Thursday, October 15, 2009

U2 360 Tour Part 2: I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

Even the most gigantic of pretzels and the coldest of beers cannot do much to distract one waiting to witness live their favorite band of all time! I spent my time examining the stage, which I'd heard a lot about already, and trying to capture pictures of myself with the stage in the background. I'll try to share those here... Not having luck with Blogspot and pics today, however. The stage was enormous, a circle with a center platform like the center of a target. Three arms extended across to bridge the gap between the central platform and the outer ring of the stage. Two of the arms were movable. People filled every space around!

Arching over the stage were 4 green arms with orange dots. One central column plunged vertically through the center of the entire structure, covered in lights and cameras. Just above the central platform a screen ran in 360 degrees. It was made of hundreds of smaller panels so it could expand and contract as needed, giving every audience member visibility of the band. While I took in all these details I was hearing some nice ambient music that really helped pass the time of anticipation pleasantly.

Around 7:30 the opening band, Muse, came out. They were fantastic musicians and the crowd was very responsive. It was exciting to see the lights go down and the stage really begin to showcase itself. I had trouble hearing Muse and started to get a little nervous -- there seemed to be a lot of distortion and I swear I didn't catch a word of their lyrics. I think one of their songs might've had the word ... "girl" in it? Maybe? After a few tunes I wandered from my seat. They played 5 or 6, then the lights came back up and they told us to enjoy U2. Ok, fine, I will! More waiting...

The stadium lights were extremely bright. Lots of people around me were still showing up. It hardly felt like I was at a concert. I don't think the show was sold out and I was disappointed. I wanted it to be a good crowd. I got the impression that the people behind me were on their once-a-month double date as mid-aged couple friends. They were taking lots of pictures of each other coupled up in front of the stage. Lots of big, blonde hair, high heels and t-shirts tucked in with belts. One couple debated whether or not to go meet their friends "in their box." They're probably friends with Tony Romo! I got a drink from a lady walking through the seats carrying a big box of ice, water, and beers around her neck.

There were a couple of brilliant moments when someone in the crowd was feeling clever so they would start whistling and cheering and it spread. The whole crowd would stand and lean forward in their seats and start screaming ... and then we'd realize no one was coming and we all fell into this joker's silly trap! It was fun though, and it certainly built the anticipation for the real moment.

Around 9pm, when I was beginning to wonder if maybe Bono had a tummy ache and needed to reschedule, there was a sudden gap in the ambient music. Then, loudly, some David Bowie lyrics without the music behind them brought everyone to attention: "Ground Control to Major Tom..." [I could not believe the amazingness of this selection!!] The countdown commenced. The lights came down. "Check ignition..." The crowd went wild as the band emerged from a corridor RIGHT BENEATH MY FEET! Larry run up on stage and went to his drum set alone while the rest of the band ran under the stage and came up through the floor in the central platform. Larry got us started off with his classic drum roll and the band jumped straight in with Breathe from No Line On The Horizon. It was really happening!!

From this moment on I was in such a state of elation and disbelief. The band was incredible, the stage was pulsing and changing colors and the screen was moving and expanding and retracting. Bono and The Edge would emerge from the central platform, cross the bridges and run around the outer circle, connecting with the crowd on all sides of them. They are energetic and legitimate, bona fide rock stars. It just comes naturally. There was no "Dallas how ya doin tonight??" that we were all obliged to cheer for. Bono asked us how we liked his space camp? He mentioned that he thinks since they're playing in Dallas that makes them space cowboys. He spent more time thanking people than any rock star I've heard, just intermittently between songs. He introduced his band with humility and respect for the musicians he is honored to perform with.

Some highlights .... (besides the sheer thrill of seeing them perform everything live!)

City Of Blinding Lights - From How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Bono is standing the middle of the bridge traversing the crowd between the central platform and the outer ring and suddenly he starts leaning over the railing grabbing people's hands and singing "don't let go..." Eventually he found some kid that wouldn't let go and Bono pulled him up over the railing and kept him up on the stage. Bono holds the kid's hand and starts running the outer circumference. Kid looks in shock. Bono gives him a hug and asks his name. Guides him around the stage through the song. Gives him his own sunglasses (don't worry, a stage hand was immediately ready with another pair at the end of the song). When it was time for the kid to go, he sang out "And I miss you, when you're not around..." Kid's day was made.

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
- This track from No Line they all performed from the outer circumference of the stage. Larry left his set and wore his percussive magic around his neck, keeping the beat. (I <3 Larry.) All 4 of them made their way around the circle and revved the crowd for this tune, which they'd remixed with a heavier techno/dance influence.

