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"He sings old gospel and early Motown stuff. For a guy who knows so much about technology, he does not bow down to it." — Bono, on Brian Eno



by Armen

Talk to some serious U2 fans as to the source of their affinity for the band, and youll hit upon a very few common themes. I would venture to say they fall somewhere along the lines of profound lyrics, an intelligent, adaptive sound, and indescribable live performances.

Yesterday morning we queued up at 8am in Oakland to see a performance in the second leg of the Vertigo tour. I was #48. At around 6pm, they started letting us in, based on our number. We had floor tickets, but the way it works is that there is an inner floor the ellipse and an outer floor. As you walk in with your ticket, they scan it on a laptop randomly (?) the laptop flashes a red screen meaning you get admitted to the highly desirable ellipse, or a disappointing proceed to floor which sends you to the outer floor.

As we filed through the scanner, we got a red in our group and we took advantage of our 40s to get the vaunted spots DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF STAGE LEFT. The order of objects: Me, the barrier, the band. Notice the lack of intermediate people in that equation. The view was as if you were watching them on TV. That good.

Yes, after 15 years of dedicated, hardcore U2 fan-dom, I was going to see them up close and personal in a way few imagine possible. At that moment, I entered an alter world that simply didnt seem real (and one which I have yet to exit). I am the last thing from a celebrity worshipper. But U2 is something far more than a rock group to me they represent ideals, accomplishments, permanence and a poetic power unmatched by anything else Ive ever experienced. Of the 10 best times in my life, probably 4 of them were at U2 concerts. And now I would get to see my heros from a distance of 3 feet.

Needless to say, the concert was unbelievable. On a critical note, U2 lacked the energy of the first leg of the tour when we saw them in San Jose (then from behind and above the stage how beggars suddenly turn into choosers!) and Bonos voice was clearly shot. But no matter. A bad performance from U2 would still best anything else you could possibly do with 3 hours of your life.

I was standing directly in front of Edge, the guitarist. To watch Edge play to observe the intricate machinations that originate sounds I hear in my head daily priceless. As Ive (feebly) studied guitar over the last few years, I have always wondered how in the world Edge managed to generate the distinct sounds he did. Now I know.

Bono came over to us a few times. At one point, he directed a few lyrics at us. It was a very strange feeling indeed to make direct and sustained eye contact with someone I consider a hero, particularly while he was engaged in the very act where he earned my accolades. At another point, they had dimmed the lights and in the darkness his shadow approached us directly. The lights came back on and booyakasha! youre staring eye to eye at Bono, tambourine in hand, reaching out to our group. He ended up taking the girl standing right next to Adrian onto the stage. Yes, THAT is how close we were standing.

To be honest, I think the concert experience in the front row has its downsides for one, you dont see the rest of the crowd you are in fact disembodied from it given there is no one in front of you (like how I reiterated that fact?). And you cant really move much besides pumping your fist or jumping in place, and as I like to get really rowdy at concerts, this was a bummer. As such, you cant lose yourself in the crowd, the vibe, and the emotions of 14,000 people having a good time as one.

You see, U2 are somehow able to establish an intense communion between themselves and their audience, and likewise inspire it between the crowd members. Like the time they made >10,000 people cry by playing an acoustic version of One while scrolling the name of the 9/11 victims across all of our faces. I didnt get that effect this time. What I got instead was an insanely personal experience, lost in my own thoughts and feelings while sounds, light, and music blared all around me I likened it to a private show.

My eyes would scan from Bono to Edge to Adam to Larry, previously a mere blur from a distance at every other concert Ive been to; now full-size and infinitely remarkable... and all I could do was retreat to a quiet place in my mind and just admire their talent and feel the full impact of their influence and impact on my life. I felt an inexplicable pride, coupled with an incapacitating joy, as I watch these four gentlemen from Ireland come together and reinforce the indelible mark theyve already left on me.

Quite simply put, last night, I observed my own history.

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