Sunday, 31 August 2008
The support was Audioweb and The Longpigs, I quite enjoyed the latter band. U2 came on quite early, 8.30pm, Pop Muzik blasted out of the huge bank of speakers and POP came up in red on the screens. the band came on from the left hand side and walked through the aisle between the enclosure and the main area of the pitch. they were dressed the same except for Bono wearing a blue robe rather than a white one. The first few songs were Mofo, I Will Follow, Gone the difference from the early US shows was astounding, the band was very together. The new songs were well received by the audience.
A lovely extra in this show was All I Want Is You, Staring at the Sun was acoustic done by Bono and Edge on the B-stage, very nice. Please was just fantastic, it's a highlight of this tour for me. Hold Me.... is done very differently form in the US, very theatrical and dramatic. Towards the end Bono took off his glasses, and without make-up, turned into MacPhisto again - his face just totally changed. He looked into the camera, his gorgeous blue eyes looking straight at us on the screens, and then he kissed the camera and put the shades onto it, then a picture of MacPhisto appeared on the screens. Wonderful stuff, and brilliant performing.
The images on the screens are great and really complement the music and never over-powering it or the band. From the back of the stadium where we were we saw the full effect of these images and colours.
After the end of the show we went around to the back of the stadium to see if we could catch the band leaving. We met up with Julie, Linda, Karen, Serena, Jackie and Sharon there. I also met up with online friends Michelle, Rory and Clare there too, that's one of the lovely things about U2 tours you get to bump into old friends!
Adam was the first to leave but he didn't stop, just waved from the car. Next was Edge who did the meet and greet, very politely shaking hands and signing autographs for fans as he worked his way along the row of people. He's such a sweetheart!
Third one to leave was Bono, as he came across an Australian girl shot over the barrier like lightening and grabbed him. He didn't look too pleased and she was gently removed by security.
It just shows how fast things like that can happen, luckily this girl was harmless.
Bono shook people's hands, chatted and signed autographs. He wasn't as organised as Edge, and was going back and forth along the line in a rather chaotic manner. I didn't get too close to him because there were people in front of me but I got some photos. It was still just nice to see him.
Last but certainly not least, was Larry who was an absolute star. He signed autographs for anyone who wanted them. He was happy for people to take photos and was so pleasant! I got my Staring at the Sun CD cover signed by him. I thanked him and he looked me right in the eye and said, "You're welcome" with a dazzling smile, what a charmer! When Larry does decide to meet the fans he really can be so nice, I wish he would do that more often.
So that was the end of a long but very enjoyable day in London. We'd seen a great show and met three of the band, not bad going for the first show of the UK leg of the Popmart Tour!
Saturday, 30 August 2008
We passed through gorgeous Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon on the way south. We stopped off at Montezuma's Castle, which is a twenty room, five storey structure built into a natural recess in a white limestone cliff about 70 feet above the ground. There are steps and ladders connecting the various rooms. This was the home of Sinagua Native American tribe who farmed the this land between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. Some time after this time they moved on from the area. It was boiling hot there, the sun seemed to reflect off the white cliffs and I found it unbearable. I'd been there a few years earlier and I remembered it was mind-numbingly hot then as well.
Monday, 18 August 2008
Next morning we breakfasted on coffee and biscuits in our rooms. We checked out a route to Bryce Canyon and then set off. The weather was pleasantly warm and we headed up into the Wasatch Mountains towards a place called Brian Head and snow was beginning to appear. As we drove there was more and more snow, the road had been cleared and huge piles of snow flanked each side of the road. Then, suddenly we were met by a wall of snow at least ten feet high! We couldn't believe it! It was also very cold and all we had on was summer clothing. Later we found out that Brian Head was Utah's highest ski resort.
Next morning we had tea and the remnants of the curly breadsticks for breakfast and took our leave of Parowan. We were quite sad to leave the little town behind! We headed south on Interstate 15 for what was going to be a long day's driving. We left the main road and went east towards Zion Canyon. It was very hot at Zion and dozens of lizards darted through the scrub and around the numerous cacti. This canyon was lovely too, again a lot of the rocks were striated in shades of a rusty red. The part of Zion we saw did not have hoodoos and the delicate almost laciness of Bryce, but it was beautiful too.
We stopped briefly at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary near Kanab which was a place that offers a home to any animal that needs it. We continued on the long lap of the journey that took us out of Utah and into Arizona, the first stop being the Grand Canyon. Dianne and I had been there before but the others had not. We went to the Bright Angel viewpoint and even at 5.30pm it was unfortunately still very busy. It is a stunning place, you can hardly believe what you are seeing, shame about the crowds. For me Bryce Canyon is the place. While we were there some deer were roaming amongst the people and the biggest rooks I've ever seen were watching from on high.
