After going through some disappointment following the Nashville show (because of the overwhelming thirst that knocked me out of the moment), I went into Philly with mixed feelings of trepidation. I was afraid my spot in E. Lansing had ruined all shows for me, I feared I’d lost the ability to get into the moment, I thought was becoming bored with this U2 concert-going experience. I wondered in all the insanity of trying to stand in the “perfect” spot in GA if I’d lost sight of the real purpose of U2 music to me. The line cutting and fierce competition for spots on the rail had opened my eyes to what I felt was somewhat of a hypocrisy for people who claimed to love a band whose music carries such strong messages of justice and peace.
So I came into Philly with the idea that I was just going to chill out and go with the flow. I was meeting up with a bunch of people with whom I’d chatted on the U2 forum and that was really my main reason for being there. Fresh faces, some time spent with other fans who share my passion for U2. I was not going to let my obsession with the perfect GA position get in the way of forming new friendships. I’d decided that I would try for a less competitive position on the outer rail of the inner circle. Fortunately, Erin—with whom I was rooming at a hotel in downtown Philly—agreed.
I was driving up the day before the show—Wednesday—and no earlier since this was all the time off work I could reasonably allow myself. I purposely avoided using Twitter at all so that I would not stumble upon any news of a GA line forming Tuesday. I just didn’t want to know. Even after having decided I was going to chill out, I would still have stressed knowing that a GA line had formed and I wasn’t there to get a number. The drive to Philly from my house was six hours so I just tried to enjoy the travel through scenic Pennsylvania.
When I arrived in Philly and met up with Erin, we took a drive around the venue to try to find a GA line. However, there was no evidence of people congregating somewhere near it that I could see. I would later learn that they had actually formed a few days earlier across the street from the gate where GA was let in. We probably could have inspected the scene more thoroughly and found them but a part of me just didn’t care. I’d known plenty of people who had arrived the morning the day of the show and still got a good spot.
So we went over to a party Susie—the girl who’d originally talked me into going to the Philly show all those months ago—was holding at her parents’ place. There we met up with several people I’d previously only talked to on the forum–Maija from Finland, Amanda from NJ, Emma, and I remet Kevin (who I’d actually met in Denver). We chatted with the ZooTV DVD playing in the background. It was really fun, as Erin said, being with people who really “got it” about our band.
The next morning, we were up bright and early for the GA line. We arrived at about 5:45am right before the venue was about to let the line in to our all-day home. I was relieved that there didn’t appear to be too many people already lined up. We were assigned 199 and 200. I felt I could breathe easy because I’d had 211 or 212 in Denver and I’d had what still to me seems like a spectacular spot even after all spots since and I wasn’t even on the rail. So I just kept trying to tell myself all day that it would work out okay, that I’d still be able to see the band and their facial expressions, and that it would be all right.
It was a hot day–about 83 degrees–but not at all humid. Earlier in the morning when we were in the shadow of the stadium, I was actually chilly in my tank top. When the shadow moved off and we were in direct sunlight, it did get quite warm but nothing at all like Nashville. Still, I was careful to drink whenever I was thirsty or my lips felt dry. We had a cooler stocked with bottles of cold water so it was easy to drink whenever we needed. This cooler, I have decided, is definitely a must for Pittsburgh. The constant access to water I didn’t have to pay more for made it extremely easy to drink as I needed. When we packed up our stuff at around 3pm for the last part of the GA wait, I was able to grab one more bottle of water which I drank while waiting to get into the stadium.
Since I started going to shows in GA, I’ve longed to hear a band soundcheck. It hadn’t happened for my thus far, just as “Out Of Control” has seemed to crop up in the set list at every show that I have not attended (the most crushing of which was Chicago–the show right after Nashville–WAAAAAH!). I’ve heard multiple crew sound checks, though, and the one for Philly was extremely interesting as U2’s techs spent an enormous amount of time teasing us with the piano and guitar riffs for “Breathe”–the song U2 opened 360 shows with in 2009, my second favorite U2 song of all time. Don’t worry; I know that the crew is just goofing around. U2 has soundchecked songs they have never played. So I know better than to trust a soundchecked song. And that made it all the more heartbreaking the hear.
Anyway, as the 3pm hour passed into 4, I was pretty sure that that was all I was going to get. So we were waiting to be let in and 4:45–the time we were supposed to be let into the stadium–came and went. And soon it was 5pm. We were shuffling listlessly in the line, the natives becoming restless, when suddenly the riff for “Even Better Than The Real Thing” came blasting out of the stadium. And then… a verse, that heavenly voice, followed the music. Oh my God! Bono!
