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"Elvis ate America before America ate him." — Bono

by R. Van Dael and M. Vestic

The city was so ready for this. My eyes could not believe that literally EVERY street corner, EVERY street-light, EVERY ounce of wall was covered in U2 posters for the show. Sarajevo was turning into "Lovetown" in its truest form. That and the beauty made surreal by the massive, blatant destruction made me feel strange. I knew this was not going to be your typical PopMart show. Oddly, being taken with the city, I had almost forgotten I was there to see U2, until we drove upon the stadium and I saw the PopMart arch - in place and ready. It seemed at first so misplaced, sticking out from under the barren hills of scattered, sometimes shattered houses. But, then it made perfect sense, because if the PopMart stage belonged to a city, it would be Sarajevo.

The stadium was situated in a valley between hills.. the houses on the hills lit up during the falling darkness, creating a very comfortable atmosphere. From all over Bosnia-Herzogovina people had travelled to Sarajevo to attend this first public concert since the war. Also, for the first time since the war, a train traveled from Mostar to Sarajevo!! Rock'n'Roll broke boundaries again..

Afterwards, while being interviewed for Dutch Radio I compared the organisation to a military operation. As that was what it was: outside the stadium, armed vehicles guarded the entrances, trucks and jeeps drove on and off. Italian SFOR-soldiers with their dogs searched for bombs... Irish troops functioned as sharpshooters, positioned in higher buildings surrounding the stadium. Jerry Mele, U2's head of security, was very tensed when he sat down for a few minutes rest. In the end all went without problems, and for that, my compliments for Jerry and his team!

The Wire-banner was proudly hung over a balcony outside the stadium, and a little group of Wirelings gathered around it. Maria had arranged that the Wirelings could enter the stadium at around 14:30 so we saw the crew members rehearse Miss Sarajevo a few times. It sounded very clean as on the record.. it gave me the chills, while I sat down to enjoy it..

The atmosphere was very relaxed when the people entered the stadium, and most of the audience arrived only after 7 o'clock. Moe Sacreby, UN-diplomat for Bosnia made a speech to welcome everybody and to introduce the three local support acts. He also thanked U2 for this massive event, and the people who travelled from Austria, Italy and even Rotterdam.

[by Reno]

The first support act was a local choir, consisting of boys and girls.. the second was called Protest, and as their name suggested, they were very rebellious. The sound was great, with echo returning from the hills around. I liked the 3rd act better, which was a rhythm based rock-group. I mistook the singer of the latter for Bono while he was on stage in the afternoon :)

A few minutes before 21:00 the Popmusik theme was played by Howie B, indicating the show was to start. A few minutes before the show, around 8000 SFOR soldiers populated the stands. Only this time not to guard, but for the first time, they had an evening off and were very delighted and thrilled with exuberance to leave their base for an evening.

Bono was dressed in his blue boxer-outfit and danced on the b-stage while the band started Mofo and the 45,000 people in the stadium cheered and swinged along. U2 didn't seem worried about their safety, and were determined to give Sarajevo a night never to forget. And how right they were!

At the intro to Even Better Than The Real Thing, Bono shouted "Viva Sarajevo! Fuck the past!! Kiss the future!! Viva Sarajevo" showing his muscles-suit and jumping around on stage. The screen showed new images of all kind of products, varying from toothpaste to Pour-l'homme condoms.

It wasn't until "Last Night On Earth" that Bono started to suffer from voice-problems, hitting his guitar agressively. He managed to sing in falsetto voice during Gone quite well earlier on. Joe O'Herlihy told me afterwards that he was suffering voice-problems for some weeks now, and I think the special tension affected his voice. I saw him cough off microphone on many occasions, grapping his throath, seeking some comfort.

During "Until the end of the world" Bono whispered the lyrics, while Edge joined Bono on the catwalk. Bono was really suffering, squeezing out words during the climatic encore of the song.

The crowd roared from enthusiasm during the opening chords of New Year's Day. Bono barely managed to sing this song, gesturing for the crowd's support during the intermezzo. The crowd acted appropriately, singing along very well.. supporting Bono as much as they could. I expected Bono to be frustrated.. just during this concert he couldn't sing. But instead it seemed he wasn't frustrated but just giving all he had to make the best of it.

Bono spoke with tears in his eyes during the intro of ISHFWILF: "Svirati u Sarajevu je vas poklon nama!" which means: "Playing in Sarajevo is your gift to us." "My voice is gone, but your voices are strong, and I ask you to carry me, as you carried each other in those weeks, months and years."

Bono made a little mistake during Stand By Me, where he started the 2nd verse way too early, where the crowd sang the chorus at high volume. :)

After Staring at the sun, Bono ran to leave the stage as soon as possible, making room for Edge to sing his karaoke, but only this time.. it wasn't a karaoke song... instead he guided himself on guitar, singing the lyrics to Sunday bloody Sunday.. not played since 1993.

For me, Sunday Bloody Sunday was the highlight, musically and emotionally. Edge plays the song very slowed down, and every line in the song is about Sarajevo. Two spotlights pointed at the Edge on the B-stage.. causing a breathtakening silouette against the by lighters illuminated stands in the back. The song is played so introvert and slow that it becomes almost painful to listen to.. the few exclamated chords in the end seem very well in place there.. adding a wee bit of aggression to it. The following couldn't be more apropriate at any other concert.. it sends shivers down my spine:

how long, how long must we sing this song
how long.. how loooong
tonight, we can be as one toniiiight

The song ended very quietly again, the crowd singing the chorus, and bursting into an enormous applause afterwards.

