E. Lansing was the original U2 show I was supposed to see back in 2009 when I bought tickets in the seats for me and my ex-boyfriend as a Christmas present. I actually really didn’t even know about GA back then and I was pretty certain that whatever nosebleed tickets I had would be mighty disappointing after having had second row seats to U2 in Cleveland in 2001. But that was the risk I was willing to take for the best live band on the planet.
The ex-boyfriend and I went on the outs. And then two additional people were asked to take the ticket and those plans eventually fell through. But in the space between all that time, Bono injured his back, delaying the tour a year. Then the sermon and my religious fervor for the band escalated, as I’ve stated before, which resulted in adding four additional shows to my schedule. And, finally, my experience in GA in Denver made it impossible for me to ever want to sit in seats again. So the tickets I originally bought were sold to other people and I had a new ticket in GA. I was kind of glad that during the show last night, Bono did not revive his old statement that I heard in Denver about how we were all two years younger when we bought the tickets since my original tickets were no longer in my hands so this show, for me, was just as new as the other three shows I’d added this year.
Once I changed my plans, since I had already asked for Monday off from work, I was prepared to go full-tilt crazy on this show. I was aiming to be on the rails in front of the stage at Bono’s mic stand this time. Kristy and I plotted ideas for signs and finally came up with a spin on lyrics from our favorite new unreleased song, “Glastonbury”: Kristy’s sign read, “Bono, you are our pocket full of sunshine.” And mine read, “You are the miracle we came here too find.” Determined to grab the rails, we both planned to be in East Lansing on Friday night after work. We figured we could be among the first people in line.
Even still, I was surprised that when I arrived at the stadium Friday night, it was a complete ghost town. I figured there’d be a few fans milling about, even if there wasn’t a line formed yet. I walked around the entire stadium while waiting for Kristy, Shawn, and their friend Kari to arrive in E. Lansing. I couldn’t even see The Claw through the walls of the stadium, except for a small part of the roof at one end, so it was as though no concert were taking place in this little nowhere town at all.
It wasn’t until the next morning, on our first circuit by car of the stadium, that we discovered what had to be the starting of a line–two guys sitting outside the D gate, one with a suitcase and a laptop. As we parked our car, we saw them look at us, and then use a marker to print numbers on their hands. When Kristy approached them, they admitted that they were there for U2 and the GA line, and–wah-la!–a line was formed. The guys–Dennis from New Zealand and Anthony from Hawaii–had marked themselves as 1 and 2 respectively. Shawn, Kristy’s husband, marked himself as 3, I got 4, our friend Kari was 5, and Kristy–probably considered the most fervent fan of us all–took 6.
It only took about an hour or so of sitting around before other people began to show up looking for the line. It really amazed me about how fans just knew to look for one. There was even a girl–a GA virgin–who came by instructed by someone with experience to wander around the stadium looking for a line. So it’s common knowledge as a U2 fan that lines form (in the US) at least a day before the show… and that one is usually found somewhere near the venue.
We went to lunch around 1pm and when we came back about an hour and half later (after a quick stop at the hotel to pick up a few things), there were approximately 30 people signed on the list. So we were well underway with a GA line.
The problem is that we made this inexperienced venue very nervous. Sometime after our return, the head of the campus police informed Dennis that our numbers would not be respected–that the venue would provide numbers on a first come, first serve basis at 7am. We weren’t really too put off by this because venues often insist that the fan-monitored lineup means nothing but then in the morning, we organize ourselves in that order anyway (since we’re the only ones there early enough–most people who are not aware of the fan lineups don’t even show up until close to show time). But we got really nervous later on when some guy (whose name I cannot recall) from the U2 “event planning” camp came around to chase us off the property.
“You know we don’t do line up a day before the show like this,” he said to us condescendingly. “It’s unfair to people who show up at that right time. There would be chaos, fights.”
What? Now I’ve only done one other GA before this one, but I’ve been around the U2 fan camp long enough now that I understand the concept of how the GA lines generally work and even I knew this was precisely the time and way a GA line forms. The proof was in the fact that everyone sought us out even a day before the show.
But we decided to leave the premises anyway. Shawn was pretty sure that the guy had just come out to chase us off because the venue security was nervous about the whole GA thing. Apparently the only other two big concerts they’d had there–Rolling Stones and Smashing Pumpkins–had devolved into some sort of pandemonium with chairs being thrown on the field and stuff. That explained why the no alcohol policy when football tailgaters at the same stadium were allowed to drink alcohol.
I know I was nervous all night and I think Kristy was. I was afraid I’d lose my coveted #4 position in the line. We resolved that if it was first come, first serve at 7am, we’d make pretty damned sure we were among the first the next morning so that we could still be numbered low. So it was a 4am wake up call and we arrived to the campus around 5:30am where we found–surprise, surprise–our people gathered in a clearing behind some trees in front of the stadium (where we’ d been told we were allowed to stand before 7am). I love U2 fans.
