How does this sound? FRONT ROW IN FRONT OF EDGE.
That was so incredible that it warrants me getting a bit ahead of myself. Matthew and I (Kate's show was on the 28th) had the most amazing luck. Let's do a run-through of what happened:
1. I bought these tickets via Ticketmaster. Yes, I actually didn't have to resort to e-Bay like so many.
2. However, I never thought I got them, as Ticketmaster gave me an error when I went to purchase. But they miraculously showed up on my account as purchased.
3. We arrived at 5:30pm. Yeah, we didn't wait all day, we just rocked up as soon as I could get there after Kate and her Dad got to the hotel. And there wasn't even much of a queue in the non-U2.com members line!
4. Matthew's ticket, upon being scanned in the lottery, said proceed to floor. For those not familiar with the stage set-up, U2 have an ellipse-shaped walkway extending into the crowd. If you have General Admission tickets, when you enter, they are scanned, and tickets selected at random grant access (for the ticketholder and one friend) into the ellipse, while the rest are told to proceed to the floor outside the ellipse. Matthew's wasn't chosen, and then they scanned mine. I first thought an error appeared on the computer screen, and then I realised WE WERE IN. I remember screaming "Yeah, yeah, BOOM-CHA!", having to explain to the ticket scanning folks that boom-cha comes from Discotheque, and shaking as they put the ellipse-entry wristband on my arm.
5. After all this luck, past 6pm by now, we charged down alongside the floor, ran into the ellipse - and found ourselves faced with a perfect spot ON THE RAIL IN FRONT OF EDGE. Yeah, we took it! Front row, no crush (as that's centred around Bono's spot in the middle), and ... oh, the luck is unbelieveable. I still can't believe it.
As we waited, I had a bit of a brainwave. I had a couple of sheets of A4 paper in my blazer pocket, and in yet another piece of awesome luck, Matthew had a thick marker pen, so before the Kings Of Leon set, I made two signs, one reading "PLAY ONE TREE HILL", which Matthew held, and the other reading "TICK TOCK" (as in 11 O'clock Tick Tock), which I held.
I decided I'd try to enjoy Kings Of Leon, and this night, with plugs in, their sound was nicer and I sort of got into it. A few songs were enjoyable enough. But I must say that their singer is APPALLING, they have no charisma or stage presence, and they totally did not adapt to being in the arena or having plenty of stage to move around on. This was their best night, though, and after their set, I could say I had enjoyed myself a bit.
Dallas Schoo did his final guitar checking and Matthew and I tried to guess the songs he was testing effects for, and then it was time for U2. The intro music, Arcade Fire's Wake Up, came on and excitement seriously hit. Suddenly, Edge was on stage RIGHT IN FRONT OF US, playing the gorgeous City Of Blinding Lights intro. Hearing the show up in the stands is one thing; being a part of it directly in front of your favourite guitarist in the world is another. I never thought I would enjoy Vertigo and Elevation that much - and I'd had an absolute blast during them on the 24th! And then it was time for The Song, one of my all-time favourites, a song I always wanted to hear live but before this tour thought would never be played again, the brilliance that is GLORIA! The look of elated surprise on Matthew's face was priceless, and so was the performance. TWO, THREE, FOUR! Oh, it was just sensational, and the band were on fire. Superlative and brilliant performance, that's for sure.
Besides playing Gloria instead of The Cry/The Electric Co., the main set didn't differ from the previous show. Not that it mattered. Each of those songs are so great they are worth hearing ten times, let alone two. Being up front just added to the awesomeness of the experience, of screaming out "NO MORE!" during Sunday Bloody Sunday, of watching Edge in respectful admiration during the Bullet solo, of using the rail to hoist myself up to see Bono belt out the "siiiiiiiiiing" note of Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own way out on the ellipse walkway, of savouring the tender and heartbreaking beauty of Running To Stand Still, of everything. It was an experience beyond description and belief. To have Edge - and at some points, other band members - right in front of you is just amazing, especially when you know that Edge and Bono have read your signs! Indeed, Edge laughed at Matthew and his One Tree Hill sign. Grand times.
