Friday, November 17, 2006

Et Tu, U2?

Well that was a concert. Thirteen years, well twelve years and three hundred and sixty four days to be precise, all ended last night about 8:50pm when U2 took to the stage at Aami Stadium to a deafening roar from an estimated 60,000 people. Billed as the social event of a lifetime, screaming idiots, acolytes, sycophants, posers, people who got dragged along, got free tickets, paid shitloads of money, wanted to be there, had no interest in being there, cared, didn't care were all crammed into the ground like sardines in a can. All we were missing was the brine, but some people more than took care of that.

We'd bought our tickets in February two days before the band announced they were going to cancel the shows and re-schedule. That was annoying and it led me to reiterate my views on such events - I don't believe they're going to happen until the band is out there on stage. Despite the reports on the idiot box and also on the radio (and as an aside to Channel 10. No, U2 weren't here in Adelaide eight years ago. The PopMart tour bypassed Adelaide. Yes, I know you do your news from Melbourne and that they played there eight years ago, but if you're going to pretend to be interested in local content then at least get the facts right. Hang on, media, facts right...who am I kidding?) that traffic was going to be a nightmare and that there was no parking to be found we drove down - myself, the other half, Robinski, Kelis and Robinski's daughter who was born on this day thirteen years ago, by chance the same day that U2 last played this city as part of the Zoomerang tour. Part of the reason why Chloe went was because she is a true Achtung Baby. We drove to the venue; found suitable parking for $10 for the night - something I've never had a problem paying for such events. This is why the media report no parking - because people are too cheap to shell out a bit of change and pay for a park. Idiots. I expect U2 themselves had no problems getting to the gig. They lobbed into Adelaide at 6:30pm last night and will be gone sometime this afternoon. Long stay guys - hope you enjoyed the inside of the Hyatt, but then if they don't want to stay then that's their choice - it's not like I have any great desire to visit their hometowns either, plus Adelaide isn't as flashy as New York. The quick visit is a common ploy, one developed by Elton John in the 1990s. Elton generally bases himself in Melbourne or Sydney and simply flies to the concert in question that day, and usually wings his way back to his base that same night. The lack of any quality time would explain why Bono refered to a 'rally in Glenelg' during Beautiful Day. Just so he knows, the Classic Adelaide Rally takes in more than just Glenelg, but that's what you get when your research is merely asking someone for a list of suburbs and names so they can be dropped during a show. Hello Cleveland!!!

Getting in was an ordeal and I nearly didn't make it past the gate. As usual Aami had employed the services of known neckless security guards via Weslo. I do know that Welso try their best when it comes to hiring staff, but more often than not they hire the most brain dead people who want nothing more than a fight to prove themselves. Pity really, as anyone here in Adelaide who's attended a large event staffed by Welso will more often than not give you a horror story about the thugs they have in attendance. I'm sure there's somewhere where you can give the company feedback, but going on their web-page I doubt they'd listen to anything negative about their staff, no matter how true it might be. The hired goons were doing pat-down body searches, not that it worked as you'll read a bit later, and when they got to me the steroid pumper did his search and grabbed my keys and wallet, both in separate pockets in his hand, through the pockets and stopped. I looked down and said, with absolutely no emotion, "Yeah. Keys and wallet mate." The guy leapt up like I'd just asked him to perform a function while he was down there, sized me up and started to snarl. "You wanna get in mate? Eh? You wanna fucking get in???" I looked at him and said more in surprise than anything else, "What the fuck?" to which he repeated his challenge, looking wild eyed and clearly wanting a fight to prove that his manhood isn't linked to any lack of penile size. Looking over at the other half, whose own eyes were now like dinner plates, I walked off having a bit of a chuckle and shaking my head. Sometimes I think these guys really need to chill out a bit. Thankfully my day job has given me a higher level of tolerance for abuse than I've ever known before. It washes off me now.

