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"People have been coming to U2 shows for 20 years now. It's almost like the Deadheads at this stage." — Adam

Column: off the record..., vol. 9-364

off the record, from @U2

The U2360 Tour engine is revving at high speed this week, as everyone's favorite band is about to embark on yet another epic adventure. "The Claw" is built, rehearsals have started, and in just a couple days, the first cast of thousands will show up in Barcelona to bear witness in the Church of U2. In an interview for Barcelona TV this week, Bono says, "Music is worship," and tells the reporters that the massive structure in the middle of the stadium was inspired by one of the world's most famous unfinished structures and one of Barcelona's biggest tourist attractions, La Sagrada Familia church, designed by Antoni Gaudi.

Gaudi (pronounced Gow-DEE) was the man who gave us the word "gaudy." He was an innovative architect and designer who challenged the world's perceptions of living space by incorporating elements of the natural world into his designs. His structures often mimicked nature to great effect: Ocean waves became undulating facades on buildings, seashells were fashioned into unusual spires, and columns were twisted like tornadoes. Although the term was not used in the 1800s, he might be considered the first "green" architect, preferring to use local clay, stone, glass and tile in his designs. Whimsical and evocative, Gaudi's ingenuity influenced generations of artists who came after him.

At first I thought that Bono was paying lip service to the people of Barcelona by invoking one of their favorite sons, but I'm beginning to think his comparison wasn't really that far-fetched.

Gaudi: Shapes are suggestive but vague enough to leave it to your imagination as to what you're seeing.
U2: Songs are vague enough to invite the listener to fill in the gaps with your own experiences.

Gaudi: Evoked nature through shapes, materials and color.
U2: On albums like The Joshua Tree, the mood suggests a landscape, in this case, wide-open spaces.

There are probably more comparisons I could make, but I'll leave it to the fans who are lucky enough to be at that first show to draw their own conclusions.

The concert-going experience is so different now, compared to when I went to my first show in 1979. Due to the Internet and social media, you can learn everything about a live show before you ever step out the door on your way to the gig. Rehearsal set lists for this tour have been ubiquitous these last few weeks, which may or may not be a good thing.

There seems to be two camps in this respect. The "I do" camp wants to know everything as soon as the information is available; the "I don't" camp is trying to avoid that information at all costs. When the rehearsal set lists started popping up everywhere, I thought I was in the "I do" group, but as more and more information was being released, I realized that I really didn't want to know. I am sorry that I looked at that first list of songs, and I sort of feel like I was told the ending to a movie I hadn't seen yet. My young son does that to me all the time (in his excitement) and I hate it, so why would I do it to myself?

I am surprised at myself for having this reaction. When I was pregnant with both of my children, I wanted to know the gender of each one as soon as it was humanly possible. When asked why, my standard response was "Because I can."

I think the difference here, though, is that having babies requires planning and big decisions besides what color to paint the nursery, such as which grandparent gets naming rights. Also, there are other surprises to look forward to, like what the baby will look like. But for something purely recreational, there's no need to know everything in advance.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, @U2 will try to provide updates as quickly as possible as the tour rolls on. (For those who don't want to know, watch for our *Spoiler* warnings.) You can follow on Facebook or Twitter if you're so inclined.

If you like to tweet, you might like to know that staff member Tassoula makes an appearance in this new book.

I'm kind of torn on the whole Twitter thing. While Tassoula and Matt are big fans (and Matt makes some excellent points here), I'm not sure I agree with it during a performance.

My objections to tweeting during a concert or other event are twofold. First, if you are staring at a little blue screen and texting "My favorite song SBS!!!", you're missing the experience of being fully engaged in what's going on around you. You're in two places at once, and you can't give full attention to either thing. Second, if you are getting these tweets every few minutes, there's no element of surprise when it's your turn to be in the audience. What is the point, then, of going (especially if you're tweeting yourself the whole time and not really listening) to a show? You can set up a concert play list on your iPod and play it to your heart's content without ever having to go to all the trouble of getting yourself to a venue.

Another less important but highly annoying thing about it is, there's no escaping someone's phone lighting up next to you. I enjoy the group experience of seeing a live performance, but that type of distraction can be just as irritating as second-hand smoke. It's something I'll have to learn to ignore, I guess.

There's been a lot of talk about the aforementioned set list for this tour. Every tour, fans have their own dream set of songs they want to hear. I do as well, but there's very little chance that the songs I love will be played because most of them are from the albums Pop and Zooropa. U2 played very little from those albums on the last tour, but I think they should resurrect some of those songs this time around. A big stage is meant for big songs, like "Gone" or "Discothèque." How fun would it be to hear "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" or "Lemon"? Those songs are so theatrical; they'd fit "The Claw" like a glove. :)

Speaking of gloves, despite his increasingly bizarre behavior over the years, there's no disputing Michael Jackson's title as the King of Pop. I couldn't find an actual example of worlds colliding, so a virtual one will have to do. RIP.

On another sad note, we learned this week that our own Kelly Eddington will no longer continue to do Achtoon Baby, one of @U2's most popular features. While she won't be doing the cartoon on a monthly basis, she promises to "Pop in from time to time." In her own words, she says:

If you could tell our readers that I've loved hearing from them and even meeting them over the years and appreciated their praise and encouragement, that would be great. That's what kept me going for as long as I did. I think the most unusual thing I've received in the mail over the years was a marriage proposal to Bun from a reader's cat, complete with photos and Match.com-style personal profile.

If you want to see what Kelly is up to, feel fee to visit her most excellent blog.

All of us at @U2 would like to thank Kelly for her amazing contribution to this Web site, and we all wish her the best for the future.

© @U2, 2009.