Right then, at long last, here's how the two London shows unfolded for me... (includes photographs taken by Nicky and myself!)
Background info: my first U2 show was on the Elevation Tour, 22/8/01 at Earls Court. It had its good points, but sadly it's the negative aspects that have stayed with me over the past few years. I had awful seats, about as far from the stage as you can possibly get, even though I went for the most expensive tickets. The sound was appalling and made it virtually impossible to recognise some of the songs. Bono's father had died the previous day so it wasn't exactly the most joyous of occasions. Nobody in my section was really getting into the gig, so I spent the whole time desperately wishing I was down on the floor with the people who were jumping and dancing. And the whole thing just went far too quickly, leaving me with a crushing sense of anticlimax.
This time, I was determined that things would be different. For starters I decided to see two shows, so even if the first one didn't live up to expectations, I'd have another chance to enjoy myself more. I was also hell-bent on getting GA tickets and being right on the rail (partly so I could get properly close to Bono, partly because I'm five feet tall and would be screwed if I ended up anywhere else!). I somehow managed to be one of the few people who got really lucky with the U2.com presale, successfully nabbing four GA tickets for the 18th June show on my second attempt - it only took 15 minutes of panic and terror. :) My wonderful friend arcmorality then got hold of three tickets for the 19th June show in the public sale, so a few swaps later, myself, Nicky and coralleane were all set for one crazy and thrilling weekend!
Fast-forward to Friday 17th June....
The plan for Friday was as follows. Myself and Coral would catch the train to Putney where we'd booked a room in the Premier Travel Inn for three nights (I did try the one in Twickers but it was already full, no doubt mostly with U2 fans!). We weren't expecting to get much sleep over the weekend, as we intended to do the hardcore overnight queuing thing for both gigs, so in preparation for this insanity we would spend Friday afternoon asleep at the hotel. I deliberately deprived myself of sleep the previous night, to ensure I'd be able to doze off at the appropriate time. (Not so deliberately, I'd spent pretty much the whole week failing to get enough sleep... too many things to try and organise!)
Friday morning saw me rushing around trying to finish my packing (and I'd completely underestimated how long I would need to get ready, so it's a miracle I didn't forget to pack anything). The journey to the bus stop and train station was awful as my bag weighed a ton - largely due to containing 7 bottles of water - and it was already quite humid. Anyway, I met up with Coral as planned and we managed to get the right trains to Clapham Junction and Putney. By the time we got there it was absolutely sweltering, plus the city was unbelievably crowded and dusty, making the 15 minute walk to the hotel seriously unpleasant. The traffic was practically at a standstill as well, so we were suddenly glad we'd decided against driving there.
We found the hotel and were relieved to get indoors and cool off in the foyer, but when we got to our room (situated along a seemingly endless maze of corridors) we were appalled to discover it did not have air-conditioning. You couldn't even turn the heating off (only lower the rate at which the room was heated), all of which meant it was a stifling 24.5° in there. And we couldn't leave the windows open because it was really noisy outside and we felt it would keep us awake. :/ We hit the sack at 2:30pm and set the alarm for 10pm... plenty of time to get some much-needed sleep, right? I wish. I lay awake for at least four hours, *possibly* dozed off for half an hour or so, and then found myself wide awake again. Ugh. I think it was a combination of the extreme heat and my general excitement / nerves about the weekend. So that little plan was a complete failure (for me at least - Coral managed a few hours of sleep), and I just ended up with a pounding dehydration headache. At 9pm I finally accepted I wasn't going to get any sleep, so we got ready for Saturday and then sat around bored listening to the radio.
It was still revoltingly humid outside when we left the hotel at 11:15pm - this really wasn't boding well for the weekend ahead. Thankfully it was nice and breezy waiting on the platform at Putney station! We got the 11:49 train to Twickenham as planned, and met up with Nicky at the other end. Managed to successfully find our way to the stadium, which took less than 20 minutes... it was *so* exciting when the venue finally came into view! It looked enormous, and we could see them playing around with the coloured lights as we approached. :D It was hard to believe we were actually there at last. We had tickets for Gate F so we tried the Whitton Road entrance, but the gates were locked, so we tried Rugby Road and found a sign directing early arrivals to Gate 4. There we were greeted by two security people who pointed us toward the start of the (single) GA line - we got there at approximately 12:35am and were 10th, 11th and 12th in line, woohoo!! amphibious_one was already there - I guessed it was her from the Kiwi accent, and she recognised me from my MacPhisto-esque outfit. *g*
L-R: coralleane, arcmorality, canadanne
The surface we were expected to sit on was horrendous - I'd been expecting concrete, maybe even grass, but instead we got really chunky gravel with dirt underneath. Ouch. We had come prepared with bin liners to sit on, but it hardly made any difference, so I ended up standing for most of the night. Nicky later found a manky old sack thing in a skip, which provided better padding, although we had to squish up onto it because we couldn't find anything sharp enough to rip it open with!
It was a very strange, peaceful night - I think only about 14 people turned up in total. Most people went to sleep, but the three of us didn't feel particularly tired so we stood around talking and playing I-Spy to pass the long hours. *g* The weather forecast had predicted a muggy night (which was believable), but to our surprise it actually got rather chilly in the early hours, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that this was preferable to the awful heat. ;) At one point we were joined for a chat by one of the friendly security guys who was telling us about the huge number of staff Twickenham Stadium had employed for this. Cool bloke. We then tried to have a nap, but for some inexplicable reason I was still unable to fall asleep. Getting through this mad weekend on the 2 hours' sleep I'd managed on Thursday night would be interesting...!!
A few more people began to trickle in as the first trains started running, including heathervox who had come all the way from Virginia to catch the shows. It was cool to meet her after knowing her online for six years. We spent the first part of the morning playing Hangman with U2 lyrics and trying to "guess the airline" as various planes flew into nearby Heathrow. :p (Later there would be a constant stream of aeroplanes flying over the stadium during the U2 show, which seemed incredibly cool for some reason. I was hoping one might launch over us right on cue during Beautiful Day, but I didn't notice if it happened or not!)