At some point the Couples Night behind me asked me if I could sit down. I wanted to turn around and tell them that this is a U2 CONCERT NOT A MOVIE THEATER, but I was polite. I just decided to move across the aisle to stand with the REAL fans!! (The opposite side of my aisle stood for the entire show!)

Walk On - Many fans were prepared for the tradition, but I was surprised. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia: "The song was written about and dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi. It is written in the form of a supporting, uplifting anthem, praising her for her activism and fighting for freedom in Burma. She has been intermittently under house arrest since 1989 for her efforts. Due to the political tribute of this album, those in Burma caught with possession of either the single for this song or the album All That You Can't Leave Behind could face a prison sentence lasting between three and twenty years." The giganto-screen starting running reels of Aung San Suu Kyi's face. Bono spoke to the crowd: "If you have her picture, take it out. If you have her mask, put it on." They began to sing as a throng of Amnesty International volunteers wearing her mask climbed on the stage and filled the entire outer circle. "This is a prayer from Texas to Her .. for her freedom." It was very well-done, very moving. A perfect reminder of the power of music to bring awareness to what is happening in the farther reaches of the world.

Ok, now I have to go to work. I will finish with the encore and my reflections in Part 3, coming soon!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

U2 360 Tour Part 1: Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I had to race home on my lunch break today to try and write down the events of last night while they are still fresh in my mind. They are still so fresh that little things can't even get to me. My mind has been elevated to a level that only rock and roll can take it! I don't wanna come back down to the real world -- or should I say, the world that everyone *thinks* is real.

There was some uproar about the fact that I attended a mega rock concert by myself. I had to drive a fair distance -- 45 minutes to Arlington, TX, home of the Rangers, Cowboys, and Six Flags. I didn't have anyone to go with me, so I went by myself, simple as that. As I told one friend, there was NOTHING that could stand in my way. I had to take the opportunity to see U2, because who knows if/when their next US tour will happen?

The drive was fine -- drizzly and unfamiliar, with an atmosphere of industrialism providing the scenery. (I noticed the Microsoft building on my way. It looks very drab and square, and it made me really curious about what Apple office complexes look like?) All the sunshine I needed was in my heart, made of sheer shining childlike anticipation. I left early to avoid the traffic and try to find the closest cash lot possible. It turned out I timed it perfectly -- I found a cash lot immediately adjacent to the entrance I need for my seat! I don't know how I achieved such good fortune, but it was fine with me because it helped a little to stave off the feelings of self-pity about the fact that I was alone. Those feeling grew a little as I approached the line to enter -- fairly short lines since I was there so early. Felt like a cattle-loading dock! Everyone around me was there with someone else: friends, children, significant other, etc. That was interesting -- a lot more children than I expected for a Monday night rock concert. A lot of women in jeans and sneakers (including me, for the fact that I expected to walk a LOT farther from my parking spot!), a lot of people were my age or older. It was a family-oriented, tame crowd. I felt self-conscious for coming alone, but then I realized that nobody around me cared or noticed, and so I just sent people text messages and played solitaire on my phone. :)

Finally they opened the gates and we started filing in. I didn't bring my purse, I just put everything I needed in the pockets of my denim jacket, and the security guard who scanned my ticket was impressed with my high level of intelligence (for a woman). The outdoor entryway of the new Cowboys Stadium is super fun, with jumbo screens and grass and Tidal Basin-like pool of water surrounding by grass. Lots of tall bar-style tables sit outside, I guess for those who will enjoy the concert from the exterior of the building.

People were selling Miller Lite and MGD for $8. A souvenir stand outside the entrance immediately caught my eye and I joined the throng as quickly as possible. I'd planned ahead at and knew just which t-shirt and I needed. Had to jump on it BEFORE the concert so as not to miss out on the items I really wanted. He started yelling "Cash only cash only who's ready?" And I jumped out in front waving my wad. I wanted #12 - medium, and a black cap. We made the exchange quickly and I skipped backward as the eager crowd surged forward and blocked the table from my view.

I started wandering with my goods, wondering if I should wear them since I didn't have a bag to put them in (starting to doubt the security guard's praises...). I settled on folding them up together for the time being and went inside the stadium. I had everything I needed. Everything except. Somewhere between cattle-loading entry scan and the souvenir speed exchange, I had dropped my ticket. I had no idea where I was sitting, all I remembered was section 244. Ah geeze.

I searched pockets and sleeves, through my jacket, jeans, on the ground, in my phone, everywhere. Decided that the security guard was definitely a cruel tyrant filled with ill foreboding. Ticket was definitely gone.

