Sunday, August 30, 2009


U2 Barcelona 2009-07-02 Electrical Storm (1st time live ever!)

U2 Lists: Top Five Places To See U2 Live

With the U2 360 tour underway, it’s time for another tour related list - the top five places to see U2 play live. I've only notched up a show at one of the places on the list (Croke Park) but I'll be making it two in October when I see U2 play in New York City. Well, kind of: it won't be Madison Square Garden, but Giants Stadium is close enough for me. So what makes a great U2 venue? I think the great venues, the ones with that certain extra something - or as the French would say, that “je ne sais quoi” - are the ones that have a shared history and strong connection to the band. They also have the right combination of ingredients to create that magic U2 show atmosphere. If you've been lucky enough to hang out with 80,000 fellow U2 fans chanting "40" or singing along to "Pride" or "Where The Streets Have No Name" at a show, you'll know what I'm talking about - that indescribable high that swells through the crowd and makes you feel like life really couldn't get any better. It's a feeling of joy, love, hope and hurt all rolled into one. It's a moment when the heart really is "a bloom." Here are my top five U2 live venues; the places where the magic is most likely to happen.

5. Wembley Stadium, London, England
It might have just been through an expensive and tumultuous rebuilding process (don’t blame the Aussie builders!), but Wembley Stadium is still considered sacred ground by music fans around the globe. The new Wembley Stadium opened its doors in 2007 and has a few claims to fame, including the most expensive stadium ever built, the second largest stadium in Europe and the largest stadium in the world that can seat everyone under cover. The original Wembley Stadium was in operation from 1923 and played host to a who’s who of modern music including Madonna, Michael Jackson, Queen, Bon Jovi, INXS, Metallica, Aerosmith, Prince, The Foo Fighters and the Spice Girls. The old stadium was the venue for the original Live Aid charity event in 1985, which catapulted U2 to international stardom. On the recent U2 360 tour, The Sun newspaper allegedly received a hand-written letter from Bono promising the band would put on a stellar performance at their new Wembley Stadium gig on August 14 allegedly saying: "I swear by the green green sacred grass of Wembley stadium that the sun will shine out of our collective arses this weekend.” The band’s second show on August 15, 2009, reportedly broke the Wembley Stadium attendance record, with 88,000 fans gathering for the event – 5000 more than the previous record set by Rod Stewart back in the old Wembley Stadium in 1995.

4. Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA
“The Irish have been coming here for years, feels like they own the place,” sings Bono in the song “New York” on the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. And indeed, he does own a place in New York, choosing to make this pulsating metropolis his US home away from home. And if there’s one venue that’s synonymous with the Big Apple, it’s Madison Square Garden. The Garden has played host to big NYC events for 130 years, starting life as a velodrome for competitive cycling in 1879. The current Garden, located above Pennsylvania Station on 7th Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets, opened on February 14, 1968 and has the capacity to hold about 20,000 people. U2 played the Garden as part of their Elevation tour in October 2001, not long after the September 11 attacks on New York City. Bono and the Edge have called these shows some of the most memorable and emotional of their careers.

3. Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland
There’s something special about seeing U2 play to their home crowd in Dublin. The buzz in the city before and after the show is truly amazing, especially when the crowds take to the streets to do the 15 minute walk to and from the city centre to the stadium. And of course, when the gig is over, you can party the night away with thousands of other fans in Temple Bar. With a capacity of more than 82,000 people, Croke Park is the largest sports stadium in Ireland and the fourth largest stadium in Europe. Croke Park – better known as ‘Croker’ to the locals - has played an important part in both the history of Ireland and U2. On November 21, 1920, 14 people were killed in the stadium when British army auxiliaries entered the ground and shot indiscriminately into the crowd as a reprisal for the earlier assassination of 14 British Intelligence officers. That massacre became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The song U2 wrote and recorded about the massacre - more than 60 years after it took place - turned out to be a defining moment for their musical careers and the start of their continued work towards the peace process in their homeland.

2. Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado, USA
It’s an intimate concert venue – only seating about 9500 people – but everything else about the Red Rocks Amphitheatre is big: big on atmosphere, big on natural grandeur and big on sound. The breathtaking amphitheatre in the Rocky Mountain foothills, 15 miles west of Denver, was created by two 300-foot monoliths of red sandstone that dwarf the stage and provide a dramatic concert backdrop. The venue is also reputed to offer one thing all concert goers search for but rarely find, “acoustic perfection.” U2’s performance at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre on a cold, wet night in June 1983 was, according to Rolling Stone, one of the “50 Moments that Changed Rock and Roll.” The bad weather that night only added to the show’s unique atmosphere: mist rolled in from the hills, torches were lit on the cliffs and Bono waved that white flag. Magic.

1. Slane Castle, near Dublin, Ireland
A significant piece of Irish history and a major piece of U2 history, Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland, is the ultimate venue to catch a U2 show. A favourite venue for rock music’s A-list, including the likes of Thin Lizzy, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, Bob Dylan, Madonna and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, U2 has played Slane more times than any other band, with shows in 1981 and two shows in 2001. The natural amphitheatre can hold a massive 100,000 people, creating an atmosphere and concert experience that is hard to top. I can’t think of anything better than standing with100,000 other U2 fans, in the shadow of the centuries-old castle, and hearing Bono yell “This is our city; this is our tribe.” The castle’s gothic ballroom also helped give The Unforgettable Fire its ambient, experimental sound (well, that and Brian Eno) back in 1984. All this and it’s only 25 minutes from Dublin’s airport. It’s an experience that should be on every U2 fan’s to-do list.

Column: off the record...,vol. 9-372

I've got to admit, I'm a bit sad at the moment. Saturday night was U2's last show in Europe this year. Bono sang a bit of the Welsh national anthem and thanked the Evans family for their help when the band started. It must have been special for Edge and his family, finishing the tour in Wales. So the European tour of 2009 is now officially over. To help you remember just how awesome it all was, here's a recap with some highlights of the tour and everything around it:

The BBC interview with Bono and Edge had some great moments (I especially liked the "new" old song and Bono's futile efforts to cheat his way through the U2 intro game). The not completely live, but otherwise very cool broadcast of the Sheffield gig was a great idea, they should definitely do that more often.

In Berlin three Czech guys had the time of their lives as they played "Angel of Harlem" with U2 on stage. Imagine giving your very first live performance in front of 80,000 people!

Edge celebrated his birthday in style. There was also champagne at the show in Zagreb, and the whole stadium sang "Happy Birthday" for him.

And of course, there were the Dublin shows. Great atmosphere in the city, and a superb homecoming. One of the good moments there: “The Auld Triangle.” Just Bono and Edge on stage, having fun.

One of the songs off No Line on the Horizon I really love and was hoping to hear, is "White as Snow." So I was very happy to see this blog post. It hasn't been played yet, but at least Willie Williams is suggesting it, so I'm crossing my fingers and hope it'll make its debut somewhere along the tour.

As you know, we're great Twitter fans here at @U2. If the @U2 Tweets haven't yet convinced you to get an account, then have a look at Edge's. As you probably know, he only posts photos without any comments. Many of them are quite artsy, revealing, comical, or just plain gorgeous, like this one. (Notice the woman in the back taking off her sunglasses -- this is one of those moments where you need a full and clear view).

Some of my personal Edge favorites:

U2 at the Millennium Stadium: 'The best gig Cardiff's ever had'

It was one of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of the year.

And for 70,000 fans, it delivered on every count.

When U2 rolled into Cardiff last night for the last leg of their European 360 Degree Tour, they blew the audience away.

Taking centre stage and most of the audience's breath away in the Millennium Stadium was the £20m set dubbed The Claw -- which towered over the main circular stage.

As the iconic front man Bono emerged last night, clad in black and wearing his trademark sunglasses, the crowd erupted with delight.

The almost capacity 70,000 audience made it a record-breaking attendance for any gig at the stadium, outselling Take That's 64,000 audience earlier this year.

After opening with "Breathe," from the new album No Line on the Horizon, the band treated fans to a mix of their many hits from the last three decades and new songs from their latest CD.

Highlights included "Beautiful Day," "Mysterious Ways," "Vertigo," "Pride" and "One," as well as newer stand out songs, "Get On Your Boots," "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" and "Magnificent."

Homage was also paid to The Edge's Welsh roots, with Bono confessing to having once had singing lessons from the guitarist's father, Garvin Evans.