L-R: arcmorality, coralleane, canadanne, heathervox
At some point mid-morning we all got herded through the maze of fences to a spot nearer Gate H. The sun had been nicely warming us after the chill of the night, but soon it was becoming too hot for comfort, and disturbingly it wasn't even noon yet. We managed to create a bit of shade by fixing a bin liner to the railing with safety pins, but it was useless once the sun climbed directly overhead - then we just had to rely on the miracle of newspaper to keep us cool (either by fanning ourselves or holding it over our heads). Temperatures climbed well into the 30s with no cloud cover whatsoever, and I'm *amazed* I wasn't badly sunburnt, as I normally burn easily and had gone for several hours before applying any sunblock (plus we only had Factor 8!). Miraculously only my shoulders got fried... my companions came away looking rather worse!
Me trying to stay alive!
This kind of mess was everywhere in the GA line - the newspaper was also used to try and keep the sun off things like our food & drink supplies! Everything was filthy by the end of the day, including us!
Heather then went through the nightmare of losing her ticket (or more likely having it stolen from her pocket), and had to spend the rest of the afternoon getting updates from the medical tent to see if any heatstroke victims might be willing to give her their ticket - we found ourselves in the rather twisted position of hoping one poor bloke did indeed have appendicitis. ;) Luckily Heather did manage to buy another ticket for face value in time for the show! Meanwhile the rest of us had worries of our own. At one point we nearly had heart failure upon discovering we seemed to be in the wrong GA line... our tickets said Gate F, but everyone arriving before 9am had been directed to Gate H and we still hadn't been divided up, so I grew very nervous when I heard there was now an even longer queue round the corner at Gate F. It would be a total disaster if we got sent to the back of the line now, having queued since half midnight! Nicky went to ask the security guys what the hell was going on, and several nail-biting minutes later, we were reliably informed that everything was fine - everyone who arrived before 9am was to stay at Gate H, regardless of what your ticket said. And the early arrivals would be let into the stadium first! :D :D :D What a huge relief. I kind of felt sorry for anyone who believed what U2.com said about no queuing allowed before 9am, but meh... not *that* sorry. ;)
The wristband situation was another source of unease, as nobody seemed to know when they'd be handed out. They initially promised them at some point during the morning, but that didn't happen, and then we were constantly being told different times - it was so frustrating as you didn't dare leave the line for toilet or water breaks for fear of missing out on the wristbands! It was finally announced that they'd be distributed at 3pm, and that everyone who was already in line would definitely get a wristband for the inner circle - you should have heard the roar of approval *that* got from the crowd! ;) The security guys had suggested that we might be sent into the stadium as soon as we got them, which didn't actually happen, and just resulted in everyone getting ready far too early - we ended up standing around in the blazing sun, all crowded together, for well over an hour. Urgh. :/
Thankfully we had some welcome distractions in the form of U2 soundchecking for ages! It was so loud and clear, we were just hoping it would sound that fantastic inside the stadium. Heard them run through bits of Vertigo, Love & Peace, I Will Follow and Zoo Station among others. Halfway through I Still Haven't Found..., Bono suddenly came in with the vocals, and these blokes next to us immediately roared "BONOOOOOOO!!!" and started screaming in a manner you'd expect from teenage girls - it was so hilarious. *g* We all had a good singalong with ISHFWILF, which passed the time nicely. To everyone's delight they also spent ages soundchecking Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, which hadn't yet been played on the European leg of the tour! It sounded amazing, especially the middle section, and I just couldn't believe how strong and lovely Bono's voice was. I'd been expecting a lot worse, given how strained it had been on other recent tours and TV appearances.
They finally opened the gates just before 4:30pm, and at this point I must congratulate the Twickenham staff on doing an absolutely brilliant job. The lack of communication over gate allocations and wristband timings was the only thing that felt poorly organised - everything else was great. They looked after us really well in the insane heat, providing us with free tap water from a hosepipe and setting up a receipt system so you could reclaim your spot in line if you needed to take a break. They even relaxed the rules on taking our own bottles into the stadium, allowing us to do so as long as we removed the tops first. As far as I could tell, they had no problem with letting us take non-professional cameras in either. But the best thing of all...
...was that they didn't allow people to run once they let us through the turnstiles! I'd been dreading the mad stampede for months, as I'm not a quick runner and my fitness leaves a lot to be desired, but I needn't have worried about a thing. A few people overtook us straight away as the gate was opened, and there were a couple of bottlenecks as everyone frantically tried to push their way through first, but despite feeling slightly manic there was never any real danger of injury. Once we got onto the pitch there were security people all the way along, making sure nobody broke into a run, so it was just a case of briskly walking to the front (and the rugby pitch didn't seem half as long as I'd expected, either). Being so near the head of the queue, we reached the bomb shelter with plenty of choice as to where we could stand - the whole process went so much more smoothly than I'd anticipated! A massive thumbs up to the Twickers staff, who made a conscious effort to avoid the apparent chaos at the earlier Manchester gigs. (And reading about Glasgow and Cardiff, it sounds like Twickenham was the *only* venue that put in the effort!)
So we were able to claim the exact spot I'd been hoping for, having studied photographs beforehand - on the rail in the front right corner of the bomb shelter. I couldn't believe how lucky we were to get that spot - it was even better than I'd expected. The main stage was really close to us, and high enough that I'd have a virtually unobstructed view despite my shortness. We were right beside the sloping part of the walkway where Bono and Adam often pose, and would still be able to see the band members as they walked out to the B-stage. And we also had a pretty good view of all the screens. You could hardly ask for more - I was so excited, I couldn't believe we'd actually done it!! (I was also surprised by how small and intimate the bomb shelter felt. It had looked so much bigger in the photos!)
Our excellent view of the main stage!