It was getting dark as we left the Grand Canyon and headed south for Flagstaff where we were staying for the next two nights. Once darkness fell I noticed the sky was incredibly clear because of the lack of light pollution and we could see the Hale-Bopp comet clearly visible just above the horizon.
Our hotel at Flagstaff was nice but right beside a railway line so there was a regular cacophony of train noise and hooting. But we'd had a long day and were exhausted and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
Next morning we set of early once more and headed towards the Little Painted Desert which is 20 miles north of Winslow, Arizona. As we entered Winslow we had Take It Easy by The Eagles blasting from the car stereo, "Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona..... " this is what an American road trip is all about! We drove along a straight, deserted desert road and pulled into the empty car park for the Little Painted Desert.
It was absolutely beautiful there, very hot but a cooling wind blew regularly taking the heat off a little. The site consisted of small multi-coloured cliffs and canyons arranged in a horseshoe shape, in the middle were little colourful hills. It did look like someone had taken a paint brush to the landscape, I'd never seen anything like it. We all wandered off in different directions and enjoyed the beauty and complete silence. Little purple, white, orange, yellow and white flowers growing everywhere.I don't follow any religion, but in places of such natural beauty like The Little Painted Desert, I feel a spirituality, a connection.
It is in the middle of the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the mesas of the Hopi Reservation were visible to the north. In the distance to the east I could see the snow-capped San Francisco Mountains that surround Flagstaff. It was an ethereal place and I could have stayed for hours. We eventually tore ourselves away, and as we left the car park another car arrived - good timing!
We went into nearby Winslow for a meal. I noticed a large percentage of the people there were Native American, there were also a lot of stores selling their traditional art and jewellery.
There was so much to see in that area but we couldn't do it all and we had to give The Painted Desert a miss which was a shame. Our next stop was Meteor Crater, somewhere I have always wanted to see ever since my childhood when I wanted to be an astronomer! The crater was created around 50,000 years ago by a meteor 54 yards across made of nickel and iron. It's landing would have created a cataclysm that affected all of the Earth. The crater was bigger than I expected - it is 4000 feet wide and 570 feet deep. It was so weird to see this huge crater suddenly just being there in the middle of the flat desert plain. It was also an incredibly hot place, the sun was unrelenting and I was soon wilting, so we went into the museum to cool off and learn more about the crater.
Our next stop was to be Walnut Canyon, close to Flagstaff, but it was late afternoon now and it was closed. So we headed back into Flagstaff, washed the desert dust off, and went for a delicious meal and cocktails in a Thai restaurant right beside our hotel.
I'd absolutely loved these few days of travelling, discovering the stunning sights of Utah and Arizona. I loved the feeling of freedom, driving along those long, straight roads, stopping off where we wanted along the way, and seeing the most amazing things. So, our tour madness really paid off big time!
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Mike then got out a bottle of thick brown liquid that he called a Mudslide and insisted that we try it. We tried it while glancing around for the police, it was quite nice really, God knows what it was!
The stadium was small by US standards, 39000, well organised, lots of women's toilets and polite well-behaved fans - there's something to be said for Mormons, Mudslide Mike!
I was surprised there were no songs from Zooropa so far in the tour, maybe some of them will come later. In my view some of the songs from Pop such as If God Will Send His Angels and If You Wear That Velvet Dress do not transfer well to the live situation and usually the opposite is true of U2 songs. But that could change as the tour progresses and the songs develop.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
We drove on through the wide open spaces of California's desertland, roads as straight as the Romans would have built, seemingly going on forever. For someone like me from a small, green island this was a totally new experience, with its seemingly endless horizons and unyielding landscape . The sky was pure blue and you could see the shimmer of the heat haze as the sun shone relentlessly, it was not a place you would want to break down in.
You could drive for miles and see no hint of humanity, which I thought was great! Nature still rules in the desert. Well, that is until you drive over into Nevada and see Las Vegas shimmering like a strange, colourful anomaly in the brown desert, but that is only a small blip of human encroachment in this big country, we by-passed the city and continued heading north.
As we drove into the north western corner of Arizona the landscape changed, now there were lots of red hills and mesas. We passed through the impressive Virgin River Gorge (photo to the right) which took us into Utah. The peaks of the Wasatch Mountains rose to our right, they would continue until we reached Salt Lake City. The landscape now was less desert like and south western Utah proved to have a varied countryside.
