Friday, October 30, 2009

U2 in Vancouver @ BC Place (October 28, 2009)

You know, I was going to write a proper review, only to discover that a review of what I'd essentially say has already been said, but more elloquently than how I'd phrase it: (thanks Sean O!) I shared his blog post with my sister who responded with, "wow, it's nice to hear the perspective from an Achtung Baby fan". So kudos to Sean from both of us.

I do admit, abstaining from U2 since March was probably the best thing I've ever done. It left me with absolutely no expectations for the show and allowed me to appreciate a U2 concert in ways I've never been able to before. In the past, I'd be lapping up all reviews, setlists, and whatnot - memorizing each song order and supposed ad-lib moments to the point of ridiculousless. But then again, I was a big U2 fan and this was considered normal behaviour amongst U2 die-hards.

I arrived on the floor in the GA section around 6:40pm with my significant other and our mutual friend. My sister, who arrived around 2pm, somehow - miraculously, even - found her way front and center of the main catwalk (and came home with a setlist). There was no way we'd be able to hook up with her, so we made due with our spot about 30-people thick from the catwalk. Our vantage point was alright, but the crowd got thicker as time plodded on - rude and rowdy at certain points, and this definitely altered my mood. If you're going to cut in and wedge ahead of me when there's no space, expect elbows in your lower back. Or hot breath down your neck. A breath that smells faintly of chicken schwarma and scotch. Har har!

But back to the U2 show. The concert was great. It had its high moments and its disappointments, but overall I enjoyed it a lot more than their Vertigo tour. Contrived or not, it had its genuine moments and I was actually impressed with the sound and Bono's voice.

Highlights included:

Magnificent - though three songs in already, this is the song that started the show for me. This is the only song where I could actually begin to see the band with my own eyes. That had a lot to do with it. It's the only song, in my opinion, off their new album which has genuine spirit. Maybe it's because it feels like an October-era outtake?

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - Bono sang it in its original key and all of BC Place sang it back with him.

In A Little While - a pretty little tune off All That You Can't Leave Behind. I've always enjoyed this song - it's fun to play on guitar and even fun to sing along, but I never expected to hear U2 to perform it live again. The unaltered NASA imagery - rockets falling back to Earth, astronauts floating in the space station, etc. - suited the mood as well (despite the literal association with the lyrics).

Until the End of the World - I wasn't expecting to hear anything off of Achtung Baby, to be honest. This has always been a powerful song live and this was no exception. Nice to see Bono and Edge chase eachother around the stage as they've always done so to this tune.

Images of U2's bobbing heads during the remixed performance of one of my least favourite songs, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight. I hadn't heard the remix, which was almost a throwback to their PopMart days. I almost expected Discotheque when their heads started to bop though.

The Unforgettable Fire was played in its entirety - the first time I've ever heard this one live. I mean, before the 360 tour, this song was performed live up until - oh, 1990. It's always been one of my favourite U2 tracks and I was beaming the entire time it was played, despite Bono's awkward ending. I can die a happy girl to have heard this live. Never expected this song resurrected (much like I didn't anticipate Zoo Station or An Cat Dubh or the Electric Co to be resurrected, like they were during the Vertigo tour).

Ultraviolet (Light My Way) during the last encore. This has been my all-time favourite U2 song (aside from Bad) since falling in love with Achtung Baby. I never expected to hear it live again because they stopped playing it in 1993 prior to this tour. This song has always stimulated my emotions in ways I cannot describe. It always marked the climax of U2 shows during their whole Zoo TV/Zooropa/Zoomerang tours (just watch U2 Live in Sydney for proof). And from a girl who once dressed herself up as Macphisto, to finally see U2 perform this live - with Bono singing into a glowing red microphone suspended from the rafters, wearing a jacket shooting red lazers, it really brought back those emotions from that period in my life. Once again, to have experienced that song live, (even if it was missing Bono's signature falsetto) I can now die a happy girl.

Most surreal moment of the night? Singing Happy Birthday to Bill Gates with 60,000 others. He was apparently there that night. I also found it amusing to hear that "Mr. and Mrs. Edge" (Edge's parents) were in the audience as well. Hearing Bono reference the Canada Line, Expo Line and Millenium line was funny, but not surprising. They've made local references in the past (ie: the Commodore Ballroom).


