Monday, June 27, 2005

U2 in Croke Park

Even by my standards this is going to be a long post. I went to see the U2 concert in Croke Park on Saturday night. They were brilliant, and I feel I need to talk about it :-).

They are playing 3 concerts in Dublin over this weekend and over 80,000 people are going to each concert. I think they would have no problem selling out several more concerts in Croke Park. I'd go again next weekend if I could.

After missing out on the official ticket sales and a week of hunting for a ticket I had to swallow my pride and buy one from a tout. Normally the only way I would go near a tout is with a roll of gaffer tape, a bucket of water and an electric cattle prod (the pricks deserved to be made suffer long and painfully before being thrown into shipping containers and dumped in the deepest part of the Atlantic). Unfortunately by Saturday evening it appeared that it was either get a ticket from a tout or miss the concert. I wont say how much I paid but it was WAY over the face value and that was still a lot less than what the tout first asked for. Later on I did come across two genuine fans with spare tickets who were trying to sell them at cost price, damn!

I saw loads of foreign visitors who had come to Dublin just to see U2 play in their home town. Some were also looking for tickets from touts and had come over in the hope of getting a ticket. One English girl sitting beside me said herself and her friends had come over just for the concert and afterwards said the show was much better in Dublin (though she didn't say where else she had seen them).

I got into the stadium and it was maybe 10% full. First thing I did when I got into the stadium was go buy a Vertigo 05 t-shirt and a white silicone Make Poverty History wristband (I had previously gotten one made from material but that broke). Now suitably equipped I was ready for the show.

The seat I had was on the Upper Tier close to the back and the Canal End (bloody tout) but I could still see the stage and the seats are at a steep angle so my view wasn't going to be obstructed unless some NBA basketball team showed up. At about 6:30pm the stadium was 25% full and The Thrills came on stage to start the warm up. Poor chaps. They could have been singing to an empty stadium for all the attention they got. Everyone was there for U2 and didn't care who else was on stage. As the lead singer said, the biggest cheer he got was when he threw a beach ball back into the pit. How embarrassing, less popular than an orange beach ball.

After 20 or so minutes they finished up and at about 7:30pm Paddy Casey arrived on stage. Now the stadium was about half full and people were a bit more enthusiastic, or drunk, so he got more of a reaction from the crowd, though most people still didn't care. He played for about half an hour and now the stadium was 3/4 full and people were in a much bouncier mood. After Paddy Casey the crowd started doing Mexican waves and the excitement was building.

Suddenly at 8:50 there were the 4 lads standing at the front of the stage greeting the crowd. The lads head to their respective instruments and kick the show off with "Uno, dos, tres, catorce!" and Vertigo. Bono stood at the edge of the stage taking part in the biggest sing along in the world that night as 82,000 people sang their hearts out. More songs followed, and the lads moved around the stage and out into the audience on two curved platforms. A girl was pulled up onto one of the platform and Bono sang to her. So far the gig was good but nothing special. A mix of old and new songs as the night goes on and gradually gets darker.

Then at about 10:30 the band says good night and goes off stage. Of course everyone knows they are coming back for an encore, the previous night they had done 2 encores. After a couple of minutes back they come. The big screen is put to proper use, the lights on the stage turn on and the show kicks off properly. At least this was the first time I really noticed it, maybe it was just dark enough now. Anyway now the show shoots into orbit as the big screen displays messages, graphics and even live footage of Bono, not bad for what looked like a metal grid at the start of the evening.

The real highlight was when Bono introduced Where The Streets have no Name. The flags of Africa scrolled down the big screen and 82,000 people sang along. Spine tingling.

Bono does a bit of a speech on Africa, nothing too long and he informs the people that Bertie Ahern is in the audience. Bono is trying to appeal to Bertie to meet a commitment of 0.7% GDP in foreign aid but no one can hear him. Now this was strange, at first the crowd applauded, then like an earlier Mexican wave people started booing, it started at the far side of the pitch and grew. Those who kept applauding, like myself, were drowned out by the herd mentality and I received nasty looks from some scumbags around me. Screw em, I kept applauding. The booing lasted only a few seconds, but of course it got reported in the media this morning as if it was a big thing. They also booed a picture of Tony Blair, but it was put up on screen to get just that reaction from the crowd. That aside the night was good spirited and no one was too serious despite what the papers said this morning.

In an interesting twist before singing One Bono asked everyone to turn Croke Park into a Christmas tree using the screens of their mobiles phones. People all over the stadium then held up their mobile phones. I guess mobile phones are the cigarette lighters of the 21st century.

After singing Mysterious Ways Bono and The Edge were out on one of the curved platforms extending into the crowd. Bono turns to The Edge and they talk for a few seconds. Then Bono points into the crowd and asks someone to come up onto the platform. A guy in a white t-shirt gets up and Bono tells the crowd that it pays to advertise. He asked the guy if he has anything to say but the chap is too excited. Then Bono asks him if he can play, the answer is yes and up he goes to the main stage. Bono introduces him as Matt from Canada and after a technical hitch with a spare electric guitar he is given one of The Edges acoustic guitars and joins the band in playing Party Girl. What a moment for Matt. Playing with the worlds biggest band in front of 82,000 people cheering him on. After the song ends he is told to go back to his friends, the lights go down and Matt runs down along the platform with the spot light on him and the crowd applauding him. No one back home will believe him :-)

Then, far too early for most fans who would have stayed singing all night, the show came to a close. The last song was a repeat of Vertigo, but this time it was 100 times better with the crowd in full voice and the lights at full effect.

And so a great night ended. People wandered out of the stadium, happy and contented, U2 had cast their spell again. If you get the chance you HAVE to go to see this show when it comes to a city near you. U2 are still the best band in the world and they sure know how to put on a show for their fans.

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