We pulled off the I15 at Cedar City, we'd driver over 400 miles and decided to have a stopover here. We looked for accommodation but nowhere had enough vacancies to take us in. One hotel though was very helpful and found out there were vacancies at the Swiss cottage best Western in the town of Parowan twenty miles north. So we got back onto the I15 and drove the short distance north - Parowan turned out to be a small, sleepy town. The hotel was expecting us and we soon settled into our rooms.
We were really hungry so Sharon and I set off in the car looking for some food. Parowan was a nice little place but it seemed to be "shut" we could find nowhere to buy something to eat. So we drove to the nearby town of Paragonah, but no luck there either! Back in Parowan we eventually found a garage that sold pizza and snacks that you could heat up in a microwave. So we bought our stuff, heated it and rushed back to the hotel before it got cold. It turned out to be quite nice, especially as we washing it down with southern Comfort!
Next day it was another early start, before we set off I stood for a while on the open corridor looking out over Parowan, horses were grazing in a field close by, it was so quiet, peaceful, I really liked this little town. Also for the first time since being in the US it felt cool, that was nice to feel.
The landscape was more alpine now. It was a pleasant journey, Utah I realised was a very beautiful state. As we passed Provo it looked really lovely surrounded by jagged snow-capped mountains. We closed in on Salt Lake City, which was flanked by huge mountains.
We found our hotel, the Olympus, easily and were soon phoning ticket brokers searching for U2 tickets! One had four good tickets which cost $150 (expensive in those days - how times have changed!). We went for it and walked the short distance to the broker's office. When we got there Sharon started panicking about getting the tickets and if they would be genuine. I couldn't believe it! We'd driven over 750 miles, agreed to buy them after the phone call and now she wasn't wanting to buy the tickets! The rest of us wanted to go ahead and in the end Sharon was happy to as well, sometimes you have to take risks in life. We felt elated to have tickets for the show in our hands.
Salt Lake City was a very clean, neat and organised city. Less frenetic than many other US cities and it felt very safe. Even our hotel was really quiet. We had an early night as after all our driving we were tired and we went to bed excited at the thought of seeing another U2 show the next day.
Monday, 11 August 2008
Sunday, 10 August 2008
The back garden was beautiful, it had a pool and jacuzzi. There was a towering saguaro cactus that woodpeckers had bored into and made their nests. There were lots of cacti (I'm a big cacti fan and Arizona's the place to see them!) palms, mesquite trees and colourful flowers in the garden. Bird treats hung in the trees attracting a plethora of feathered friends. Hummingbirds came to nectar feeders, tiny, luminescent, swift birds that could disappear in the blink of an eye. I'd never seen hummingbirds before.
There were little hidden areas to sit all over the garden and it was really relaxing to sit there once the heat of the day was over. We met Dianne's husband and her grown son, both very welcoming and friendly. I felt very at home there.
Next morning we were up early ready for our drive to San Diego. We put The Joshua Tree on the car stereo as this was true Joshua Tree country and much of Outside It's America was filmed in this area. As we passed Picacho Peak (an unusual rock formation by the highway between Tucson and Phoenix) In God's Country was playing just as it had in the TV programme, magic U2 moment!
Like U2, we stopped at Gila Bend (founded 1872) - there was nowhere else to stop! It was a very small town in the middle of this amazing barren landscape. I found I loved the desert, stark and unrelenting, jagged mountains, it was nature in charge, and had a awe-inspiring beauty about it.
Gila Bend was a one street town, you could almost think you were back in the old Wild West! It was hot, dusty and run down. We wanted to go into the bar U2 had ten years earlier, of the two bars that we saw, one The Owl, was boarded up, the other, Shelby's was open so there was no choice, Shelby's it was! We walked in and it was full of men who all seemed to turn to look who had arrived, I suppose you don't get a Canadian and three Brits walking into a bar in Gila Bend very often! It wasn't the bar U2 had been in and we drank our Cokes, and left and headed on towards San Diego. (Picacho Peak - Photo © by Jeff Dean)
The landscape became more boring as we approached Yuma which seemed a God forsaken place and we were glad to leave it behind. Eventually, we arrived at San Diego, it was cooler there and I immediately liked the city, not too big, flowers everywhere. We checked in our hotel and then decided to find the Jack Murphy Stadium as we had no idea where it was! We found it quite easily and got talking to two fans Milton and Chelsea. They were really nice and suggested we go to the world famous Hotel Del Coronado (known locally as the Hotel Del) for a drink. As we had nothing planned for the evening we said yes. Chelsea said she would guide us and just to follow her. It was my turn to drive that night and it seemed miles and miles to the hotel, Chelsea drove fast and I spent most of the trip verging on a panic attack as I tried to keep up with her and not cause an accident! I was so relieved to arrive at the hotel!