So suddenly I wasn’t all that sad that I wasn’t being let into the stadium quite yet. A little late for a soundcheck (Bono!) but if we were being delayed for a little extra treat, I was okay with it. I relaxed and just listened, wishing I could see our man. The band went on to sing “Magnificent”–the original version, not the remix they’d been toying with post Glastonbury–and I was in heaven.
After “Magnificent,” the stadium fell quiet again. Short but sweat. A soundcheck snippet? About ten minutes later, security opened the gates and started to release us in groups of 100 into the stadium.
The way they let us into the venue was kind of convoluted. There was a flight of stairs immediately in front of the gates that we had to climb! That showed everyone down, of course. And then we were led along the side hall of the stadium and through one of the narrow entry ways that lead to the seats where I had a quick moment of clausterphobic panic as the crowd got stuck at a stand-still. When I finally made it out of the entry, I realized the bottleneck was caused because the front of the crowd was slowed by yet another set of steps leading down onto the field.
In all my other GA experiences, we were let onto the field via some access tunnel that I imagine the football players would use to get to the field. These are usually really wide and they lead directly onto the field so no stairs. You are then faced head on with The Claw and can kind of pick your access side to the inner circle. This time, we were brought in sideways—on Adam’s side—and it was a bit disorienting. Usually, the easiest spot to get to would be outer rail on the outside of the b-stage; this time, it was actually easier to get into the inner circle.
So I did feel that familiar surge of nervous energy in which my brain kept repeating, “I need to get to my spot, I need to get to my spot” as I got onto the field. I kept myself a reasonable fast walk pace, taking extra care as I got into the inner circle to look for that nasty bump that I’ve almost tripped over every time. I saw it coming and avoided catching my foot on it. When I got into the circle, the outer rail was sparsely populated and I found a spot a little left of center between Edge and Bono’s mike. I’d made it! Erin was right behind me and we were both relieved that the waiting was now over. Relax time.
I spotted Anthony—my friend from E. Lansing (with whom I’d also spent some time in Nashville)–on the other side of the b-stage/catwalk on the outer rail outside of the inner circle. I waved and we took pictures of each other. Turns out Emily from Australia was next to him and she recognized me. It’s like a family reunion in GA. Unfortunately, as the inner circle began to fill, two loud-mouthed non-fans who obviously had not been part of the all day experience parked their annoying asses right in front of me. They gave me disgusted looks after quizzing me about how many shows I’d been to on this leg of the tour.
“If it wasn’t in Philly,” the snot-nosed chick said to me, “I wouldn’t go.”
Good for fricking you, woman! Now get the eff out of the inner circle. She turned out to be a drama queen, having a moment later on where she said she wasn’t feeling well, and asked if she could hold onto the rail. I moved aside to let her–I’m sure she really was feeling sick as she said–and I secretly hoped she would ask security to remove her, but she didn’t. I have to admit that security was being rather weird about people sitting on the ground. They kept making everyone stand even between acts. I’m pretty sure it was so they could squeeze more people into the inner circle. It got progressively more squashed in there as the show went on. And, according to these knuckleheads who had briefly left the circle after Interpol (the opening act), the sides of the inner circle were so packed, it was impossible to move in and out. Good thing I never had to go to the bathroom.
I guess what really peeved me off most about these idiots in front of me is that right off the bat they told me how much they hated the album No Line On The Horizon and were glad that U2 had dropped most of the songs from it. Their disdain was proven later on in the show when they stopped moving whenever a song from No Line was played. As a result, I felt I needed to counterbalance their apathetic response with a doubly enthusiastic one–during “Magnificent,” I jumped around as though they were playing “Where The Streets Have No Name,” singing the lyrics at the top of my lungs. Also, I was so extremely happy to have that song back and in its original form. As soon as the beginning notes started, I was ecstatic.
It was an interesting experience being on the outer rail of the inner circle. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of it, though. I do like that the band is much more at eye level, though. And because I was further back, I could see the whole stage; I never had that “lost” feeling I get when Bono disappears to hang out by Larry or when the band moves along the B-stage because I could see everything. For the first time ever, I got to see the screen without craning my neck, so I actually could enjoy the images and special lighting there. The best part was experiencing the lighting blitz of “Zooropa.”
The negative part about the outer rail is that there’s all these people in front of you that you have to see over. Which included the tall guy from the group of idiots in front of me and just about everyone else in the inner circle. I had to move around a bit to see at times and, from my perspective of having been previously so close to the band, they seemed so far away from me (though not as far as they look in my pictures). I frequently had to put my camera over my head to get a shot without hands in the way. And still hands occasionally popped up to ruin my shot.