And ohhh, how nice it was to chill out in the bomb shelter after all those hours of oppressive heat. We could sit on the floor and enjoy some proper shade at last, whilst drinking cold water and listening to the music... ahh! I felt very smug when I heard them playing Blondie's 'Atomic', as I'd recently commented in my journal that it would make a perfect introductory song for this tour... ha. *g* Once inside the bomb shelter we bumped into the friend who I'd sold my spare ticket to, plus some random guy from Poole who recognised Coral as he lives near the shop where she works... talk about a small world!! A few Mexican waves rippled around the stands and across the pitch, but they were all a bit pathetic and deservedly got booed. ;p
The first support act, Doves, came on at 5:45pm. I wasn't expecting to enjoy their set much, as I've never liked their singles or TV appearances, but I'm pleased to say they were brilliant! Impressive performance, amusing banter from the frontman (including a Bono-esque "rock star moment" on the left walkway, which apparently we should all try sometime *g*) and their sound was just so much richer in this live setting, especially coming through U2's massive fuck-off speakers! I was already in complete awe of the sound quality, it was *crystal* clear and the volume level was perfect. No muddy, echoey effect like I had to suffer at Earls Court (and they say outdoor venues are usually worse!), and no aching eardrums like the average tribute band tends to inflict upon me. Awesome. Doves seemed to get a really enthusiastic crowd response, despite the stadium not being particularly full yet. They got things off to a great start, and with the afternoon heat beginning to ease off into a more pleasant warmth, it suddenly felt like this was going to be the most perfect summer's evening ever!
At 7pm it was Athlete's turn, which was undoubtedly the low point of the night. I don't like any of their singles either (you can imagine how I jumped for joy when the support acts were announced...!), but I went with an open mind, hoping they'd come across better live. Unfortunately they didn't. The singer has one of the most irritating voices I've ever heard (it's the stupid way he insists on singing), and the songs are all pretty crap. Even the frontman's jokes were devoid of any entertainment value and fell painfully flat. I did feel a bit sorry for them - they'd been so excited about playing a stadium gig in their home town, and they clearly weren't going down at all well with the crowd - but godddd they were just so tedious. It might have been OK if they'd only played for half an hour like Doves, but their set dragged on for 45 minutes, when I was just wishing they'd hurry up and leave! My severe lack of sleep was starting to hit me now. Still, I certainly got a buzz from seeing the support acts so close up, knowing it would soon be U2 standing right there in front of us!!
Major excitement by the time Wake Up started playing - just like with Sgt Pepper on the last tour, everybody knows what that song means! U2 finally hit the stage at about 8:20pm, with everyone screaming the place down, especially when Bono appeared last. Eeeeee!! *g* I said right from the start that Vertigo would be the most appropriate opening song for this tour, and it worked perfectly just like I knew it would (even though other people had disagreed). Much better than peaking too soon with LAPOE or COBL, and it just got everyone rocking straight away. Bono was so up for it - I was utterly thrilled to see him leaping around, gyrating his hips and striking all his trademark Bono poses, having so much fun with the audience. That's the Bono we know and love. I didn't get to see that Bono four years ago when he was clearly grieving... this time I was going to experience a proper full-throttle U2 gig, at long last! :D Any thoughts about being hot, thirsty, tired or wanting the toilet were suddenly the last thing on my mind...
Bono and Edge during Vertigo!
Our view was awesome - we could see the band perfectly and there was only one tall bloke occasionally getting in my way. Bono emptied some bottles of water across the grateful audience; sadly we didn't get any on our side, but never mind! Everyone was bouncing like mad and singing at the top of their lungs - the energy level was unreal, with band and audience clearly feeding off one another's enthusiasm. There was no time to pause for breath during the first few songs - it was straight into I Will Follow (YAY!) and then The Electric Co. The trouble with wearing MacPhisto shoes is they're not overly comfortable for jumping in, plus I found myself awkwardly holding onto the rail to try and avoid colliding with the girl next to me... still, I was having a good time even if I wasn't dancing as freely as I'd intended. I had been uncertain about how the atmosphere would be in broad daylight, but it didn't bother me at all in the end - there's nothing to complain about when you're seeing U2 that close!!
Adam posing on the ramp for us...
Elevation was up next. I'm not too keen on how they're doing it for this tour - the way they tease the audience by *not* launching fully into the song is just kind of annoying, plus nobody does the "Whoo hoo / Whoo-oo-oo" bits properly! It's great fun once it finally gets going, though - I'd been wanting to bounce to Elevation ever since I longingly watched the heart from afar at Earls Court. ;p I also loved the way Bono sang "I believe in you... and you believe in... The Edge?!", and everyone loved his playful comments to the audience: "It's OK to flirt. A married man, flirting with the entire city of London!" Cue lots of screaming. ;o) The next song, to my delight, was New Year's Day - I hope they never stop playing that one live, the intro is still so incredibly thrilling. Bono's voice was on top form for this one - his "Yeeeaaa-aaahhhhh" over the intro was excellent, and I nearly cried with joy when he hit a perfect falsetto note for "Like a chosen few". Glorious. He also did a cracking "Yea-aa-ohhh" bit going into the bridge, which I hadn't really expected! Meanwhile Adam took a wander past us, down the right-hand walkway. He sure is a cool customer, smiling to himself the whole time! :D
Next up was Beautiful Day with a snippet of Here Comes The Sun. I can't say I've ever been this song's biggest fan, and I wouldn't have included it in my dream setlist, but it does suddenly sound rather amazing on this tour - I think it's because Bono's voice has become so gorgeous lately. Whereas he avoided the falsetto bits on the last outing, this time he's embracing them, hitting the high notes for "Teee-e-e-each me" even more times than he does on the album! He also sang the "See the world in green and blue..." section in one of his funny voices, a bit like Desire in the Rattle & Hum movie, which was pure unexpected brilliance. *g* This song was followed by ISHFWILF, predictably a great crowd singalong. They also did All I Want Is You as they had done for Manchester 2, but apparently this was an infinitely better version! Everyone sang along with "All I want is youuuuu-uuuu!" over and over again, which had been a highlight at Earls Court and was similarly moving here.
