Review – Moncton
Since there were two opening acts for this show (Arcade Fire and Carney), we were let on the venue grounds earlier than normal. By 3PM, we went through security check and ticket scanning before being walked in segments towards the inner circle. The field was on a gradient, so walking on the slick grounds was important for the sake of safety. It was a bit anti-climatic not being able to run, but all things considered, a walk in was the safest option. I was extremely lucky to make it to my preferred spot on the rails – front-row-centre. Everyone has a preference, and I like the front rails because it offers me an unobstructed view of the band. I like seeing their banter and mix-ups. Also, since I’m not the tallest of blokes, having no one in front of me helps me take good photos and having something to lean on during the show helps ease the tiredness. I was even more happy to enjoy the concert with my good U2 friends – the ones I had traveled with around the world and shared vivid memories of the many concerts we had seen. Whether that was in Barcelona, Dublin, Zagreb, Chorzow, London, Sydney, Perth, São Paulo, Mexico City, or anywhere else in North America for that matter, it was rather fitting to end the tour together.
The rain had stopped just before the opening act, and it was a real relief to peel off my poncho and jacket. I was communicating with my friend Colleen who was with her boyfriend Greg and were on their way to the show. She had never seen U2 live before, and I kept building up the concert as though it was the greatest show on earth. They arrived fairly late in the day, but I knew that Edge’s side in the pit was wide open. Most people don’t know how to get into the inner circle, which is the reason why I drew maps of the pitch in my GA guide. After several texts, I met them at the cattle gates and lead them into the pit. It’s always exciting to bring friends who had never been to a U2 show, let alone on the 360° tour. They had no expectations for the show, and I was confident that U2’s performance and the spectacle of the production would impress them. To see Colleen and Greg there felt strange, yet gratifying, to be honest. In my mind, the 360° tour had become almost an intimate affair among the U2 faithful. I made new friends – bonded by the music and from traveling the world on this tour. Bringing Colleen and Greg into the inner circle was like introducing strangers to a different universe that I had come to love over the past two years. Some fans can be very protective, almost defensive of our passion to travel with the tour, because of outside judgement from others. I know I had received some scathing, yet baseless, statements in the ‘Comments’ section of the Edmonton Journal that had several articles written about me and my friends in the queue. Needless to say, I trusted Colleen and Greg, knowing they weren’t the judgmental types. Like other good friends I’ve invited to a U2 concert for their first time, I was happy to share a part of my soul – that innocent happiness – that I discovered through the U2 community while traveling.
The first opening act was Carney – fronted by brothers Zane and Reeve Carney, and accompanied by Aiden Moore and Jon Epcar. Reeve, of course, plays Peter Parker / Spiderman in Bono and Edge’s Broadway musical Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark. I thought Reeve had great vocal range and the band had some good tunes. It’s hard to view Reeve as a hard-edged rock-and-roll lead, but the band’s performance fit the bill. They were animated and tried to get the crowd going. There was a point in their performance where I thought Reeve was serenading Vik, but I think that was just him trying to look like a brooding rock-and-roll star. While waiting for U2 to eventually come on, we were treated to a couple of fighter jet fly-bys as entertainment. “I can see those fighter planes...” They sure beat the Snow Birds we got in Winnipeg!
Next up, Arcade Fire. I really like this band. They are musically gifted (as evidenced by their rotation of instruments), lyrically deep, and are entertaining live. My friend Cathal, who doesn’t do GA, spotted Bono off to the side and texted me, “Just saw Bono in full stage outfit on his own in tunnel under stand behind stage dancing to Arcade Fire :).” I had seen them in concert and up close in 2005 (Winnipeg), 2010 (Calgary), and 2011 (Dartmouth) and always enjoyed their performance. Before coming on stage, an instrumental version of Beautiful Day played on the PA (reminiscent of their entrance when they opened during the Vertigo Tour in Montreal and Ottawa). Wyn, Regine, Will, Richard, Tim, Marika, and Sarah were electrifying as always. Ready to Start was a rather appropriate opener, and other highlights were Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), We Used to Wait, Wake Up and Sprawl II. It was during Wake Up when all the die-hards went absolutely bonkers. U2 had used Wake Up before they entered the arena/stadium during the Vertigo Tour, similar to the use of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Listening to that song and singing at the top of my lungs brought me back to the Vertigo Tour 5-6 years ago. It was quite the feeling to scream to Arcade Fire’s anthem with fellow U2 fans – profoundly connected and transported back in time.