We got in and went for some food. Typical of Aami - a 50 gram bag of crisps: $2.50 (Robinski, who'd know, says those very same bags wholesale at about 70 cents per unit). 600mls of Coke: $4.00. Water? Had to remove the caps before you got in as they did a bag search (again, as you'll see the procedures clearly didn't work later). We checked the merchandise tent and decided to pass - for a band that harps on about making poverty history, they're certainly making sure they'll never be poor with over priced t-shirts and other memorabilla. It wasn't on the level of PopMart, but it was fairly up there. Still the tents did a roaring trade, so they'd have made a nice bit of cabbage. Scoping out some food and handing over our hard earned we then went to stake out our place on the floor. Now this cracked me up. Tickets weren't cheap - $100 for general admission and it went up from there, all the way to past $200 for the expensive seats, which were located behind the general admission! That's right - the cheap seats were closest to the stage and the expensive seats were at the back of the stadium. The more you paid the further away you sat. The joke became even funnier when unsold tickets - to an otherwise sold out show (it never was) - to the Gold reserve section were sold at the gate, on the night, for $100 a pop. HILARIOUS!!! Now we were settled and waited for Kayne West to arrive and do his set.

Sorry Kayne. I like you. Really, I do. I've liked you ever since I saw your comments about Hurricane Katrina and the whole New Orleans stuff, that famous, "George Bush doesn't like black people," thing really hit me - finally someone spoke their mind instead of the pre-programmed crap that they were force fed. I wanted to enjoy your set, but I didn't. The sound was horrid and you just didn't get the crowd. Perhaps it was too big, perhaps it was just because you were playing support, perhaps it was just the crappy sound, I don't know, but it didn't work. The biggest cheers Kayne got was when he mentioned the letter U and the numeral 2. Such a shame!!!

Kayne left and U2 arrived. This is what we'd been waiting for. They stomped out onto the stage to play the first song, one of the better songs they've done this decade, City Of Blinding Lights. Sadly, other than than mentions of Adelaide you could have closed your eyes and it'd have sounded just like every other live performance they've done. Par for the course now as they just replicate song after song and sometimes appear to play by numbers. Close your eyes and you'd have thought that 60,000 of your mates had come along to watch the Vertigo 2005 DVD. Sadly with U2 there's virtually no spontaneity on stage left for them - the set list is programmed down to the last second and gone are the days where they'd suddenly launch into a song at random. If you don't believe me then check out the official set-list - programmed down to the last second. It took me a few songs in before I could get into it, and surprisingly it was the older material that really got me going.

I've never been a big fan of greatest hits tours, but the last tour (1998's PopMart) and this current U2 tour have been exactly that. In 1998 they were gearing up to release the first of two greatest hits CDs and this tour sees the release of yet another CD of repackaged songs. However their last two studio albums, All That You Can't Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb just haven't been that good, in my eyes, so the less they do from them the better (plus they have the worst album titles I've ever seen). A cover version of Cannonball by the Breeders, cunningly disguised as a U2 song called Elevation, came third song in and that was followed by I Will Follow. It was during this song that I decided to call my brother in Perth and just left him on the other end of the phone so he could listen to a show that wasn't coming his way. He loved it - happy birthday bro. Mind you he told me point blank, "None of that new shit, just call me when they play the good stuff," meaning, for him, anything pre-1989. Me? I love the 1990s - Achtung Baby, Pop, Zooropa - classic albums. Nothing they've done since beat those albums, although there have been moments. It did strike me though that I first saw U2 in concert twenty two years ago in 1984. Since then I've seen them on each and every tour, part of me only bought the tickets to keep that run alive, part of me bought them because deep down U2 have been a constant in my life since 1981 and have provided the soundtrack to my very existence since then. Gone, which they didn't do, sums up every bad relationship I've ever had. Walk On, which they didn't do, empowered me more than once. The Unforgettable Fire, which they didn't do, helped me through my final year of high school. Sure I could have put together a different set-list, but then what I'd want might not be what anyone else would want, so be it.

The rest of the show? Well on the scale of 1 to 10 - 1 being crap and 10 being the best show I've seen, this rates a healthy 6.5. It was good, damn good, but nothing awe inspiring. Highlights? Calling my brother so he could hear about 70% of the show. The guy who lit a flare and held it high - wonder how he got that past the diligent security. The guy who passed out so completely from his intake of booze from a rather large bottle (again, how did he get that past the tight security?) that we'd initially thought he'd fallen from the sky. Indeed I thought his head was a bottle and tried to kick it out of the way. Oops. Sorry guy. That headache you've now got is partly due to my size eleven shoes bouncing off your noggin. I did crack his mates up though when I pointed out that when he wakes up today he'll be raving about how good the show was, despite his being unconscious for the last eight songs.