I found someone who worked at the stadium and he sent me to "guest services." This was an odious task, as I was struggling mentally to figure out how to convince them that I wasn't a crazy weirdo girl that somehow sneaked into the stadium on my own, I really DID buy my ticket the very MOMENT they went on sale ... MONTHS ago. I felt like it would have been much less suspicious if I'd been there with a companion who DID have their ticket, but that was not an option, I would have to go it alone. The first lady I talked to had no idea what I should do, but she did have the idea to refer me to the "Ticketmaster guy." He was wearing a skull cap and looking particularly unexcited about helping me. He made a couple calls, got no answer, and sent me outside to retrace my steps. I felt 5. I retraced. Nothing. He made a couple more calls and asked for my I.D. This led to some good results: a seat relocation ticket, which was really just a handwritten ticket for my original seat assignment (the person on the phone was able to verify via the World Wide Web and some database that I really had paid to be there).

Ladies and gentlemen: access granted to Section 244, Row 3, Seat 25.

If you are familiar with the NEW Dallas Cowboys Stadium, you will know that this seat is actually very, very good. I, however, was not familiar with the stadium, so figured that before I start climbing stairs I would add an unsalted gigantic pretzel and cold bottle of MGD to my purse-less inventory. The only way it could've been better was if I'd had some mustard to dip the pretzel in! Next, I approached Section 244 and showed the lady Seat Relocation Pass. I expected her to direct me up a nearby flight of stairs, but NO. NO. She pointed DOWNWARD. All The Way (almost) to the very front edge of the section. The only people between me and the stage were the 100's, on a level with the special VIP boxes. Wow. Humble little me, who had scraped together my very few pennies for this experience, felt extremely grateful. Grateful to myself, that is, for jumping on the ball and sitting logged into Ticketmaster waiting for the spinny clock to wind to the exact moment that the tickets went on sale! I will say it could have been better -- I could have been on the concrete floor with all the people that had to stand through the entire show. That would have been ideal, and maybe even worth the couple hundred I'm sure those folks paid (they got to walk up on the stage and take photos before the concert started!). Next time, perhaps.

This time, I just got settled in and waited. I was seated 45 minutes prior to slated starting time, so I knew it would take even longer than that. I got to picture-snapping.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sleep Well

Adulthood carries with it the joys of independence. Late at night, that independence may resurface as a nightmare, or at least a pesky recurring dream that makes one want to lie awake just a little longer rather than succumb to another repetition.

Some dear ones are gifted with the ability to leave their troubles with their unconscious, folded up under the pillow. Others are good at hiding it. I carry mine around like a darn purse that makes my shoulder ache, and then the ache flows down and down to my toe. Sometimes it even spreads up to my eyebrow.

I am most troubled and disappointed by my own shortcomings, which are seeming to reproduce and then light on every surface near and far, like Charlotte's baby spiders just after hatching.

Next I am troubled by my schedule and it's impossible boundaries.

Then I am troubled by the reality of my everyday existence, which is certainly not what I had planned for my life. I could accept that if it made sense to me why it might be a better option than I what I had planned, but since it's not make sense right now, I am still straining against my leash most pathetically.

When I talk to others, I realize almost all of us are in the midst of the same behaviors and varying degrees of shocked disillusionment. Not everyone, by any means, but many of my generation seem to be facing this.

At night sometimes I remember falling asleep as a child. Of course I had woes in the past, and they even loomed large at times. Sometimes the 'tragedies' didn't make any sense, but eventually they sorted themselves out. I remember rare nights when sleep was hard won, and of course my mom would know it. And she might come in and sit by my bed, or on my bed, and stroke my hair or rub my back until my childish body relaxed, and I realized all my problems were taken care of by someone else anyhow.

Or maybe I fell asleep in a random location, watching a movie or waiting to go home from my parents' friends' house. And my dad might scoop me up and carry me to my proper place. I might wake up, but I would realize it was best to keep my eyes closed and remain motionless, not to let this opportunity slip by to be carried by my father to exactly where I belonged.

It troubles me at first when I realize I am escaping to fairly passive memories of existence. Then I understand that my responses in those times were not exactly passive, although the result was true and deep relaxation. My response was trust. I knew the ones who loved me, and I let them care for me in their love. Then I grew up and got blasted independent and stubborn, and viewed it as a sign of weakness to accept help and support and direction from anyone except for my own self. I would plumb the depths of my own mind for answers to questions.

Today I am weary. I have worries. I am perplexed by knotted strands of the future I don't know how to untangle. I want to fall back into childhood and let the solutions wash over me like a night of trusted sleep, when all my problems, ultimately, were solved.

And then I realize... I can.
"Even to your old age I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will bear you;
It is I who have done this, I who will continue,
and I who will carry you to safety. [...]
For I am the Lord, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I will help you.'
" (Isaiah 46:4, 41:13)