After opening acts and while the crew set up U2’s instruments, the PA system changed the usual rotation of pre-concert music that featured songs by Arcade Fire, Broken Bells, Danger Mouse, and The Black Keys. Instead, the crew played songs about saying goodbye and departure such as John Denver’s Leaving On A Jet Plane (sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary), The Final Countdown by Europe, The Last Time by The Rolling Stones, It’s The End Of The World by REM, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. While I loved the festive mood as we sung these tunes, deep down, I started to feel really sad. This marked the beginning of the end of 360°. It hit me pretty hard while looking up at the statistics that were scrolling on the screen: ‘Tour Cities Remaining: 0‘. On the 360° tour, I had gone to 33 shows through 19 cities in 10 countries on 4 continents. All but one were GA and it was all about to end here in Moncton.
Shortly after 9PM, the familiar sounds of Space Oddity started to ring throughout Magnetic Hill as U2 entered the venue. Standing beside Vik can be physically challenging because he frequently yells out, “Come On!” to pressure you to jump higher and sing louder. It is a real workout, but worse because we were starved, dehydrated, and exhausted. Nevertheless, we still find the energy to enjoy the show. Since it was the last concert, every note, lyric, and chorus seemed more richer and vibrant than past gigs. Bono made several references to the fact that it was the end of 360° in his lyrics and speeches, which struck deep, emotional chords within me.
Near the end of Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Bono added some lyrics that celebrated the end of 360°: “3 o’clock in the morning / as the trucks roll out of town / Ray Daniels, we’ll be thinking of you / sittin’ on his cloud / 110 shows / strangely this feels like home / glad my wife is here tonight / it’s not a night to be alone / everybody’s lover / everybody’s brother / all came here for the show / some loves… some loves are just so hard to let go / 3 o’clock in the morning / it’s quiet there’s no one around / just the band and the clatter / as 360 leaves town.
(You can see me at the front with a big grin and my yellow-lettered OSAKA t-shirt)
I was awestruck. These added-on lyrics embodied everything I felt about the end of the tour, about who I was and what I went through, and it was tough not to burst out in tears. The downside of going to many shows was that it became more difficult to be swept up in spontaneity. However, when those rare lyrical gems come along, like this one, they can deeply affect me, evoking bright memories that I can use as lodestars in times of uncertainty.
Another emotional tidal wave I was caught under were the references made in the middle of Until The End Of The World regarding the Arab Spring – the recent revolutionary waves of demonstration and protests in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yeman, Iran, and Syria. I had developed a close affinity with that region after backpacking in several countries there in 2007, 2008, and 2009. As mentioned in a previous post, the summer of 2009 was a particularly memorable one for me. I was listening to No Line On The Horizon continuously while I was backpacking. I went to the 360° tour opener in Barcelona and then flew by myself to the Middle East to embark on an overland journey from northern Iraq > southeastern Turkey > Syria > Lebanon. After a couple of weeks, I flew from Beirut back to Dublin in time for the U2 shows at Croke Park and continued the tour in Poland, Croatia, and England. The history, people, and culture in these Middle Eastern countries were fascinating on that trip. I wasn’t able to make to Iran in 2009 because I didn’t have time to get a visa, but I will go next summer in 2011. Although I had seen this routine at previous shows when Bono threw flowers and begged for peace in Damascus, Tripoli, and Tehran, on that particular evening, I lamented at the oppression happening in those countries I had and will visit.
Of course there were many moments that were full of joy. After I Still Haven’t Found What I Found What I’m Looking For, Bono belted our the Ballad of Springhill, a special song that commemorates the mining disaster that took place in the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia (neighbour province to New Brunswick). There were thousands of Nova Scotians that made the journey to Moncton, so that song must have been touching for them to hear this rendition.
