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Marshall Pierce
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ConcertGoers

Concertgoers blog!



U2 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, Sept 12

[gallery order="DESC" columns="2"] U2 has been around literally my entire life. When I was 10, The Joshua Tree was released to international acclaim. I think this was my first awareness of U2 and their ticket to international pop stardom. In high school I was envious of all the kids in my class who had tickets to Achtung Baby and Zooropa – never realizing that some of their best stuff since Joshua Tree was still yet to be released. Here was a band that released new music and new albums in an effortless manner. At the time I wasn’t able to rationalize how huge of a sensation they were… and continued to be. Half a life time later, after two of my favorite albums All you can leave behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb were released in the early 2000's – still neglecting to see them on tour because of life getting in the way: new jobs, having zero money, paying a mortgage, having kids – I never expected this group of high school friends from Dublin to still be kickin’ it thirty odd years after they first played together after answering Larry Mullen’s “musician’s wanted ad.” Continually missing U2’s live performances was a thing of the past as I now had tickets to their North American tour kick off concert at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL! I won them (the goddesses were smiling down on me) through a drawing at 105.5 Triple M in Madison, WI. The fact that I had tickets to the biggest international music group (possibly in my lifetime) did not necessarily sink in until I was at Soldier Field on September 12th waiting for U2 to take the stage. We got our “inner-circle” bracelets at will-call and kept making our way closer and closer to the main stage.  As we crossed into the “Red Zone” a security guard gave my husband and me masks in the likeness of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader of Burma who is under house-arrest … for the past 14 years. We made our way to the last part of open area in the “inner-circle.” It was near these ramps that bridged the inner circle to an outer-circle. I had heard much about the stage and how U2 wanted to connect with their audience in more ways. This included performing on an outer circle so that many in the crowd could see them better. It also included this stage design that resembled a rocket or lunar-landing device with a mega screen broadcasting the events onstage that encircled the lunar device. After Snow Patrol did their set we waited about 30 minutes more before U2 came out to perform. David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” began in a very crisp and eerie way as the crowd at first hushed and then hysterically started screaming for U2. And the lunar craft lit up in red and white lights and U2 climbed on stage. The set began with singles from their latest album: Breathe, No Line on the Horizon, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, and Beautiful Day ending with a snippet of the Beatles' Blackbird. The crowd was already jumping but everyone started singing along when U2 began playing “Elevation”. For some time I had been trying to move my way closer to the stage. I started smelling a “sweet” type of smoke and looked around attempting to take it the entire experience in. Next to me was a father with his 5 year old son. The boy, who had ear-plugs in, was looking around at all the people in the stadium. He was on his father’s shoulders most of the time (when security wasn’t telling him to get down) – and he asked his dad, “can we go home? I am tired.” And his dad kindly explained to the boy, "Son, I brought you here because this is the biggest rock band in the world. And you will never forget this moment.” That comment sank in for me. From that point on, I attempted to forget my camera and my video app and concentrated on immersing myself completely in the experience. I looked around at the ends of Soldier Field and looked out across the field; there had to be close to 80,000 people there sharing this exact moment. At this point in the concert, U2 began playing thirty years worth of hits. By far, they were the most gracious band I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing live. I’ve seen lots of big names, but none worked the crowd or acknowledged the crowd quite like U2.  They became more energized as the crowd responded to their music. How can you make ten and twenty year old songs, songs that you’ve sang over a thousand times sound as energetic and as fantastic as the first time you ever preformed them live? No idea. But U2 did it and convinced me that this show could have been their one and only concert of the decade. The last part of the concert was my favorite as the band got into some of their older stuff. Bono turned the microphone over to the crowd who sang the first two verses of I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking For acapella for him. He then concluded it with a snippet of Stand By Me by Ben E. King. Bono and The Edge did a powerful acoustic version of Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of - with The Edge hitting the high notes. I never realized what a beautiful tenor voice The Edge had until I witnessed him on backing and lead vocals in this version. More songs followed - some that I'm not quite sure they've played live before: Unknown Caller, The Unforgettable Fire, City Of Blinding Lights, building into a hyper sing-a-long of Vertigo. The ramps began moving over us at this point and The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Bono would walk literally over us to the outer circle to be closer to the fans in the seats. There was one point in the concert that I was literally underneath Bono as he sang on the bridge above me! By this point in the concert, U2 had been playing well into a 2nd hour. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight, Sunday Bloody Sunday/Oliver's Army (Elvis Costello snippet), Pride, and MLK followed. We were requested to put on our masks during “Walk On.” So while Desmond Tutu appeared on the screen above the stage and praised Americans for their international awareness and charity and the band got ready to play, people all around me put on their masks in preparation. The only people given these masks were those in the inner circle, which set us apart from others at the concert in an odd way. I didn’t realize that we were a select group. Initially I thought everyone had them. It wasn't until we were walking to the El, winding through the sidewalks of the Museum campus in a sea of U2 fans that people were asking about our masks and if we were something special! During the moment Walk On was played, Amnesty International came out to the outer circle wearing their masks to bring awareness to Aung San Suu Kyi’s plight in Burma. It was an incredibly moving experience. I have completely come to appreciate that Bono and U2 use their celebrity to bring awareness to social justice issues across the world. And it didn't seem weird - they had seamlessly orchestrated and integrated the experience into their concert. Bono is very pro-American and respectful of the role that our country has played on the international theater. Even though I might not always agree with our politics, it was really kind of cool to hear someone as famous as Bono pat the US on their back for all the good that we do in the world. Then they finished their regular set with Where The Streets Have No Name. U2 came back out onto stage after a brief interlude. The entire concert Bono had been wearing a black leather jacket with what appeared to be rhinestones outlining the seams of his sleeves. However when he came out for the encore, the rhinestones radiated red lasers - LED jackets are the new thing! An old-school microphone, which I imagine were used in concert halls of old, dropped down from the ceiling and illuminated in bright red lights. The band broke into a rousing and crowd-participating rendition of One. Bono used the microphone as a swing and began hanging from it and swinging across the stage. They finished the first encore with Bad. But they weren't quite finished. Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton, and the Edge came out and waved and then grabbed their instruments and began the second encore with Ultra Violet. Bono then came out to the roaring crowd finishing the song and immediately transitioning into one of my personal favorites: With or Without You. Because of our location, the spotlights from the right side of the stage shown directly at us part of the time. It was during this song that Bono came to our side of the stage. He was literally 10 feet away singing my favorite song. He was looking directly at the group of people I was standing with at this part of the stage. The spotlight came up behind him and illuminated him from behind. It was shining directly into my eyes... and he stood there, looking at us, passionately singing this classic. Twenty years of frustration of missing U2 concerts melted away at that moment. I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to stand up. The concluding song was Moment of Surrender from No Line on the Horizon. It was such an appropriate last song with gospel and choral overtones. The mood was perfect, the crowd now in a relaxed and breezy chant, waving cigarette lighters and cell phones illuminating the stadium in what Bono called "the Milky Way galaxy" of our own. U2 gave an appropriate farewell to their audience by going to each corner of the stage, waving, and bowing to their fans. Then they marched off stage with their arms on the shoulders of their bandmates and then down one of the rear ramps into the tunnels of Soldier Field. I will not forget that moment - ever. I know this blog cannot do the experience justice. However, I have to write it to commit the experience to memory. I am grateful to Triple M for giving me this opportunity. It was such a serendipitous experience and treat to journey to Chicago and experience U2 live (at the kick off concert nontheless!) of the North American leg of their concert. --Jill Underly

