U2 Review

U2 at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 2005

We were supposed to both be at Hampden on the 12th June but Mrs SWRYV was suffering from labyrinthitis (vertigo… ah the irony) so we ended up having a good but strange night with me at the back of the Hampden pitch not seeing much and Mrs SWRYV listening to the rubbish sound on the phone!

Mrs SWRYV was feeling lots better by the end of the week so we got tickets for Cardiff and set off on our wee Welsh adventure… for my 5th U2 show and Mrs SWRYV’s 1st… I hope she likes it!!!! She’s of the ‘I’m not easily impressed you know’ school of music critics!!!

We drove down to Bristol on Tuesday night and stayed over and watched the amazing thunderstorm and U2 on the TV!!! We got up and headed for Cardiff, chuckling at the U2 P+RIDE signs on the way. We made it to the yellow car park at about 11.30am and joined the other fans heading into the city centre.

We decided that food was in order and where else could you eat before a U2 gig but O’Neills… with Staring at the Sun playing as we entered.

Cardiff is such a great city. We wandered around all afternoon, spotting U2 shirts all over the place, ending up in the National Museum looking at some stunning pieces of sculpture (how cultured are we!!!) before heading over to the Millennium Stadium in the sunshine…

We arrived just before gates opened at 4 and I was astonished at how quickly the queues disappeared and we were climbing the stairs to the upper stands. T-shirts were purchased and we headed for our seats.

What a stadium! Our seats were in U27 in row 19 so we were about half way up back towards the far end on Edge’s side. We had a great view (if a little high up! Parachutes under the seat would be a little more reassuring…) of everything and as the stadium began to fill we could feel the excitement building.

Starsailor did a great job in opening the show. They put their all into their performance and set up the rest of the day perfectly. It’s not often that the people in the cheap seats are singing along to the first band on, but then this was Wales!!!

The Killers were superb. Hit after hit. Great songs, great band… It was starting to get hot in the stadium and The Killers just kept cranking up the heat.

And then it was almost time for the main event, after a hot dog of course… and some chocolate… and popcorn… Mmmm!!!

This is probably a good time to talk about the roof of the stadium being shut. The outdoor shows can’t compete with a stadium gig INSIDE. It was DARK and what a difference that makes to the whole experience.

There is something special about the moment the lights go out and Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’ comes on quietly. You can feel the anticipation building with the volume. And then… Unos/dos/tres/catorce… and its straight into two and a quarter hours of unrivalled spectacle.

The band seemed totally up for the show and Bono and Edge were straight out onto the catwalk teasing and playing with the crowd who loved every moment! We got I Will Follow and The Electric Co for our two oldies and the crowd was bouncing!!! But that was just a vocal warm up for the 60,000 strong choir! Elevation was where the fun really began with Edge playing the riff and Bono encouraging a sing along for ages.

Time for the Bassman to take his bow on the end of the b-stage… Adam Clayton’s suave is almost undone by the huge grin on his face as he rightly gets the praise for New Year’s Day. They don’t’ make basslines like that anymore!!!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for was one of those special moments where the world seems to stop and all is well. And just when you think it can’t get any better ‘All want Is You’ gets a rare outing. What a beautiful song to share with a beautiful woman.

Words don’t really describe what a U2 gig is like. It rears up before you and crashes over you like a massive assault on your senses reaching inside you and grabbing your soul.

The screen blinks to life with patches of brilliant white and the opening notes of City of Blinding Light and a gig that was already soaring goes into orbit! Miracle Drug follows on with Bono rightly praising the amazing Millennium Stadium as he looks to the future, a future where science and medicine play a great part.

Sometime You Can’t Make It on Your Own tears at your heart with the simplicity of the ‘Walking Man’ behind Bono’s soaring vocals. That boy really does have the opera in him!

Then comes the message… It’s a U2 show… we expect and respect the politics because it’s not overdone, it’s heartfelt and it’s real! Love and Peace is amazing. Larry makes his way with less ‘Do I really have to go out there?’ than usual to the drums on the end of the B-stage and It all kicks off… Out comes Bono with his ‘CoeXisT’ headband on and the fantastic graphics on the big screen. Bono bashing the drum at the end was fantastic. He was so into it! Then Sunday, Bloody Sunday… The roof is in real danger of being reopened as the crowd let loose, maybe not so much bouncing as Hampden towards the back but some seriously great singing.

And it’s into the third of the ‘war songs’, Bullet. Great song but seems kind of out of place in the set after Sunday, Bloody Sunday. Maybe it’s just because Sunday is such a great sing along song but Bullet is kind of sterile on this tour and seems strange without the monologue. Because things go a bit flat the transition into Running To Stand Still gets a bit lost and it takes a minute to get people’s attention back to what is a fantastic song but it gets lost at the end when Bono goes off into Happy Birthday and Walk On rather than the transcendent ‘Hallelujahs’. The Declaration of Human Rights is met with roaring acclaim and the choir is back for a stunning rendition of Pride!

Next up is one of the highlights of the show. Where the Streets Have No Name has been reinvented as a rallying call for action to Justice for Africa and as the screens burst into colour filled with the flags of African nations Bono and Edge harmonise on a tribal intro. The crowd go into over drive and the more sedate One is greeted as much with relief as enthusiasm! Two MPH campaigners have a banner and Bono is only too happy to get them out onto the B stage as he sings. The mobile phone starscape is stunning from up high and we get a chuckle when Vicky Pollard’s name comes up on the screen!

There are moments that only happen once in a while and tonight was one of those special nights… Bono manages two lines of Unchained Melody and the Welsh choir takes over… until the high note where it all goes wrong and the crowd and the band collapse in fits of laughter.

The screens flicker to life and we’re transported back to ZooTV with Bono, the aging dictator, hamming it up on the screen then on stage!

Just when your brain has adapted to the sensory barrage… The Edge rips into the Fly and the screens unleash their full potential. It’s new and super slick with just hints of the words from the past of ZOO TV. It’s almost as if they have been waiting for the technology to catch up… and now it has!!!

With Or Without You brings some relief for the brain but is all the more striking in its heartbreaking glory following so close after the ZOO TV imagefest. Simple white light brings the focus back from the screens to the four consummate musicians at the peak of their powers.

Another short break and they’re back with All Because Of You, God back in the middle of the show, then moving onto our closing hymn this evening… Yahweh. Lumps in already sore throats and tears welling in our eyes… ‘Take this heart and make it break’.

But it’s not over ‘til the Irish guy tries some Welsh… and its back into Vertigo for one last blast.

The stadium emptied and the happy, worn out, ecstatic crowd poured out into a warm Cardiff night and into queues for buses, trains and pubs… then into more queues to get out the car parks… then into a massive queue on the M4!!! We waited so long that the trucks carrying U2’s stage started to appear on the road beside us!!! Now that’s impressive.

Words don’t really do justice to what we have experienced… but this is the closest I’ve heard to capturing U2 on paper… ‘f***ing mind-blowing!!!’

Amen brother!!!

Oh… and as for Mrs SWRYV… I noticed this morning that Achtung Baby seems to have taken up residence in her car… and she’s on Ebay looking for tickets to every show for the rest of the tour… I think she kind of liked it… a bit!