Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Great U2 Road Trip of '05 Part 3

Which brings us to Saturday night - which, thanks to The Baker (you know who you are) and the proximity to the stage of my seat, was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

My seat was on a row of chairs just above section 118, I'm looking straight across the stage, from about 20 yards away, with the Edge on my side of the stage. Nice to have some room, I was next to the end this time, again on the left of the row. Institute comes out, it's loud, but for some reason you couldn't make out the lead guitar, I saw him talking to his tech, don't know if they had issues or Gavin doesn't want to be upstaged. The music sounds better tonight (again that baker), Everything Zen is a slightly different version, when they got to Machine Head, there was a rode-hard, put-up-wet, fried-hair, Gretchen Wilson Redneck Woman off to my right doing the meth dance. Made my head hurt just watching her. Institute ends with a different song, a slow-build guitar workout, again, I couldn't hear the lead very well.

So this dude next to me sits there without moving a muscle, sipping his soda, I of course am foot-tappin', beer-swillin'. I'm thinking, ok, either this guy wandered into the wrong place and doesn't dig rock'n'roll at all, or he's a hardcore U2 fan and could care less about Institute. Turns out it is the latter.

After I returned from hangin' in the concourse during the break, diggin' the "prime cheese" and more beer, he starts talking to me and the woman to my right. This is his 7th U2 show, he's from Burnsville, NC. I told him this was my fourth, I told him about Kenan Stadium in '83, he was impressed, he first saw them in 87 or so. The woman to my right was from Brazil, this was her first show, she said "I grew up with U2 as a teenager".

So then U2 kicks in, it's loud, it's crystal clear, it's like going to your buddy with the killer stereo's house, and hearing your favorite album in a whole new light, realizing that rock'n'roll really is meant to be played LOUD. I'm standing there with my mouth hanging open at how AWESOME the whole experience is.

I was basically looking over Edge's right-hand shoulder, could tell he was wearing black Chucks (the former Helmet dude that plays lead for Institute was too, I have a pair myself). I can see his massive pedalboard, he's got 3 rows of at least 12 buttons each, he's pushing one every 2 measures or so, for changes more subtle than I can detect, I'm amazed at how he keeps up with it.

Here's the setlist.

City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo / Rockaway Beach (snippet) / Rock 'N' Roll Nigger (snippet), Elevation, I Will Follow, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Beautiful Day, Happy Birthday, Original Of The Species, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own / Torna A Surriento (snippet), Love And Peace Or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky / When Johnny Comes Marching Home (snippet) / The Hands That Built America (snippet), Miss Sarajevo, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Where The Streets Have No Name, One, MLK
encores: Until The End Of The World, Mysterious Ways, With Or Without You, The First Time, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Bad / People Have The Power (snippet)

Otis had said beforehand if the Gibson Explorer came out to look for I Will Follow, sure enough, the tech handed it to him and that's what he played. Heavy-metal heaven.

From this vantage point, with 3/4s of the crowd facing you, it is amazing how gonzo the crowd is. Bono, who had said at one point on Friday night "you guys are CRAZY", commented that the crowd was even more fired up tonight. When the crowd was cheering and clapping, it was louder than the music. And you got the full power of 18,000 people singing in unison - goosebump city. Even the normally stoic Adam was wearing a SEG as he took a "victory lap" around the ellipse. What a rush that had to have been for the band, it sure was for me.

The Brazilian woman is bouncing up and down the whole time, she knows all the Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby songs by heart, the guy that was so wooden during Institute is letting out "woo-hoos" every so often, these guys are much more involved than the folks from Friday night.

Bono gives shout-outs to REM (again), Third Day, Ted Turner, who we sing happy birthday to , Bono says Dr. King's family is in the house, sings MLK, which I didn't recognize, I never listened to Unforgettable Fire much, having listened to Under A Blood Red Sky last week, I remembered why I was so disappointed when Fire came out, since Blood Red Sky was ROCK'N'ROLL, and Fire was when they began crafting their more mature sound. I remember at the time reading an interview with Edge, and he said that if they had kept going down the road of Blood Red Sky they would have become the ultimate rock'n'roll band, a caricature of themselves. My favorite song on Unforgettable Fire was Wire, I came to appreciate Bad from the Wide Awake in America EP.

This show was plenty rock'n'roll to me, thanks to the close-in seat, the baker man, and The Edge, who, while a totally different style, is right up there with Clapton, Page, Hendrix, etc. in my book. As Otis pointed out, on Bullet the Blue Sky, he played more of a David Gilmour space blues lead than the slide stuff he's done before. Between that and Adam and Larry's locked-in, thunderous groove, that song was phenomenal both nights.

All in all, one of the most emotionally intense events of my life, right up there with the births of my children.

The Great U2 Road Trip of '05 Part 2

My seats for Friday night's show were at the back, stage-left corner of the arena, with the "wall o' luxury boxes" on my right. After seeing this place, I'm very disappointed in the Charlotte arena.

Anyway, I was on the left-hand end of my row, to my right were 2 young ladies, drinking sodas, one black, one white. To their right were a bunch of drunken a**holes. If I stood up once to let those jerks out, I stood up ten times.

