(This is long…and the U2 part of it starts roughly 848 words into the post. Also, fair warning, I swear a lot toward the end.)
So the big U2 show came through St. Louis last night. It was a great night. I’ll be putting some pics on my Tumblr page later, if anything from my phone turned out okay…so look for that. My friend Kenny is a professional photographer (and a great drummer—we used to work together in the Feldman Group). He took these pictures that you should really check out. So there’s a plug for him…sorry that my pictures will be crappy cell phone pics that don’t measure up.
The day started off with me watching the Women’s World Cup final between the USA and Japan. Great game with a well-deserved win by the Japanese ladies. They made me want them to win from minute one, where they looked like they were glad to be there and the Americans just looked angry. Japan deserved it, won it, and should STILL be celebrating. Congrats to them, even though in my heart of hearts (I am speaking of course of the smaller heart that rests inside of my larger heart), I still love ‘merica!
It was time to depart for the show shortly after the game’s end. I rode down with my dad and Susan (his girlfriend, who doesn’t get too many mentions on the blog for some reason—sorry Susan). We parked at the Lumiere Casino and went into their sports bar so Dad and Susan could eat and I could grab a quick Sam Adams (and ONLY one—I don’t respect the guys who’re drunk before they even get to the venue) before the show. I don’t like to eat before spending a few hours in the heat—and it was oppressively hot. If I eat, I get sick, so I avoided food in order to enjoy the show. Unfortunately, we ALL would have been better off not going to the sports bar. Their service was atrocious. We were there for probably 45 minutes, at least 20 of which was spent waiting for our waitress to show up. I hear the food was good…but is it really worth $10 for a burger without service, where you have to flag someone who isn’t your waitress down for a refill?
Fortunately, the sports bar was the one bad part of the day. Soon, we were on the shuttle to get to the stadium and the day was back on schedule. Driving up to the stadium was an amazing sight, as U2’s stage set (lovingly nicknamed “The Claw”) was so big it was plainly visible both through and above the stadium. There was an audible, almost unanimous “woah!” among the passengers in the shuttle. We walked in and found the seats with no incident.
After sitting down for a few minutes, I journeyed out to find the merch booth. Once found, it was like voluntarily cramming into a sardine tin (oils disturbingly included) and there was some maddening small talk with a girl who was a high school senior, who had a lot of questions about the shirts. Whereas I think it’s awesome that the uninitiated go to shows like this, as a seasoned rock-show veteran, I do find it a little bit irritating when people don’t know something as simple as what shirt size they take…but she was excited and her heart was in the right place. Can’t blame her… But after a 30-minute wait in a hot, sweaty line, I was kind of glad when we parted company. I picked up a reddish shirt and a greenish cap. Prices were higher than they should have been—especially since mine, with no printing on the back, cost as much as the others…but it’s a rock show. You go in knowing that you’re going to spend too much. (But shirts were $40…I expected $30. Times have changed.)
I sat back down just in time to catch Interpol’s set and say hello to my brother and sister-in-law. (Happy birthday again, Dave!) They were okay, but their songs need better endings. I don’t have any desire to investigate them further, but I didn’t feel like booing either…so well done. Between bands, I managed to find some time to catch up with my old friend Amanda, who drove in from central Illinois for the show. We hadn’t seen each other in a year or so, so it was nice to catch up. Could have spent a little bit more time together, but we both mistook some of the background music for intro music (it got loud at one point for no reason) and went off running, not wanting to miss the show. Unfortunately, there were about 20 more minutes until U2 came on…so there was mostly just sitting and reading the random facts and statistics they were scrolling across the screen (see Kenny’s pics for a good shot of that).
Then, with no further ado, after all of the ado I’ve put you through up to this point… It was time for the main event. U2’s intro music came on…and here we go!
The music got very loud and we were treated to the opening strains of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” as the band walked to the stage. In what was an extra treat for our section, the band walked right in front of us on their way to the stage and we were among the first to see them. (I literally could’ve spit on them from where I was…but why would I do that?) I made eye contact and waved at The Edge. He was obviously really glad to see me, but kept it cool and pretended like he didn’t even know or care about who I was and didn’t wave back or acknowledge me. (Sarcasm—In reality, he was busy being The Edge, and I was probably the millionth person to wave at him this week.) 🙂
The band took the stage and ripped right into “Even Better than the Real Thing,” “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways,” and “Until the End of the World.” All four from Achtung Baby! It was like they were paying me back for that show I didn’t get to go to in the 90s, on the Zoo TV tour! Then they did an excellent version of my favorite U2 song, “I Will Follow,” which made me very happy. They settled into the set nicely, and they broke out most of the hits everyone could’ve wanted to hear. (Though I’m sure someone complained that they didn’t do “Desire” or “New Year’s Day” or something…but those complaints belong only to the jaded.)
There were some obvious outstanding moments. At one point, Bono reached into his pocket and produced the set list from U2’s first ever show in St. Louis from 1981, when they played on the Wash-U campus. That kind of thing is a little bit cheesy, but it’s also really, really cool. That’s one of the things I love about bands like U2…they make it their business to be very informed about the place they’re playing on a given night—and that makes them great entertainers.
