domes, spaceships, and rock’n’roll

This past Thursday, I realized a long-time dream of mine: I saw U2 in concert! In Toronto, on a beautiful late summer evening, Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam rocked my world. I kept saying to my friends and family that it might be the one and only time I’d get to see them, and I sincerely hope that’s not true. The show was everything I expected it to be, and more. The band jived with one another (of course they usually do, I’m sure, after playing together so long; every band can have bad nights, though), and the audience was great!

Warning: U2-geek references and foolishness to follow. You have been warned.

Thanks to the generosity of my friend Elizabeth’s brother, Dan, she and I got free-bee tickets to see the boys at the Rogers Centre (also known as The Sky Dome, to those old-schoolers in my readership) on the 17th of September. This was the second of two shows. Toronto was having a big week: TIFF was still happening, and U2 was in town. Torontonians were lucky sons-of-bitches last week. Or angry ones, depending on your perspective, you know.

Anyway, since I was unable to take too much time off work, I had to book my flights carefully. I ended up flying out of St. John’s at 5am on Thursday morning (after staying up the whole night, no less), only to spend the rest of the day in an over-tired daze, waiting for the concert that night. By the time we got on the subway to head downtown to the Dome, my body launched into over-drive and I cared not for sleep — I cared only for Bono’s vaulting vocals and the beautiful bombast of the band.

By the time we got to the Dome, there were a number of people there. The gates had been open for about 20 minutes, so the GA line had disappeared and most people were milling about around their gates, looking at merchandise or chatting to friends. I bought some buttons and a poster. We milled about a bit, too, and then decided that we would be keeners and go in super early. This was somewhere between 5:30 and 6pm.

Snow Patrol took the stage somewhere around 7. I think it might have been 20 after or so. They impressed me, I must say. They played a great set, and did their job in getting the crowd livened up a bit. They played a bunch of their popular tunes: Run, Chasing Cars, Shut Your Eyes (my favourite), Crack the Shutters, and You Are All That I Have. Despite the lead singer openly admitting that he was still feeling the effects of his big night out the night before, he belted out the tunes like any good Irishman would, and Elizabeth was happy as a clam.

There was a significant break between the end of Snow Patrol’s set and Larry’s drumbeats, signaling the beginning of Breathe, kicking off the U2 set. Myself and Elizabeth took pictures of ourselves, chatted, and watched the Dome continue to fill up. I wondered, at certain points, whether it was actually going to fill up completely. From where ‘Liz and I were sitting, we could see most of the Dome, and it was only after U2 started playing that it was truly full to the brim.

I dug the set list from beginning to end. It looked like this:

Breathe

This was a good starter, to be sure. Larry sat down at his drum kit, and we were off to the races. My one qualm with this one as a starter is that Bono sometimes rushes the lyrics. I would have started with Magnificent, myself. It would have pumped the whole crowd up to have dim lighting and the roar of Edge’s guitar going. But ya know, that’s just my opinion.

No Line On The Horizon

Loved this! It’s one of my favourite from the new record, but they also nailed it. It was perfect!

Get On Your Boots

I have to say, I really like this one live. I am not a fan of it, generally, but it’s a foot-stomping, sing-along crowd-pleaser of a song. Especially the “let me in the sound” section, during which those words were broadcast across the giant screens and everyone in the dome was demanding to be let in the sound.

Magnificent

Completely genius tune, live. Completely genius tune, anyway! …perhaps I’m being far too picky in saying this, but there was a moment at the outset of Magnificent that would have been absolutely magical and thrilling had Bono not gone all “meh” for a split second. It was only a split second, but it stuck with me as a bit of a blunder. I guess even guys who’ve been rock stars for three decades can miss a beat.

Mysterious Ways / Norwegian Wood

Flawless. Every set of female hips (and maybe male, too!) were swaying to this one, of course. Wicked energy through the entire song.

Beautiful Day / The Maker

Again, excellent. The little snippet of Daniel Lanois on the end quite surprised and delighted me. Bono sang a couple of lines at the end of Beautiful Day, over some lovely lingering guitar work from Edge.

Elevation

Another crowd-pleaser, this. You’d think the whole Dome was going to take off into orbit or something. Wild!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Movin’ On Up

Bono dedicated this one to Daniel Lanois, for his birthday (September 19th). I remember this one being the song that I could actually feel everyone singing along to. That was really cool.

Unknown Caller

I wrote a blog entry as a sort of review of the No Line CD when it first came out, and I talked about this song being the one that made me most feel like I was in church — it’s much the same live. The lyrics roll along the bottom of the giant screens so everyone can get it right. It was actually really fun to sing. And everyone did!

New Year’s Day

Oldies are always goodies with these guys. It’s as simple as that!

Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of

I remember feeling really moved while they were playing this. There was a sense of emotion going on, and I’m not sure if it was just me, or whether everyone felt it. Either way, definitely one of my favourites of the night.

The Unforgettable Fire

Ya know, it’s funny, I must have been reeling from other stuff, ’cause I have zero memory of this being played. That said, it might be due to:

City Of Blinding Lights

…which was RIDICULOUS! The stage does things during this one that are both bat-shit crazy and truly awesome. Bono took a little boy up on stage with him for this. He’s famous for doing that sort of thing, but it works. It was completely adorable.

Vertigo

Whoooooaaaaaaaa. Loves me some Vertigo, sure.

I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight / Two Tribes

They did a remix of this that was completely unexpected on my part, and took me about half the song to warm up to. The stuff they did with the stage during this one was awesome, though. That thing — though it looks like a spaceship/octopus/alien arachnid — is really worth seeing.

Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah

The one thing I really remember about this one is the bit of Rock The Casbah that was attached to the end. I thought it was a seriously punk thing to do, and it brought me back to the earlier days of U2.

MLK

…Bono was a little slow on the start to this one, but it ultimately had people all weepy, I’m sure. He called it an Irish lullaby for Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Which leads us to…

Walk On

…which had many volunteers marching around the circular stage with masks and pictures of her, honouring her and what she has suffered and accomplished.

One / Amazing Grace

The bit they play on the screens before One with Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking to the crowd is pretty neat, I have to say. And of course, One always resonates with the crowd, so it was understandably amazing. Because Amazing Grace followed, though, and because Bono sang it all by his lonesome, there were some water-works involved. That was truly the most touching moment of the night. It sometimes amazes me that one man can start a flood of emotion that can run through the hearts of thousands.

Where The Streets Have No Name

Streets is almost too much to take, live, because it’s so brilliant. I was way up in the bowl, and I was feeling so much during it, I could have burst. I can’t imagine what it was like down on the floor. I know this has been said before, but it’s songs like Streets that make this band what it is.

Ultra Violet (Light My Way)

Ooooh, my! The amount of love I felt for Bono (laser jacket and all!) while he was singing this was a little bit sickening. The mic he uses for it is really f*cking cool, and it’s one of my favourite U2 songs, period.

With Or Without You

Swoon. Swoon, I say!

Moment of Surrender

Brilliant end to a truly earth-shatteringly excellent night. Really well played, too. One of their best songs, no doubt about it. Even more brilliant live, and I was in love with this one at first listen.

And so, that was that. I came away with buttons, a poster, a t-shirt, and a heart that grew ten sizes. The most amazing concert experience of my life — now and forever, likely. Well, until I can get on the floor for the next one and catch Bono’s eye. Up on stage at a U2 gig? Hell yeah!

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