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.


Amanda said...

1. I am the Sean of A Reminder's girlfriend.
2. I am a HUGE U2 fan.
3. Everything you said in this review was exactly how I felt.

Except that I LOVED the Vertigo tour in Oz.

What you said about the cameras/camera phones OMG. They drove me insane. I am a huge camera nerd myself but I now how to be respectful to others when taking photos.
It shit me to tears that I had to stare at stupid little screens filming whole songs while the idiots filming were jumping around! Like their videos are even going to be watchable! Argh!

Sorry for the vent, but just had to say how much I agreed with you.
UF was incredible and my highlight. I was so happy to finally see it. A dream come true!

Robyn said...

Hey Amanda,

Nice to hear from a fellow HUGE U2 fan and glad to hear I wasn't the only one peeved at the cameras. I too love photography and even did a bit of concert photography myself, but we're definitely in a different paradigm now, aren't we?

I remember a few years ago I saw Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton at the Commodore. It was strange because it was entirely seated - they placed chairs along the Commodore's floor. Anyhow, during the show Emily Haines actually addressed the audience and made a snarky remark about people taking pictures/videos all throughout the show, and how they're missing out on the experience of the live show.

Oh, and about the Vertigo show -
I should probably note that my experience of Vertigo was tainted based on my seats. We purposely purchased the cheap seats behind the stage, not fully realizing how removed we'd feel from the experience. So the show, had I been in front of the stage, probably would have been memorable.

Nothing will, however, top my experience of Elevation as that was an all-day event for us where we made it into that heart-shaped catwalk and saw U2 out front of GM Place a few hours before. It was like seeing U2 in a tiny club.

PopMart was my first-ever U2 show and I had okay seats, kind of like where I was for 360. Somewhat removed from the action but on the floor and experiencing it all properly.

The saddest fact is that I became a massive U2 fan a few months after they had played Vancouver for Zoo TV. I was 12 at the time and had friends invite me to join them, but I was clueless and wasn't familiar with U2, so I declined. Little would I know that 4 months later they'd change my life and that I'd be religiously following every bit of the Zoo TV tour for the following year.

Robyn said...

Oh yeah, I tend to ramble on when talking about U2 with a fellow massive U2 fan. Hope you don't mind. I sometimes get carried away. ;)