Opening act was Gavin Rossdale of Bush fame's new band, Institute. Very generic heavy rock, the sparse crowd (most were still drinking in the concourse, or, as I discovered the next night, in the food/beer court adjoining the arena) clapped politely between yawns. Then they broke into "Everything Zen" and the crowd became energized. After another generic song or two, they played "Machine Head", again an enthusiastic response from the crowd. No "Glycerine", or I could have said I had heard all my favorite Bush songs live.

They went off, folks gradually started filling in, then around 9:00 the lights went down, the background music got louder, then stopped, and U2 was on with their now-standard opener "City of Blinding Lights". WOW! Very loud, yet very clear sound, and very impressive lights, particularly the curtain of lights that came down behind the stage. Here is the set list, as recorded by, not me, I'm not that anal anymore.

City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo / Rockaway Beach (snippet) / Rock 'N' Roll Nigger (snippet), Elevation, Beautiful Day / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (snippet) / Blackbird (snippet), I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / In A Little While (snippet), Mysterious Ways, Original Of The Species, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own / The Black Hills of Dakota (snippet), Love And Peace Or Else, Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (snippet), Bullet The Blue Sky / When Johnny Comes Marching Home (snippet) / The Hands That Built America (snippet), Miss Sarajevo, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Where The Streets Have No Name, One / Ol' Man River (snippet)
encores: Until The End Of The World, The Fly, With Or Without You, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Yahweh, All Because Of You, 40

I had a big s***-eating grin for many of these, Beautiful Day, the cool new ending they have for Mysterious Ways on this tour (when the song ended, Bono said "we've got a lot of soul for white people". Indeed.), Where The Streets Have No Name, Until the End of the World.

Let me just say right here that these guys have perfected the whole concept of arena rock, even the songs that I'm not that wild about from the new album (Original of the Species, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own) became fist-pumpin' guitar anthems. And of course All Because of You was just kick-butt rock'n'roll.

Back to my spiritual theme, the black woman next to me was in full praise-and-worship mode, I was right there with her, one of the most moving concert experiences of my life.

Bono gave shout-outs to REM, mentioned something about Live 8, said that Rick Wright of Pink Floyd was in da house.

40 ended the show, with each member leaving the stage until only Larry was left, with the entire crowd singing "how long, to sing this song" while he pounded out the beat. A nice touch, over-the-top frontmen can get old, (remember we had Gavin "Mr. GQ" and Bono too) nice to recognize the guy slogging in the trenches.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Great U2 Road Trip of '05 Part 1

I arrived in Atlanta on Friday, November 18th, found these 2 gropers in my hotel room.

Having determined them to be "mostly harmless", I headed out with them and Dennis to Philips Arena, so that Otis and Bob could stake out their spots in the general admission line. Before I go any further with my narrative, let me digress....

I had been listening to some recorded shows from Leg 1 of the current Vertigo tour, recorded back in the spring in Phoenix and Chicago, and had written a blog posting on U2 in general in my head, here it is.

The Phoenix show, in particular, completely blew me away. The "outro" to Gloria brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it, the words are ancient Latin liturgies praising God. I found this on the web - "the meaning of the entire Latin text of the song is literally "Glory in you Lord; exalt Him" "

Which brings me to the point of my epistle - this is deeply spiritual music, and I sincerely believe that it is no coincidence that this band has prospered and indeed, is the only rock band that is truly relevant in this current age in which rock seems truly dead (Long Live Rock). This music speaks to people, and more specifically, these concerts speak to people, filling a spiritual void in many folks that don't realize that have one (a spiritual void, that is). As many of you know, I play in the band at my church, there is no experience on earth that can compare to when the music is "on", we reach that place occasionally, U2 reach it every night they play live. They are consistently "on", in the zone, whatever you want to call it.

So, that said, back to the recent past. After arriving at Philips Arena, Dennis and I repaired to the adjoining Jock's and Jill's, where we staked out a spot for the afternoon and discovered a most excellent brew, Sweetwater ( a local Atlanta brewery) 420 Extra Pale Ale. Very nice hops, but not to the point of turning your mouth inside out. Bob and Otis popped in and out, many of the aforementioned brews were consumed. Eventually the time for the show arrived...(to be continued)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Ultimate in Hops

OK, I thought I had found the most ridiculously hopped beer there could be a while back with Stone Ruination IPA, (on the shelf in the freakin' grocery store in San Diego) however I can top that - Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, recommended to me by my man Mike Brawley at Brawley's Beverage.

The Ruination was aptly named, because it ruins your taste buds for anything but hops, well this stuff takes it a step further and ruins your nose, your eyes, (my brain, but that's another story, 9.10% ABV may have something to do with it), your entire being. I knew by the aroma (pure pine needles) that I was in for a serious pucker factor. Also distinguished by a sparkly, almost crystalline head residue on the sides of my Mellow Mushroom/Paulaner mug. (for you neophytes, the more "lacing" on the sides of your drinking vessel, the better the beer, this stuff goes beyond lacing, leaves a carpet) If you're a hop fanatic (you know who you are) then you gotta get ahold of some of this.

Oh, yeah, the bottle cap says "Great Minds Drink Alike". And I've now tried 29 of the top 100 beers on