Just before Bono and the Edge broke into Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Bono gave a bit of love to those of us who had traveled and seen multiple shows. He asked several of us at the front as to how many concerts we had seen. Amp was holding up a sign that read, “Please play 40 for my 40th show”. Bono called it out and asked, “How long have you been on this [tour]? How many …how many shows? It’s your 40th show.” He then pointed to Sandra and Bono responded in astonishment, “75th… WHAT?! Over a few tours, okay thank God for that.” Pointing to Vik, “How many? 20.” And so he continued down our row as we called out the number of shows we had seen. We are certainly a privileged and spoiled lot. The traveling fans, as I like to call ourselves, attend strings of shows in different countries and often meet up and share our resources (tickets, accommodation, transportation, and food). We are fortunate to have the time (to get off work or school) and wherewithal to dream out loud. It is obvious that U2 do not have many tours left – perhaps 2 more before their contract with Live Nation expires? For me, I know that at this stage of my life, I wanted to live like its the last night on earth. Circumstances will certainly change in two to three years time when the next tour is scheduled, and I may not have the same opportunities as I did during this tour. Someone in the Edmonton queue wisely remarked that, “When I’m old, I want to enjoy my memories. These (U2 and the tours) are my memories.” Another fan that was beside me at the London Wembley II show said that U2 made the soundtrack to her life. I was fortunate to share the Moncton show beside others who shared my passion for travel and for the music, and I was pleasantly surprised that Bono recognized that too.
During I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, instead of the usual bopping heads of U2 appearing on the screens, the video montage featured the dancing trunks of the tour crew. It was absolutely hilarious to see crew members like Ajay and Smasher and familiar faces that we had seen while on tour being featured for this techno-escapade. This homage to the crew was another strong reason why the last show of the tour was so special. There was so much more of a relaxed and festive atmosphere on stage and it was clear the band were just letting it loose.
One fun aspect of going to many U2 shows is developing an ear whenever the band (particularly Edge and Bono) make small mistakes during the show. During Walk On, Bono messed up the lyrics:
You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be seen to be believed (should have been a place that has to be believed to be seen).
We were singing along, then looked at each other in amusement and started laughing when we saw Bono enter into that lyric with hesitation, and realized his own error with a smile and shrug. When he saw us rolling with hilarity, Bono started laughing too. After the song, Amp held up a sign that read, “Is Bono’s teleprompter working yet?” Edge read the sign, smiled and shrugged his shoulders as well. It was nice innocent exchange between the band and the fans.
The rest of the show continued to be a roller coaster ride of emotions – from Zooropa, Where The Streets Have No Name, One, With Or Without You and Moment Of Surrender. Many of us had wished that a surprise guest performance by Reeve Carney or Arcade Fire would appear during the show, just as Greenday’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Pearl Jame’s Eddie Veder had done at the Vertigo Tour closer in Honolulu, but that didn’t happen. This is not to suggest that we were disappointed.
After Moment Of Surrender, we kept calling out, “Keep going! Don’t let it end!” U2 had already penciled in an extra song – Out Of Control – as we had seen on the set list afterward. Yet we wanted just a little more to keep the night going. Phil brought out a bottle of champagne while Bono continued to talk. With the bottle shaken and opened, Bono sprayed the champagne to those of us at the front, which was great fun. Usually Trash, Trampoline, and Party Girl would follow after a champagne shower, but a different more appropriate song emerged – ’40’. The setlist We recognized it was going to be ’40’ right away once we saw Adam and Edge switch instruments and sides as they always do what they play this remarkable song.
’40’ made its first and last appearance on the 360° tour. As we know, the song was inspired (almost lifted) from Psalm 40. It follows in the same spirit of several U2 songs about deliverance, grace, redemption, and keeping faith in the face of adversity. There were moments during that song when I simply closed my eyes and took a spiritual journey through the many countries I visited over the past three summers and found closure when Bono offered a prayer at the end, “God bless you, keep you. God smile on you and gift you. God look you full in the face and make you prosper.”
After another minute of instrumental bliss by the departing band members, first Bono, then Edge, followed by Adam, Larry ended the concert with a drum solo. This was rather appropriate given that Larry started the tour in Barcelona (June 30, 2009) and ended it on his own in Moncton, “Thank you Moncton. We’ll miss you guys. Good night. God bless.” With Larry – the founding band member – coming full circle, it really was a 360° tour. It was a bittersweet end, but as Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” It had been a wonderful journey and I was blessed to have shared it with some amazing people.
My pictures from the the general admission and concert is available here.