Musical highlights? Miss Sarajevo. I'm not completely jaded and I've always loved that song. The pre-programmed highlights of Where The Streets Have No Name. Bullet The Blue Sky was brilliant (Bono singing I Should Be So Lucky and name checking Kylie actually brought back memories of 1989 for me when he sang the Neighbours theme and also name checked Kylie during that very same song at Memorial Drive - the more time passes the more some things stay the same). Pride does nothing for me anymore. With Or Without You was pure gold. Zoo Station and The Fly. New Years Day. The new material, despite the band attempting to make them classic, just failed for me although City Of Blinding Lights, with its soaring chorus, was a perfect set opener. Sometimes You Can't Make It, despite it being great on album, failed to reach me live, as some of the other songs. Was it me or the band? Who knows? As I said earlier, U2 concerts aren't about music anymore than they are about the actual event. "I saw U2!!" will be the catchcry of the day and most people won't even know what they sang. It's always sad when the hype overtakes the band. U2 have now become their generations' version of The Rolling Stones - famous just for being, not for what they do.

Lowlights? The wanker behind me who screamed like a girl seeing the Beatles and insisted on singing every other song, when he wasn't talking, loudly, to his moronic pals. Luckily they all left after about 15 minutes. The six foot eight guy with the size twelve head who stood directly in front of us. Loads of dope being smoked - where were the security staff then? Oh, that's right, busily having a go at people for having car keys in their pockets instead of flares, booze and drugs. Silly me.

Was it worth $100? For Bono not to preach on stage that we're all not doing enough to end world poverty was worth it for me. When he does my day job for a week then he can tell me I don't do enough to help the underprivileged and the homeless. Until then, take your $100 and sing man, sing! I've always thought it a tad hypocritical for a band to charge, as they did last night, on average $120 per ticket and then sell 60,000 tickets - without factoring in the merchandise. That means that last nights two hours was very profitable for U2 (around $7,200,000 on ticket sales alone, but I'll round that down to $6,000,000 for the sake of argument), even if you look at the costs of staging the show, so don't tell me I'm not giving enough - I don't clear $500,000 an hour at my work - God, I wish I did. Wanna make your point U2? Give all the money from that one show to charity and then I'll be moved enough to follow suit. However I see the effects of poverty, hunger, loss of homeland, domestic violence, mental and physical illness and homelessness on a daily basis in my own city and have to deal with it and find solutions. My advice? Fix the problems in your own backyard and then take it global. It's not that I don't care about erasing world poverty - I do - it's just that I feel we need to help those close to us first and then spread the assistance out. World poverty does not begin and end in South Africa. Still, hopefully it won't be thirteen years before the band return to Adelaide, but I do get the feeling that with the average age of U2 nearing 50 this might well have been the swansong.

At least my brother got to hear the show as well, over 2,000 kilometres away.

Oh, and if you think I'm scathing, then read some of the crap posted by the oh so fickle 'fans' who also went.

2 comments:

Andy said...

Nice summation of the show. I did see the comments on news.com on the day after the show, and I honestly wondered "wtf?"

It always has been a contentious issue about Bono preaching to end world hunger et al, especially when he apparently has financial interests in some major corporations around the world. However, simply his name and face on any campaign would be a major drawcard to a cause.

Nice post.

Danny said...

Yah, it's a tricky one Andy. I guess, for me, I don't go to a concert to listen to someone preach to me about how to end world poverty when I've just given them $100, which, I presume, they're not kicking back to the campaign as a whole. Add to that the price of merchandise, and well, you get the drift. Sure his name brings recognition, and that's great. But, and I'd say this to him, not that I'd ever get the chance, don't tell me I'm not doing enough to end poverty when you don't knbow what I do for a living.

As for the show, well the more I think back the more I can see that U2 were just cruising along. However they're so polished now that one of them would have to physically break down for them to turn in a crap show, so most people'd not notice. As for the crowd, well some people were only there to see U2 as an event and had no interest in the music. Back in 1993 we had 20,000 for ZooTV - and I'd say that if 1/4 of that crowd (5,000) were there for the event and the rest for U2 then you'd have a lot of screaming. If the percentage was still right then there'd have been around 15,000 people there the other night all silent. That leaves big gaps. Add to that the fact that the more expensive seats were located at the rear of the stadium which would have meant more than a few people would have been fairly pissed off about seeing those who paid less than half of what they did get better spots closer to the stage.

Still, noise or otherwise, 60,000 people shows that Adelaide can produce a crowd. And if you want silence then ask anyone who was at the Perth concert of 1998. Dead silent.