We were going out live on Radio 2 as City Of Blinding Lights started, and there was a huge scream as the enormous screen finally flickered into life, though it wasn't yet dark enough to make out any patterns or words. COBL disappointed me somewhat on the first night - firstly because I noticed Edge wasn't singing his lovely harmonies on "Neon heart, dayglo eyes...", and then I was *gutted* when Bono failed to even attempt the high note in the second verse. That's my favourite note on the entire album and he skipped it - argh! I was very moved by the ending of the song, though, when Bono gestured for the silver heart-shaped balloon in the audience (it took them ages to understand what he was after, and he was getting more and more frantic as the end of the song approached!). As the last piano notes played, he released the balloon and repeatedly cried "Blessings!" as it slowly floated up over the stadium... and even though I knew it was staged (he'd done the same thing in Manchester), it was such a beautiful moment. The balloon ascended in absolutely perfect time with the music, and I found I was almost in tears watching it. One of those little things that gives you goosebumps.
The screen lights up for City Of Blinding Lights.
Miracle Drug was, as ever, dedicated to the doctors, nurses and scientists - "especially the nurses", LOL! I liked the call-and-response ye-e-eah's we did in the middle section, that was a nice way to translate the song into a concert setting. Then it was Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, with Bono performing the first verse *right* in front of us on the walkway! I was surprised I didn't freak out more, being in such close proximity to him - it felt strangely natural, maybe from watching him on video so much over the years. The song was as powerful as ever, though I was frustrated not to see his face when he hit *that* note... he was out on the B-stage with his back to us, and I didn't think to turn around and watch him on the screen until it was too late. Bah.
Bono walking past me... I think this was during the "No Regrets" snippet.
"Now look what you started!" grinned Bono as the unmistakable menacing intro of Love And Peace Or Else wafted through the stadium. HELL YEAH, my favourite song on the new album (and one of my top three U2 songs of all time) - here we go!! Bono was now wearing that weird red jacket, which I'd previously described as "hideous", but I must confess it suddenly looks fantastic when he's wearing it a few metres away from you. *g* Larry made his way past us toward the B-stage, and despite his best efforts to keep a straight face, he couldn't help breaking into a grin as we all cheered him - mwahahaha! Everyone was trying to get a better view of Bono & Larry, so things were getting a bit squished by our walkway, but I still rocked out as hard as I could physically manage to. ;) I couldn't believe nobody else was moving, the crowd response was pathetic. The song sounded pretty good, though not as good as the album version - I hated the way they sang the "release, release..." bit live (it was irritating!), and Bono's drumming sounded completely random and daft that night. A highlight nonetheless.
Larry walking past me at the end of Love & Peace
The crowd response continued to be shockingly lame as LAPOE led into a storming version of Sunday Bloody Sunday - I don't know how anyone can hear that intro and not immediately start marching on the spot! Never mind, at least they sang along. I was so pleased that Bono did his traditional "NO MORE!" call-and-response in the middle, which had been sadly missing from the Elevation show. I think it got dark around this point, though I never really noticed the transition from day to night at the time. The stage looked excellent for Bullet The Blue Sky, all red light and smoke... unfortunately the song itself was a rather pedestrian version with no passion at all in the verses. However, it was saved by two things: (1) the crowd singalong of the falsetto "Oo-oo-oo-ooh!" bits, and (2) the *awesome* snippets! I couldn't believe how deliciously evil Bono sounded when he sang the "Hoorah, hoorah" part of When Johnny Comes Marching Home - he sounded almost MacPhisto-like, I nearly keeled over on the spot. And then he sang a bit of The Hands That Built America, which was so hauntingly beautiful... ahhh!
Bono walks past me again, this must have been during SBS?
Running To Stand Still was a touch disappointing - I'm not sure about this acoustic piano version, it's nowhere near as grand and stirring as the ZooTV version, and the Hallelujah's at the end felt anticlimactic without Bono reaching for the heavens Sydney-style. Still, the audience singing along with the Ha-la-la-la-de-day's was wonderful. Pride came next, and was as anthemic as ever... I do think it's about time this song took a break to make room in the setlist for other things, but that thought never occurred to me when I was there enjoying the show. Everyone danced and clapped and sang, especially for the Oh oh-oh oh's - though I must say Bono had us singing those for way too long, my throat was beginning to hurt! Where The Streets Have No Name was absolutely grand. The African flags on the screen looked beautiful (despite my previous opinion that it was kind of ugly in the photographs!), and the music was so good that I didn't even miss the traditional red glow and blinding flash of light. They actually had the screen go red at the end of the song instead, and I got all choked up again - how do they always do that? I had a similar moment when I was looking at the "Christmas tree" of mobile phone screens during One. The whole mobile phone phenomenon grates on me somewhat, but using them as lighters did work surprisingly well, it was pretty.
Where The Streets Have No Name...
"See you in a minute!" smiled Bono as they disappeared for the interval - a refreshing change from the usual pretence of saying goodnight, and no doubt for the benefit of the radio listeners. Keeping us entertained during the break was an absolutely brilliant video sequence involving a giant fruit machine - which finally came up with a row of ZOO BABIES squealing "Mama!" :D :D :D I'd already heard some mention of them using that logo again, but I didn't think it would be that cool... you should have heard the cheer from the crowd. *g* I had no idea what an unbelievable experience was about to begin, though. I have always been, and will always be, a ZooTV girl at heart - I absolutely worship the Sydney video and have spent my whole U2 fandom agonising over the fact I never got to see that tour in person. And I didn't think I'd ever get to experience that kind of sensory overload, in this age of stripping things back to basics, so I was thrilled just to see the ginormous screen and smoke machines... but there was *so* much more to come!