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09/17/2009 12:51PM
U2 @ Soldier Field, Chicago, Sept 12
Please Enter Your Comments Below
09/18/2009 6:58AM
Kitty
Jill--great writing! You made me feel like I was there..and jealous I wasn't there--at the same time. --Kitty Dunn
09/22/2009 8:36AM
Mary Anne Oemichen
What a great job doing this blog. You captured the experience so well. Like you, I told myself I would not go another decade without seeing my favorite band live. And after this experience, I will never miss another pass through Chicago or Milwaukee ever again. And next time I will bring my kids! It is quite unbelieveable that this band sounds even better live than they do on CD's. And it did almost seem like one huge spiritual revival.
09/24/2009 9:06AM
Melis
Great review--you were so lucky to have won those tickets! I was on the floor outside the circle--an amazing experience there, too. I've seen many, many shows and this rates among my top. Chicago is such an awesome place to see U2 (much, much better than Milwaukee). You're right about the songs--they haven't played The Unforgettable Fire in concert since, I think, 1987. And, Ultraviolet is making its appearance for the first time in concert since 1992. One clarification on the blog, though...the encore started with Ultraviolet and Bono wearing the red laser jacket on, while he was "swinging" on the microphone. (The way it reads, it sounds as if he sung "One" using that microphone. He sang that simply standing in front of a microphone with his guitar, before the encore.) Ultraviolet and the remix version of "I'll Go Crazy If I don't go crazy tonight" were the highlights of the show for me.
05/15/2010 12:51PM
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