Encore, encore, ENCORE, EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG! As soon as the band walked out and ripped into The Fly rather than Zoo Station, I knew we were in for something special. I was not disappointed. It was so awesome to watch the band rock out The Fly as only U2 can, and then as the song came to a close - the wailing guitar, the screaming intro of UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD! Only the second time this song has been done on the tour, and it was INCREDIBLE. The band really know how to do this one! This was another song I had dreamt of hearing, and as they roared through it brilliantly, I was in heaven. And at the end, the thoughts - what is it going to merge into? New Year's Day? Mysterious Ways? Bono - making a change to the planned set - yells for OUT OF CONTROL! The band haven't done the song at all this tour! And they weren't ready for it! Edge scrambled for a new guitar as I thought "maybe my sign? Maybe they've forgotten 11 O'clock Tick Tock but are going to play something else from the era?" (I'm still unsure as to whether I should dare to entertain such a thought or not!) And then they shot into an obviously impromptu, unrehearsed, and absolutely AWESOME rendition. The whole arena was singing along to this song - a song not even on the Best Of! - from 1979! The performance was a bit of a technical disaster, with everything falling apart midway through and the band not even playing the solo, but ... that's what made it so GOOD! It was so impromptu, so obvious the band were stumbling through it and riding on the euphoric energy of the crowd, and it may have been one of the best Out Of Controls ever! Some performances are great because they are technically mindblowing, and some are great because of what they represent, the energy and excitement and spontaneity of an individual performance and whole concert, and this was most certainly the latter.
My excitement knew no bounds, and neither did Matthew's, it seems. I was using the rail to boost my jumps, throwing myself well into the air, and clearly I was too exuberant, as one of U2's security people actually tapped me back! I learnt later that the same happened to Matthew. After the performance, I was just so exhausted that I was thankful the band launched into a (rare for this tour) performance of With Or Without You. I dangled over the rail, entranced by the beauty of this performance. I was hoping Bono would do the gorgeous Strangers In The Night snippet that he did at the fourth Chicago show, but even though he didn't, the performance was still one of awesome and inspiring beauty. With Or Without You has regained the magic it had well and truly lost on the Popmart and Elevation tours.
Encore, encore, ENCORE! We had to have even more. After what we'd just seen, too much could never be enough, as it's a bit hard to get enough of such total incredibleness. U2, of course, obliged, returning with a rocking All Because Of You. If I thought it was great at the first show, it was so much more at the second, watching Edge rocking it in front of us and pointing at him while singing the chorus. After the song drew to a close, Bono consulted with the rest of the band and Edge went to his piano. I knew what this meant - Original Of The Species. Some have criticised the live performances for lacking guitar, but honestly, after seeing that, I don't think it needs it. The fragile beauty of the song is exposed, and no longer hidden by any trappings, it becomes a truly emotional experience. Unbeknownst to me, though, it wasn't going to top what was coming.
BAD. B-A-D. BAD! As soon as the sequencer kicked in, Matthew and I turned to each other, screamed in jubilation, and savoured a soaring, wonderful performance of what I consider to be the second best song ever made (Where The Streets Have No Name being first). As Bono brought someone on stage, Edge just kept going and going with his solo, and I never wanted it to end - I stood there, enthralled, never wanting the song or the concert to end. Alas, Edge's solo finally concluded (I've no idea how long it really was, but for me, every second was precious and lasted for ages) and Bono slipped into a snippet of 40. With chants of "hoooooow loooooong to sing this song" filling the Fleet Centre, the band drew Bad to a close and departed for the night. It was over. It was an experience of a lifetime. I haven't the faintest idea how I eventually got to sleep later.
I can now say I have been front row at a U2 concert. My life is complete.