I was more disappointed with where I was standing and the behaviour of the crowd than with U2. I once put U2 on a pedestal, but got so disappointed with them this decade that I simply stopped caring. That "stopped caring" technique appears to have worked. But the crowd? Oh man! You disappoint me people! It appears that concerts are no longer about seeing and experiencing the band, but about who can take the best crappy picture with the camera phones. It's great that you were there and all and that you can prove that you were there, but there's something seriously wrong when more than half of your experience of a concert is basically a collection of arms and cameras blocking any possible view of the stage. Take a picture once or twice, but not persistently through the whole show. It's rude and disruptive. Even when Bono or Edge or Adam walked around the catwalk, as soon as they walked close enough to see, everyones arms shot up with cameras in hand and blocked any possible view.

Next time?

Next time I'm getting proper seats. Or if I'm to get GA tickets once more, I'm waiting in lineup early (like I did during the Elevation tour, when I actually met Adam Clayton outside GM Place and was up against the catwalk and was so close to the band I could analyse the patterns in the sole of Bono's boots). It's so worth it if you have the luxury of time. Alas, not that night.

Overall? The concert was great. Better than Vertigo but not as exciting as Elevation or PopMart. But then again, I had low expectations and they did play Ultraviolet and the Unforgettable Fire, so I am a happy girl.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

U2 in a few hours!!!

So apparently U2 have been partying at Bar None (on Monday) and Coast restaurant (on Tuesday). I think reality is setting in that I'll be seeing them in a few hours! Will post back tomorrow with a report!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

U2 @ BC Place

So tomorrow U2 is playing Vancouver's BC Place.  I haven't missed a U2 concert in Vancouver since I became obsessed with them as a 12 year old girl during their Zoo TV/Zooropa era.

But I'm so disappointed about the venue. BC Place is possibly the world's worst venue for a concert. Initially built for Expo 86, the cavernous cement bunker's as far as an acoustic-friendly venue as it gets. For one thing, it has an inflatable roof which just sucks in all the sound. In fact, you'd probably have better sound quality listening to a band through an echo chamber or through a subway tunnel. Oh, and it's where the 2010 Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies will be held. That should be... amusing.

The good news is that they're planning to rid BC Place of its iconic white roof, replacing it with a very Euro-styled retractable one:

I've actually seen a lot of big shows at BC Place over the years. Some of my first concerts, in fact. Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones back in 1994. U2's PopMart Tour in 97. Madonna last year. But the sound has consistently been horrible.

But tomorrow's show should be interesting, anyway. We have General Admission tickets, which is standing room. Doors open at 5pm. The Black Eyed Peas go on at 7pm and U2 go on probably around 9-ish. I haven't even looked into the potential playlist (which I've typically done before every U2 show). All I know is that they've resurrected some Unforgettable Fire tracks. If they play the title track live, I'll have died and gone to heaven! But it still hasn't hit me yet that I'm going to see U2 tomorrow. I guess when I find myself at BC Place in a sea of 60,000 people, reality will hit me soon enough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Foggy Friday

The rainclouds have turned to fog and have lowered themselves over the city. I love it!

2010 Olympics torch relay: realization of a myth

Yesterday at 2am local Vancouver time, somewhere in Greece, the 2010 Winter Olympics torch was lit, marking the beginning of the torch relay which will, after 106 days, travel over 1000 communities before arriving in Vancouver.

Although this city has been bombarded with Olympics hype for the past 8-9 years (and therefore we tune this stuff out), this particular event really hits home. It signifies the realization of a myth. This so-called Vancouver Olympics which have been perpetually stuck in the future... it's starting to feel like, no really, it REALLY is happening. It's not just talk!

Since the announcement that Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 Olympics back on that sleepy 2003 morning, this city has had its major city streets and downtown blocks torn apart. Major downtown intersections and shopping districts literally were ripped apart and turned into 3-4 story open trenches for the construction of the Canada Line rapid transit (subway). For years and years our city has been one big inescapable construction site full of gaping holes in the ground. Entire neighbourhoods like Yaletown, Granville Street and Cambie became one big detour.

I mean, I used to giggle when tourists showed concern about staying in hotels next to construction sites.

Honey? This city is a construction site. Escaping construction in Vancouver is like escaping freeways in LA.