Shortly after we arrived, Anthony urged everyone to get into numerical order on the bridge, which everyone did without a fuss. As more people arrived–people who hadn’t lined up the night before–they looked for the book and signed in without a single complaint. Probably because they’d been around the GA block and knew how the system works.
So at 7am, one of the guys from the U2 camp we’d met the night before–the non-condescending underling–walked across the street and cheerfully escorted us through the maze of ropes that would be our home for the next 10 hours. Hmmm… this isn’t how we do it, huh? He sure seemed to know what to expect from us.
The guy gave us a red marker to pass around and we were instructed to number ourselves, that the red numbering was the only one that would be respected. That was kind of strange–Shawn and Kristy had never, in all their concert experiences, had a venue deal with numbering. So we just shrugged and wrote atop our existing numbers. We were pretty sure the U2 camp was just trying to make the venue feel better.
Around 10am, some of the techs started to arrive at the stadium. As Dallas Shoo–Edge’s guitar tech–walked by, Shawn and I waved at him. He waved back with a happy, friendly smile on his face, which I thought was really cool. Then, about a half hour later, his familiar face appeared at the barrier next to the line!
“Hi, guys,” he said, very cheery. “How long have you been here?”
We confided that we’d started the line at 10:30am the day before but we’d been there since 5:30am. He seemed reasonably impressed by our dedication. Then he proceeded to tell us about how great–and muddy–Glastonbury was.
“It was so great hearing all those old tunes,” he told us, enthusiastically. “And I was right there with them.” (Because there was apparently no “Underworld” to the Glastonbury stage.)
He then passed out some picks that had the Superbowl that U2 had played printed on them and Bono’s signature on the back. I was proud of this little souvenir; however, thanks to E. Lansing’s no handbag policy I had to keep mine in my wallet and yesterday I found that I lost it. Unfortunately, it must have fallen out when I searched for change sometime between Sunday and Monday. I’m SO PISSED about this.
Kristy and some other people near us asked to take a picture with Dallas and he happily obliged. He had to leave, though, and I’d been too shy to ask him immediately so he left before I could get my picture taken with him. But that was okay because I was really just impressed that he’d come by to say hi to us like that. He was there for about 5 or 10 minutes and we had a really cool casual chat. He had seen that Kristy’s fold out chair had the Cleveland Indians logo (Chief Wahoo) on it, asked us if we were from Ohio, and then he told us that he had attended Xavier University (in Cincinnati) for a very short time.
Just like Denver, the time seemed to pass by pretty quickly. It’s like a huge convention of U2 fans with discussions all day of favorite songs, past concert and general U2 experiences, and speculation about the coming concert. I have never once needed to read a book or find something else to do to preoccupy my time. The excitement in the air kept rushing at me and every once in awhile my stomach would churn nervously in anticipation.
When the time came at 5:30 to go through the gates, my heart raced. I had been fretting all day that my ticket–which I purchased through the internet broker, TicketsNow–would be invalid. I’d heard horror stories of tickets bought through web sites such as this not working. So when I got to the turnstile and the old man working the gate couldn’t get my ticket to scan, I panicked. Oh no! I felt tears coming. The guy tried to scan it a few times and failed. Then another guy approached, told him he was scanning too close, and then tried to scan my ticket twice before it finally went through. The sweet relief!
I took off through the tunnel, alone, remembering the way to the side gate that lets you into the inner circle. My pace quickened–a bit too much, venue security barked at me to slow down. I did. Over and over, I said, “I’m not running! I’m not running!” out loud just to assure myself really. Sometimes they weren’t shouting at me but other people.
The walk seemed to take forever. I caught up with Shawn and followed him into the inner circle. We headed for the center stage as we planned. I saw Kristy at the rail, waving at us. I joined her and looked up with a gasp. The mic stand–set up with flowers for Florence + The Machine–was right in front of me. I already saw Bono there in my head. My knees began to shake. OhmyGod, OhmyGod, OhmyGod, my thoughts soared. I’d made it!
“This,” I panted to Kristy and Kari, “is my G-spot!” (I have to give credit to Kristy who originated that term for that position on the rail. As I stood there, it really hit home to me how well that term defined the sensation of having made it that choice position… and also how I would feel later when Bono himself stood right above me.)
Kristy laughed; Kari had tears in her eyes. It’s weird how emotional we get over the choice position on the rail in front of our hero. I was so thrilled to be on the rail that I didn’t even want to sit down. I stood the whole hour and a half before Florence came on, the forty-five minutes while U2’s techs set up the stage, and, of course, all the way through the show. If I’d had to go to the bathroom (which thankfully I didn’t), I would not have left even if my friends held my spot. I’d waited two days to be there and I was not leaving for anything.