The Coronado opened in the early 1890's and has been popular ever since with the rich and famous. It has featured in quite a few films over the years. It is a rambling, many turreted hotel with white walls and red rooves situated right beside the Pacific Ocean. As we arrived at night we couldn't see it in all it's grandeur, but our approach was lovely enough, with the old building floodlit giving it a fairytale appearance and the sound of the Pacific's waves crashing on the shore nearby.
It was very grand inside and we found some seats in the lobby and ordered extremely expensive coffee, we couldn't afford anything else though we were hungry! The building's history was well preserved which was good to see.
After a while, Dianne and I went downstairs to where we could hear music playing. An Eagles tribute band was on stage and we really enjoyed listening to them. I never forget when they played Hotel California thinking that yes, I was in the grand old lady of hotels in California, it was so appropriate, it was one of those magic "moments" you get in life that you never forget.
We also went outside on a walkway facing the Pacific from which there would have been a glorious view if it had been daylight. Smelling the salt in the air and hearing the waves break on the shore was still very pleasant though. I vowed then that one day I'd come back to the Hotel Del as a guest. I haven't managed that yet, but maybe during U2 Tour 2009?
After an enjoyable time at the Coronado we headed off for our hotel. Chelsea was going to guide us back there as we had no idea where to go! Luckily Jane was driving on the way back so my nerves were not frazzled and I got the chance to appreciate San Diego at night and it looked wonderful, I really liked this city.
Next day April 28th was show day! We weren't sure what to expect of the second show of the PopMart Tour after the near disaster at Las Vegas. But we needn't have been, right from the start it had the magic! Bono seemed driven, probably smarting from negative reviews from Las Vegas.
Last Night on Earth rocked. Bono dedicated Pride to his daughters "Jojo and Evie" which I thought was sweet. It was a night of dedications as "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was for all the fans who had stood by them all through the years and through all their "mutations". We all smiled at that, nice to have our dedication recognised by the band.
The set list was much the same as Las Vegas except that "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" wasn't played - phew no hugging a dress on a stand! The new songs were performed much better too, they must have been rehearsing like mad over the last few days.
At the end we all looked at each other and smiled, the U2 we knew was back and I felt that familiar high after a good U2 show. We were relived they'd got it together after the shaky start to the tour. The U2 magic and passion was back in a big way!
Sunday, 3 August 2008
As we stepped off the plane we were hit by the desert heat, a bit of a shock to the system. We got a taxi to our hotel, the Flamingo Hilton on the Strip, all typical Las Vegas, flashing lights and gambling in the lobby. It had lovely gardens with palms, exotic flowers and flamingos.
We met up with Dianne there and then had an easy going evening and an early night to give us a chance to get over our jeg-lag.
Next day was another restful day, we spent most of it relaxing in the hotel's beautiful gardens or swimming in the pool. That night we decided to explore the Strip. I'd been to Las Vegas before, but it had changed a lot since I was there only three years earlier. We walked into the lion's mouth entrance of the MGM Grand, gawped in amazement at the New York skyline (complete with the statue of Liberty) of New York, New York. We passed the fairytale castle of Excalibur and on to the huge, glistening pyramid of Luxor laser beams shining into the night sky from it's peak.
Las Vegas is like falling into another dimension, a fantasy world. Much of it is tacky, it's noisy and flashy and there's nowhere else like it. I'm not at all interested in gambling and after a few days there was glad to get away from the noise of the machines. But, for me, for a short while it's a fascinating place to visit, you feel like a child again, full of wonder at the over-the-top place Vegas is.
Next day was show day and we were really excited at the thought of seeing U2 play live for the first time in four years. We got a taxi to the Sam Boyd Stadium, it was a long way, stuck in the middle of nowhere surrounded by harsh desert which in turn was fringed by brown jagged, cracked mountains.
We sat out at the back of the stadium as there was really nowhere else to go. It was very hot but luckily there was a gentle wind blowing which cooled things down a little. We sat in the shade of some spindly trees and waited. U2 were doing the soundcheck so we listened to that as we waited.
While we were waiting a guy that Sharon nicknamed The Queen of Las Vegas came up to us and started unzipping his jeans and began putting tubes down them! Noticing our astonished looks he told us they were glow sticks and he'd been told that for some reason the authorities would not let him take them into the stadium and he was determined to take them in. He stuffed quite a few down his jeans then did them up again and asked, "Can you tell?" Surprisingly considering how many he's put down them we couldn't tell there was more than, erm, himself down there. He then tried to pick up something he'd put on the ground, "Oooh, oooh OOOH!" he shouted with dramatic gesticulations. We just fell about laughing hysterically, he was hilarious. To ease his suffering we picked up the things for him and he said goodbye and wandered off glow sticks and all. Later during the concert we saw lots of glow sticks and wondered which were those of The Queen of Las Vegas.