I'd heard other vague whispers that Bono had revived his Fly character for this tour, but I didn't entirely believe such rumours. OMG, was I in for a shock. The familiar crunching guitar of Zoo Station ripped through the stadium (orgasmic enough in itself, as that song's certainly been a surprise feature of the setlist!)... and I simply could not believe what I was seeing on the left-hand screen. It was only Bono's silhouette staggering around *exactly* like the start of a ZooTV show!! Holy hell, this couldn't possibly be real, it was like my ultimate U2 dream coming true. Before I knew what was happening, this NeoFly was standing directly in front of us on the walkway, getting up close and personal with a handycam - it really was 1993 all over again! I can't remember what was going through my head at the time, probably because it was something along the lines of "gwjghiserfeqroiahpjjkljgh!!!11". We were absolutely engulfed in smoke, which was fun (apart from inhaling a huge lungful of it - *cough!*). Once again I found myself with little room to move (after some girl cheekily muscled her way onto the rail beside me), but danced as joyfully as I could, and seemed to be the only person going crazy for the song - I just don't know what is wrong with some people. I hardly knew where to look, with Bono goose-stepping around the B-stage, and the most awesome graphics in the history of the world EVAR blasting their way across the screens behind me. I was in my element!!
Adam and Bono being utterly dwarfed by the Zoo Station graphics!
The Fly returns!!
Revenge of the smoke machine!
As if that wasn't breathtaking enough, The Fly took things a step further into ZooTV, with rapid-fire slogans and gorgeous swirling colours all over the screens. It was so mindblowing that I actually began to feel a little overwhelmed by the whole thing - I just couldn't absorb it properly, there was a sense of "This is happening RIGHT NOW and if I blink I'm going to miss it all". I spent the rest of the show feeling slightly dazed and disconnected. After The Fly they played a sexy little version of Mysterious Ways, which I danced all the way through. I'm normally frustrated by modern renditions of that song because I really miss Bono's killer falsetto bit from the original tour, but it was OK this time as we were distracted by the girl Bono pulled out of the audience (Anouska). She spent ages filming the band and crowd with a handycam, failing to notice she was holding it sideways the whole time! Edge looked really sweet with his smiling face projected onto the big screens. ;o)
The penultimate song of the evening was Yahweh, which is by far the biggest disappointment of the tour. It's such an upbeat, vibrant song on the album, and I always thought it would make the perfect show closer that would have people crying with joy - but they've chosen to go with this neutered acoustic version, and they don't even play the best part of the song, the climactic "This love is like a drop in the ocean" section! What a tragic waste of a glorious song - I can't imagine what they were thinking. The stripped-down version isn't completely without its charms... I quite like the PopMart-esque animations on the screen, and it was sweet how Bono changed the lyrics to "Take this city's heart / London town, now keep it safe" (kind of chilling, given what happened a few weeks later). But thank god they didn't go on to end the show with "40", another slow number - that would have been such a dull and anticlimactic way to finish. Yahweh in this format is only acceptable because you know it's building up to one last round of Vertigo!
Bono, Larry & Adam during Yahweh
Now, before I saw the shows myself, I was among the people who wondered what the hell U2 were playing at, repeating Vertigo at the end. I didn't think anyone would be impressed to hear the same song twice in one concert, and it was cheating people out of an extra song. But once I was actually there, I completely changed my mind about it - Vertigo was *all* I wanted to hear at the end, I was really looking forward to one last familiar explosion of energy! It was so much fun, especially with the dizzying visual effects they put on the screen for the late-night version. I can't think of any better way to end the show, than with a good hard YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!
So that was the end of night 1 at Twickers - and boy, did I feel confused. It had been a fantastic gig all round, it hadn't flown by like the Elevation show did, and I'd heard nearly all the songs I was hoping for (and thoroughly enjoyed even the ones I wasn't that fussed about)... but I just didn't feel right. It had been difficult to know what to focus on - singing or listening, the band or the screens, taking photos or appreciating the moment? It was all a bit bewildering at times, trying to figure out how to get the most out of the experience. And although I'd gone along fully intending to jump and dance as much as my heart desired, I had still ended up feeling awkward and restrained a lot of the time. My emotions sometimes had to be forced, because for some odd reason I didn't feel like I was really there... even when Bono was standing inches away from me, I was just kind of "Oh look, there's Bono" rather than totally losing my mind as I should be! I came out of the gig wondering why the hell I didn't seem to appreciate it more, and had to comfort myself with the knowledge that I could see them again tomorrow.
We slowly made our way out of the stadium, tripping over a carpet of bottles and assorted crap. It was so dark that I'd actually forgotten we were in a stadium and was convinced there was a roof over our heads. My hearing was a tad muffled at first, but amazingly returned to normal within about 10 minutes - I can't say the same about various pub gigs I've been to!! I visited the merchandise stalls in order to buy a programme and T-shirt (I hate the fact there's never any queuing system at those), and was then hoping we'd be able to try and meet the band somewhere, but Nicky said he'd already heard cheering which suggested they'd left straight away. Gutted. (We later discovered that only Bono had left, apparently with back trouble.)
The original plan had been to start queuing for Sunday's gig as soon as the first one finished, but we now found ourselves unsure of what to do, as nobody had begun a new line yet. My head was spinning by this point, I couldn't think straight at all. Nicky reckoned it was pointless queuing all night, as the masses probably wouldn't arrive until the trains started running, so we decided to pop back to our hotels for a shower and change of clothes. We staggered off to the train station and were almost put off by the vast *sea* of U2 fans packed into the place, but Coral and I did manage to catch the last train in the end. Nicky changed his mind about travelling to his hostel, and headed back to the stadium, where he joined a group of people waiting to meet the band. Thankfully they were waiting at the wrong entrance and missed out on the band's exit - I say thankfully because I would have had to murder Nicky if he'd met them after sending me back to my hotel!! :p Meanwhile Coral and I decided to grab a couple of hours' sleep at the hotel, and even though the room was again oven-like (25.5°), I passed out within seconds of flopping onto the duvet.