I loved Florence + The Machine the moment they took stage. Florence was dressed in a beautiful magenta flowy dress that moved in the breeze. She was very energetic and fun–lots of charisma. The music, which I’d never heard before, was really, really good. I got goosebumps during the performance, which is always a sign that my body is grooving to the sound. At last, I thought (and later said aloud), an opening act worthy of U2. It definitely makes up for having had to stand through The Fray in Denver.
Florence, I think, reminded me how much I just love live music. You know, stuff besides U2? She made the atmosphere feel very festive. I think that’s what an opening act is supposed to do. And somehow her hippy-ish appearance seemed to gel with what U2 is all about. I wished I could witness conversations between her and Bono. I imagined these conversations as she flowed about the stage.
By the way, one of her roadies/techs was extremely cute and he looked to be about my age! He was fun to look at, scampering around the stage. At one point, which I’m sure is staged, Florence knocked down her mic stand; the tech ran along the alley between the stage and the rails, climbed a ladder to the stage, and then righted her stand for when she returned later in the song. Now that’s production!
So knowing exactly what to expect this time around at the concert, I seemed a little more patient watching U2’s techs set up after Florence left the stage. Time seemed to zip by faster than I remembered it doing in Denver (maybe because I wasn’t bored by the opening act). And the next thing I knew–before I was even ready for it–“Space Oddity” began to play. I wondered if the music queued up before the techs were ready, even, because Bono’s mic stand was still not in place for full minute or two as the song played. I don’t know why this made me panic, but it did. Eventually, though, Bono’s tech did come up and put the mic stand in place. All was then right with the world.
I can’t even describe the amazing blitz of sound that “Even Better Than The Real Thing” is as an opener. First the drums, then that lone whine of Edge’s guitar curling out that familiar tune, and then… the stage lights drop (which was still effective in the remaining light of day) and Bono comes wildly to the mic, grabs the stand violently, and begins singing. You can’t help but jump wildly to the beat. I found myself grabbing the rails and jumping. I forgot myself for quite some time. I didn’t even attempt to take pictures, I was enjoying the sight of Bono and the band, and the sound of the music they played.
The second song was “The Fly”–I was so glad they kept this in after Glastonbury (for which it was originally brushed off)! I’d heard “The Fly” live on the Elevation Tour, but it had been done in such a different way that it was like a completely different song. Of course, this is what I like about U2–how they reinvent their own songs over and over in live performances. On Elevation, “The Fly” was done more in a ballad style; on this tour, the recent addition of “The Fly” is done in its more traditional, fast-paced vibrant glory. Bono plays his smaller green guitar. He really gets into playing; we really get into it, it’s a thrill.
The energy just kept going through “Mysterious Ways,” “Until The End Of The World,” “I Will Follow,” and “Get On Your Boots.” Somewhere in there, Kristy and I took out our signs–much earlier than when we originally planned to–and we started shaking them around. Hers read: BONO YOU ARE OUR POCKETFUL OF SUNSHINE; mine: YOU ARE THE MIRACLE WE CAME HERE TO FIND. These are the lyrics to the chorus of “Glastonbury”–one of my favorite of U2’s new unreleased songs which I had hoped they would play that night, but they didn’t.
Despite sign-holding, I did take out my camera for “Until The End Of The World” as I realized that I would have a position between the two bridges at the part when they almost come together so that Bono and The Edge can almost touch. This is a coveted photo-op and what we on the forums call a “BEdge” moment (which indicates a time when Bono and The Edge are behaving in a cute, loving way towards each other). And, oh, boy, was I not disappointed by both the view and my awesome picture.
It’s hard to tell exactly, and I’m sure it’s easier to imagine, but I do not think that our signs went unnoticed. I swear that I caught Bono, Edge, and Adam look at them on three separate occasions. I didn’t get a reaction right away but I’m pretty sure that the mere fact that we were holding signs drew attention to our area. At one point during “Beautiful Day,” I felt that Bono made eye contact with me. He leaned over the stage a little, head in my direction, and seemed to sing one of the lines right at me. That was surprising and cool. I didn’t make a big deal out of it because who can be sure, but it sure as hell seemed like he did that deliberately.
The crowd in E. Lansing was INTENSE. Way more charged than the crowd in Denver had been. You could feel it all the way throughout the show. Even the band seemed extremely energized by it. Bono was all over the place with his wild gestures and movements (it was very hot!)–more so than I’d witnessed in Denver. Several times–and I can’t believe I thought this was cute–he would spit the water he drank back down into the pit between the stage and the rails, hitting the camera techs. He was the wild bad boy persona–The Fly?–for sure. He made several faces and gestures into the cameras. Awesome, awesome. (We Bonogirls love him like this!)