Miami was skipped.. but instead the band burst into Bullet The Blue sky.. playing it very aggresivly. Bono though, recovered backstage, probably had a quick treatment and arrived on stage way too late :) He rushed from the back to the mike, still tugging at his shirt while singing. His voice sounded very solid again, and he seemed to enjoy his performance more. Edge played very aggressively, leaving me breathless when it came to a climax when his solo arrives at a full stop. I had to gasp for air..

I never noticed before, but Edge played the top of his strings, between the higher bridge of his guitar and the end of the neck? (not sure how to point this out). Tom Marillo of Rage against the machine used to do this also.

"Our country is a little like your country, just a little" introduced Please. Bono's voice sounded very strong again. Adam brought him drinks during the parts where he didn't have to play his bass, tapping Bono on his shoulder 'hey dude, drink this' :) Bono thanked him passionately. Bono gave it all during the 'Yayayaya'-part.. bended forward he screamed his guts out. Once again, it is a special experience to see a man giving himself completely, with such self-surrender it becomes painful to watch. Bono kneeled down and I felt like as if I was in Heaven when the high placed 'pleeeeeaaase' came out without a stain.. perfect..

Where the streets have no name followed.. the band seemed relieved that Bono was able to sing without any pain. Bono gestured Larry and Adam to stretch the encore, leading to an almost deafening climax.

[by Mariann]

On the long bus ride in, I had hoped the band would play "Miss Sarajevo" (they just HAD to here). Also, a few hours before the show, as I was not inside watching, I stood outside the stadium. I began hearing various sounds from the soundcheck/rehearsal. While watching the quiet cemetery (in truth, the stadium was surrounded on nearly all sides with cemeteries filled with graves, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, neverending...), I heard the strains of the intro to "Miss Sarajevo". And the voice of Pavoratti (on tape, but it didn't matter). I was now more excited and thrilled than ever.

The show was a feast of emotion in itself, with the band, especially Bono, opening up to the city, to the people, to Sarajevo, with more heartfelt and earnest sincerity than I had ever witnissed before - and the people knew it. A deleted "Miami" would make way for "Miss Sarajevo", but when?

The first encore began, and all the souless cynics and critics that had previously tried to debunk this show would have been shunned out of this place by a people, a people I finally felt a part of, who KNEW the meaning of surrealism, sarcasm, dark humour, of four Irish lads emerging stone-faced from a forty-foot lemon... Not an ounce of cynicism in the place. I was glad, really, because all those saved ounces made way for all the more pure feeling, memory (pained and happy), and joy.

At the end of "If you Wear that Velvet Dress", a lovely Bosnian girl came onstage. Not to frolick, not to show off, but toevo into Bono's arms, into safety, into love. He never let go of her all throughout "With or Without You". As I watched, entranced by it all, I realized that as much I would have loved to stand there in her shoes, I wasn't thinking: "That should be me up there." The song's warmth and their dance filled my heart with hope, the real reason for this night's show, making me say outloud: "That SHOULD be her up there." I could see her face clearly on the screen as, at the song's finish, she descended the stage, her arm stretched out and guided by Bono's hands, with such grace, dignity, and beauty. I knew in my heart the stage was set. Only one song could follow. And it finally did.

Bono remarked that they were about to play a song that they had never performed before. And that he hoped that we liked it. A lady behind me, like a mother with her strong, wise voice, murmured with a seemingly long-awaited calm, "Miss Sarajevo".

The soft sounds of "Miss Sarajevo" began, a moment so many had waited for. Such a feeling danced in the air, like we were being treated to something so rare. As I watched the scene beneath the looming hills, with a million lights shimmering in the crowd, the band stood in a circle on the B-stage with Brian Eno and an old-fashioned-looking record player, as if the means of a voice for Pavoratti. They were playing their hearts out a quiet song that gave dignity back to all those who had it taken away. I knew in my gut that the likes of what I was seeing was so special, one of those perfect, bittersweet moments that only happen once, but are remembered forever.

As "Miss Sarajevo" footage graced the screen, with the defiant girls proudly marching down the runway, everyone sang along with Bono, who was giving and giving and giving . . . and getting so much in return.

"Is there a time for First Communion?
Is there a time for East 17?
Is there a time to turn to Mecca?
Is there a time to be a beauty queen?

Here she comes
Beauty plays the clown
Here she comes . . .
Surreal in her crown."

As the voice of Pavoratti sang the mournful opera, many sang the words in Italian, all of Sarajevo seemed to be singing.

From those startling moments until the last gentle breezes of "Unchained Melody", a peace had taken over Sarajevo. The kind that would outlast all others.

"I need your love
We need your love
God speed your love . . ."

When all had been said and done, there are many memories, pictures I'll hold with me of the U2 show that night: The boyishness of the soldiers as they laughed and performed the wave, Bono's trance during "Please" while he sang, hands in prayer and on his knees, his eyes upwards and his voice crying to God, the awe of Larry and Adam at the crowd's dedication to them, the sheer enjoyment and eternal humble smile of The Edge, the audience around me singing in broken accents, getting some of the words wrong, but not caring, Bono promising not to "kiss our ass" but to "kick our ass" (a promise well-kept), the band making everyone who lived there feel something they weren't allowed to feel for so long- normal, The Edge taking Bono's hand and hugging him at a moment when Bono felt his voice had let down, but, most importantly, I take away the picture of the stadium under the dark, black night, surrounded by lost souls, filled with hopeful souls, who sang and danced and dreamed along with the greatest band on earth.

We all sang in one song, made proud, made to remember, and to hope. All the world seemed to be watching, listening. And, under that battered, chilled Sarajevo sky, it seemed as if those skies had opened and that even heaven itself was watching.

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