The awful blaring alarm clock woke me with a huge jolt at 3am, and although I was exhausted, I had to go against every instinct and get up for a much-needed shower - like everyone else I was completely filthy after sitting around in the heat and dirt all day! My nails were so ingrained with dirt that I actually couldn't scrape it off, and I could still see it caked onto my elbows even after my shower. Yeuch. I then got dressed for Sunday... goodbye sweaty elastane trousers, painful shoes and layers of black clothing... hello comfy jeans, Zooropa T-shirt and trainers! I also decided to give the horns a miss this time, as they pinch a bit, and I didn't want to risk any distractions during the second show. (It's not like Bono had acknowledged them at all - bah, and there was me hoping he might want to try them on!!)
Saturday and Sunday's outfits!
After unloading our souvenirs and restocking on vital supplies such as food and bin liners, we went to catch a night bus back to Twickenham. We joined the GA line at 5am and were still within the first dozen people. It had definitely been worth returning to the hotel for a while, as I found I was still completely unable to sleep in the GA line! I guess it was a combination of being too cold, lying on gravel, and my mind refusing to shut up. But still, you'd think I would have been more knackered by then!!
We soon got moved closer to Gate H as before. The queuing procedure was different today; after 9am they'd be splitting people into lines according to the gate allocation on their ticket, and both lines would be let in at the same time. I was a bit worried about the latter part, but at least our Sunday tickets were for Gate H, so there wouldn't be any confusion about where we needed to be!
GA queuing area early on Sunday morning
Now... the heat. Apparently Saturday had been around 32 or 33° - which was like a cool spring day compared to Sunday. :/ It was absolutely sweltering by about 9am; you couldn't bear to imagine what the afternoon was going to be like. Nicky and I walked to Tesco where I purchased a floppy wide-brimmed hat, the biggest newspaper I could find, and a very large bottle of water (I also bought food, but most of it never got eaten because I just had no appetite in the heat). Nicky bought some Factor 50 sunblock and a box of ice-lollies to share around. He later returned to Tesco when someone hit upon the genius idea of buying those spray bottles that you use to water plants... ohhh boy did we enjoy being watered! I've heard that it was about 35° on Sunday - just unrelenting heat, I don't know how we survived it. Some lucky people managed to get their hands on umbrellas, while others constructed elaborate shelters from pieces of fabric and cardboard. All I had was newspaper, which really is wonderful stuff - I spent what felt like at least an hour just lying motionless on the ground, completely buried under a pile of newspaper. (I've no idea how long I was actually like that, because time dragged.)
Some people came prepared...
...and some people improvised!
I later found that I could remain fairly comfortable if I put a load of newspaper underneath my hat, which looked ridiculous, but appearances are the last thing on your mind when you've spent two long days enduring such temperatures! Everyone was covered in sweat and dirt, there was litter and newspaper all over the ground, sunblock dripped over everything... the phrase "tramps on the beach" sprung to mind more than once. ;p
That's me and my hat in the foreground!
U2 started soundchecking really early, which was nice as it gave us something to take our minds off how hot we were. They soundchecked Zoo Station, which made me feel slightly relieved... I *so* badly wanted to hear it again, but Nicky had said they might not play it the second night. Of course, they still hadn't played Wild Horses despite soundchecking it on Saturday, so this didn't guarantee anything! Meanwhile, we overheard some guy talking about where he'd met the band after last night's show, so we decided to try hanging out at that gate ourselves after the second gig. We probably wouldn't make the last train anyway, and we'd have an hour's wait for the buses to start, so it's not like we'd have anything better to do!
Things were far better organised on the Sunday - they handed out the wristbands nice and early this time, and promised to try and get things moving earlier than yesterday. When they let us through for the ticket and bag checks, I was impressed by how little pushing and shoving there was. I dunno if everyone was just knackered from the heat or what, but it all seemed pretty polite and relaxed, not as frantic as Saturday's entrance had been. We made our way to the inner circle and once again found that we could stand pretty much wherever we wanted - even with two lines going in at once, it wasn't filling up that fast! I was so relieved and amazed; things had worked out better than I could ever have hoped.
For the second night in a row I got the exact spot I'd been aiming for - this time on the outside rail of the right-hand B-stage. And fucking hell, we must have had the best spot in the entire stadium. It made our excellent Saturday night spot look rubbish. From here, we'd be able to see all the B-stage action, we had a clear view right along the walkway, *and* we had a perfect view of the main stage as it was elevated above the heads of everyone in the bomb shelter. We just had to glance up in order to see all the screens (no more twisting around, not knowing which direction to face), *and* we could even see the band on the left-hand walkway and B-stage, which had been our blind spot on Saturday. It was a jaw-droppingly good spot, you couldn't have wished for a better place to stand. And although I had expected the sound quality to be quite bad out here, it wasn't! It was ever-so-slightly muddier than it had been right at the front, but still brilliant. WOW!
This pic gives you some idea of the view we had. (Taken during Beautiful Day - you can see Bono on the ramp.)
It was still very humid when we got inside the stadium, and the sun was reflecting off the big screen for ages. We also couldn't sit down this time because everyone was crowding right up against the B-stage - bleh. :/ We had to work quite hard to preserve what limited breathing space we had, as the people behind us weren't being very considerate about it (to put it politely) - I remember thinking "I hope they're prepared to have their feet stomped on later when I start dancing!!". The security folk were again wonderful, bringing us free cups of water before and throughout the show. (One security bloke was more interested in playing with his mobile phone, until he got caught in the act by his supervisor. They had a massive argument which culminated in him either quitting or being fired, hurling his cap to the ground and storming off - LOL!!)
The first support act, Idlewild, came on at 5:30pm. They were great. I only knew one of their songs (You Held The World In Your Arms), but I love that song, so I was happy that they played it! I sympathised with the frontman who commented that opening for U2 isn't the easiest job in the world - the crowd didn't seem overly responsive to their set (probably because of the heat), which is a shame as I thought the band did a really good job. Then Ash came on at 6:45pm. I must admit they were very good as well, playing with tons of energy and skill, but I can't say I enjoyed their set at all. I was tired, hot, my feet ached, I was getting impatient for U2, and despite playing for 45 minutes they hardly included any of the hits that I knew. :| Anyway, Charlotte Hatherley had been slagging U2 off in recent months (silly bitch), so I couldn't bring myself to clap them too enthusiastically no matter how well they played.