New bridges have been built. New venues have been constructed. Cute fuzzy mascots with First Nations aesthetics are for sale EVERYWHERE.

The twisty Sea to Sky Highway was blown apart and reconstructed so that impatient speed demons could speed their way faster to Whistler. Greater Vancouver lost one of its few campground/RV parks, where they not only demolished the park, they built over the Fraser River and its estuary and built the Richmond Oval on man-made land. How very Dubai of them!

And I'm not even getting into the political protests.

When I worked downtown I used to walk by the Olympics countdown clock outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, and I remember the day when it finally reached 1000 days before the Olympics. Any day now, it'll reach 100 days.

The Olympics are only a few months away, and I live in the middle of it all. I live across the street from where the media will be based. I'll look out of my window and see the world's media. I'll look out my solarium and see BC Place Stadium where they're holding the opening and closing ceremonies. I'll look out my bedroom window and spy on Cypress Mountain. If I looked at it with my telescope, would I be able to see the snowboarders?

It's just weird.

The Olympics have always been on the horizon for 7 years in Vancouver. It's been so long. It's a new sensation - goosebumps - to see that the torch has now been lit and that it's seriously making its way to Vancouver in 4 months.

I still think the torch looks like a joint.

Very fitting Vancouver.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ode to White Spot

White Spot Legendary Restaurant

On any given day as evening approaches, my significant other and I will get caught in the same predictable dinner banter:

"What do you feel like eating?"

"I don't know. What do you feel like?"

"I'm asking you."

"It doesn't matter. Anything."


"No. I don't feel like anything greasy. Why don't I just pick up some groceries at Choices and I'll make something."

"No, I don't feel like dealing with the mess."

"Okay, how about sushi?"

"I just had sushi for lunch. We could head down to Milestones or somewhere nearby and grab a quick dinner".

"Nah... I don't feel like dealing with the whole Yaletown scene. I just want something low key."

"White Spot?"

"White Spot!!!"

It's not that we're picky eaters, but sometimes too much choice can be a bad thing. Whenever we're indecisive like this, White Spot's the fail safe. It's always that reliable middle ground that we can both agree on. Whatever the craving we do or don't have, White Spot is the answer.

But admitting you like White Spot is a fact often left unspoken in social circles. It's like admitting you still play with Barbie's when you're 13, or that as an adult you still sleep with your teddy bear. White Spot won't impress others with your dining savoir-faire, nor will it amaze your foodie girlfriend. And the beautiful metro men from the video game studios do not get sloshed at White Spot, oh no.

White Spot may not be bragworthy cool, but its mystique - I think - lies in its nostalgia, and it's exclusive nostalgia at that. After all, it's been a fixture in BC since 1928! Those of us who grew up in the Lower Mainland seem to have an inherent soft spot for the White Spot - it's our guilty pleasure we will never outgrow. We share collective memories of pirate paks dinners - a children's meal served inside a paper pirate ship with a straw for the mast, napkin for the sail, and genuine booty of a single chocolate coin. Ahoy! indeed.

When we outgrew pirate paks (a sad day for a 12 year old), we kept going to the White Spot after school, as hinted at by Kyla Mallett's Legendary Teens.

But even as adults, native BC'ers collectively desire our triple O burgers with a floppy pickle, the spoonful of sunflower seed-speckled coleslaw, and fries - served with a reliably dribbly bottle of vinegar. Sure, it may not impress the foodies and it may puzzle the uninitiated, but us born-and-raised BC'ers love our White Spot burgers. And as my raw-food vegan friend Lorra attests, "the only time I EVER crave burgers is when I think about White Spot burgers". I think that's enough proof right there.

Edit: Sadly, I don't have any photos of the glorious White Spot burger, but a quick search on Google images will provide you with more than enough mouth-watering results.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Memoirs of last week's rainbow

It's not everyday you're treated to such a show...

Raindrops on the window

Rainbow over Yaletown on October 14, 2009

Rainbow over Yaletown on October 14, 2009

It's hockey season...

