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!