Once the support acts had finished, we had another long wait, during which time a couple of large inflatable eggs got chucked all around the pitch (I notice these got mentioned on the Zootopia boards: "DID YOU TOUCH MY BALLS????"). Then we all got terribly excited when Bono's tech guy, Phil Docherty, made his way to the B-stage clutching several sheets of paper, and we instantly caught sight of the words "You're dangerous 'cos you're honest...". YAAAYYYY - proof that we would finally be getting Wild Horses at this show!! Phil carefully taped the lyrics onto the floor and then went off to do the same thing on the other B-stage (which, sadly, is where Bono chose to perform the song in the end). Someone else chucked a plectrum into the crowd, which was caught by a woman just along the rail from us.
By the time U2 finally came on at about 8:15, I was so up for this gig, determined to enjoy it properly with no inhibitions this time! I was gonna dance like hell no matter what, and take less photos so I could concentrate on appreciating the special moments. And right from the start of the gig, you could tell it was gonna be even better than the night before... Vertigo was fucking incendiary! I thought Bono had already been giving 200% on the Saturday, but tonight he was absolutely on *fire*, lunging and teetering and spazzing around like there was an earthquake beneath the stage. It was driving the crowd into an utter frenzy. :D (I love the way someone described Bono in their review of the show on U2.com: "like a deranged animal that had just been let out of its cage"!) Vertigo rocked so hard, I adore the bit where he goes "Just give me what I want, and no-one gets... [long pause]... HURT?!" :D :D I'm also deeply in love with his black jacket with the red lining. He had a bit of a Fly moment where he threw the jacket off his shoulders and struck a pose like that, and damn it looked good! *drool*
After Vertigo came the first surprise of the night... instead of I Will Follow, they launched straight into All Because Of You! Hell yeah, I always said they should open the shows with Vertigo and ABOY, but the latter had usually been shoved into the encore (or omitted altogether, as in London #1). I was so pleased to hear it, and it was a great performance - the crowd sang along brilliantly and I loved all the "Oh oh ohhh" bits in the middle. Then it was Electric Co and Elevation, and I think the entire audience snorted with laughter when Bono unexpectedly threw in a snippet of "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes" - LOL, very appropriate!!! Next we had another blistering performance of New Year's Day, much to my delight - they dropped this song for quite a few US gigs so I'm thrilled we got to hear it both nights. Adam came out and played for us on the B-stage (you could see every bead of sweat!), and our manic cheering was again rewarded with lots of smiles and little nods of acknowledgement - how great is Adam?! :o) Beautiful Day had a different snippet today (Blackbird instead of Here Comes The Sun), and ISHFWILF was another big crowd singalong.
Then it was the moment we'd all been waiting for... the European Vertigo debut of Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses! It was lovely, especially the exquisite falsetto on the bridge and the "Come on now love" climaxes. Mmmmm, we've certainly been spoiled with all this Achtung Baby material, which I never would have expected before the tour started! Bono's memory proved to be truly shite, as afterwards he said something like "I think that might be the first time we've played that one", and then we could see him mouthing at the audience "Have we done that one before??"... LOL! Up next was City Of Blinding Lights, which was better than the previous night because I got to hear my favourite falsetto note this time, bringing happy tears to my eyes. :') After COBL came a dreamy Miracle Drug and SYCMIOYO, which I appreciated *so* much more now that I could see Bono's face at the right moments. A very emotional performance that I felt privileged to witness up close.
Bono giving it his all during Sometimes
Love & Peace was another chance to go mental despite the lack of room (to hell with everyone else!!), and it was extra specially cool this time as Bono came prancing all around our B-stage - we desperately reached out every time he stopped in front of us, which was great fun even though he never did reach back! Bono was also amazing on the drum this time, beating the hell out of it and looking *so* cool; one of the techs hurled the drumsticks into the crowd afterwards. SBS was fantastically cool once again, especially with the crowd singing the "Ohhh-oh-ohh..." intro, and the sequence of snippets in BTBS (including a bit of Please) sounded even more brilliant this time round.
Larry & Bono during Love & Peace
Whack that drum!
Speaking of snippets, there were quite a few during RTSS as well! It was Aung San Suu Kyi's 60th birthday, so Bono led us in a chorus of Happy Birthday (though I think he was the only person who could pronounce her name *g*), and the usual RTSS endings were replaced by a few lines from Walk On. Pride and Streets were as rousing as ever, and Adam came out to our B-stage again. Before One, Bono gave a lengthy speech about Make Poverty History, saluting various people involved with it - and casually mentioning that Bob Geldof was here in the stadium tonight, which provoked instant *screams* of delight from everyone in the crowd!
The best, though, was of course yet to come. Hoping with all my heart that Zoo Station wouldn't be dropped, I prepared myself to enjoy the living hell out of every moment, and not be overwhelmed by it all this time. And my wish was granted - there I was once again, at a U2 stadium show, with the ZooTV video being recreated right in front of my face (and kicking ARSE!). At last my inhibitions had flown out the window; I grinned like a fool and sang and danced my little heart out, without a care in the world. Bono again did several laps of our B-stage, pausing to sing right down at us... I could not *believe* my luck!
Another visit from Bono...
Cool as fuck!!
By the time they played The Fly, with those gigantic ZooTV screens flickering hypnotically against the darkness, I thought my heart was going to burst with ecstasy. The word "mindblowing" doesn't even come close to describing it - it was quite simply the greatest moment of my entire life. More than I could ever have dared to dream about. Wearing my trainers proved to be an extremely good decision, as I was able to jump up and down like I've never jumped before... oh god, there are no words that could do it justice. It's hard to imagine how anything else will ever match that experience.
It's so beautiful...