...and I don't care

Many locals here have hockey fever and they go crazy for the Vancouver Canucks. It's all they talk about. It's all their life revolves around. In social situations, it's the only topic. On a Vancouver-related blog, you may expect the occasional Vancouver Canucks reference, but this is about as far as I go as talking about hockey.*

* Unless the Vancouver Canucks get into the Stanley Cup finals.**

** But only maybe.

p.s. I apologize to my friends who, back in August, I mentioned I'd watch the Canucks for them this season. It hasn't happened yet. Sorry.

October = peak autumn colour

maple leaves falling on Homer Street
Sure, I argue that Vancouver (and all of BC) isn't known for its autumn colours. (Hello Qu├ębec? I think that's you). But on my drive home along Oak Street, I can't help but admire the beauty of the mature oaks, maples, and chestnuts that line those affluent residential city blocks. (Shaughnessy? Yes, that's you). It's like a canopy of golden light - especially beautiful when the sun hits it after a morning of rain.

Now, I still wouldn't recommend tourists to come here specifically for autumn colours, and yet, if you stick within the city limits, it can truly be spectacular. Magical, even. It appears that this year, 2009, the peak autumn colour has been the first half of October. It's only now with late night rains that the leaves have been falling off the branches. The leaves left on the sidewalk, though? They're like confetti. Beautiful, exquisite confetti from the Japan. I blame it on the Japanese maples - the unofficial tree of Vancouver.

The secret is to get outside downtown into the residential blocks along the West Side: Dunbar, Fairview, Shaughnessy, Kitsilano, West Point Grey, etc. Unfortunately I don't have an iPhone, or I'd share with you the crimsons, oranges and golds of my commute. Maybe I'll bring my camera with me tomorrow. Until then, we'll have to settle on my distant shots of Fairview and Shaughnessy across False Creek:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Autumn in Stanley Park

What a glorious Thanksgiving Long Weekend we had. Beautiful autumn weather from Friday to Monday, but particularly sunny and warm on Saturday afternoon. Feeling restless and needing to unwind, I went for a 5 hour long walk along the seawall from Yaletown to Stanley Park and back.

English Bay

Stanley Park seawall

Stanley Park seawall

Lion's Gate Bridge

Third Beach

Third Beach seawall

Third Beach

Third Beach seawall

Sylvia Hotel

Moonrise October 8

I love when the moon rises over the North Shore mountains - not that you can see the mountains in these photos - they're obscured by clouds. But at night the moonlight shines into my bedroom like a spotlight, and it's a comfort. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the moon.

October moonrise, Vancouver

October moonrise, Vancouver

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October dusk

The sky outside my apartment yesterday as the sun was setting:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vancouver gets Google Street View

Today Google Street View has gone live in Canada. That means that for most Canadian cities, you can use Google Maps to zoom down to street level and experience a virtual "walk through" of the city. It's a fantastic way to get a feel for a city, especially if you've never been there before.

For example, here's Yaletown on what looks like a weekday in early May, maybe 10am-ish:

View Larger Map

Virtual walk throughs have, of course, been around for a while now, but Google has taken that medium and has incorporated it into the functionality of Google Maps. For a former geography/GIS student like myself, it's truly exciting!

Saying that, over ten years ago an acquaintance of mine created a virtual walk through of downtown Vancouver all on his own. He must have spent weeks doing this, but he effectively had a precursor to Google's Street View. It's still online at and I encourage you to check it out. I find it quite fascinating to go through and walk through Vancouver circa late 90's because so much has changed around the city since then, it's really like going back in time.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Budget Hotels in Downtown Vancouver

The New York Times recently published an article featuring Vancouver's budget hotels. As a former Tourism Vancouver visitor counsellor, I can vouch that these are pretty realistic portrayals - the comments are insightful as well. Accommodation in Vancouver can be expensive, and unless you're seeking a hostel, these hotels are the cheapest you're going to find:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Granville Street people watching

Granville Street around Smithe is a great place to people watch.

You have a blend of hipster & alternative boutiques next to the nightclubs, pubs, theatres, and greasy dollar pizza shops. The McDonald's and Burger King often have street kids hanging out front and down the road are the budget hotels and the backpacker hostels. Then there are the businesses from another era: greasy spoon diners, pawn shops, and porn shops.

Granville's really trying hard to gentrify, but it's not there yet. Needless to say, it makes for great people watching.

p.s. Check out the people on the left in the last photo... priceless!