"He told me to look after the consonants and the vowels will look after themselves," Bono told the crowd, who lapped up his every word.

The Edge, whose family were in the Cardiff crowd, received a rapturous applause simply by saying "Cymru Am Byth," before the band launched into "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" while the adoring masses sang along.

Of course, no U2 gig would be complete without a political message of democracy and freedom, and this was no exception.

The band dedicated their tracks "Walk On" and "MLK" to imprisoned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu gave an uplifting video message before the song "One."

Fans hailed the gig as possibly the greatest spectacle seen in the stadium's 10 year history.

Martin Howarth, 25, from Swansea, said: "I've seen the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the stadium and the Rolling Stones but U2 were much better.

"They get such a mixed crowd because they have been going for so long. Some people knew all the words of the old stuff and others only knew the recent albums.

"You have to give them credit and say they are one of the best live bands in the world.

"I would definitely go back and see them again if they came to Cardiff."

Lloyd James, 24, from Swansea, said: "It was unbelievable. I have never seen a gig like it before.

"The sound was fantastic and the stage looked immense.

"I've been to some pretty special rugby games in the Millennium Stadium before but the atmosphere was something totally different to those.

"It's the best gig Cardiff's ever had."

U2 in numbers

1 "One" was the third single from the band’s 1991 album, Achtung Baby, and was released in 1992. Tensions almost prompted U2 to break up until the group rallied round writing the single.

2 U2 formed in Dublin, Ireland, on September 25, 1976. The band consists of Bono (vocals and guitar), The Edge (guitar, keyboards, and vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion).

3 Bono's nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

4 Days it took to install the stage, screen, production equipment, lighting rig and speakers for last night's concert.

8 Number of hours to set up the massive video screen for last night's Millennium Stadium show.

11 U2's first single, "11 O'Clock Tick Tock," was released in May 1980.

12 The cost of the official tour programme is £12.

12 Studio albums: Boy (1980); October (1981); War (1983); The Unforgettable Fire (1984); The Joshua Tree (1987); Rattle and Hum (1988); Achtung Baby (1991); Zooropa (1993); Pop (1997); All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000); How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004); and No Line on the Horizon (2009)

15 European cities the band is visiting with the 360° Tour: Barcelona, Milan, Gothenburg, Zagreb, Amsterdam, Paris, Nice, Dublin, Chorzow, Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, London, Sheffield, Glasgow and Cardiff.

22 Grammy Awards won by the band. Their first was for The Joshua Tree and they are tied with Stevie Wonder as contemporary artists with the most Grammys.

22 The band's standing in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.

22 Number of songs on the set list at last week's Wembley gig.

40 Also known as "40 (How Long)" is the 10th and final track from War. The song is noted for its live performances, often involving the audience singing along for minutes after the band have left the stage. The lyrics are based on the Bible's Psalm 40.

52 The highest chart position debut album Boy reached in 1980.

60 Approximate weight, in tons, of the stadium video screen.

90 Minutes taken for the first ticket batch for last night's concert to sell out after going on sale on March 20

164 The height in feet of last night’s set, which was twice as high as the one used by the Rolling Stones when they visited Cardiff in 2006.

180 Number of trucks needed to bring the set into the capital.

360 The 360° Tour features an innovative, wrap-around screens and 360° stage, which should give the audience an unobstructed view from all angles.

360 Estimated number of tour crew members, factoring in drivers and vendors in addition to ground crew.

400 The weight in tons of the set.

1,500 Starting price in euros to spend the night in the penthouse suite at the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, owned by Bono and The Edge.

70,000 Last night's estimated attendance was the biggest ever for a gig at the Millennium Stadium, beating the 64,000 who watched Take That earlier this summer.

88,000 The crowd U2 played to at Wembley on August 14.

95,000 The capacity of the Stade de France in Paris, the largest crowd expected on the European tour.

500,000 Number of pixels on the expanding video screen at last night's Cardiff concert.

20,000,000 The value in pounds of the set on which the mega band performed.

67,000,000 Results when "U2" is typed into Google.

145,000,000 Worldwide album sales.

423,000,000 Band's combined wealth in pounds sterling, as estimated by the 2009 Sunday Times Rich List.

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