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I don't partake in the spanking of the Yank. That's more of an English thing. -- Bono

by Jai

This was my first U2 concert, after being a fan for about 15 years and sort of "re-falling" for them several months ago. I was fortunate enough some great people while standing in the GA line, and then was even luckier to get scanned in to the ellipse. I was against one of the railings near the back of the ellipse, which was a great vantage point for the whole show, but obviously some parts more so than others. It's pretty overwhelming to have the band 3 feet away from you.

Eventually the lights go down and this five-piece string ensemble (all women in flirty dresses) come out, and then out comes this dude in a cowboy hat who starts talking about inviting Kanye on tour with them. About five seconds later it clicked - HOLY @#$%, THAT'S BONO. I don't know what I was expecting, other than a guy who looks just like the guy on the DVD, but that's what it was. He sounded like him too. Amazing how that happens to be.

So then Kanye West comes out. He was backed up by a string quintet and a DJ. He had some really infectious beats, and I found myself enjoying him despite not being too thrilled that he was opening.

The first four songs were just great fun, and you could tell the whole band were having a blast. Big smiles all around, and the crowd was really rocking, jumping up and down, singing - totally into it - which made it all the more fun. It's that kind of spirituality that comes with loving a band that much, and it's something you can't quite experience the same way unless you're in GA. I don't know if it would have been the same packed in out on the regular floor or not, but we had room to move around in the ellipse, and it was kind of laid back for the most part, save for when Bono was out on the ellipse, so we really could move around.

The band was relaxed and laughing the whole night - it seemed like there was some big joke going on stage because there were times where Larry was just cracking up, and Adam as well. I can't help but think that happy vibe fed into the songs. I've never heard "Original of the Species" sound better than it did last night. "Sometimes You Can't Make it" though was just beautiful in and of itself. Bono was so emotional, and his voice was so on. The crowd was hugely into it too. Incredibly loud. So loud that Bono was putting his hands over his ears, like he was stunned by it. Everything went by so fast, I could barely believe when it was time for "Love and Peace..." already. I wasn't overly passionate about that song one way or the other from the album, but seeing it live, especially when it's three feet in front of you tends to change that a bit. Amazing stuff. I just regret that I didn't have eyes in the back of my head so I could have watched what was happening onstage as well.

Then came the political stuff, which was really engrossing when you're there. Bono really didn't talk too much, actually, beyond the basics of the ONE campaign, the COEXIST stuff, and so forth, though he gave a nice intro to Miss Sarajevo. He did also bring a little boy up on stage during, "Sunday Bloody Sunday," (calling him a Son of Abraham) and had him shout "no more!" in counter to Bono's. The kid was probably 5 at most, and he was very sweet. There is always something very intense about "Bullet The Blue Sky" that I never could put my finger on, but it was even more so in person. The story for Miss Sarajevo is touching, and it's one thing to read about the stories behind songs, but it's another thing to hear the artist tell the story, even if it's a story you've heard him tell a dozen times before. It's personal, it's part of the song, and it only makes the experience that much more complete. And the opera. God, if Bono's voice has been on-and-off of late (as I have heard), it was ON in St. Louis. He just soared on Pride. His voice sounded that young again. I always love "Where The Streets Have No Name," because of the guitar. That is one of the most engrossing things about live music is watching it made, watching fingers on strings, and so forth. But that's for later.

There is nothing more awesome then the feeling of giddy, pleasant surprise, which is me when the notes to "Until The End of the World" came on. We got our only real up-close experience with Edge, who stayed on the other side of the ellipse for the most part, as he and Bono took off on a little chariot race around the ellipse. Edge runs fast. He's not just jogging along. We're talking full-speed running, WHILE playing. The man's got long legs too. Meanwhile, Bono's pumping his shorter legs as fast as he can just to keep up. It was very cool to see so close, and fun to boot.

They played several of my favorite songs, including Mysterious Ways (where the girl pulled onstage seemed so overwhelmed all she could do was cling to Bono), and quite possibly my most favorite if I had to choose one, "Stuck In a Moment." Having Bono right in front of me singing that song was so incredibly fucking powerful. I was so overwhelmed at the time I could barely process it. I will never forget how those final words, "this time will pass," sounded. To my delight they then covered John Lennon's "Instant Karma," which is a song I loved when I was young and could sing along with. Speaking of Lennon, they also worked in a little bit of, "Happy Xmas, War is Over," but I can't remember where right now. Then they segued into "Yahweh," which is one of my favorite songs off the new album. Bono pulled a guy out of the audience to come play piano with them, and at the end Edge went over and this poor guy, who was having serious communication difficulties with Bono. How many people get piano lessons from the Edge?

And then came the finale, and oh. They'd been playing Bad, then simply going into the refrain from "40." I desperately wanted them to play all of "40," because I absolutely love that song beyond words, and because I wanted to see Adam play the guitar. And they played it. Talk about making a night complete! I don't know what it is about that song, but it does things to me. I didn't want it to be over, but it soon was, and we screamed our heads off for everyone as they left the stage one by one. They left the house lights down for a full minute and we wondered if we were going to get a third encore, but then the lights came up and they began herding us out of the ellipse and tearing things down.

It took me a while to process the whole experience. At first it was just, wow, we're all having a great time. This is a band who obviously loves their music and has a great time playing it, and they love their fans as well. Being in the ellipse really closes the thing in. The arena is so huge, but when you're in the ellipse it's suddenly just like being in a club. The stage itself really isn't that big to begin with. It really is quite clever how it's done. So at first, that's what I was thinking about. Just being able to be with the band and have fun with them and watch them have fun. It was only as we were driving home and we were talking about how deeply emotional Bono was when singing "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," or how 'on' they were on "Original of the Species," or really every song. It was only then that the emotional connections really started to come up for me, as the adrenaline receded. The way it made me feel to be so close to the music, to hear that music I've heard so many times and has comforted me and made me smile and there it is, being made, at the source, to see them at work performing their art. To be touched, just by the magic of what these guys do and who they are. Remembering how just lifted up and transported I felt hearing him sing those words, and hearing that music... It was a spiritual experience, and I understand now why people feel the need to see them again and again. I know I would do a lot to be able to see them again, absorb it all, really absorb all of it, because it's just too much for one person to take in at just one experience.

So for a first U2 concert experience, it's pretty hard to beat this. The crowd was loud and totally into it, and the band was in top form even as this leg of the tour draws to a close. Wow.

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