The third setlist change saw Mysterious Ways replaced by a *beautiful* version of With Or Without You. Bono danced with a girl from the audience, and to everyone's complete surprise, launched into a snippet of Take Me To The Clouds Above (the dance track that had sampled WOWY the year before)! I'm not sure it was ever particularly popular with U2 fans, but when Bono unexpectedly slipped it into this performance, it was just *magical* and it seemed like hearts were melting all around the stadium. Bono then took a moment to wish Steve Lillywhite happy birthday, and after Yahweh, it was time for....
Here goes, the FINAL rendition of Vertigo, to bring down the curtain on an utterly crazy weekend. And rather than feeling distressed and panicky, I was bouncing like a loon from start to finish! :D Fucking hell, if there had been a roof on Twickenham Stadium, U2 would have blown it sky high with this performance. It was a complete frenzy of jumping and screaming and singing at the top of our lungs, and Bono himself was like a whirlwind by this point! It was so unbelievably hot that I could feel myself literally *drenched* in sweat, and I hadn't taken a drink of water in ages, but none of that mattered one bit, because in that moment I just wanted to dance until I dropped. There wasn't a single tinge of sadness that it was all coming to an end, because the experience had thrilled me to the very core, and I knew that nothing could ever take that away from me. Thank god I saw the second show this time, so I could absorb everything properly once I knew what to expect. Bono finished off Vertigo with a snippet of London Calling, just as he had done at Earls Court four years earlier - but this time, I was actually able to hear it. :)
Amazingly I had no hearing problems whatsoever after the second gig - I could hear normally from the moment Vertigo ended! I also wasn't even remotely tired, despite the fact I'd had virtually no sleep for several days. I was just on top of the world. The band were hitting a major peak, everything had worked out perfectly for me, the pair of setlists were excellent, and the whole stage setup was beyond brilliant (infinitely more exciting than the pseudo-Elevation setup that was used on the US leg). I gave Saturday's gig 10 out of 10, and Sunday's was at least an 11!
The adventure wasn't quite over yet, as we were still hoping to meet the band afterwards. We left the building as quickly as we could (*very* slowly!!), and set off to the gate that the bloke in the GA line had mentioned. Nicky soon departed to catch the last shuttle bus to the station, but apparently the queue was nightmarish and he came back a few minutes later! Having found a promising spot with security guys and a row of cars, we waited for well over an hour, stubbornly disbelieving security's attempts to persuade us that the band had already left. We did see Ricky Gervais emerge from the building and get into one of the waiting cars (apparently unrecognised by anyone else!), but still no sign of Bono...
A passing girl whispered in my ear that U2 had another two cars waiting round the corner, leaving me with a total dilemma about whether to heed this tip or stand our ground (after all, what if it turned out to be a double bluff?). It was a gamble either way, and we decided to stay put, since there were still about four cars here which had to be waiting for *someone*. Sadly it didn't work out, and each of the cars eventually left with random passengers, until only a bus remained. We took one last stroll all around the stadium in the hope of spotting more cars or crowds, but evidently we had either missed the band's exit or been waiting in vain to begin with - oh well. It was mildly disappointing, but in no way did it spoil my fabulous weekend - after a gig like the one I'd just experienced, anything else would just have been a bonus!
Bidding farewell to the stadium which had almost begun to feel like home, we wandered through the deserted streets of Twickenham to catch the first night bus back to Putney, still utterly elated. It was such a good feeling to know that I'd finally seen the ultimate U2 show, and even if I never see such a wonderful concert again, I'm OK with that - I'm just happy I no longer have this *void* making me feel incomplete as a U2 fan. What a sense of blissful relief. Coral and I returned to our hotel room to find it was now a horrific 27° in the middle of the night, but by this point we were far too exhausted to let the heat bother us - I was ready to have a good long sleep!!
After being woken by a huge thunderstorm at 9am, I had a shower but was still unable to scrub all the weekend's dirt off my arms! Our first destination after checking out of the hotel was the nearest Boots to buy some aftersun (the smell of which instantly reminds me of Twickenham every time I use it!), and then it was time to travel home. Things came to a fittingly insane end when, aching and exhausted, having struggled home with a heavy bag that I couldn't sling over my shoulder because of the sunburn, I reached my house only to find that my key wouldn't work due to the heat. And my parents were on holiday, so there was nobody to let me in. Attempts to kick the door in were unsuccessful (only attracting odd looks and leaving it covered in dirty footprints), so I had no option but to sit outside for three and a half hours until the lock had cooled sufficiently!
Thus ends the tale of one very surreal weekend in June 2005, which I will remember and cherish for as long as I live. It was the ultimate test of endurance, but "no pain, no gain", as they say - and it was definitely worth putting up with all the heat and gravel and sleep deprivation, to be that close! I'd do it again in a heartbeat, though in a way I'm kind of glad these things don't come around more frequently. ;) I ended up with 2 very sore shoulders, 27 (count 'em) leg bruises, and one gigantic smile!
The setlists in full:
I Will Follow
The Electric Co (+ Bullet With Butterfly Wings, I Can See For Miles)
New Year's Day
Beautiful Day (+ Here Comes The Sun)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
All I Want Is You
City Of Blinding Lights
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (+ No Regrets)
Love And Peace Or Else
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet The Blue Sky (+ When Johnny Comes Marching Home, The Hands That Built America)
Running To Stand Still
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Where The Streets Have No Name
All Because Of You
The Electric Co (+ Bullet With Butterfly Wings, I Can See For Miles)
Elevation (+ Hot In Herre)
New Year's Day
Beautiful Day (+ Blackbird)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
City Of Blinding Lights
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (+ No Regrets)
Love And Peace Or Else
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet The Blue Sky (+ When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Please, The Hands That Built America)
Running To Stand Still (+ Happy Birthday, Walk On)
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Where The Streets Have No Name
With Or Without You (+ Take Me To The Clouds Above)
Vertigo (+ London Calling)
My full set of photographs are here - Saturday, Sunday - while a selection of Nicky's (considerably better quality) photos are here!