I was out of control jumping throughout many of the fast songs and by the end of “Elevation,” my calves were hurting. It didn’t stop me from continuing to jump in time to the music. I must have been picking up on the vibe of the audience. Or it was my incredibly close and dream position in front of Bono. Either way, I felt like I’d just run a marathon halfway through the concert.
At the end of “Where The Streets Have No Name,” to which the crowd sang and jumped crazily, Bono exclaimed, “Wow! What an amazing sound!” The crowd kept cheering and cheering. Not my video, but the link below shows the amazing energy that went into that performance. Also, side note, if you look really hard to the left, you can occasionally see a girl in purple in front of the stage jumping up and down; at the end, she’s holding up an orange sign. That would be me.
My goal of this show was to video “Scarlet.” The problem with that is I’m overwhelmed by the urge to sing the song, since it’s from my favorite–and often underrated–album October. So I feel compelled to sing it to let Bono know how much I love the song so that it remains in the set list. Unfortunately, my voice kind of sucks. And you can hear it on the video. I thought the microphone wouldn’t pick it up over the other crowd noise and the volume of the song itself. Ack.
Anyway, I’m including the video in this post because I spontaneously decided to continue recording through the next song, “Walk On” (another favorite of mine). Which turned out to be a good thing because at the end of the song, Bono acknowledged Kristy’s sign. He pointed at her and said, “You are my pocketful of sunshine!” Unfortunately, I had put my sign down to record the video. Oh well. I had my sort of moment in “Beautiful Day.”
The real thrill happened during “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me” because at our position in center, we got the best show. Bono hangs around the riser (or monitor, or whatever that is) and puts his foot on it for most of the song. And then there’s the part where he steps on it and hangs off the steering wheel thing so that he can lean over the audience. Which was directly over our heads. I didn’t get a picture of this because I was too busy jumping onto the rail and extending my hand up in hopes that he would be able to reach out and touch mine. I don’t know why I did this. It was all instinct. I was under the hypnotic spell of Bono in a suit of lights (maybe that’s what the lasers do?).
It was all pretty amazing. After HMTMKMKM, there was a gaff and the steering wheel microphone was raised out of the stage area before “With Or Without You” started. Bono kind of looked up and waved it back down, moving his hands like an air traffic controller. Mistakes make the show even better.
Before I knew it, U2 was playing “Moment of Surrender” which is always the last song of the night. Bono looked absolutely gorgeous in his ruffled black shirt which he, thankfully, left unbuttoned at the top, exposing his chest and the black rosary he always wears. (Hey, I’m a Bonogirl, what do you want? The man is hot!)
Though he dedicated this song to the recently deceased Clarence Clemons, replacing his usual rap with a snippet of “Jungleland,” the performance did not compare nearly as much emotionally to me as the Denver show. That’s okay, though, not every performance needs to invoke tears. That’s what makes one performance more special than the other. However, “Moment of Surrender” is a beautiful song that I welcome hearing at every concert even if it does herald the end to the concert I don’t want to to end.
There was a weird moment at the end of the song where I thought for sure they were going to try to change something up on us and maybe close us out with “40” or something. Maybe it was wishful thinking because they’d soundchecked it a week before in Baltimore. I got the distinct impression that Bono wasn’t ready to leave the stage quite yet–like he loved the energy and wanted to keep it going. However, after what seemed like some fumbling around for words to end the show, the other three members of U2–Larry included!–joined Bono at the front of the stage to take their applause. If I hadn’t been assuming I was about to hear the first ever performance of “40” on this tour, I would have had my camera ready to snap a shot of the four of them together on stage. I’m kicking myself now at the missed opportunity. But I think I was stunned into a refusal to believe that wonderful show was over.
The guys left the stage. Elton John’s “Rocket Man” came on. The house lights went up. And before we could stand around and contemplate the empty stage, the security crew from Spartan Stadium began pushing us out of the inner circle. True to form, I’d say. Can’t have people standing around, a riot might ensue. That place was simply unwelcoming to U2 fans from start to finish. I really hope they never play there again.
It was a pretty great show (despite the miseries with the stadium)! Even though Bono’s voice started to get a little raspy during the second half, he powered himself through it like a trooper. Who could blame him for having a less than perfect voice? In the prior 48 hours, he’d done an epic performance at England’s Glastonbury, then flown back across the Atlantic for another show in the US. We’d heard from various sources that the band was pretty tired. And yet they gave us an amazing, energetic performance that was probably in turn powered by the energy of our enthusiasm. I can only hope that Nashville’s show is just as energetic as this one! I also hope I can return to my G-spot–front and center on the stage rails.
Yep, I’m totally glad I sold my two seats for another GA ticket. It’s GA (for U2) all the way.
To view all of my photos from E. Lansing: http://s1183.photobucket.com/albums/x469/marsgirlx/E%20Lansing%2006%2026%202011/