We made the mistake of going in to hear the support act Rage Against the Machine (sorry Rage fans!) Every song sounded the same and were all peppered with frequent four letter swear words, horrendous. We avoided them on the other gigs we saw in the US.
The PopMart Stage was much as I'd expected from the rumours we had heard. A huge yellow arch reminiscent of the MacDonald's symbol. What was a bit like an orange supermarket trolley within the top of the arch. There was a red "stick" with an "olive" on the end (I never did work out the relevance of that!). Behind the arch was a massive screen. To the far right was the large lemon.
The 70's hit Pop Muzik by M blasted out really loud and we knew this was the start, but it went on and on and nothing happened on stage. then we realised by the commotion in the crowd that the band were entering the stadium from the back through the crowd. But it wasn't U2 as we knew them - Edge was all in black with rhinestones and cowboy hat, Adam in an orange boiler suit and gas mask and hard hat, Larry was Larry and Bono the fighter throwing punches in the air, in a white silk boxer's robe with it's hood up. All a bit bizarre and I never saw the point in it all.
They went straight into Mofo which worked well as a starter. Next was I Will Follow which surprised me initially, then I realised they were linked, they were both primarily about the loss of a mother - as seen from different eras of a man's life.
Next was Even Better Than the Real Thing and I did a double take on Bono, at first I thought he was naked on top and had suddenly got a really well toned body! Then I realised it was a flesh coloured tee shirt. Do You Feel Loved was very ropey to say the least, they really struggled with it. Last Night on Earth and Gone were performed fairly well, but the audience didn't seem that interested in them.
On the b stage they did a stilted version of If God Would Send His Angels. Then Staring at the Sun went disastrously wrong, Bono stopped the song and they all had "words" with the others, especially Larry who Bono lunged towards pointing a finger almost in his face. Bono said to the audience that they were having a "Family row". They started the song again and just managed to get through it.
Please was performed really well (one of the few new songs that was) and it gained a new life in the live situation, fabulous. Bono put all he could into it and the symbolic colours of green and orange flashed on the screen. After that the screens turned red and of course it was Streets, which was wonderful and the crowd erupted!
After the short interval smoke started seeping out around the giant mirrorball lemon (it's yellow cover now having been taken off). It moved slowly forwards then stopped with a loud clunk and the top half opened. Inside were the four band members standing in a line arms folded. They did a military-type salute which just looked stupid to be honest - I never saw them do it again thank heavens! They came down from the lemon via steps and then launched into Discotheque. They struggled a bit with this song too but managed to get through it. All the while the lemon was rotating and the lights being shone onto it reflected back into the stadium like hundreds of sparkling diamonds, good effect.
The next song was If You Wear That Velvet Dress. It didn't work live at all, too low-key. At one point a sparkling white dress (couldn't tell if it was velvet!) on a stand was plonked on the stage and as Bono approached it I though, "Oh my God he's going to hug the dress!" And he did, it was truly cringingly embarrassing to say the least. We all just looked at each other with our mouths open, what were U2 doing? This was another thing we never saw again in a live show on this tour, so they must have realised the error of their ways.
A beautiful With or Without You followed and we were whisked into U2 heaven for a while as they performed a few U2 oldies. They finished with One, but, for me, that didn't seem the right song to finish with.
And that was it, the end of the opening show of the PopMart Tour. For a while we were unable to say anything to each other - we'd never been to a U2 concert that was well below par and this certainly was that. We were disappointed. As it was an opening show of the tour we expected them to have some problems, but this was more than that. It was clear that they were under-rehearsed, it was mainly the new songs they struggled with. I actually was quite annoyed with them! What I expect them to give me are good albums and good live shows, that's the deal, anything else is a bonus, but I don't expect more. At this gig in the warm desert night they didn't fulfill the good live show part and that annoyed me - and my friends. Years later they did admit to being not ready for this tour and I think this extremely shaky start was the cause of the poor ticket sales for some US stadiums later in the tour. But I'm pleased to say this is the one and only time I've been disappointed in a U2 concert - they usually exceed my expectations.
Saturday, 2 August 2008
That didn't stop us getting tickets for the accompanying tour though, and this time we decided to see the opening few shows in the US as well as UK and Irish shows - quite an adventure to look forward to and a logistics nightmare!