in 2010. There was plenty of time after to decompress and relax at the beach, surf, and go scuba diving. I got a chance to travel to Melbourne, Sydney, and Cairns – cities I probably would not have visited for a while had it not been for the excuse to see the U2 concerts. Equally as important, I made some new friends who I was going to visit and see the shows with at the next continent I was traveling – South America.
My 360˚ Tour Review will continue with Part 4 – South Africa and Latin America featured in my next posting.