last night (friday) anna and i went to the long-awaited U2 concert at mt smart in auckland. i say "long-awaited" because i remember saying that U2 was my favourite band when i was 10 and this was the first time i have seen them live, and also "long-awaited" because they were supposed to come in march but had to postpone until november - that on top of a 12-year hiatus in touring to new zealand.
needless to say, i had hyped up the whole event quite a bit in my mind beforehand, so i was ripe for anti-climax. when we arrived in auckland i was able to witness a whole new side of my wife when she was suddenly overtaken with a brilliant obsession for seeing the members of the band outside of the concert environment. that obsession was greatly fueled by finding out that our hotel was 5 minutes away from the hyatt - where the band was rumoured to be staying.
we spent a total of about 4 and 1/2 hours standing outside the hyatt over two days, before being treated to a fleeting glimpse of adam clayton and larry mullen as they left for soundcheck on friday. i didn't get a decent photo - my one shot on my little point and shoot was blurry. it must have been the heat of the moment, because all my other photos that day were sharp...
that done we got in the car and headed for the venue - arriving finally (after getting a park) at about 4pm. there were no real queues so we splashed out on $45 tshirts.
the 5.30pm gate opening happened at about 6pm and i managed to 'smuggle' by camera in past an over-zealous security (they confiscated the plastic bottle tops off everyone's drink bottles... that is still a mystery - but as we had a plastic bottle, it caused a perfect diversion for my smuggling). i'm not sure how you were supposed to get into the famed 'ellipse' at the front of the stage, but we didn't get in there - we were about 15 metres from the front of the ellipse.
as is always the case at these things - our comfortable space was pretty quickly invaded by a more anti-social element. our particular bane were a group of drunk and dope-smoking university students from otago, followed by a group of four drunk pre-middle-aged blokes who barged their way through the crowd before stopping right in front of us. they endured a stunning burst of vitriol from the other punters who had been in the area long before them - and rightly so. i had a particular problem with a 6"5' member of the invading group who decided to stand directly in front me. lance was more perturbed with another member of the same group who decided to take piss in the middle of the crowd.
the sky over mt smart decided to follow suite and also leaked all over the crowd. the jacket, that i had been 50/50 about bringing, paid off.
kanye west opened the concert and i have to say that i was quite impressed with him. i would put him in the top three american intelligent hiphop innovators (knarls barkley and outkast are the other two). kanye struggled to work the more rock-orientated crowd, but informed us that of all the places they had played on this leg of the tour, nz gave him the warmest reception. that being the case, my heart goes out to the guy for the way he must have been received in australia.
after that, U2 took blimin' ages to come on. but when they did they erupted the stadium with 'city of blinding lights' and then 'vertigo'. i loved their light show - i couldn't see the stage. the aforementioned sixfootfiver turned around to me after a couple of songs to ask if i was feeling a bit happier now. i thanked him and said that i had an excellent view of his back. fortunately, because he was drunk, he swayed quite a bit - allowing me priceless glimpses of the on-stage action.
that aside, the concert rocked on nicely but seemed to hit a bit of a speedbump when bono began his sermons about poverty, justice and about muslimchristianjews all needing to get along. i've been to a lot of christian concerts in my life, so i know what it is to have a concert interrupted for a quick sermon. and i'm in favour of makingpovertyhistory and justice, and for an end to religious violence. and if someone had criticised U2 in my hearing for the way they push 'the issues' in their concerts, i would have thought that that person was obviously shallow and had no idea. but at the concert itself, i found myself inwardly begging bono to just let the songs speak for themselves and just get on with the music.
i suppose that feeling wasn't helped by me not agreeing with at least one point that bono seemed to be making. he delivered his (in)famous "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - all true" while wearing a headband that made the word 'coexist' out of a crescent, star of david and cross. quite apart from a tendency i have to lean heavily in favour of "jesus being true more than the other two" (also a rhyme), it seems to me that bono's line is a throw-away when you consider that jesus's teaching contradicts that of mohammed, and that mohammed's teaching directly contradicted that of jesus and the jews. how could "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed - all true" be true? i would wholeheartedly agree if bono had stood up and said that we could learn something from jesus, jew and mohammed. but what does he mean by "all true"? was he saying that they are all equally true, completely true? am i missing his point? i can't see that secularists could have been particularly inspired by his dictum (other than to have their belief strengthened that religion is the main cause of the problem ) - and i am certain that secularism was the dominant religion in the crowd at the stadium last night. but you see that he has at least achieved one of on-going aims: to be controversial to generate discussion.
anyway, to get back to the music: after that glitch, the concert picked up again. a highlight was when they performed 'one tree hill' - written about an auckland landmark. my favourite bono preaching part came later in the concert when, referring back to one tree hill and the fact that the actual tree had been killed by an act of vandalism years after the song was written, he said: "they tore down our tree, but you can't tear down poetry. you can't cut down poetry with a chainsaw." which brought a tear to my eye - i really did love that tree and really wish it was still there. but the place is still called 'one tree hill' despite the absence.
the concert closed with the obligatory encores where key U2 songs were played - including the impressive new 'the saints are coming' which was brilliantly done. i should also mention bono's rendition of 'miss sarajevo' in which he sang luciano pavaroti's part flawlessly. his voice seemed to be in fine form - despite the fact that i thought i had heard it declining on their last album when compared to earlier albums.
the concert finally ended with the song 'kite' from 'all that you can't leave behind'. and so there it was. the crowd lingered as we pushed our way out. the concert had been and gone - all that waiting, all the hype, and nothing left to do but go home. my personal feeling was a mixture of pleasure and disappointment. you don't want anything to tarnish something that you have been waiting that long for. that being said - it really was a brilliant concert and they are a brilliant band. and if they ever come to nz again, i will go again (but next time i might get seats - far away from the rabble, but not so far away that i can't see them standing behind taller than normal drunk guys and getting rained on from all directions).
some pictures... (the first one's by me, the rest are by anna - click to see them bigger): (top to bottom) anna waits at the concert, the edge and larry, coexist, letting go...