Another great moment came when Bono reached down into the crowd during “City of Blinding Lights” and pulled a young boy named Will out of the audience. He walked the kid around the stage and pretty much made the kid’s LIFE in the process, I would imagine. (I mean…imagine that the biggest rock star in the world reaches into a crowd of 53,000 people and pulls YOU out of the crowd and walks you around the stage, and you’re eight.) As Bono got to the other side of the stage (although not quite far enough to drop the kid off in the same place that he picked him up—but it was cool, I saw the kid with his dad later) he asked him his name and he said he was Will…Bono said, “Don’t forget me Will. We’ll meet again!” And it was a really cool, sweet moment… Yet for some reason, all I could think was “Bono’s just like The Doctor!” Will geekdom never cease? 🙂
Bono dedicated their performance of “Beautiful Day” to Gabby Giffords, providing one of the more memorable moments of the show. During the intro to the song, the screen went to static then came back together on an image of (Giffords’ husband/astronaut) Mark Kelley greeting St. Louis from the International Space Station. He floated a message through the air toward the camera (because it’s goddamn weightless in space!) that we humans are many people, but one nation and that “It’s a Beautiful Day” and ended up contributing to the ongoing weird David Bowie tribute by saying, “Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows.” And then the band played the song. (John Kerry’s campaign song…breaks my heart every time.)
In another sweetly serious moment, Bono shed some light on the life-story of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. I was semi-familiar with who she was, but I have certainly learned more in the past 24 hours, thanks to the show. Please check out that link. It’s really an amazing story of someone imprisoned for wanting to be free, who was finally granted freedom, mostly because of the work of people who didn’t know her. The band dedicated “Walk On” to her and to Amnesty International. I’ve been very familiar with AI for a few years, and whereas they often do and say things that even I feel are a little bit too radical, when they do good work, they do good work. Last night’s show made me appreciate them a little bit more, and certainly gave us all something to think about as we were all there as free people, some of whom were children (or less) when Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest. I’ve heard more than one person say that they were either surprised by that or wished that U2 didn’t feel the need to “get political” with stuff like that…but I’ve never been sure how human rights are supposed to be “political.” (Dammit U2…why you gotta go makin’ me believe in stuff and whatnot?)
Okay…let’s get back to fun… 🙂
The band played a brief snippet of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at one point. As long time readers/people who know me might recall, I am a HUGE Leonard Cohen fan. I was even wearing a Leonard Cohen t-shirt last night! So I was very happy to hear that (though it was clearly more informed by Jeff Buckley’s version).
In all, the setlist was a great mix of new and old that had enough new stuff to keep the “I only have Joshua Tree” folks happy, while hopefully opening up their ears to stuff that’s GREAT that they maybe haven’t heard. I loved hearing the 90s stuff, and the newer stuff…but there’s nothing cooler than hearing 53,000 people singing in unison to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I particularly appreciated that they ended with a new song, in a somber moment, dedicated to those affected by the tornado in Joplin. “Moment of Surrender” (despite its redundancy in referring to an “ATM Machine”) is one of the best songs on the record, and was a perfect closer, in my book.
My only real complaint about the show was that where we were sitting the “360-tour” was “360” seemingly only in the sense that you could basically see the back of their heads for most of the show. The tour was supposed to be “in the round,” but we were basically behind all of the action, with the band clearly still thinking of the stage as having a front and a back. I think Bono only graced our section with his presence once and The Edge might’ve wandered over twice. People in our section were sitting down a lot (hard to blame them) and it just felt like a band who’s on their 7th leg of an “in the round” tour could’ve done a slightly better job of pillow-talk with the WHOLE crowd. Still, that’s a minor complaint, given how good the show was, with all its production value and GREAT set list.
…and my only OTHER complaint was about a complete dickweed on the ride back on the shuttle. The driver of the shuttle asked that we all move toward the back to allow more people to get on and some complete ballbag made a crude joke about the Black bus driver asking people to move to the back of the bus. I think my (loud) reply was, “That’s real fucking nice, guy. I guess those couple hundred years of mistreatment meant nothing.” (He wisely did not reply—though I’m pretty sure he heard me. And I noticed that he did not repeat himself for the benefit of others who were close enough to punch him in his fucking throat—not that I encourage that type of thing.) What an asshole. After seeing a show that stressed the importance of thinking of ourselves as one society, one people, and one world, there’s a racist shitbag on the shuttle that makes you wonder; even if we ARE one people…does that make us any goddamn good? (And does my anger at that guy really make me any better than him. –Probably not.)
And I guess that’s the main thing I can take away from the show…we should all try to do better.
(And I’m going to add that to the “only music can do that” file…)
I followed up the awesome show by heading over to Waffle House. After a long day of not eating and sweating bullets, I needed orange juice. I love Waffle House. Their coffee tastes just as good in Decaf as it does in Regular, and their hash browns can’t be beat.
So yeah, awesome day with only a few minor downturns…and those were certainly dwarfed by the show and the fun. Probably the best show I’ll go to this year. Possibly the best one I’ve been to since Pearl Jam last year (unless I’m forgetting something). Plus…got my merch…so I’m happy. 🙂
Thanks for reading all that, if you did. You just subjected yourself to 2367 words. Sorry about that.