The band doesn’t come onto the b-stage as much as they hang around on the main stage so when they did come out there, I was less likely to take a picture because I wanted to just stare at them and enjoy the moment. They also tend to face outwards towards the back of the audience and rarely turn back to look towards the inner circle. Which is great for taking butt shots, but bad if you’re trying to, say, get a certain lead singer to see your sign.
It was neat, though, that because the B-stage is lower, you can get a real perspective on everyone’s actual height. I was surprised to realize that Bono is a lot shorter than he appears when he’s over your head on the much higher main stage. The Edge appeared shorter than he always seemed to me. Adam still looked pretty tall. But, the greatest thing about the B-stage, is that they all appear close enough to touch. It was from the B-stage that Bono did, in fact, slap several hands that were proffered his way (though, of course, on the side facing outwards). So overall, the band appears closer than ever. Which is definitely a huge benefit of standing at the B-stage.
I was totally into the show this round. Erin had gone to get us water before the opening act and I did drink most of it immediately while hanging onto some for later because I knew I’d be jumping around. Thankfully when the sun went down, the atmosphere cooled down, unlike Nashville where the excruciating humidity held onto a temperature of 83 degrees. I was experiencing a part of the show I’d never before seen with the screens. And for the first time I got to experience the full performance of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” because the whole band spends most of their time during this song on the B-stage. Meaning I also got to see Larry close up for the first time ever. (And this man seriously needs to smile!)
At the end of “Crazy Tonight,” Bono and Adam spent a great deal of time together just to the left of where I was standing while Bono sang the “Discotheque” snippet. As the song was ending, Adam walked across the B-stage to catch the bridge on the other side of me. His eyes looked down and caught my sign where he gave me (or the sign, really) a look that Erin described as recognition. I thought he seemed kind of jarred out of a reverie or something, which is possibly the same thing. It was funny. I’m guessing he didn’t expect to see that again. So it, of course, encouraged me to revive it one last time in Pittsburgh. I’m determined that if Bono sees it, he will react. Maybe I won’t get the requested kiss out of it, but it would certainly be enough for me if it made him laugh or smile or something. I am also half tempted to make a sign that says, “Larry: please smile! We love you too!” But I’m afraid it would piss him off. (Larry intimidates me.)
The crowd was pretty crazy in Philly. I am seeing an increasing trend of crowds really getting into the show. For me, it’s been that way since E. Lansing. I’m glad to see it, honestly, because the US gets a bad reputation for not having as excitable of a crowd. U2 is a band that thrives on crowd energy and when we give it, we get a better show. At one point during the show, Bono explained this relationship between the band and the audience, how it really meant something to them, and I was touched. He sounded emotional and I love when he gets like that. At the end of “Streets,” he reiterated with pride, “You guys are noisy!” Which of course caused a bigger eruption of screams.
Something is definitely happening at these last few shows in 360 and I’m so glad to be a part of it. I seriously think that it just goes to show that the band is not done as many naysayers like to predict. I hope that the end of this tour has revitalized the band and that they will go on to finish the album(s) they have been working on. We fans, of course, are already making plans for the shows we’ll see on the next tour, which we fully realize could still be a 3-4 years off (although 2013 is a number we throw around a lot). In fact, I’ve already committed myself to attending shows in Berlin and Atlanta with two new friends I’ve found this year. Joining the U2 forum has been one of the best decisions I ever made because I’m meeting people to go to shows with. So exciting. Look how one band unites so many people!
Philly brought me back into the swing of shows and I’m so, so happy to have refound the love I thought I’d lost. My lesson in all this is: Drink more water! In this summer heat, you can’t afford to dehydrate yourself. Surprisingly, I’ve also found that I really don’t have to go to the bathroom that much once I’m in the stadium anyway. The point is to stay away from the drinks that make you have to pee–coke, beer. These are dehydrating anyway and should be avoided for full comfort and enjoyment of the best live rock-n-roll act ever. (I kid you not–I feel that way about my band.)
So I left the Lincoln Financial Center feeling great. Also, Erin and I were headed for a little side trip to NYC the following day to see Spider-man Turn Off The Dark which I will discuss at length in my next entry. And I still have Pittsburgh left to attend. But I can tell already that when that show rolls around, I’m going to feel mighty depressed. There’s no more after this. So I better enjoy every second. I’m definitely having the time of my life… I’ve never been good with endings. Yes, as we U2 fans say, “Too much is not enough.”