Moonrise at sunset

The light was beautiful at sunset tonight. Here are some quick shots I took looking out my apartment window.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Autumn events at UBC

I love autumn in Vancouver. I love the earthy smell in the air, the low-lying fog in the morning, the colours changing on the trees, the chestnuts that litter the streets, the crisp air in the evening - even the quality of light.

While Vancouver isn't traditionally an autumn destination (our forests are predominantly evergreen, after all), there are so many great autumn events that most people aren't even aware of. Two events that I'm particularly interested in are happening out at UBC. Both will allow you experience all the fantastic sites and smells of autumn.

UBC Farm
Saturday, October 3rd
9am until 1pm

UBC Botanical Garden
October 17 & 18
11am until 4pm

The UBC Farm Harvest Fest would be a great excuse to get out and experience the only remaining true farm in the city of Vancouver (whose future is undetermined, as the farm's actually zoned for development, but is currently sitting in limbo - boo!). I've never visited the farm, but my Dad (who spent his childhood summers in Hay Lakes - ie: small farming town - Alberta) says that he actually feels like he's back in Alberta when he's there. It's apparently a lot larger than people anticipate. My sister, who works at UBC, says a visit to the UBC Farm is an absolute must.

The UBC Apple Fest is a lot of fun, in that old-fashioned country fair kind of way. I think they charge a small fee ($2?) for entry, but you essentially get access to the entire UBC Botanical Garden, plus you can do apple tastings, buy bags of apples - and we're not talking about Granny Smith's, but dozens of unique and rare varieties you typically don't find in stores. They sell apple pie, candied apples, apple cider, and there's usually entertainment. I visited two years ago and it was so enjoyable. Just be sure to get there early, especially if the weather's nice, as they actually sold out of many apples by the time we arrived.

I have nothing set in stone yet, but if I manage to make my way out to either event, I'll be sure to report back!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Celebration of Lightning: a recap of Vancouver's summer storm

I thought I would finally post some photos from July 25, 2009.

I'll never forget this day.

It started out as a beautiful Saturday afternoon: clear skies, sunshine, temperatures in the mid 20's Celsius. We picked up BBQ supplies, called up our friends, and all met down at Spanish Banks.

When we set up on the beach it was 4pm and the tide was very low - one of the lowest tides I had seen there in a long time. You could barely even see the people - they were so far out!

We decided to head down to the beach and walk out to the water's edge.

Some of the guys went for a swim... was around then when I looked east and noticed a big dark cloud looming over the city.


I knew it had to be raining over there, and we're not talking about a light drizzle. I just crossed my fingers and hoped that it wouldn't make it out our way. I mean, it was still sunny where we were.

Sort of.

I decided to head back. Back through the seaweed and sandbars and salt water channels.

Back at the site, we set up our BBQ and watched as the tide crept back in.

For several hours we enjoyed drinks, food, and one another's company, watching the tide coming in with all the people with it.

And that's when it started to happen.

We first heard the thunder off in the distance, and it was followed by bright flashes. But the lightning was far enough away, out in the mountains and over the city and suburbs, so we continued our BBQ. We continued like this for about half an hour before the rain set in. It was large, luscious drops of rain. It cleared out almost all of Spanish Banks to the point where we were the only ones left.

Strangely, we stayed and basked in it.

We watched the lightning light up the mountains across the water and behind us over the suburbs. We could see it fork down over downtown Vancouver, and we just stood there in awe.

Earlier in the day we had a hard time finding parking and a spot on the beach. And here we were, a few hours later, and the beach was vacant with exception to a few individuals like ourselves, shreiking with joy at the spectacle.

The thunder and lightning storm persisted at a distance, but the sun started to shine beneath the clouds. A rainbow appeared over downtown.

As the sun continued to lower itself under the storm clouds, the most beautiful golden light made the atmosphere absolutely magical.

Vancouver, Hawaii

July 25 sunset

The event became even more surreal when the sky changed colour, from purple, to orange, to red, all the while white and purple lightning bolts forked out over the mountains, the city, and the suburbs. I never managed to capture the lightning on camera, but I assure you it was divine.

Surreal skies turned apocalyptic red. And it was in the torrential downpour overlooking a now-crimson Burrard Inlet at sunset that we decided it was a perfect time go for a swim!

Foolish, perhaps in retrospect, but it'll definitely be a moment I will never forget.